Blog Archives

Freeing the Bears in Cambodia and Worldwide

In this full-length episode of RodMcNeil.TV, join Rod as he tours the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, 40km from the capital Phnom Penh, where 21 forested enclosures have been built over 7 hectares to house a mixture of Sun bears and Asiatic black bears of different ages and personalities.

Cambodia is home to 14 globally endangered species, including the Asiatic black bear, Malaysian sun bear, Asian elephant, Indochinese tiger and the Pileated gibbon. There are various national parks and protected forests in Cambodia, however, land encroachment, illegal logging and wildlife poaching gravely threatens all of these protected areas.

Keeping or poaching bears is illegal in Cambodia and despite recent efforts to increase penalties both hunting and killing of sun bear and Asiatic black bear continues. Free the Bears Fund has been working with the Cambodian Forestry Administration since 1997 to provide a sanctuary for confiscated bears at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.

More From the “Free The Bears” official website:

In 1993, whilst watching a current affairs TV program in Perth, Mary Hutton saw a segment that would change her life and hundreds of others. The segment contained horrifying footage of Asiatic Black bears held in coffin sized cages unable to move or turn with dirty catheters inserted directly into their gall bladder. Mary learned that thousands of bears were being held in these horrifying conditions throughout Asia, regularly milked for their bile to feed the demand for bear bile to be used in traditional medicine. Gall bladders and bile have been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries, however the commercial farming of bears began recently in Korea during the 1980’s so that the bears could be milked for their bile repeatedly throughout their lives.

The next day, Mary drew up a petition and stood at the entrance of the local shopping mall collecting signatures to help “Free the Bears”. Within months, she had thousands of signatures, a regular group of like-minded supporters which became a committee, and plans to build on the momentum that had gathered into a force to help bears throughout the world. On the 23rd March 1995 Free the Bears Fund was registered as a not — for- profit charity. Word of Mary’s work spread as she delivered petitions to the Chinese Embassy in Canberra surrounded by schoolchildren and organised raffles, film nights and other events to raise awareness about the plight of Asia’s bears. Memberships and merchandise were sold to raise funds for overseas projects as requests for help started to arrive in the post…

READ MORE:

http://www.FreeTheBears.org.au

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May 17, 2013 · 2:33 am

The “Khao Phansa” Candle Festival of Ubon Ratchathani, Northeastern (Isan) Thailand

In this episode of RodMcNeil.TV, viewers are transported to Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, or “Isan” as it is most known—in the Northeast of Thailand—during what is known as Buddhist lent and the scene of a world famous candle festival. And not just any candles—giant candles fit for a parade. (Note the Isan music in the background).

Noodle lovers will salivate at a myriad of noodles, most made from rice, and served up with bean shoots and other flavorful items.

Join Rod on the eve of the parade, and at a traditional coffee shop the following day to experience the local morning rituals enjoyed by many. Then, it is parade time where the tiered seating fills up quite early. Beauty queens and men in uniform (not to be confused) and everyday folks from all walks of life are an important part of this adventure for any tourist and locals alike! The parade wouldn’t be the same without a myriad of traditional dance and costumes as well.

From Tourism Authority of Thailand:

The Significance of Crafted Candles as Buddhist Lent Merit-Making Offerings

At Thung Sri Muang Park and Ubon Ratchathani National Museum

The Candle Festival of Ubon Ratchathani province features a procession of ornately-carved traditional beeswax candles of various shapes and sizes. Buddhism, Buddhist traditions and beliefs are central forces that shape the local way of life and the customs and traditions related to this Buddhist festival have been carefully preserved by local communities.

As the seasonal monsoon rains descend over the kingdom, it marks the beginning of the Buddhist “rain retreat” and the Buddhist Lent, or Phansa, during which all Buddhist monks retreat to the temples. This is also an auspicious time for Buddhist ordinations as it marks a period of spiritual renewal.

Known as “Khao Phansa”, the Buddhist Lent is a time devoted to study and meditation. Buddhist monks remain within the temple grounds and do not venture out for a period of three months starting from the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month (in July) to the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eleventh lunar month (in October). In former times, this is done to prevent monks from trampling upon rice paddies when they venture out to receive offerings from the villagers.

As the province prepares for the Buddhist Lent, men folk, ordained as well as laymen, with artistic skills set about the task of moulding and sculpting Lenten candles. As these works of art are to be presented as Buddhist merit-making offerings, the artisans pour their heart and soul into their craft. Many of these are fine examples of Buddhist art and sculpture.

Villagers actively engage in merit-making during the Buddhist Lent, making visits to temples to make offerings of food and items for daily use. The presentation of items that provide light, such as candles, lanterns and lamp oil, is deemed to be particularly important as these facilitate the study of holy scriptures and meditation by providing illumination to the monks, physically and spiritually.

Bringing together the Traditional and the Contemporary

To help keep ancient customs and traditions alive, the provincial authorities have added more contemporary elements to the traditional festival in an attempt to create broader appeal and attract younger visitors.

In addition to the exhibition of wax sculptures by the participating international artists from Japan, Nepal, Belgium, France, Ukraine, Latvia, Spain, Brazil, and host country, Thailand, the festival programme now includes other art and design-related highlights such as the Silpakorn Art Pool featuring handcrafted candles workshops and sound art, the Lat Krabang Art Scene featuring film and photo, interactive art, art camp, and Kids Art Village.

Other attractions, such as the Ubon Art Street, the Ubon Weekend Market and Laeng Pla Ploen Market, traditional and contemporary folk music performances, are all designed to add to the festive ambience of the event.

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May 17, 2013 · 2:30 am

Exploring Phi Phi Island and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Famous Movie “Beach” in Thailand

This adventure to Phi Phi Island (most famous worldwide as the setting for Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach”) begins at Chalong Bay, on Phuket Island in the South of Thailand, for a speedboat adventure to Phi Phi Island as part of the Phuket Siam Seacanoe Day Tour.

“Welcome to Phi Phi Island” one Thai man exclaims enthusiastically, which as you will see from the video is actually a series of islands.

Isn’t it time to call your travel agent?

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May 17, 2013 · 2:26 am

Introducing Pakse, Laos

In this episode, Rod first crosses the border into Pakse, Laos near the Thailand town of Ubon Ratchathani. Exploring the multicultural influences (French, Chinese and more) of the area, we learn that “Pakse” refers to the mouth of the river.

Discover how two fellow Aussies (Tim and Meredith Shaw) are traversing the nation. Hint: According to Meredith, it is “better than Jenny Craig.”

The Lao-Nippon bridge is quite impressive, as you will see, opened as recently in the year 2000 and a gift from the Japanese. A glimpse at a former “private residence”, now a hotel, which boasts “1,000 windows” is demonstrative of the luxuries of previous regimes.

Xuanmai Guest House, Rod’s home away from, a brand new and on the edge of town, is quite charming, with its own pond, and a lot of bamboo!

FROM TOURISM LAOS:

Located : on a curve of the Mekong River
Total area : 3,920 square kilometers
Population : 610,000
09 Districts : Chanthabouly, Sikhottabong, Xaysettha, Sisattanak, Naxaithong, Xaythany, Hadxaifong, Sangthong and Park Ngum
Capital : Vientiane.

According to myth, the city of Vientiane was created by the Naga Souvannanak. Vientiane was an ancient city whose territories covered both banks of the Mekong River. The first name of Vientiane was “Ban Nong Khanthae Phiseuanam” village, which later became “Vientiane” town under the leadership of the first Governor, Bourichan or Phraya Chanthabouly Pasitthisak, between 430-120 B.C.

In 1357 King Fa Ngoum held a grandiose celebration for the great victory of the unification of all Lao territories enhancing his prestige and power over the nobility throughout the Lane Xang Kingdom and the neighboring kingdoms. It was organized in the Pak Pasak area in present day Vientiane.

In 1560, King Saysettha moved from Luang Prabang to declare Vientiane as the capital city of the Lane Xang kingdom, naming it “Nakorn Chanthabouly Sitta tanakhanahood Outtama Rajathany”

During the reign of King Souliyavongsa Thamikarat in the 17th century, Vientiane grew to become one of the most developed civilizations. The city was the center of administration for politics, socio-economics and culture. The kings were brave, clever and kind and people were happy. The palaces were very beautiful, looking like golden houses standing along the bank of the Mekong River.

However, Vientiane was burnt down by Siames troops in 1828, and divided into two cities. The city on the right side of the Mekong River became part of Siam and the city on the left side remained part of Laos. At present, Vientiane is a smaller city, only half of its former size.

In the years of 2009 and 2010; two great historical events take place in Vientiane. In 2009 we hosted the 25th annual SEA Games and in 2010 we held a celebration of the 450th anniversary of the foundation of Vientiane as the Capital (1560-2010). To prepared for the above auspicious events Vientiane people have continued developing the city to be peaceful, clean, green, charming, light and civilized.

…From http://www.TourismLaos.org

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May 17, 2013 · 2:23 am

Chasing Waterfalls Near Pakse, Laos

In this episode Rod begins with a breakfast at a quaint hotel and then explores a local apothecary for local medicines; street food stalls and souvenir shops; a water fall and a famous tree, and more!

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May 17, 2013 · 2:19 am

Exploring Vientiane, Laos

In this episode, Rod first discovers the coffee culture of this capital city, a city that seeks to preserve and celebrate its connections to many cultures—French, German and more. Many of the historic buildings are in fantastic condition. This piece showcases the many eras of Vientiane. And what does Vientiane have in common with Beverly Hills? Watch and find out.

Enjoy the tour of Wat Sisaket as well—the most famous and oldest wat in the region. Not too far away, the Phat That Luang Stupa, golden in the sunlight, reaches skyward above the city. Does the local currency include coins? Find out!

See the most-stunning victory monument as well, built after freedom from the French occupation. And what a view from the top! Rod also shows us the architectural magnificence of the Arc Patuxai followed by a walk on the boardwalk along the Mae Kong river. And the sunset. Wow! Rod wraps up his journey on the Thai side of the river in Nong Khai.

What an adventure!

FROM TOURISM LAOS:

Located : on a curve of the Mekong River
Total area : 3,920 square kilometers
Population : 610,000
09 Districts : Chanthabouly, Sikhottabong, Xaysettha, Sisattanak, Naxaithong, Xaythany, Hadxaifong, Sangthong and Park Ngum
Capital : Vientiane.

According to myth, the city of Vientiane was created by the Naga Souvannanak. Vientiane was an ancient city whose territories covered both banks of the Mekong River. The first name of Vientiane was “Ban Nong Khanthae Phiseuanam” village, which later became “Vientiane” town under the leadership of the first Governor, Bourichan or Phraya Chanthabouly Pasitthisak, between 430-120 B.C.
In 1357 King Fa Ngoum held a grandiose celebration for the great victory of the unification of all Lao territories enhancing his prestige and power over the nobility throughout the Lane Xang Kingdom and the neighboring kingdoms. It was organized in the Pak Pasak area in present day Vientiane.

In 1560, King Saysettha moved from Luang Prabang to declare Vientiane as the capital city of the Lane Xang kingdom, naming it “Nakorn Chanthabouly Sitta tanakhanahood Outtama Rajathany”

During the reign of King Souliyavongsa Thamikarat in the 17th century, Vientiane grew to become one of the most developed civilizations. The city was the center of administration for politics, socio-economics and culture. The kings were brave, clever and kind and people were happy. The palaces were very beautiful, looking like golden houses standing along the bank of the Mekong River.

However, Vientiane was burnt down by Siames troops in 1828, and divided into two cities. The city on the right side of the Mekong River became part of Siam and the city on the left side remained part of Laos. At present, Vientiane is a smaller city, only half of its former size.

In the years of 2009 and 2010; two great historical events take place in Vientiane. In 2009 we hosted the 25th annual SEA Games and in 2010 we held a celebration of the 450th anniversary of the foundation of Vientiane as the Capital (1560-2010). To prepared for the above auspicious events Vientiane people have continued developing the city to be peaceful, clean, green, charming, light and civilized.

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May 17, 2013 · 2:12 am

A Journey from Sawannaket to Vientiane, Laos

In this episode Rod begins with a visit to the famous Montip Restaurant in Sawannaket and journeys to Vientiane, stopping at a famous Stupa along the way, as well as a major sugar factory. Also featured in the journey, rivers and bridges of course, and a genuine look at Laos country life, complete with a stop for a mammoth bowl of noodles at a roadside shop. Rod reveals Laos new openness to tourism, with new bridges to prove this. The journey ends at night with glimpses of tempting street food in Vientiane and a most surprising restaurant!

More Videos:
http://www.RodMcNeil.TV

ABOUT LAOS:

The Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Laos is located in the center of Indochina, sharing borders with China to the North 416 kilometers, Myanmar to Northwest 236 kilometers, Thailand to the West 1,835 kilometers, Cambodia to the South 492 kilometers and Vietnam to the East 1,957 kilometers.

With a total area of 236,800 square kilometers, around 70% of Laos’ terrain is mountainous, reaching a maximum elevation of 2,820 meters in Xieng Khouang Province. The landscapes of northern Laos and the regions adjacent to Vietnam, in particular, are dominated by rough mountains.

The Mekong River is the main geographical feature in the west and, in fact, forms a natural border with Thailand in some areas. The Mekong flows through nearly 1,900 kilometers of Lao territory and shapes much of the lifestyle of the people of Laos. In the South the Mekong reaches a breadth of 20 kilometers, creating an area with thousands of islands.

People and population

– Population: 6.2 million.
– Density: 23 people/square kilometer.
– The population consists of 49 ethnic groups, in 4 main linguistic.

…From http://www.TourismLaos.org

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May 17, 2013 · 2:09 am