West Sumatra – Muslim matriarchate, smoking volcanoes and the god of the bees

 

muzeqt

Minangkabau museum in West Sumatra

29.05

We take off as usually at noon. Today hitchhiking goes very well, as usual. We couldn’t understand what was it yesterday and why no one stopped for whole six hours. A middle aged man with a lustful look in his eyes takes us to Panyabungan 3 kilometers down the road and then he decides to help us even more and take us after the town. Then we start hitchhiking small trucks and jeeps without waiting much.

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Re-evaluate your concept of meat

Re-evaluate your concept of meat …

All friends

 

All food

 

Some friends, some food on basis of our social and cultural programming?

 

pecheno-kuche

Meat

kuchenca2Dog meat

kucheshki-glaviDog headssvinski-glaviPig heads

pitonPython meat

 

prilepiBat meat

letqshti_lisiciFruit bat meat

gliganskoWild pig meat

kuche-vytreshnostiDog meat on kilogram

kuche

Dog meat

svinskoSteaks

kuchenca-v-kletki

Waiting for your turn …

*These shots were taken at the  traditional Minahasa market in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. In the culture of the ethnic group Minahasa dog, cat, python and bat meat are considered delicacies and are consumed on special occasions.

Phuket beyond the crowd

(Image credit: phuket.com)

This is a GUEST POST

Thailand is a country frequented by travellers from all parts of the globe. To give you an idea, the nation welcomed more than 32 million tourists last year, and this figure is 9 percent higher than the year before.

If you’ve travelled to Thailand in the past, you’re probably well aware of how great a place it is to visit. For a start, the country has an amazing culture, and it’s often dubbed the ‘Land of Smiles’ because the people are warm, hospitable and always smiling. Like in a previous Magic Kervan posts, we’ve also shared our experiences with very accommodating hosts.

One of its most popular destinations is Phuket, but all the hype seems to have had a negative impact on the place as well. One area in the island – Patong Beach is inherently a natural beauty, but like we’ve mentioned in the same aforementioned article, overdevelopment and mass tourism in this part of Phuket now gives the “wrong impressions of what Thailand really is.” Continue reading

Two Years of Eternity

PilgrimsProgress

“Pilgrim’s progress” (1678)

Surrender to the Unknown

Today marks two years since the cameleers prepared for the road, loaded the empty trunks, tents and dates and left. If there were no street clocks in the dusty towns they were passing through, they would have never known how much time had passed and how many miles they had crossed. 

Two years – is it a lot or is it a little? For the caravan members and the camels whole lifetimes had passed by, one after the other, in a state of timelessness. Lives of shabby wanderers, of royalties in marble palaces, of old sellers of Persian rugs, of chilled to the bones goats roaming around inaccessible mountains, of gypsies dancing in the desert, of  travelers led astray, of silent monks in shiny pagodas, of Tibetan herdsmen, of bloodthirsty pirates, of robbed fools and seekers of improbable flowers.

Two years outside of time.

Under the sun, water and stars some chests were filled up, others got lost or thrown away…

A camel carries a chest. The person who has the key for the old, rotten chest finds in it the stone of wonders. Taken in the hand it makes the eyes see an indescribable world. The reality that is made of rusty thoughts, castle of the rational mind, alter of the all-knowing ego, all comes apart and, oh, miracle! All that the eyes see now is a miracle, not possible to put in words, it has actually always been like this: unknowable, casting back gleams from your own soul.

The other camel brings to you a crystal chest. The key is in your pocket or under some random rock on the road. Inside it you find a mirror that reflects only the Truth. Inside this mirror the cameleer sees oneself holding a mirror. The caravan continues traveling, but doesn’t know now if it is traveling for real or just inside its soul, maybe the two are even one and the same. Is this endless desert inside its soul, and is this millennial tree casting shadow on the road just its will, or maybe the robber in the crowd is its greed, or this mountain is… 

At some ancient, dusty bazaar the caravan member gets a jade chest for salt. It doesn’t have a key or even a key-hole. No one know whether it could even be opened. The cameleer wants to open it, but how? Trying hard doesn’t help. Then slowly he comes to the notion that he has never unlocked anything and has never led the caravan, that he doesn’t know where the key is.

The chest opens by itself and offers you its gift: the salt of Eternity.

04 April2017

180-th  meridian

SSCN1650

Henan: Cradle of Chinese Writing

Magic Kervan is proud to present the first guest post by our beloved friend Will Williams. He is a martial artist and a writer who has lived in China for more than 10 years now. You can learn more and read many interesting articles on his site: www.monkeystealspeach.com

 

“If you don’t like it, you can get the hell out of China!” was the response I got when I told a lady sat next to me on the train to Zhengzhou, Henan province, that there was in fact a toilet on the train, and I didn’t want to watch her child pee into a bottle. Standing in the concrete jungle of shoddy apartment blocks, dodging motorbikes held together by celotape and breathing in thick smog, you would never imagine this was once the cradle of all Chinese civilization, a place where dynasties rose and fell, emperors adorned in silk gave out orders to eunuchs and poets and philosophers gathered in beautiful gardens. The very mention of Henan makes rich, big city Chinese turn up their noses and makes sarcastic comments about drain-cover thieves.

But I wasn’t here for captivating old towns or well-kept gardens. The reason I came to Henan was to visit a place well off the tourist radar, a place called Yinxiu in Anyang county. I had chosen to do some research into the origins of Chinese characters for a university project, and Yinxiu was the place where the oldest examples of Chinese writing have been found; the so-called Oracle Bones.

  

Chinese characters are basically evolved hieroglyphics, pictures which represented their meaning, such as Sun, Water or Mountain. The oldest characters known were carved into bones or tortoise shells, by shamans who would ask questions to the gods such as when the rain would come, would there be a drought, or would the king have a successful hunting trip, and then place them into fire and interpret the cracks which formed when heated.

I arrived at Zhengzhou station, the largest railway station in China, a huge, overwhelming building full of migrant workers dressed in faded old army uniforms or Mao suits carrying huge DIY style suitcases which looked like they were about to collapse, hair looking like a birds nest, spitting, smoking and pushing past everyone. The station was full of small shops selling all kinds of snacks, aimed at the migrant workers, such as tea pickled eggs, packaged chickens feet, sunflower seeds, and all the shops had these loudspeakers blaring out unintelligible noise. Blundering through the chaos I found the train going onwards to Anyang, from which I took a short taxi to my destination.

The bones are on display in a museum at the site of the Shang Dynasty Tombs, where the first kings of China, who ruled almost 4000 years ago, lay to rest, among numerous human sacrifices and artefacts of bronze and jade. The museum was built pretty much on top of the original tombs, and the architecture is all in the Shang Dynasty style; much more archaic looking than what we usually regard as Chinese building style, simple white buildings with red roofs and large red supporting posts, nothing ornate besides some odd totem symbols on the posts which look more Polynesian or Native American than anything else.

This was a time before dragons had been conceived of by the Chinese, but you could see a kind of prototype in the designs. There were several buildings in this style which either took you into the tombs, or housed tomb related relics, but the museum itself was a very modern building, designed in the shape of a Ding, an ancient Chines urn used in sacrificial ceremonies. Inside the museum was one of the most impressive collections of bronze and Oracle Bones in all of China, all of which had been found at this unassuming site. Nowadays only a few scholars can read the Oracle Bone Script, and of the 5000 characters, only less than two thirds have been deciphered.

Looking at these strange scribbles, written by the very people who founded Chinese civilisation, I couldn’t help but try to get inside their minds. How did they perceive the world? What values did they hold? Very little is actually known about these people as it was only several hundred years later that history began to be properly recorded, and much that is written about these people is just myth.

While Henan province is not exactly the most accessible or tourist friendly province, it is a treasure-trove of artefacts and sites relating to early Chinese history, and some places such as Luoyang, Kaifeng and Shaolin Temple see hordes of tourists, for either the intrepid traveler, or history nerd, there are places like the tombs at Yinxiu in Henan that most people have no idea about, and provided a really rewarding experience, and thanks to the high speed railway are easily accessible.

Sumatra – first days in Indonesia and living at the magical lake Toba on an island inside an island

selce

Indonesia

Capital: Jakarta

Population: 258 million, the forth most populous country in the world following China, India and USA

Official religion: Islam

State system: Presidential republic

Monetary unit: Indonesian rupiah

Indonesia is an island country. We arrive on a big one on the west, one of the 17 thousand islands of the country. If we decide to visit every single island of Indonesia we will not be able to do it in a whole lifetime. We have just three weeks for Sumatra, which is very little time for seeing all on the sixth biggest island on earth with a territory as big as Sweden.
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