Monday, September 20, 2010

Thailand in 24 hrs

Continuing on from Vienna, I had a 24 hr layover in Bangkok, Thailand. It was actually quite amazing the amount of tourism one can fit in a short period of time!

Bangkok has a new-ish freeway, a lot of construction is currently happening. The airport has thai, chinese and english on most signs. On the ride from the airport, I see lots of american ads, companies, slumberger, for profit universities - stamford international school. The air berlin flight was 80% german/austrian, with only a few thai, asian. this is apparently a favorite vacation spot for germans and scandinavians.

The traffic lights are equipped with countdown timers that show how many seconds are left before the lights change!

Bangkok Taxi

The taxi cabs are a nifty mixture of hot pink, contruction orange, super bright blue, and yellow.  At night - the rickshaw cabs are sometimes so brightly lit up they look like they could fit in at an electric disneyland parade.

It feels like a sauna outside (and its only September). Once you get inside the airtrain its really cold, with the A/C blowing the sweat off of your face.

Outside Wat Po

The shopping malls are huge here, a lot like hong kongThe food market was really exotic, I don't recognize half of the foods there,  the rest were some kind of chinese food variation. the coconut ice cream with nuts was most excellent. Lots of chinese live here; they cannot tell I am foreigner at all. Its quite nice not to be harassed for once. I watch some Germans get hassled by street vendors, while I pass undetected. Some of the downtown shopping is more expensive than I had imagined, and are definitely similar to US prices.

Most of the people in the city are asian, but you do see some arabs wearing hijabs, indians,
various other kinds of middle eastern, white people. the biggest minority is black.

Many Buddhas

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vienna in 48 hrs

A Freemason at Mozart's House
In September, I had a round the world ticket that included 3 stops, where I was able to do some sightseeing in addition to work:
  • Vienna  September 18th to 20th.
  • Bangkok  September 21st to 23rd.
  • Hong Kong  September 24th to 27th.

Vienna in the lovely downtown area. I had a chance to revisit the famous Spanish Riding School : Spanische Hofreitschule, yes that's right - Spanish. Originally the horses and training system was brought over by the Spanish when attempted to conquer this part of Europe centuries ago.

Quite a number of decades ago, my family visited Vienna in the dead of winter and we weren't able to see the horses but this time I made sure I got at least a quick peek at the famous Lippizan horses.

Vienna downtown

Vienna has wonderful cafes and shopping, in addition to the old historical sites, time out for coffee and slice of cake is always an good option. One other must tourist stop I made was to Mozart's house. It was a self guided audio tour and you can see the original rooms which are actually quite large and nice.  I learned a few things - Mozart was a freemason. One of the tutors for the licenstein tutors was a talented black man - one of the few that had such a position in the era!

LCD screen on Metalabs' Front Door for Events

In my 48 hours in Vienna, I also decided to include in my visit my first hackerspace abroad, Metalab. Here is a photo of the Metalab Hackspace front door sign, which announces events.

The engineering quality was really well done for an adhoc space. But then again I'm not surprised... Austrians, like Germans are known for their quality engineering. :)

The Metalab hackers also created a window of individually addressable LEDs embedded in glass. It is called the Blinkenwall. It is located inside of the Metalab hackerspace, and I believe can be remotely controlled via the Internet from anywhere? While not everyone here speaks English, many are eager to listen and socialize. It is a very positive and welcoming space. In addition, if you are a smoker they have a separate room which has some wonderful murals for smoking only.


Metalab is located near the center of downtown Vienna, near the tram and is physically set in the basement of a elegant old building. The exterior seemed so formal, I assumed at first I was in the wrong spot. But the front door certainly matched the character of a hackerspace. :) 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

CCS Moshi : What to Pack, Safari, Climbing and Extra Curriculars.

CCS Moshi : What to Pack, Safari, Climbing and Extra Curriculars.

What to Bring:

Clothes: Weather is generally warm and humid. There are times when it will rain. The dirt roads will flood if that happens. Around Moshi, you will rarely need a warm jacket or long pants unless you are on the plane where it can get cold, or if you are going to climb Mt. Kili or Meru.

"Girls... bring either yoga pants (short ones) or stretchy shorts (spandex, bike shorts) or something like that to wear under your khangas here. You do not need to bring a tons of skirts as you can buy material here which is basically a khanga. You don't even have to get anything made as you can just wear it like sarongs. You will understand when you are here. Also your T-shirts get stretched out from washing them so bring tanks to put under"

"If you have extra room in your luggage and clothing at home that you dont need anymore, there are great places here to donate clothing. Most people leave a lot of clothes behind when they're packing (mostly because of all the things they bought here that they need room for)."

Shoes: I would defnitely bring one pair of good walking sandals, such as chacos or tevas. It would be a good idea if these are washable, as your feet will be filthy from walking on the dirt roads. If some of you want to go running in the mornings, be careful as there are lots of rocks and its very easy to sprain an ankle.


"Bring snacks you like such as chocolate, candy (enough to share if you want). "

There are now at least two supermarkets that will sell most snacks, although largely cadbury's and some south african chip brands, as well as ice cream. Coke products are prevalent throughout, however, in many places they don't let you take the glass bottle with you; you have to drink the coke and leave it at the location. Most 1st world luxuries are likely not available, but you may be surprised that you will likely find the equivalent of a 7/11 store, plus more. In addition, if you buy locally, you are contributing to the local economy in a good way.


"If anyone has Ipod speakers those come in handy. Sometimes when we need a TV fix we all pile into one room and watch a DVD so if anyone wants to bring a few of those that would be great. Also, TV show seasons are a great thing to bring. " Some people bring their laptops so that they can watch their DVDs on them.


"In terms of money, I would recommend bringing bigger US bills, 50's and 100's, because they have a better exchange rate."

You can also get money from ATM's downtown anywhere

"DEET bug spray is a good thing to have. Especially since with the short rains this season, its getting buggier. My bet is that you can find OFF bug spray in Target and other similar stores. There are different types of OFF with different levels of DEET."

There is also a ton of leftover bug spray from previous volunteers as well as hydrogen peroxide and other first aid in the bookshelf at CCS Karanga.

The most effective bug spray I found was from REI - the non-DEET kind. DEET oddly, is not as effective; I suspect that some of the mosquitoes have started to become resistant.

Safaris and Climbing

CCS is contracted to Bushmen Safari's. They do weekend safaris and also Mt. Kili/Mt. Meru climbs. For Safari's it is not possible to make a weekend trip to all 3 parks: Ngorogoro Crater, Lake Manyara and the serengeti. It is simply too far. You can do solely the Serengeti in a weekend. Or only Ngorogoro and Lake Manyara. If you want to do a safari that is longer than a weekend, please contact them directly. If camping is not your thing, be specific about your needs and request lodging or a lodging upgrade during your safari. Rains may occur during your safari and your tent may be flooded. Be sure to have some container to protect your electronics if you are bringing expensive kinds of electronics. (Personally I wouldn't bring anything precious or an heirloom when traveling but some people can't bear to part with their most precious belongings.....)

You can find information about them here:

If you choose to go with another safari company, it is wisest to make sure that they are TATO certified for safety standards and training. Driving in Tanzania can be exceptionally dangerous and it is your life that is on the line. The major trauma cases that end up in the hospitals here are Car Accident victims and Burn victims from cooking pots.

Getting to Zanzibar

Plane flights to Zanzibar may be canceled or consolidated at the last minute. Please DO NOT expect to be guaranteed a flight friday afternoon after your placement. Your flight may be consolidated with AM flights and then you will be forced to miss placement, which is really a disservice.

It takes about 1 full day's bus ride from Moshi to Dar es Salaam. From Dar es Salaam to Stone Town Zanzibar, it is either a 1.5 luxury fast ferry ride or a 3 hr standard ferry ride. There is some distance from the bus station to the Ferry, so you will need to take a taxi in between. If you leave in the early morning in Moshi - around 5 or 6 am, you may be able to catch the last ferry, otherwise you will have to overnight in Dar es Salaam.

Transportation to other parts of the island on Zanzibar may take anywhere between 1-2 hrs Taxi ride. Consider staying overnight in Stone Town before making your trip elsewhere around the island.


The above quoted excepts by Talia Cohen, previous CCS volunteer at Karanga in Moshi. The rest are my comments with more information.