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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thailand Experience By Candis Poley

By Candis Poley

Day 1:

Arrive OR tambo at approx. 10:00 check-in ran smoothly. Forex what a disaster!!! Word of advice never use FX bureau de change at OR Tambo. So just chilling enjoying a cappuccino; jeepers is that the time already...making my way to the boarding gates; on-flight...mmm...interesting they playing an episode of suites...falling in and out of consciousness and just as I'm enjoying suites; they make an announcement; the flight attendants will be collecting all head-sets. I'm thinking that was a quick 4 hrs. Well done Kenya Airways! At Jomo Kenyatta. Nice clean toilets; cappuccino at the Java lounge - WHAT!!! 6 US for a cappuccino and mineral water...seriously!!! So my connecting flight is only at 23:00 approx.

And I get engrossed in this really interesting read called the backpacker by John Harris - so far not too shabby hey - great entertainment. I fall asleep; it's only 20:43 oh my goodness can 23:00 get here any faster...if ever there was a time to practice patience, the time is now. Only 21:30 tick-tock. This bench makes for a very tough resting place. I sure hope the seat on the aircraft is comfy.

Lol! When I start boarding the aircraft before the time and they send me back...talk about anxious (thought they announced that we start boarding). Finally on-board...until Bangkok then.

Day 2:

Arrived in Bangkok. The airport;  cleanest I've ever seen. The order at passport control - what order?  it's insane! Standing in customs and immigration I hope I'm standing in the right queue - so it turns out I was standing in the right queue at the wrong time; because I was flying Kenya Airways I had to stop at health inspections first as I was coming from Nairobi. Off to health inspector and then back to the queue (at least they let me cut to the front). Okay so at at least they've got signs in English.

Foreign passport, ASEAN nationals...I'm sure I fall under foreign passport. It feel so weird listening to Thai over the intercom. Yes It hit me I'm in a foreign country.  Wow! Again I have never seen such a clean airport in my life! The ground handler Asian trails; ready and waiting (case of mistaken Identity - Tong my guide thought I was a local lol!) Anyhow onto hotel inspections but first we battle traffic. What a busy city! STARBUCKS! Seriously Bangkok beat South Africa to it!!! So what's third world again? Checked-in at the Novotel Platinum; impressed good 4-star. The people in Bangkok are super friendly. Headed into town for an evening tour of the temples, Royal Palace, Democracy Monument, University and Parliament buildings and I'm thinking how does a city so over populated manage to stay this clean. (Look it's got its dodgy areas but still clean). Supper at a fancy local eatery compliments of my new found friend Tong; red Thai chicken curry infused with coconut milk. Fried veggies complimented by cashew nuts, a local shrimp soup well known for it has energetic properties with Thai green grass. A feast fit for a king! So now I decide to be adventurous and catch a tuk tuk...(yeah it doesn't help when the locals think I'm a local). So anyway my transfer drops me off back at the hotel. What a day I do hope I can get some “shut eye”.

Jetting off to exotic Phuket tomorrow.

Day 3:

Saowa Dee Ka - Hello in Thai! Waking up in busy Bangkok I look through my window and the "city of angles" as they call it looks like it never went to bed. I feel like I haven't slept a wink. Today is going to be a busy 1 many meetings and different hotels scheduled. At least these meetings make for a good excuse to prolong my stay in this diverse amazingly friendly city. Almost like a New York Meets friendliness vibe. While at the breakfast buffet I recognize an old family favourite the “Chaisoo pow” (chinese bun) I have a Chinese background (you were probably wondering) as I cut into the soft pow it takes me back to home. The selection of food is diverse and in abundance in Bangkok you won't go hungry. Visiting the Sukhumvit area in Bangkok -

2 huge malls in one area! Bangkok is a must do for every shopper!

Staying in this area is convenient;   with shops in walking distance, side walk eateries and  the sky train station centrally located. Sofitel Bangkok Elegance is the word I'm looking for where French chic meets contemporary Thai design just as I'm trying to sink in the idea of this ultra-mod luxurious establishment around the corner on the side walk is a lady selling traditional Thai soups in a packet - talk about contrasts. Bangkok a World in one city is what goes through my mind as I'm driving through the "nana" area feels like I'm in Cairo everything in Arabic and many halaal restaurants and just across the road is a strip of pubs; just last night I was in China town. It's hard to believe that just moments ago I stepped out of a European hotel. Views from the balcony bring to mind time square in New York.

Welcome to the designer strip! Siam area all I see is Prada, Louis Viutton, Marc Jacobs, Polo! New York fashion week has nothing on this area. Like that's not enough I've just learnt that this area alone has 6 malls most popular being the MBK with 7 floors of shopping (well known for copies done so well not even an expert designer can tell the original from a fake). Lunch at the Ninth Cafe - looking for something euro-thai chic this is the place! Enjoyed an amazing green thai chicken curry here. Back at Suvarnabhumi Inl Bangkok Airport check-in ran smoothly; sadly I say goodbye to one of the most knowledgeable, friendly and sufficient guides (Tong) I'm sure going to miss her. No I sit and wait patiently for my flight to Phuket. Boarded my first Thai Airways flight and it won't be my last friendly, efficient service. Great leg room! This is going to be a comfy one.

The eagle has landed...arrived at Phuket International airport; small airport makes for easy understanding; got my luggage in under 10 minutes trusty Asian Trails waited for me outside and on time as usual. Now for my 1 hour road transfer to the hotel. En-route to the hotel the sights bring to mind a little fishing village with neon lights but wait on my left I spot a big Tesco shopping complex. I think I've just entered the "burbs" of Phuket colossal homes and a huge factory outlet for sports brands such as Nike, Adidas, Ripcurl to name a few. Just spotted 1 of the weirdest things ever an entire family; mom, dad and two 'lil one's on one scooter...my goodness!

Driving through Patong town en-route to my hotel; shops, restaurants, side walk spa's, tattoo parlours on every corner. I arrive at a restaurant called Baan Rim Pa; I decide on the stir fry crab with curry powder and fragrant Thai Rice.  What a mesmerising romantic setting, set on the balcony over-looking the ocean - dinner by candlelight; a petty I'm flying solo would make for a star marriage proposal (maybe one day) lol! Suddenly I feel like I'm in SA as the nong ka's (waiters) break out in happy birthday song with star lights much like Spur! Lovely dinner but it's my second night in Thailand and I honestly cannot eat anymore rice. Quite enjoying the classical concerto in the background - however I have to admit defeat;  I’m super exhausted! This restaurant establishment is a must do for anyone looking to spoil themselves. Standing on Patong main strip outside waiting for my driver feels so "touristy" but nerve wrecking...oh here he is.   At my hotel ready to turn in. No wait done had a shower feeling refreshed again.

Ready to rock Patong solo! The spa's and tattoo shops are still open, the streets are buzzing with people from around the globe - one word AMAZING. I am in-love with this vibe...Thailand holiday? YES PLEASE!!!!

Okay so I managed to grab a few hrs of sleep; it's now 3:45 am and I just cannot sleep completely disorientated I'm a bit worried as I go on a full day snorkelling trip to Phi Phi Island later and will need plenty of energy.

Day 4:

So I wake - up to the sound of a rooster this is so weird considering I'm staying in a 4 star hotel.  Getting ready to go snorkelling; however I'm suffering from extreme fatigue.

Having breakfast at the Novotel Phuket I honestly feel like I'm in America - Americans everywhere. Now the thought pops into my head "I sure hope I don't get ill on the boat trip to Phi Phi Island" that just reminds me I better ensure that I have valoid in my backpack. Back to breakfast sitting at the breakfast table overlooking the pool another romantic setting. I must be honest and say that the breakfast selection in the city is much better than here in Phuket. I'm fetched promptly at 8:45 after an hour’s drive we arrive at the Royal Marina waterfront living complex very much like a mine V & A waterfront Cape Town. We casually get onto the speed boat and I befriend an Americano! Very friendly; what an amazing time we had with spectacular views to compliment. Azure turquoise waters with rock formations that beautifully crop out the water; our first stop we snorkel and I see plenty of little "finding nemo" like fish around me I start snapping away. I feel that all this photo taking is consuming my swimming time; I decide to put the camera back on board and just enjoy the relaxing swim in this turquoise wonderland. Back on-board we head for lunch on ....with some live music as entertainment. The next stop bamboo beach; I think the name speaks for it-self, one can actually overnight on this beach in one of the tents on request and at an additional charge of course. My day in Phi Phi national park comes to an end. We retreat back to the hotel for a much needed shower - ready for my dinner meeting. En-route to Tunk Ka cafe I discover that gasoline is not a shooter but actual gasoline or petrol as we know it they sell on the side of the roads for the scooters. Arrive at Tunk Ka Cafe; what an amazing view located at what's known as view point. From the authentic Thai Restaurant one can view the entire Phuket from the top - yet another romantic setting. Oh my word just had the most amazing Thai chicken soup careful though this one's spicy! Just as I'm enjoying this dinner a frog decides to startle me by jumping on my back then onto the pot plant next to me and starts staring me down...how uncomfortable.

All-righty then...seems the frog thing is what attracts customers to this place...weird much; however the food is really good I cannot fault this restaurant on taste. Aaaah I get to taste the famous dragon...almost like a kiwi fruit; only red on the outside and white with small little black pips on the inside. Refreshing is the word that comes to mind as I bit into this fruit. This frig is now becoming a menace and I'm not enjoying my dinner anymore! This frog got me doing the "jump and jive" in this restaurant at least the locals find it entertaining. Tonight I decide to do a bit of shopping in Patong, Bagla road (where I'm staying) the streets are laced with shops in Patong. While one can get excellent bargains; be sure to use your negotiation skills as some marketers will try and make a bigger profit. Now back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Day 5:

Do I have to leave this wonderful bustling city of contrasts? Another amazing breakfast; how I wish I could take some of this Thai chilli with me I'm personally a lover of hot spicy food and if you are too then Thailand is a definite must for any "foodie" the cuisine is amazing and for those who don't really love the red hot chilli there are many dishes that cater to every taste.  As I realize that this will be my last night in Thailand I can help but feel somewhat nostalgic. Onto Krabi it is. Headed to Krabi which is 135km from Phuket; en-route we pass through North Phuket which is completely different to the bustling Patong area; lush vegetation, open land spaces and masses of water (the beach) is what one would see so a definite recommendation for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of enthralling Patong. As I arrive into Krabi lush vegetation and tall limestone formations reaching for the skies covered in greenery. (Thoughts of the Amazon and Cambodia come to mind.)

As if Thai were not friendly enough; I find the people in Krabi extra friendy - such amazing hospitality. I also learn the Phuket is extremely over-priced compared to Krabi; for example one would pay 110 bhat for a soft drink in Phuket but only 50 bhat in Krabi. The vibe here is very chilled;  Krabi certainly caters for those who want to de-stress or for those with families as while most resorts in Phuket offer on-site kiddie clubs and child minders. The city itself is not family friendly. Well from my side this is good night with a heavy heart as it's my last night in this beautiful, friendly country.

Day 6:

Good morning Krabi! Got a busy day ahead visiting some of the popular resorts on Krabi then getting onto a boat (not sure what that's about but I'm about to find out). So it appears that we have to take a boat transfer from Aonang Pier to Centara Grand resort; the do the actual check-in just before you board the boat. The transfer is a mere 10 minutes. Krabi is absolutely beautiful with natural water masses and lush vegetation - I'm sure I've mentioned this before; I just can't get enough of this natural beauty.  I have the opportunity of visiting a temple;  what beautiful architecture and design!  My last stop is Rayavadee a colossal 5 star resort in Krabi as I drink my green grass smoothie Thailand waves goodbye to me with a beautiful sunset over Phi Phi, Chicken and Poda Island. My thoughts at the moment are "Thailand thank you for the warm welcome and I promise to be back". Onward to Krabi airport for my flight to Bangkok.

 Highly frustrated at this stage Krabi Airport is so inefficient and to top it they confiscate my designer sunscreen and after sun spray (do they know how much that stuff costs?) None the less I made it through on time even after their domestic check-in was moving at snail pace.

Dear Air Asia not everyone speaks Thai - perhaps if you make announcements in English you wouldn't have to repeat yourself to every foreigner mistakenly checking-in; thank goodness I'm flying Thai Airways. Here I am trying to check-in for my flight to SA via Nairobi and I've been standing here for over an hour and no movement. "Talk about African Time"  in Asia. I do hope the onward journey improves.

Day 7:

Arrive in Nairobi 06:30 am. My physical state gives a new meaning to jet lag I think... I'm exhausted...off to Johannesburg in approx.

2hrs30 min. As much as I love travelling I must be honest and admit that there's something comforting about knowing that this is my last flight before I reach Johannesburg...while the World has so much to offer in terms of beauty, culture, cuisine and shopping at the end of the day there's no place like home.


  •  Kenya Airways - thank you for getting me to my destination and back home safely!
  • Asian trails - thank you for arranging the trip with knowledgeable, friendly and always professional staff (guides & drives) special shout out to “Tong” and “Mr Wear”!
  • Novotel Platinum, Novotel Patong and Pakasai Krabi for hosting and accommodating me while in Thailand.
  • Andaman Leisure Phuket – thank you for the most amazing time at Phi Phi Island National Park.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Madagascar: Two new rare lemur species join primate club

March 26, 2013

Caught on camera for the first time, this image shows the newly identified Marohita mouse lemur. Credit: Peter Kappeler
Source: iol.co.za viaAfrican on Pinterest

Genetic analysis has revealed the existence of two new species of Madagascan mouse lemur, bringing the total number of recognised species to 20.

Weighing less than 100 g and rarely stretching more than 28 cm, tail included, mouse lemurs are the smallest primate in the world. Native to the forests of Madagascar, these strictly nocturnal omnivores come in either grey or a rich, rusty brown, and each one has a distinctive white splash running between the eyes and down the snout. Eighteen new mouse lemur species have been discovered since 1993, and their genus, Microcebus, boasts one of the highest species numbers of all primate groups. But because mouse lemur species all look so similar, distinguishing them can now only be done through genetic analysis.

A captive Microcebus murinus mouse lemur, which occurs in the same area as the newly discovered Anosy mouse lemur. M. murinus considered an alternative model system to mice and rats in biomedical research on human disease and aging. Credit: David Haring of the Duke Lemur Center.

During a field trip in December 2003, Rodin Rasoloarison from the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar caught two female mouse lemurs and one male in the Forêt de Marohita of the Toamasina province in eastern Madagascar. Four years later, in the Anosy region of south-eastern Madagascar, Rasoloarison caught six individuals in the Forêt de Manantantely and four more in the Forêt d’Ivorona. He performed a morphological analysis on the individuals, including weighing and measuring various external and internal parts, and fur colours were identified using colour charts. Tissue samples were then extracted and sent to Anne Yoder and Dave Weisrock at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, for analysis.

Two mitochondrial and four nuclear loci were sequenced from the two new species, and then analysed alongside 279 mitochondrial and 209 nuclear sequences from different mouse lemur species found in 78 sites across Madagascar. The team used a technique called a Bayesian phylogenetic analysis for both the mitochondrial and nuclear loci, and a STRUCTURE analysis to infer the presence of distinct populations using multi-locus nuclear genotype data.

“I would say that in general, it is highly unusual to describe new species of primates in this age of global travel and consequent access to remote areas of the planet,” says Yoder, a Professor of Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology and Director of the Duke Lemur Centre. “That said, the number of described lemur species has more than tripled in the last 10 years. A large number of these new species have been mouse lemurs.
“I suspect that there are even more mouse lemur species out there to be found (indeed, there are hints of that in some of our genetic data).  Mouse lemurs are morphologically cryptic, they are tiny, they are nocturnal, and they occur in remote places. It therefore makes a lot of sense that the harder we look, the more species we will find.”

The team named the new species from the Forêt de Marohita (Marohita meaning “many views”) the Marohita mouse lemur (Microcebus marohita). It turned out to be a very large species, stretching 275–286 mm from nose to tail, with a considerable body mass of up to 89 g. “The large body mass of M. marohita is remarkable,” the team report in today’s issue of the International Journal of Primatology. “The single male M. marohita, which we judge to be a subadult, is as heavy as M. gerpi males, which until the new species described here, were the largest known mouse lemur males.” The females were found to be 20% heavier than all other known females.

The colouring of the Marohita mouse lemur’s long, dense fur ranges from a gorgeous ginger to a dusty umber with a coat of blackish grey underfur. Its undersides and the upper surfaces of its paws are a whitish beige and it has long, pink little fingers.

The second new species, found in the Anosy region in 2007, was called the Anosy mouse lemur (Microcebus tanosi). It has a total body length of 275 mm and weighs 49 g, which still makes it relatively large by mouse lemur standards. Like the Marohita mouse lemur, the Anosy mouse lemur has a rusty-coloured coat, but has a slightly darker colouring on its undersides.

Due to continuous habitat destruction threatening the survival of the Marohita mouse lemur, the researchers have classified it as endangered. “As revealed by a recent visit (in 2012), the forest of Marohita is highly degraded and has been substantially damaged since the initial collecting trip from 2003,” they report. “Thus, despite its species’ name, this mouse lemur is threatened by ongoing habitat destruction, and “many views” of its members are unlikely.”

The Tanosi mouse lemur’s status is so far unknown, but the researchers say it will likely also been classified as endangered due to similar environmental concerns. “The forest at Manantantely was already heavily degraded at the time of our field survey, whereas the forest at Ivorona was only slightly degraded, but the current state of these forests and the mouse lemur populations therein is not known,” they report.

“Public awareness in Madagascar is very important,” adds Yoder. “I have found that the Malagasy people take great pride in their lemurs, as soon as they understand that Madagascar is unique in having lemurs, and also, that certain lemurs are specific only to a particular area.  Also, and obviously, the government needs to participate in protecting the forests, and in providing economic alternatives to slash and burn agriculture to the Malagasy people.”

Here’s a video of mouse lemurs at the Duke Lemur Centre. Their eyes are so big, blinking looks like an enormous effort for them:

Becky CrewAbout the Author: Becky Crew is a Sydney-based science writer, award-winning blogger and former online editor of COSMOS magazine. She is the author of 'Zombie Tits, Astronaut Fish and Other Weird Animals' (NewSouth Press).

Taken from: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/running-ponies/2013/03/26/two-new-species-of-mouse-lemur-found-in-madagascar/# [26.03.2013]

See also: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130326/rare-find-two-new-species-join-primate-club & http://www.iol.co.za/scitech/science/environment/scientists-have-unveiled-two-new-species-of-mouse-lemur-tiny-big-eyed-animals-that-inhabit-the-forests-of-madagascar-1.1491855#.UVF1-zfcA9Q [26.03.2013]

Go to Madagascar - CLICK HERE

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Malaysia Photoblog: Istana Negara, Kuala Lampur

The Istana Negara (Malay for National Palace) is the official residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the head of state of Malaysia. It is located along Jalan Duta in northern Kuala Lumpur. The palace opened in 2011 and replaced the old Istana Negara which also at different compound in central Kuala Lumpur.
© Juan Nel

The site where the palace is located has been gazetted for such purpose in 1976, and numerous contractors have been involved with the initial planning. The need for a new palace, according to the then Works Minister Dr. S. Samy Vellu, has been pressing due to space constraints; the Balai Rong Seri of Jalan Istana's Istana Negara where the throne is located had also been used as the dining and meeting rooms. 

© Juan Nel

The site is 96.52 hectares and situated on a hill, of which according to Public Works Department director-general Dr Amer Hamzah Mohd Yunus, only 28 hectares will be used for the development of the palace complex.[2]

© Juan Nel

Construction began in November 2007 and cost RM800 million to build.[3]

© Juan Nel

The complex incorporates Islamic and Malay architectural elements, following designs by architect firm Kumpulan Seni Reka Sdn Bhd and built by construction firm Maya Maju Sdn Bhd. The palace complex was slated for completion in 2009 but was only completed in September 2011.[2]

© Juan Nel

The royal household began shifting its operations to the new complex in stages since October 19, which was completed with a flag-raising ceremony on November 15.[4]

© Juan Nel

The 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, is the first King installed at the palace.

Pictures by: Juan Nel


  1. Zamzukhairi Noordin (2011-11-21). "Istana Negara : From Jalan Istana To Jalan Duta". mynewshub. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  2. "New, bigger Istana Negara". 2006-11-14. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
  3. "Majlis Penyerahan Istana Negara Jalan Duta" (in Malay). Istana Negara. 2011-10-18. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  4. "Istana Negara relocates to Jalan Duta". The Sun. 2011-11-15. Retrieved 2011-12-12.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Harlem Shake Challenge: Pentravel Cresta

So with our challenge going out to the travel industry the guys at Pentravel Cresta gave African Encounters their version of the Harlem Shake. Looking awesome!

What do you think? 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

African Encounters do the Harlem Shake

The Harlem Shake is an Internet meme in the form of a video in which a group of people performs a comedy sketch accompanied by a short excerpt from the song "Harlem Shake". The staff of African Encounters decided to try it out... and this was the result: