Archive for February, 2014

Water Buffalos in Southeast Asia

Posted in Animals, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , on February 27, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Water buffalos coin the Southeast Asian landscapes. At the moment one leaves a city or town, they adorn the countryside.

Water buffalos are very lovely and sweet animals and, despite of their size, mostly harmless. Even kids shepherd them. It’s just if one comes very close to a water buffalo and the big animal makes an unexpected, abrupt move it, without intention, could harm a human. Their huge horns are pretty impressing, though, and if a stranger comes close, they take in a position of defense.

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In terms of microeconomics, water buffalos are often the most valuable possession of Southeast Asian peasants. The loss of a water buffalo can mean a big desaster for a rural family. Dowries for example are traditionally payed in buffalos instead of money in many Southeast Asian societies.

Remarkable is the decline of the water buffalo population in Thailand. After the official statistics the 2009 population was above 1.3 million, while it declined to below a million in 2012. It’s not only because the water buffalos face ‘unemployment’ by being replaced by tractors, but they bring a higher selling price outside of Thailand, which led to a mass deportation in the last years.

In some areas are buffalo fights part of the local folklore. I have seen such a disgusting event once in Sumatra around Bukittingi. The whole infamous thing is of course again about betting money. It’s one of the notorious variations of gambling.

In other regions annual buffalo races take place. It’s of course also about money and gambling.

The differences between the common domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and the wild species (Bubalus arnee) are slight. The wild one is clearly the ancestor of the domestic one, but it’s widely disappeared as such. In fact it’s classified as a ‘critically endangered’ species. Since the difference is so small, it’s difficult to distinguish wild water buffalos from escaped domestic ones. An escaped domestic one would, if finding a herd of wild buffalos, join them and interbreed with them. In Cambodias eastern province Mondulkiri might be some wild ones left, in Thailand are an estimated 50 individuals left in Huai Kha Kaeng reservat, what covers parts of Kanchanabury province and the region north of it, at the border to Burma / Myanmar. For Burma there are no numbers known. In Laos and Vietnam they are extinct. Nevertheless, the wild water buffalos ‘Bubalus arnee’ are native in Southeast Asia.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Water Buffalos’. Read here the whole article on Water Buffalos in Southeast Asia.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Dugongs

Posted in Animals, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , on February 26, 2014 by Thim Kwai

These lovely and shy mammals once appeared all along the Southeast Asian shores. They came in herds of hundred or more individuals. Nowadays, in the time of trawl-net fishing, relentless pollution, overhunting and mass-tourism there are few of them left. Dugongs are among the endangered animals of Southeast Asia. Since some years they get some protection in Trang Province in south Thailand, and they are displayed frequently as a local symbol there.

Although they normally flee people and boats, there are cases in which they come curiously close to divers to have a look for them. There are reports that dugongs played with divers for hours. Natural enemies of them are, except homo sapiens, some shark and whale species. Dugongs communicate by making a number of different, funny noises. It has been observed that dugongs in groups pushed sharks away with their snouts in shallow waters. Sometimes dugongs appear near ships or divers, trying to come in contact and starting playing with divers. That all gives evidence that they are high-developed, intelligent animals with a sophisticated social behaviour.

Dugongs need to take breath every few minutes. Therefore they have to come up to the water’s surface and to take air while sticking their nose out of the water, producing a certain, peculiar noise. They become around 60 years old. Pregnant femals carry their babies for thirteen months until giving birth to normally a single baby. In the average they get pregnant every seven years.

Dugong by Asienreisender

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Dugongs’. Read here the whole article on Dugongs.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Thailand

Posted in Countries, Landscapes with tags , , , on February 14, 2014 by Thim Kwai

The number of annual arrivals in Thailand is really high. But, that does not mean that Thailand is generally overrun by tourists as Bali in Indonesia is, for example. It’s rather so, that the mass of the Tourists concentrates in certain touristic places. That’s (partially) Bangkok itself, Hua Hin or Phuket Island in the south, what is actually a special economic zone with a very high percentage of foreign investment, property and foreign inhabitants, it’s Pattaya (sin city) in east Thailand and the notorious touristic islands as Ko Samui, Ko Phangan, Ko Tao etc. Chiang Mai in the north is touristic as well. Other touristic destinations are much more moderate visited by tourists, and a great part of the country does not see many tourists at all.

The average tourist in 2012 spent ten days in Thailand and almost 140 $US per day.

Thailand received in 2013, despite the since October ongoing Bangkok demonstrations, 26.73 million tourist arrivals.

The leading visiting nationality is Chinese with 4.7 million visitors, followed by Malaysia (3 mill.) and Russia (1.7 mill.). The leading western visiting nationalities are Australia and Britain with a bit more than 900.000 each.

Besides, Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is the biggest airport in Southeast Asia and as a central destination receives many arrivals of people who intend to spent also more time in neighbouring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam instead of Thailand only. However, they pass through it and are part of the statistics. The statistics also includes those who stay for longer in Thailand and do the ‘visa run’ to neighbouring countries. Every time someone is entering Thailand he/she is counted again.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Thailand’. Read here the whole article on Thailand.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Tropical Rainforest in Southeast Asia

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , on February 13, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Tropical Rainforest is covering the Cameron Highlands on the Malay Peninsula. It’s the oldest rainforest on earth. Geologists estimate it’s age of 130 million years.

A Chinese/Malaysian acquaintance told me how he got lost here once in the 1960s with his boyscout group. The group, consisting of 20 teenagers and kids, ned seven days to find their way out of the jungle.

In our days the forest is cut more and more. Civilization is making it’s way first into the valleys; after road construction buildings of all kind follows. Then the urbanization is creeping up the slopes. The last remaining aborigines (Orang Asli) are forced to live in new settlements.

Many slopes in the Cameron Highlands were logged already decades ago. They are now covered by the large Boh tea plantations.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Tropical Rainforests in Southeast Asia’. Read here the whole article on Tropical Rainforests in Southeast Asia.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Crippled Tail Cats in Southeast Asia

Posted in Animals, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , on February 12, 2014 by Thim Kwai

What’s remarkable about the cats in Southeast Asia is the fact, that many, in fact a wide majority of them have crippled tails. I have heared many contradictory stories about that. Some people say, kids play with them and break the tails. A Thai neighbour once told me, Thai People would break the tails of kittens for gaining good luck, particularly money [!]. That maybe happens sometimes, but it’s not explaining the phenomenon.

I saw that some cats were born with a crippled tail. It is a genetical defect of the spinal, called ‘brachyurie’. The tail is part of the cat’s backbone. The crippled tail can come together with other deformations of the spinal, and in some cases also with neurological deficiencies. A defect tail means a handicap for the cat because it needs the tail for maintaining it’s balance. A short or anyhow crippled tail is also insofar a problem as cats use their tails as a mean of communication. Brachyurie is not curable.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Cats in Southeast Asia’. Read here the whole article on Cats in Southeast Asia.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

Bats in Southeast Asia

Posted in Animals, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , on February 11, 2014 by Thim Kwai

There are plenty of bats around in Southeast Asia. In every bigger cave, especially in the many limestone mountains in the south of Thailand, parts of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, are usually hundreds or thousands of bats hanging upside down from the cave’s ceilings. That’s at least what the nocturnal animals do at daytime. At dusk they leave their hiding places and swarm out over many kilometers on the search for food.

There is a strong smell around there in the caves, coming from thei bats defecation. In daytime they sleep, and in nighttime they get lively and swarm out to hunt insects and other little animals for food. Bigger bats also feed from small mammals, rodents and other, smaller bats.

An interesting fact about bats is, that they are not birds, but mammals.

Their wings are actually membranes, who connect the bat’s hands and feet. Also the fingers are spanning the membran. These membranes consist of a double skin layer. It enables the bats to perform very artistic flying styles, changing the flight direction abruptly.

Bats produce a typical sound, a very high noise; in fact it’s much more than humans can hear, because bats scream in ultrasound. The human ear catches only the deepest part of the spectrum of the sound. It’s comparable with a whistle for dogs. The bats sound echos allows orientation for the small animals.

The eyes of bats are therefore not as good as human eyes; they see the world in black and white, some kinds even percept ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet radiation is emitted intensely by blooming flowers. They attract besides insects also bats, who nourish also from the nektar.

Bats also have a sense for magnetism and can orientate over long flights on earth’s magnetic field, like migrant birds do.

Among the 900 different kinds of bats on earth are only three who feed from blood of other animals (or humans). That gave the bats the image of vampires. These three kinds of vampires feed from blood only, but appear exclusively in greater parts of the Americas, not in Asia.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Bats in Southeast Asia’. Read here the whole article on Bats in Southeast Asia.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

The Java Man – Homo Erectus Javanicus

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, People with tags , , , , on February 10, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Eugène Dubois, a Dutch army doctor, found 1891 a prehistorical skull remain in Trinil in Java. First he considered it coming from a prehistoric big gibbon monkey and called the species Anthropopithecus (what was the latin generic name for chimpanzee); later it was recalled Pithecanthropus erectus or Homo erectus javanicus. His foundings are considered being 1 million years old.
Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald, a German/Dutch geologist and paleontologist, found in the years 1936-39 more early human remains in Sangiran, at the banks of the Solo River in Java, 65 km of Trinil. Sangiran is not far from Solo (Suryakarta); it’s an easy bus trip to go there.

Until 2011 there were more than 80 fossils of homo erectus found in Sangiran. They cover a timespan of about 1.2 million years, of who the oldest are dated back up to 1,5 million years. Sangiran is therefore the richest foundig place for human fossils on earth. The Sangiran homo erectus fossils show significant differences to the younger ones found near Beijing (Beijing Man). It’s supposed, that both populations came in different immigration waves from Africa.
About half of all the known ever found hominid fossils were discovered in Sangiran. Beside that stone tools, bone tool, axes and a number of other tools were found in Sangiran. The site was inhabited for the last 1,5 million years and shows a long line of continuous human evolution. The fossils found here document also the evolution of human culture, the evolution of local animals and the ancient environment. That all makes it a key site in the understanding of human evolution generally. Therefore it became the status of a UNESCO World Heritage.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘The Java Man’. Read here the whole article on The Java Man.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

The Life of Buddha

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, People with tags , , , , on February 5, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Buddha’s life and his teaching wouldn’t be understandable and convincing at all without the kind of life which he had chosen to live. According to the records he lived the life which he was teaching. Since Buddha didn’t write anything about his life and doctrine, and his fist disciples didn’t either, what we know about his life started as an oral record, told from disciple to disciple, from generation to generation. It ned some 300 years until the biography and teaching were written first. Considered Buddha was a real living historical person, what he was probably, and not only an invention of a certain group of people. That let’s us question about what are historical facts and what are exaggerations, imaginations or distortions of Buddhas story. To make it short, there is no chance to find that out anymore. The best way to approach Buddha and Buddhism is, as I see it, to study carefully his lifestory and teachings and to reflect it critically by it’s meaning.

Nevertheless, Buddha’s story is full of supernatural appearances. That is up to the believers to believe; a critical mind of the modern age should see it as what it is: additions to the lifestory of a person, made with the intention to impress pre-modern people and the simple minds.

Buddhism, as religions in general, divides in two spheres, so to say. There is a philosophical teaching, what is concerned to the earthly life, and there is a transcendent part, what is focussed on what’s beyond humans life, mostly the afterlife and the power of gods, ghosts, spirits etc. Every religion’s claim is that the earthly life and how it is led has strong consequences for the afterlife.

Since there are ten of thousands of different religions on earth, and they all claim they would have the only valid answer for the transcedent part and therefore for what’s right and wrong on earth as well, it’s a pretty weired situation. If one is right, all the others must be wrong. The contradictions between the different religions are to big. Moreover, there are no proofs, no hard evidences for any of the transcendent and supernatural claims of any religion. It’s, again, up to the believer to believe. Believers neglect critical reflection; they want to believe, because they find comfort in their belief. To believe means literally not to know. Critically questioning the belief is for them a threat for their very orientation system. If the belief is maybe not valid, they have no idea anymore about what’s right and what’s wrong. Life is without meaning, as it seems then. That’s a reason why believers tend to react pretty harsh in case their faith is questioned.

In the 19th century the western reception of Buddhism was that of an inferiour, primitive superstition. That was still a time in which the western religion, Christianity, was made up as a legitimation pattern for colonialism. That changed in the 20th century. Buddhism got better understood and became attractive for a growing number of Westerners. Particularly after the political movement of the 1960s failed to overcome capitalistic society in the west, many young Westerners refuged mentally into weired sects, superstitions and beliefs of many kinds. One particularly attractive became Buddhism. That was certainly so for the philosophical core of the Buddhist doctrine. Another attraction in Buddhism lies in the fact that Buddhism was never so much a martial religion as Islam and Christianity. Buddhism was much less involved in war legitimation.

Very much of Buddha’s lifestory will have been invented or changed in any way. After some 300 years of oral transmission, Buddhism became an organized religion. Institutionalized. King Ashoka in India made it his state religion. From then on it was at the latest a mean of power. But even in Buddha’s time Buddha savored protection from a local king. In which way he and his teachings in his lifetime were involved in politics – the sources tell us nothing about that.

However the reception of the Buddha is, one thing is clear: Buddhism is also a practical religion, and meditation is a basic concept of it. And meditation is concentration. Concentration is the contrary to what surrounds us most of the time in modern life: entertainment and advertisements, stress, pressure and noises, what is distraction.

Basically Buddha’s life had three distinct phases: The young years as a prince, when he eventually was realizing human suffering, than the search for an absolute way of overcoming this suffering, and finally the fullfillment of his search and the commitment to spend the rest of his life by instructing others to achieve enlightenment for themselves.

Know…

This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘The Life of Buddha’. Read here the whole article on The Life of Buddha.

Keep yourself up-to-date

Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender