The Daily Explorer

April 22, 2010

Shanghai, Chiang Rai and Goodbye

Shanghai, China: April 2010

MOZZIE BYTE (Editor): A warm welcome back to all our Daily Explorer readers and greetings to those of you who are joining us for the first time. For new readers, Ray has been living nomadically for about four and a half years since he left England in November 2005. In that time, he has visited or lived in 16 countries and we have been publishing news and stories about his journey throughout that period. You can find all of these in our Previous Issues archive. At The Daily Explorer, we really want to create a great publication for you to enjoy, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com), ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com

This issue has been put together by our guest correspondent Chin Tu Fat, who joins our team for Ray’s first ever visit to mainland China. He catches up with our global traveller in the bustling city of Shanghai, which has been undergoing a complete transformation to be ready for the opening of the World Expo 2010 in just a few days time.

In case you missed our last issue, our global traveller was in Chiangmai to present a cheque for $5,000 to the Elephant Nature Park from his “Calling All Angels” Fund. Ray also sent us some pictures from his visit to the Mae-Mhae orphanage in the hills outside the city and his three day trip to Mae Hong Son near the Burmese border. You can read it now at: Angels in Elephant Heaven

Above: Ray proudly presents a cheque for $5,000 from his “Calling All Angels” Fund to Lek Chailert, founder of the Elephant Nature Park in Chiangmai, Thailand. If you missed our last issue, you can read the full story now at: Angels in Elephant Heaven

Shanghai is the largest city in China and the largest city proper in the world, with a population of over 20 million people. Originally a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew to importance in the 19th century due to its favourable port location and as one of the cities opened to foreign trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. The city flourished as a centre of commerce between east and west, and became a multi-national hub of finance and business by the 1930’s. After 1990, economic reforms resulted in intense re-development and financing in Shanghai and in 2005, Shanghai became the world’s largest cargo port. The city is a tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks such as the Bund, City God Temple and its modern and ever-expanding Pudong skyline including the Oriental Pearl Tower. Today, Shanghai is the largest centre of commerce and finance in mainland China, and has been described as the “showpiece” of the world’s fastest-growing major economy. “It is not surprising that the momentum for my visit here was business related” said Ray. “As some Daily Explorer readers will already know, I have been talking to an Asian executive coaching company for some time about doing some freelance work part-time in the region and I responded to an invitation to meet them in Shanghai and attend one of their four day advanced coaching courses” explained Ray.

Above: Map showing location of Shanghai in mainland China. The green dot represents the approximate location of Chiangmai in Thailand where Ray travelled from. Some readers may also spot Hong Kong on the map, which Ray will be visiting soon. More about that in our next issue

Below: Map of Asia showing location of China

I asked Ray what his first impressions were after he had been in the city for 24 hours. “Well Chin, I am very excited to be in this part of the world” he said. “Compared to Chiangmai, it is extremely crowded – I cannot believe how many people there are crowding onto trains, in the streets, just everywhere I turn. It is very challenging for me to function here – apart from the main shopping areas and the metro (underground), there are absolutely no signs in English and no-one here speaks it, or seems to want to help me for that matter” added our traveller. “I think I stand out like a sore thumb here, as I am tall, fair skinned and usually wearing my backpack and carrying a map. I am continuously approached by people offering me all sorts of things, from cheap watches and bags to massage and gay sex! It probably explains why I was ‘scammed’ during my second evening here” he said. Hearing this from Ray was quite shocking so I asked him to tell me more.

Above: The exit from the Metro to the West Nanjing pedestrianised shopping area – “I cannot believe how crowded the city is” said Ray

Below: A rare sighting in Shanghai – some signage in English on the West Nanjing Road

“I had gone to People’s Square early in the evening to do a bit of sight-seeing and get a feel for the place, so was looking at my map as I came out of the metro, trying to figure out which way to go” he recalled. “A group of four students, three girls and a guy, approached to offer help and I thought “Great, someone speaking English” so I started talking to them. They told me they had come to Shanghai to see if they could get jobs at the forthcoming World Expo and were really happy to talk to me as it was a great opportunity to practice their English. Feeling good about this, when they invited me to join them for a traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony nearby, I gladly accepted. We walked a couple of blocks to a nearby building and entered a small room, presided over by a traditionally dressed tea ‘server’. During my travels, I had attended a similar ceremony in Ko Samui so everything seemed normal at this point.

Above: Flashback to July 2009, when Ray last attended a traditional ‘Tea Ceremony’. This particular one was organised by his friend and avid Daily Explorer reader San-bao, also known as the Oolong Tea Master of Ko Samui

For thirty minutes or so, we chatted and sipped several different teas and then we were offered a chance to buy packs of tea as gifts for friends. I noticed they were buying many of these and I remembered thinking it was unusual – they were quite expensive and these kids were students so I wondered how they could afford it. I was even more suspicious when the bill came, as it added up to about $300 US dollars! I had not purchased any gifts so I simply offered to pay for the tea I tasted. In response, one of the girls told me that is was customary for the guest to pay the entire bill, which made me feel very uncomfortable and quite angry. “You should have told me this before we came here” was my nervous response, as I really wasn’t sure if she was being straight with me. “This is a huge amount of money and although I do not wish to offend you, I am not paying this bill” I said firmly. To cut a long story short, I ended up just paying for the few sips of tea I tasted, which mysteriously came to around $45 on it’s own! Even though my instincts were telling me I had been scammed, as I left I was still not sure and wondered if I had been insensitive to their culture. However, when I talked to some of my colleagues about it the following day, my suspicions were totally confirmed as they laughed about me falling for the old ‘Tea Ceremony’ scam!” said a slightly embarrased Ray.  This is apparently quite a common sting for new visitors; students, who work for the shop ‘pretend’ to be tourists, and deliberately spend lots of money on gifts at the ceremony – which they are not actually purchasing. To put it into perspective, a waiter working full time in a Shanghai restaurant earns around $150 per month, so even a take of $45 in one night is not a bad return for them for one hours work. “I am just glad I did not end up footing the entire bill and will consider the event to be a wake up call for greater vigilance on my part” said our very relieved traveller.

Above and below: Snapshots of ‘old’ Shanghai – “Having explored the city extensively on foot for a couple of days, I realised that there is very little left of the traditional, old Chinese culture here, with construction happening on virtually every street” observed Ray”. The parts that are still left are becoming rather tacky, characterised versions of what they used to be in order to satisfy the ever growing tourist trade, which is about to be boosted significantly when the World Expo opens on 1st May 2010. The area in the picture below forms the “City God Temple” area – the core of the old city of Shanghai. The name not only refers to the large temple complex, but also the traditional district of commerce in the city, surrounding the temple. There are over a hundred stores and shops in this area, and most of these store buildings are nearly a century old

Above: Xintiandi is a shopping, eating and entertainment district of Shanghai. It is composed of an area of restored traditional shikumen (“stone gate”) houses on narrow alleys which now serve as book stores, cafes and restaurants. Xintiandi has an active nightlife on weekdays as well as weekends, though romantic settings are more common than loud music and dance places. Xintiandi means “New Heaven and Earth”, and is considered one of the first lifestyle centres in China. Xintiandi is near the site of the First Conference of the Communist Party of China. The marketing of Xintiandi is mainly targeted towards overseas visitors who seek to experience the romanticised atmosphere of old Shanghai. As a result, prices in this area are high, even by international standards. Eating or shopping here is seen as a status symbol by affluent local residents

Broadly, central Shanghai is divided into two areas: Pudong (east of the Huangpu river) and Puxi (west of the Huangpu river). On the east side of the Huangpu, Pudong is a special economic zone of banks, skyscrapers and new residential compounds. The Bund lies on the historic Puxi side of the Huangpu river and looks across to the new skyline of the Pudong business district. West of the old town and hidden in the backstreets north and south of Huaihai Street (Shanghai’s premier shopping area) is the former French Concession, with tree-lined streets, 1930’s architecture, and cafes and bars. Continuing south-east is Xujiahui with its massive shopping intersection. Many of the streets are named after cities and provinces in China. “Once I had acquired a map with street names in English and a Metro card, I was very happy” said Ray, “and found getting around relatively easy”.

Above: The Pudong skyline, with the unusual and impressive Oriental Pearl Tower just left of the centre. At 1,535 feet, it is taller than the Empire State Building in New York and the ninth highest structure in the world

Below: The People’s Square in the centre of Shanghai is the site of the municipal Government headquarter building and the Shanghai Museum. Prior to 1949 and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the entire site was occupied by the horse racing course of Shanghai. After gambling and horse racing were banned by the new Communist government, part of the race course became the People’s Square, which included a large avenue and spectator stands for use during parades

Above: The Bund was once the financial centre of the Far East. It has been considered the city’s symbol since the 1920’s. It is often referred to as “the museum of buildings”, as many different styles of European architecture can be found here. Now it is even more attractive as you can also see modern skyscrapers just opposite on the other side of the Huangpu River – “Looking across the river towards Pudong gave me a strong sense of contrast between the modern, high powered life in Shanghai and its colonnial past” said our traveller

When we first met, Ray mentioned to me that he was in Shanghai to explore a possible working relationship with a business in Asia so I asked him to tell me a little bit more about it. “The company is called Progress U and provides a range of coaching and training services in the region which are very similar to those my own business used to deliver in the UK. I have now met both of the partners who started the company and feel very encouraged by what I have seen and heard. They have offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo. If I do any work with them, it will most likely be in other parts of Asia like Malaysia or Indonesia as this is where their expansion plans will be taking them next” explained Ray. “For them to feel comfortable about having me join their team of coaches and trainers, I was asked to join a four day advanced masterclass in coaching so they could see how (in specific role plays) I would handle typical situations and scenarios that their corporate clients often ask for help with. For me, it was an opportunity to see how much I could remember from when I was in the business world full time and establish how my recent life experiences have changed or influenced my own style of coaching. I was very pleased with the way the course went for me and feel that the foundations have been laid for a great working relationship. Now I have to wait and see if the level of demand for Progress U’s services increases, which would be the trigger for them needing additional people like me to supplement their team. Shortly, I will be travelling to their office in Hong Kong to be trained in how to deliver one of their sales training programmes. I will be sure to send some more information to The Daily Explorer about that in due course” added Ray.

Above: Ray (second from left) pays close attention as Charlie Lang (third from left) pretends to be a client while one of the delegates takes up the role of his coach. All of the people attending were required to undergo several role plays and receive feedback from the group after each one – “It was a very enjoyable and challenging experience” said Ray, “and it felt really satisfying to be working with some very bright, talented people” he added. Progress U have now added Ray’s profile to their website

With the coaching workshop complete, our traveller had three further days to explore Shanghai before returning to Thailand. “I kept hearing about the World Expo” said Ray. “It opens on 1st May 2010 and is expected to draw 70 million visitors to Shanghai during the next six months – the largest number of visitors in the history of the world’s fairs. There are over 186 countries and 48 international organisations participating, which is a record in World Expo History. The main theme is “Better Cities, Better Life” so the Expo will showcase a number of exciting initiatives aimed at achieving greener, safer, healthier, prosperous, inclusive, well managed cities – currently where over half of the world’s population resides. It is the first time a World Expo has been held in China or any developing country and is an enormous media opportunity for the Chinese, so naturally no expense is being spared in the extensive makeover that is taking place in Shanghai. There is construction going on in virtually every street in the city; roads are being re-surfaced and re-painted, grass is being laid, skyscrapers are being constructed and new metro stations are opening virtually every week. I understand from talking to local people that every hotel in the city is near fully booked for the rest of the year so hotel room prices are rocketing” he told me.

Above: New parks (left) are being hastily constructed in time for the World Expo, whilst the ongoing programme of urban development continues, with many old buildings like this one (right) being torn down to make way for modern skyscrapers like the one’s below…..

Below: New skyscrapers are being constructed at a phenomenal rate in the Pudong area (left) to compliment the Oriental Pearl Tower (centre). The Shanghai World Financial Centre (right) is a supertall skyscraper in Pudong. It consists of offices, hotels, conference rooms, observation decks, and shopping malls on the ground floors. The Park Hyatt Shanghai is the hotel component containing 174 rooms and suites. Occupying the 79th to the 93rd floors, it is the highest hotel in the world, surpassing the Grand Hyatt Shanghai on the 53rd to 87th floors of the neighboring Jin Mao Tower. On 14 September 2007, the skyscraper was topped out at 1,614 feet and became the second-tallest building in the world as well as the tallest structure in the People’s Republic of China, including Hong Kong. The Observation Deck has a view from three levels. The highest is at 1,555 ft above ground level, making it the tallest observation deck in the world, surpassing even the Burj Khalifa

Above: The massive World Expo site was still under construction whilst our global explorer was in Shanghai, so he had to make do with a visit to an exhibit about the construction, including this scale model of the site – The red building in the centre to the right side of the river is the Chinese Pavillion

Below: There are going to be 186 pavillions representing countries all over the world when the Expo opens on 1st May 2010. Here are six examples… you can see all of them at the World Expo Official Web Site or the China Daily News Expo Site. In the top row, Australia (left) and Denmark (right). In the centre row, Estonia (left) and France (right) and in the bottom row, Pakistan (left) and Saudi Arabia (right)

Above: Huge investments are being made in Shanghai to give the city world-class infrastructure, like the superb Metro underground network – “Mobile phones still work in all the tunnels and underground stations” said our very impressed traveller

Below: There are several giant elevated roads criss-crossing the city too

Above: Xujiahui – a commercial district of downtown Shanghai. During the late 1990s, many of the state-owned factories in the area were sold off and torn down. The main Xujiahui shopping district is centered around the intersection of the streets Hongqiao Road, Huashan Road, Zhaojiabang Road and North Caoxi Road. Each of these streets terminates at the intersection, which is home to three supermarkets, six major shopping malls and nine large-scale office towers. Everything from cosmetics to cars and cucumbers is available within five minutes, but the type of product that Xujiahui is most famous for is electronics

Below: Shanghai has its own Times Square (left) and plenty of neon signage at night (right)

Above: In all developing countries, consumerism is the new gospel and there are many shopping malls like this one springing up all over the city – “It seems like such a shame to me” observed Ray. “I cannot believe that these people have been sold the (fake) dream of a better life and have enslaved themselves to a world of personal debt so that they can acquire some worthless material possessions – I guess that’s the power of capitalism in full swing” said our uninspired visitor

Below: In business, marketing is everything so our visitor was surprised to see these two clothing retailers. The first (left) made Ray question the choice of branding – ” I am not sure that the name would translate well to countries in the West” he laughed. The other brand that caught Ray’s attention was that of C & A (right) – “It was a British retailer that went bust a few years ago as it was obsolete. Clearly, they have managed to export it to China and make it work; a possible indication that they are a little behind the times out here when it comes to fashion” observed our traveller 

Above: How many global brands can you spot in this picture?

Below: All in the name of progress – the beautiful Jing’an Buddhist Temple is one of only a handful of historic buildings still left in the city – “The word Jing’an means Temple of Peace and Tranquility” said Ray “and this place could really do with some!”

Ray arrived back in Chiangmai in time to celebrate the colourful annual New Year festival known as Songkran and plan a long awaited visit to Chiang Rai Province before heading off to Nepal. The Songkran festival is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year’s Day from 13 to 15 April. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Songkran falls in the hottest time of the year in Thailand, at the end of the dry season. Originally celebrated only in the north of Thailand, the festival was probably introduced there by the Burmese, who adapted it from the Indian Holi festival. It spread across Thailand in the mid 20th century and is now observed even in the far south. “The most famous Songkran celebrations are still in Chiang Mai” said Ray, “where it sometimes continues for six days and even longer. It has also become a party for foreigners and an additional reason for many people to visit Thailand for immersion in another culture”.

The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 100°F or 40°C on some days). This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles. Nowadays, the emphasis is on fun and water-throwing rather than on the festival’s spiritual and religious aspects, which sometimes prompts complaints from traditionalists. In recent years there have been calls to moderate the festival to lessen the many alcohol-related road accidents as well as injuries attributed to extreme behavior such as water being thrown in the faces of travelling motorcyclists. The water is meant as a symbol of washing all of the bad away and is sometimes filled with fragrant herbs when celebrated in the traditional manner. “I must admit, it is quite a relief to get soaked in this climate” said our fun loving traveller.

Above: The city of Chiangmai comes to a halt for days during Songkran as virtually everyone takes to the streets armed with buckets, hoses, water pistols and the like to cause as much mayhem and fun as they can with their fellow citizens and foreign visitors (Photo’s: Marianne Blaak)

Above: This trio are devising a cunning plan to douse an approaching vehicle full of people (Photo: Marianne Blaak)

Below: The partying lasts from morning till night and the water throwing finally comes to an end after dark – “I am amazed they are able to keep it up for so long” said Ray. “I was so pleased to take a hot shower at the end of the day and get out of my soggy, damp clothes” he told me (Photo’s: Marianne Blaak)

When I spoke on the phone to Ray in Thailand, I discovered he had been meaning to visit Chiang Rai Province and the ‘Golden Triangle’ region, some 200 kilometres north of Chiangmai, for quite some time. He confirmed that he had finally organised a trip there. “You know what it’s like Chin – if you suddenly find yourself living in a city for any length of time, you tend to stop doing the kind of things a short term visitor would do and this was partly the case for me” explained Ray. “But since I am leaving here soon and don’t know when I will return, I really wanted to add this part of the country to the list of places I have experienced. The main attraction for me is the contemporary, rather kitsch and quite unconventional Wat Rong Khun – a buddhist and Hindu temple designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat. “In 1997, he volunteered his service to carry out the construction of the place at his own expense as an offering to Lord Buddha, but he later altered the plan as he saw fit in such a way that Wat Rong Khun developed into a prominent site attracting both Thai and foreign visitors” said Ray. “It is different from any other temple in Thailand, as it is very recently constructed and its consecrated assembly hall is designed in white color with some use of white glass. The white color stands for Lord Buddha’s purity; the white glass stands for Lord Buddha’s wisdom that “shines brightly all over the Earth and the Universe” added our knowledgable visitor. He also explained that the bridge leading to the temple represents the crossing over from the cycle of rebirth to the Abode of Buddha. The small semicircle before the bridge stands for the human world. The big circle with fangs is the mouth of Rahu, meaning impurities in the mind, a representation of hell or suffering. Wat Rong Khun is still being constructed.

Above: Wat Rong Khun is also known as the White Temple. Whereas most temples visited by tourists have a history going back many centuries, this magnificent place of worship was built only recently. It is the realization of a dream for Thailands noted artist, Mr Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed and is supervising the construction of this beautiful building and its many statues of figures based on religious beliefs. The construction started in 1998

Below: Some Buddhist monks cross the bridge into the temple, leaving the small semi-circle area before the bridge which represents the human world. The temple is covered in mirrored glass mosaics embedded in the white plaster

Above: This close up shot of the semi-circle shows the clever way in which the artist has depicted the impurities in the mind; a representation of hell or suffering. The big circle made by the fangs is known as the mouth of Rahu

Below: Buddhist monks enter the temple through the mouth of Rahu

Above: Close up shots of the figures either side of the mouth of Rahu (left, right) and an example of one of many ornate sculptures (centre) that decorate the unique and unusual site

Below: The temple attracts monks from all over Thailand and beyond as well as many thousands of visitors

Above: Whilst in Chiang Rai, Ray also visited Wat (temple) Chedi Luang, built in AD 1332 and located in the small historic town of Chiang Saen – “The energy in these temples is quite extraordinary” said our traveller

Below: Our global explorer takes time in the temple to still himself for a few moments (left) – “Whenever I can or feel the need to, I try and ‘check in’ with my inner self and pay attention to how I am feeling, which helps me get a stronger intuitive sense of how my life is ‘flowing’. And I also like to give thanks to the Universe for the amazing life I have and enjoy” he told me. There was also time to visit the ancient temple ruins at Wat Pasak (right)

The Golden Triangle is one of Asia’s two main illicit opium producing areas. It overlaps the mountains of Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and Thailand. Along with Afghanistan in the Golden Crescent and Pakistan, it has been one of the most extensive opium-producing areas of Asia and of the world since the 1920’s. Most of the world’s heroin came from the Golden Triangle until the early 21st century when Afghanistan became the world’s largest producer. The Golden Triangle also designates the confluence of the Ruak river and the Mekong river, since the term has been appropriated by the Thai tourist industry to describe the nearby junction of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. Opium production has been illegal in Thailand since 1959. Thanks to a highly successful crop substitution programme undertaken by the Royal Projects Foundation established by His Majesty King Bhumipol, opium production has largely been eliminated in Thailand. However, across the border in Burma, the Shan United Army, which is fighting the central Burmese government for an independent Shan state has been accused of funding its war through the sale of opium and heroin. “Many tourists flock to the Golden Triangle region of Thailand expecting some sort of ‘wild west’ scene” said Ray “and they are usually disappointed. The Thai area of the former triangle is full of small quiet villages where the most exciting thing that happens is the arrival of the next tour bus” he told me.

Above: The only thing dividing Thailand from Laos is the Mekong river (left), which also joins the Ruak river from Myanmar at this point, hence the name ‘Golden Triangle’ as illustrated on this huge golden teapot (right)

Below: This giant buddha was built by the Chinese as a gift to the Thai people and sits atop a huge boat like structure on the Thai side of the Mekong river. It provides protection for people on the water

Visitors to the Golden Triangle are fortunate to have the opportunity to visit one of the best museums in all Thailand. The Hall of Opium, which is also the most interesting place to visit in the Golden Triangle region, exhibits the history of opium, the process of production, the effects of opium smoking and campaigns to eradicate and substitute the crop. There’s even a tiny opium plantation inside! The Golden Triangle is infamous worldwide for its poppy fields, drug smugglers and opium warlords. Throughout the 1960’s to early 1990’s, the Golden Triangle supplied most of the world’s heroin. Even today, Myanmar (Burma) and less so the Laos PDR produce significant amounts of opium. In 1988, HRH the Princess Mother expressed her desire to educate people on the background of opium in the Golden Triangle and elsewhere in the world. While the Doi Tung Development Project and other Sustainable Alternative Livelihood Development projects helped solve the problems of drug supply, HRH recognised that the fight against drugs also needs to address drug demand. The Hall of Opium was created to help reduce demand through education.

Above: The main entrance to the Hall of Opium Museum in the Golden Triangle, built to educate people about the nature, supply and effects of the drug trade

Below: The exhibition begins with a walk through a 137 metre entrance tunnel, carved out of the mountain, to help create an atmosphere of the contradictory moods associated with opium and narcotics: mystery, danger, fear, sleep and dreams, ease of pain, or suppressed suffering

While intended for people of all ages and all nationalities, the target audience of the Hall of Opium is teens and young adults – those most susceptible to the lure of illegal drugs. It is designed to show them how opium addiction became a world-wide problem, and how drug abuse affects individuals, their families, neighbourhoods, and even their country. “The exhibition is excellent” said Ray afterwards. “It was captivating, informative and entertaining while providing really useful information, much of which is about Britain’s exploits during the age of The Empire. It staggers me to discover just how aggressive and ruthless British traders were in establishing capiltalism in so many parts of the world” observed Ray.

The development of the Hall of Opium is the result of the initiative of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. It carries out extensive research on opium, opiates and other narcotics. It is the Mae Fah Luang Foundation’s hope that visitors leave the exhibition with an understanding of the long and fascinating history of opium. Though the drug provides many benefits, it also brings about great suffering. Even more so, the Foundation hopes to instill in each visitor the belief that they can and should join the effort to solve the problem of illegal drugs. “It should be on any travellers ‘must see’ list if they are visiting the region” said our global nomad.

Above: Covering an area of 5,600 square metres, the exhibition in the Hall of Opium is the result of almost 10 years of research. Visitors learn about the 5,000-year history of opium: how it was a drug to treat illnesses, how its use spread throughout the world, how imperialist expansion used opium in the economic colonisation and control of China, and how it eventually came to dominate in the Golden Triangle and now in Afghanistan. Visitors also learn about current issues of addiction and illegal drugs, efforts to control drugs, and the impacts of drug abuse and addiction. For a full description of the exhibits in the museum, click here

Below: This exhibit recreates one of the thousands of opium dens that existed in Thailand before its use was legally abolished in 1959

Editors Note: Our thanks to Chin Tu Fat for putting together such a colourful and informative issue on his debut for The Daily Explorer. Our next issue will be coming from Nepal; Ray is on his way to the Namaste Childrens House in Pokhara to donate the remaining funds from his “Calling All Angels” campaign. He is likely to be in Nepal for a couple of months. On his way there, he will be stopping in Hong Kong for five days and will then be trekking to Everest Base Camp upon his arrival in Kathmandu, which will take about 2-3 weeks. I asked him how we was feeling about the next stage of his ongoing, nomadic journey. “At the moment, the experience I have is that life just gets better and better. I am very excited about completing my fundraising work and seeing all of my friends at the orphanage in Nepal, as well as helping improve the quality of their lives. It is a challenge as we have to work out the best way of using the limited funds we have but I am determined to make it go as far as possible. And it has been a dream of mine to reach the Everest Base Camp on foot for many years. I have arranged for a guide to go with me and I am all set. I just hope we can complete the trek before the monsoon season starts, which is usually in early June” said Ray.

And what happens after Nepal? “Well, I could return to Chiangmai or head directly into India. My trip to Hong Kong may result in my taking on a working assignment which could alter things, plus I always have to allow for the possibility that a chance meeting or something completely unknown may scupper anything that I have previously thought of. Whatever happens, it is all pretty good and I know that I am happy whichever way it goes” said our global traveller. As usual, we will be bringing you all of the news from Ray’s travels exclusively in this publication.

At The Daily Explorer, we really want to create a great online experience for you to enjoy, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com), ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com. We will keep you posted!

MOZZIE BYTE

Above: In the next few weeks, Ray intends to fulfill one of his dreams by trekking to the Base Camp at Mount Everest, which is the launch pad for all expeditions to conquer the worlds tallest mountain. The summit elevation is 8,848 metres (29,029 feet). The base camp is at 5,380 metres (17,700 feet) and will take Ray and his guide approximately two weeks to reach on foot – “Compared to Thailand, it is going to feel very cold, so I will definitely be investing in some thermal underwear” laughed Ray. You can find out all about his adventure in a forthcoming issue of The Daily Explorer

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