A riproaring rollercoaster of a journey through time, space and that side road just over there...

Category: "Travel"

31 Day Photography Challenge - August 2011: Day 08 - Serenity

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on August 8th, 2011 @ 18:56:34 , using 0 words,
Posted in Photography, Travel

Meditate Your Mind In My Direction - 31 Day Photography Challenge - August 2011: Day 08 - Serenity

Felines for Food

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on November 14th, 2010 @ 20:11:49 , using 521 words,
Posted in Photography, Travel

Felines for Food

A slightly odd title perhaps, but for many Balinese, this is what these carvings represent - their next meal.

Whilst around Ubud, we saw a good number of places selling things like this, but that just represents the tourist end of this particular market. You'd see the occasional small workshop where someone would be carving out a lump of wood; log trapped against a post with their feet as they'd saw away, perhaps to reduce its size down for whatever came next, but at the time it didn't really register what we were seeing - just another local curio in many ways.

It wasn't until we made a trip up to the volcano at Kintamani, and specifically the trip back to Ubud, that the enormity of how a sizeable proportion of the Balinese economy is being run, became clear to us.

At the top of the road back down from Kintamani, we started to see, first, isolated examples of the wood carvers trade being performed in what are no more than open-sided roadside shacks. As the descent progressed though, more and more of these places appeared, maybe two or three crowded together, then a small hamlet with a row for a few dozen yards. After a while though, the wood carvers gave way to those painting up what appeared to be purely souvenirs to us, then the shops and before you know, there seems to be nothing on the road except for outlets selling what must be hundreds of thousands, probably millions of these things; wooden cats, buddhas, mirror tiled pottery, carved items of all shapes and sizes and so on.

After a few miles it dawned on us that what we were witnessing was no more or less than a factory shop floor, but one set in rural Balinese countryside. All these thousands of individual businesses all competing for their own individual slice of trade, but trade with who? There was far too much of it to be going into the tourist market on the island. Talking to our taxi driver quickly revealed that this was all being produced for the export market; the big department chains, garden centres, home furnishing outlets and who knows what other sort of shops. That taxi journey perhaps took 45 minutes to an hour to drive and at an estimate, I would say that for 3/4 of it, we were surrounded by this industry. It was if we'd driven though a bee hive or encountered the Borg, so pervasive was it, the scale of the activity barely comprehensible.

It's very difficult to assess whether what we were seeing was a good or a bad thing. It was clearly contributing to the local economy and bringing in much needed foreign currency to the island. On the other hand though, the conditions in which the people involved were working in were so far below anything anyone reading this is likely to experience, it was way past scary. All I know is that I was stunned and not a little horrified at seeing how the global demand for consumer goods manifests itself on a island as beautiful as Bali.

The Ecstasy of Gold

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on August 9th, 2010 @ 22:30:54 , using 0 words,
Posted in Photography, Travel

The Ecstasy of Gold

Grand Designs

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on August 1st, 2010 @ 18:54:00 , using 0 words,
Posted in Photography, Travel

Grand Designs

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Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on July 29th, 2010 @ 22:10:00 , using 0 words,
Posted in Photography, Travel

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Dusk Falls at the Souk

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on July 24th, 2010 @ 22:43:00 , using 467 words,
Posted in Photography, Travel

Dusk Falls at the Souk

Click on the image, then click on the image at flickr to appreciate some of the details

I've been meaning to take a shot like this for a while. The Riyadh camel souk is probably one of the largest, if not the largest of its kind in the world and covers an area of many square kilometers. Here you are looking across it at one of its narrower parts, on the side towards the city.

At one time it was way outside the perimeter of the city housing and the only things to pass this way were those looking after the well being of the animals and the Dammam highway. Slowly though, this is changing. The poles you see on the horizon are the first stages of housing going into the area. First come the roads, then the lighting poles and electricity, following soon behind will comes the houses.

Already, there are signs that the souk is being pushed further from where it currently sits and it is extending out towards the compound I live on which is around 7-8Km distant from this point. That sounds a reasonable distance, but with the wind in the right direction, its presence becomes all too apparent.

Wandering round and into the place is an experience that's worth the while of any visitor. There are so many things to learn about how other people live, their way of life wholly alien to any Westerner. Despite the lowly status of the people working their and their relative poverty, they are an endlessly hospitable bunch, curious to know where you're from, proud as punch to show off their best animals and be photographed with them, and all this done across a rather awkward language barrier in pidgeon English and Arabic.

The only real downside is that you come home smelling like you've been rolling around in camel poo. Small price...

Addendum: There are definitely echoes here of what's happening with the fishermen in Bahrain that I commented on the other day (see here at flickr). Here though it seems to be happening rather more slowly and the next bit of desert along the road is pretty much like the bit they're on now. They are also endlessly adaptable - you only have to look at what they construct a life out of to see that. Whilst most of the people working here are not native Saudi's, most are Yemeni I believe, the owners of the animals most definitely are. Most city dwelling Saudis will take the first available opportunity to get back to their roots and the ownership of camel stock is very much prized - they're just not going to have the time to look after it themselves. So this way of life isn't being lost I don't think, it's just moving a bit.

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