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Guns only please…

Each year on the second Saturday of August thousands of tourists from all over India flock down to southern Kerala to see gigantic boats, manned by 120+ oarsmen, compete for the Nehru Trophy. It started off as a small competition between villagers, but has developed into a wild celebration full of singing, dancing and drinking.

We found ourself hemmed in between dozens of ships teeming with spectators (almost all male) for a long day of waterside fun. Enjoy the pictures and if you do, you can find lots more on my webalbum.

Villagers rowing their boat to the start

A boat of the largest class turning in the canal

Two helmsmen trying to keep the boat going straight

A sea of houseboats lines the finish

The party begins next door with strangely Gypsy-sounding tunes

A boat sinks during a qualification run

Kids watching the race (and me) from the water

The crowd gets livelier as the day goes by

Highly targeted advertising for the male onlookers

One of the finals

Too much alcohol for this one. He kept trying to take his clothes off, but the medic is restraining him :-)

As soon as the race finished, everyone scrambled

Driving back from Pondichery to Chennai our way was suddenly blocked by a crowd of people surrounding a truck. Our taxi driver slowed down and made his way carefully through the throng, when suddenly in a gap we saw what the people were so excited about.

Two men were pulling the truck with hooks that went into their backs ! They were leaning forwards, putting all their weight into it, their flesh stretched to the point of breaking.

Photo courtesy of PvB

It was a religious ceremony. A proof of spiritual powers by the local guru’s. And the bigger their power, the more donations they will receive.

Some in India believe that these display are only used to swindle the poor out of their money. To prove this these so-called guru-busters perform similar tricks to show no special powers are needed. If you’re interested check out this video of a student subjecting himself to what appears to be pure torture or check out the website of the Indian Science and Rationalists’ Association.

From India

I spent this weekend on the south-east coast of India in a town called Pondicherry. It’s about a three hour drive south of Chennai (Madras) and it is famous for being a former French colony. They actually managed to hang on to their little enclave for ten more years after Indian independence was declared, finally giving it up in 1956. It still retains a special status though and especially taxes for alcohol are very low.

This is great news for all the wine-guzzling French tourists that fill the place, as always flocking to their ex-colonies. I wonder why that is? Always hunting for that lost time when they were still a colonial super power. They have something to be proud of though. Pondicherry is a very pleasant town. Wide open streets, blissfully free of traffic. Cafe’s serving freshly baked croissants and pain au chocolat. And a long sea-front promenade perfect for evening strolls.

It’s like a fairy tale, but as soon as you cross the canal you’re back in India proper where the blast of the Rickshaw horn rules. I spent the day visiting a quaint colonial museum, drinking a pression in The Promenade Hotel and doing some shopping in the hectic bazaar.

For pictures just click on the web album. It also includes shots of the day before we spent in Mamallapuram, an hour or so up the coast, famous for its intricate rock carvings.

Shore temple, Mamallapuram

As it turns out, flying from India to the US will take you through several countries along the way. It’s 22 hours flight time, which means a couple of changes and fuel stops are necessary. The round trip is roughly 20,000 miles, or almost the earth’s circumference, during which you cross the date line twice.

Add to that an 11,5 hour time difference and you would expect to get the mother of all jet lags, but it wasn’t really that bad. I guess the journey is so long and exhausting that it overwrites your biological clock and I had no problem sleeping whatsoever. I admit, though, that keeping my eyes open in the afternoon was a bit of a challenge

Here’s the compilation:

Seoul, South Korea

Hong Kong safety tips

Hong Kong Airport

Skyscraper, Singapore financial district. This picture was taken on a free bus tour of the city that you can take during long lay-overs

The latest in law enforcement technology: Eternal Damnation!

Streets of San Jose, a spotless shock after Hyderabad

As my friend Daan would say: Thank you Captain Obvious!

The day of reckoning is finally upon us. The Tribe of the Irish will battle it out with the Soldiers of Destiny. Swords have been drawn. Minions roam the streets of Dublin. Oh, and Labour is expecting a share of the vote as well.

Political parties in Ireland have funny names.

Irish elections are interesting for a couple of reasons. For starters, the voting system is incredibly complicated using single transferable votes in multi-seat constituencies. Whatever that means…

More importantly there seem to be no laws regulating the amount of posters each party can put up. As a result the city is plastered with unisex election posters: Medium close-ups of sincere looking candidates with non-descript slogans and all carrying the word ‘Vote‘; in case you get confused.

There are so many of these, no one notices if a few get messy or disappear along the way. Here is another tribute to Ireland’s neglected objects:

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