Walking with a Cheetah,Zambia

I stayed in Livingstone Zambia in January 2018 to see the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi. I went to a shelter for wounded Cheetahs, with 90 km /hr the fastest land animal in the world. Some were rejected by their mother. In this place they were taken care of and when they were recovered they were released into nature again. According to a study from 2016, there would be approximately 7100 Cheetahs left in the wild. Their habitat is 9% of what it used to be. Good reasons for this shelter to take care of this endangered species. In the meantime, I was allowed to come in contact with them and even walk with them like we do at home with our dogs: on a leash.

IMG_6743.jpgCheetahs are fast, and they are good hunters, but not big fighters. Lions, hyenas and other predators often steal their kills.Cheetah families are also smaller than lion prides or hyena packs. Because of this, cheetah populations are falling in many areas.

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I was warned. If a Cheetah is lying on the floor and he wants to turn around, he wants to pull himself up with his claws on your body. We all know how it feels like when a little kitten puts his nails in your arm. With his centimeters long claws this Cheetah would be able to hurt me very badly. So I had to be careful. You will see this in the short film above.

They have a few juvenile Cheetahs that we got to spend over an hour with. We got to meet them, pet them, then take them for a long walk through the bush. All of it was hands on, all interactive. These animals all appeared to be very well taken care of. IMG_3586.jpgIf you’ve ever had a friend with unhappy cats, you know you can tell. But these fellas were so happy and pleased with human contact. I could not believe when I first walked up and they were lying on the ground and after a couple minutes of intro from the handler, they said we could pet them.

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On this photo you see a practice field. At the left you see a wire. A chicken is tied up to this wire. The engine is started and the chicken is moved at great speed. The Cheetah runs after it until he has it between his claws. On this way the condition is maintained.

They started to purr. They purr like great big growly cats, and they obviously like attention. They were much bigger than I expected. They walked well on their harnesses, and would pull a bit too hard sometimes just like your dog when he is excited. IMG_6706.jpgThe expert guides were very friendly and then they basically just accompanied us on the walk and let us do all the working with the cheetahs. Did I mention how fantastic this whole experience was ? I just stood face to face with a real killer. An animal that with one stroke with its claws can end to your life. It was a very exciting experience that I will never forget.IMG_6818.jpg

Dancing with killers (prison without walls)

This blog is in English and in Dutch (for the English version you have to scroll down)

Bezoek een gevangenis zonder muren op de Filipijnen

In Puerto Princesa op het eiland Palawan (Filipijnen) staat de bijzondere Iwahig gevangenis. Deze gevangenis is uniek omdat er geen muren omheen staan. Iedereen kan zomaar weglopen. De gevangenis en het land eromheen hebben een oppervlakte dat ongeveer twee keer zo groot is als Parijs en bijna 3000 gevangenen werken en leven hier samen alsof het een groot dorp is. Angelica en ik konden deze gevangenis gewoon binnenwandelen en zien hoe het is om hier te wonen en te leven. Er is altijd wel een gevangene die je wat kan vertellen over zijn leven hier.

IMG_2442.jpgIMG_2438.jpgWanneer je in de Filipijnen een grote misdaad pleegt zoals een moord, kom je de eerste jaren waarschijnlijk terecht in de gevangenis in de hoofdstad Manila. Daar zit je met 300 gevangenen in een cel van 150 m2. Om de beurt mag er iemand een paar uurtjes slapen. Daarna wordt hij wakker gemaakt zodat een ander even kan gaan liggen. Na een aantal jaar je goed gedragen te hebben, heb je kans op een overplaatsing naar de Iwahig gevangenis op Palawan. IMG_2495.jpgIMG_2504.jpgHier werken ze met drie afdelingen; maximum, medium en minimum. Op welke afdeling je zit, is afhankelijk van je gedrag en hoeveel jaar straf je nog te gaan hebt. Elke afdeling heeft een andere vorm van vrijheid binnen de gevangenis. De medium en minimum gevangenen zitten niet opgesloten en werken enkele dagen op de rijstvelden binnen de gevangenis. In hun vrije tijd zijn ze daadwerkelijk vrij om te doen wat ze willen binnen het grondgebied van Iwahig.

IMG_2445.jpgDe gevangenis lijkt gewoon op een rustig dorp met een ontzettend mooie omgeving. De gevangenen lopen niet weg omdat de kans groot is dat ze niet ver komen. Wanneer ze dan gepakt zouden worden, krijgen ze extra jaren celstraf en moeten ze terug naar de gevangenis in Manila. Dit is ook de reden dat er bijna geen incidenten van geweld of diefstal voorkomen. De mensen zijn blij met de vrijheid die ze hebben en willen dit niet op het spel zetten.

IMG_2506.jpgJe hoort de verhalen die vaak erg aangrijpend zijn en hoewel de meeste mannen er vrij ruig uitzien, zijn ze eigenlijk poeslief. Ze vinden het ontzettend leuk dat je langskomt. Ze genieten er van om je belangrijke levenslessen te leren over de waarde van familie en dat mensen daadwerkelijk kunnen veranderen. Daarnaast zijn ze gek op dansen, rappen en zingen dus je kan zeker rekenen op een optreden.

IMG_2437.jpgJason zit een straf uit van 23 jaar. Hij vermoordde de twee moordenaars van zijn vader, moeder en zusje die op een avond aan hun deur stonden. Tegen zijn advies in maakte zijn vader destijds toch de deur open. Met twee pistoolschoten werd hij vermoord. Daarna stormden de twee overvallers naar binnen en schoten hun magazijn leeg op de rest van het gezin. Zwaargewond werd Jason afgevoerd naar het ziekenhuis. Wonder boven wonder overleefde hij deze meervoudige moord. Jaren later zag hij de overvallers in zijn dorp rondlopen. Ongestraft. De politie deed niets. Steeds als hij ze tegen kwam lachten de twee hem uit. Hij besloot wraak te nemen. Op een dag kocht hij een pistool, wachtte de overvallers op en schoot ze allebei dood. Daarna fietste hij naar het politiebureau, vertelde wat hij gedaan had en werd meteen gearresteerd. Hij kreeg 23 jaar cel. Hij heeft 8 jaar in de gevangenis van Manila gezeten. Nu zit hij hier en heeft nog maar 12 jaar te gaan. Tijdens ons gesprek kwam een Filipijnse jongedame in een tennisrokje aangefietst. Ze was op vakantie in eigen land en kwam al een paar dagen langs om met de jongens te gaan tennissen. Mooi toch ?

IMG_2463.jpgBen je van plan om langs te gaan, kom dan vooral niet met lege handen aan. Koop vooraf wat lekkers en een paar pakjes sigaretten. Hier zijn ze erg blij mee want ze hebben zelf geen geld voor dit soort dingen. Met het werken op de boerderij verdienen ze eten voor de week maar dit is niets bijzonders. Als vrouw is het daarnaast gepast om je een beetje bedekt te kleden. Er zullen ook gevangenen zijn die je een rondleiding geven binnen het gebied en aan het einde om wat geld vragen. Kom dus niet met een lege portemonnee maar zorg dat je wat briefjes van 100 Pesos bij je hebt. Je kunt ook allemaal spulletjes die ze zelf gemaakt hebben kopen. Probeer niet te veel in discussie met ze te gaan. Ze probeerden te achterhalen hoeveel straf ze zouden hebben gekregen in Nederland. Jason stelde Angelica de vraag wat zij nu vond van het feit dat hij die dubbele moord had gepleegd. Op dat moment moet je even slikken en een tactisch antwoord geven. Ik bedoel: je zit wel tussen 300 moordenaars 😉

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Visit a prison without walls in the Philippines

In Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan (Philippines) there is the special Iwahig prison. This prison is unique because there are no walls around it. Anyone can just run away. The prison and the land around it have an area that is about twice as big as Paris and almost 3000 prisoners work and live together as if they were in a big village. Angelica and I could just walk into this prison and see what it’s like to work and live here. There is always a prisoner who can tell you something about his life.IMG_2478.jpg

When you commit a major crime such as murder in the Philippines, you will probably end up in prison in the capital Manila in the first years. There you live with 300 prisoners in a cell of 150 m2. Someone can sleep for a few hours. Then he is awakened so that another person can lie down. After a few years you have behaved well, you have a chance of a transfer to the Iwahig prison in Palawan. Here they work with three departments; maximum, medium and minimum. Which department you are in depends on your behavior and how many years you still have to stay.

IMG_2508.jpgEach department has a different form of freedom within the prison. The medium and minimum prisoners are not locked up and work on the rice fields within the prison for a few days. In their free time they are actually free to do what they want within the territory of Iwahig. The prison just looks like a quiet village with an incredibly beautiful environment. The prisoners do not run away because they will not get far. When they get caught, they get extra years in prison and have to go back to the prison in Manila. This is also the reason that there are almost no incidents of violence or theft. People are happy with the freedom they have and do not want to risk this.

IMG_2428.jpgYou hear the stories that are often very poignant and although most men look pretty rough, they are actually very cute. They really like it that you come along. They enjoy learning your important life lessons about the value of family and that people can actually change. They are crazy about dancing, rapping and singing so you can certainly count on a performance.

IMG_2511.jpgJason is sentenced to prison for 23 years. He killed the two murderers of his father, mother and sister who were standing in front of  their door one evening. Against his advice, his father opened the door. He was murdered with two gunshots. Then the two robbers rushed in and emptied their guns on the rest of the family. Jason was taken off to hospital severely wounded. Miraculously, he survived this multiple murder. Years later he saw the robbers walking around in his village. Unpunished. The police didn’t do anything. Every time he came across them, the two laughed at him. He decided to take revenge. One day he bought a gun and shot the two robbers. Then he went to the police station, told what he had done and was immediately arrested. He was sentenced to prison for 23. He spent 8 years in Manila prison. Now he is here and has only 12 years more to go. During our conversation, a young Filipina lady stopped by in a short tennis skirt. She was on holiday in her own country and came along for a few days to play tennis with the boys.

If you intend to visit this place, do not approach empty-handed. Buy some goodies and a few packs of cigarettes in advance. They are very happy with this because they have no money to buy those things themselves. With working on the farm they earn food for the week but this is nothing special. As a woman, it is also appropriate to dress a bit covered. There will also be prisoners who give you a tour of the area and ask for some money at the end. So do not come with an empty wallet but make sure you have some 100 Pesos notes with you. You can also buy all the things they have made themselves. Do not try to argue with them too much. They try to find out how much punishment they would have received in the Netherlands. Jason asked Angelica aabout her thoughts that he had committed that double murder. At that moment you have to swallow and give a tactical answer. I mean: you’re among 300 murderers;)

Alien Giger Bar

“Sip a Mojito in the queen alien’s womb”

 

If you ever are looking for fun things to do in Switzerland or you’re an Alien vs. Predator fan come check out this bar. It’s creepy and cool at the same time. You need to just see this place for yourself. It is out of this world. The decor is unlike any bar I have seen. I visited this bar with my cousin Verena and we were both overwhelmed by the creation of the artist Hansrudi Giger: the designer of the microphonestandard of Jonathan Davis, Frontman of metalband Korn but also the designer of the alien creatures in the movies:

IMG_3859 2.jpgIMG_7977Just step inside, and your jaw will drop. It’s like entering another universe. H.R. Giger designed the bar in a way that preserves the 400 year old Gothic architecture. He heightens the cavernous effect with dramatic skeletal arches that sweep over the ceiling.

FullSizeRender 4Beneath these bony vaults are high-backed shell-like chairs. They were originally designed as a Harkonnen throne for the Dune film that never got made. (Keep reading to see another variant of the seats inside the museum).

FullSizeRender 6I love how Giger turned the Medieval cathedral-like space into a bio-mechanical vision of the future. What an incredible feeling to curl up in one of these spinal chairs at the circular windows, and feel like you’ve been swallowed up by an intergalactic beast. Tip: the Giger bar is extremely popular with tourists, so try to avoid lunch time and other peak hours. You may have to wait a while to get a seat at your preferred table. We did our best to take some pictures but it was very difficult to capture them with all the visitors around. Picture below: my lovely cousin Verena. You can visit her website Derde Etage.

IMG_7967The Gruyeres Giger bar is actually the fourth one ever built. Only one other location remains open: the H.R. Giger Bar in Chur, Switzerland (his place of birth), established since 1992. As you can see from the menu board, Bar HR Giger serves drinks and small snacks, including themed items. Verena ordered a Alien coffee, the most visually interesting dish which comes on a wooden tray with little meringues, and honey herb liqueur. I ordered a Giger Mojito.

FullSizeRender 7If you’ve seen the Alien series from the eighties  you’ll know to watch out for the segmented blade-tipped tails, burning acidic blood — and double-jawed set of teeth that extend out to pierce your flesh!

FullSizeRender 9Alien’s impact earned the Swiss artist an Academy Award in 1980, for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. The Oscar statue is on display if you look closely, beneath one of the ancient staircases in the museum. You can visit te bars site on Giger bar.

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Abandoned chemical Nazi-factory (English)

Wanna check out this place ? Sent a message with your request to Ran Groetjes (FB-Messenger)  and get the GPS-coordinats.

Abandoned since 1999 and falling into disrepair, the Chemiewerk Rüdersdorf resembles a post-apocalyptic world, just outside of Berlin.  After a short walk along the railway track over the riverbridge we were not prepared for the sheer vastness of this abandoned place, it loomed before us surrounded in razor-sharp wire, like something out of a zombie movie.

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The history of the factory dates back to 1899 starting its life with “CO Wegener” a company which built a cement plant at this location. This was a strategic choice given that the industrial processing of quicklime and cement was carried out in the nearby Rüdersdorf. During World War II the site was then used by the Nazis for the production of synthetic bauxite used in the process of aircraft production. Germany was almost entirely dependent on Hungary and Yugoslavia for bauxite during the war and the British attempted to stop the bauxite trade by sending undercover agents in, however, this did not go to plan. As with many buildings in East Berlin, the Soviets dismantled the plant after the war, then in 1950, it was used to make animal feed and other farming materials.IMG_7097

There are several buildings to explore and this at site you cab climb to dizzying new heights. If you suffer from Vertigo or a fear of heights then this might not be the location for you. Climbing up the exposed concrete stairways to the top of the eight-story-high silo tanks is not for the faint-hearted – especially when there are large holes in the floor that would have you fall straight through to the bottom (not to mention the gap between the stairs and the floor that you have to jump over).IMG_7117

The roofing is quite unstable so I would not recommend walking on it, but if you fancy making across this rickety bridge then be my guest. Just remember if you are on German health insurance you most likely will not be covered…IMG_7107

Items are left in disarray as if there was a swift evacuation, chemical bottles fill rooms and meticulously handwritten documents are scattered throughout the ruins.  The factory has been used for several movies including ‘Enemy at the Gates’ and ‘The Monuments Men’. I can see why – the beauty and epic presence of these buildings is nothing short of cinematic.IMG_7092

Plans to make something out of the location were rejected,  and the thick reinforced concrete and enormous contaminated sites put many companies off furthering these proposals. Now it is just left to nature and the outcasts of society. As with any urban exploration, I urge you to not destroy or vandalise anything, it ruins the experience for others and often makes these places more off limits then they already are due to security. Remeber our credo: take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footsteps.IMG_7115IMG_7121IMG_7094

 

Disclaimer: I never claimed that I visited this place. Nor did I advise or force anyone to visit this place. Entering such buildings is prohibited and can be punished with high fines or in some countries you may be fined with a prison sentence.

The Hills Have Eyes

An abandoned horror film set sits eerily along a highway through Hollywood’s “door to the desert.”

Wanna check out this place ? Sent a message with your request to Ran Groetjes (FB-Messenger)  and get the GPS-coordinats.

An American-style gas station is waiting for you on the highway out of Ouarzazate (Morocco). It’s not a hallucination; rather it is the set used for the 2006 horror film “The Hills Have Eyes.” It was here, at this gas station, that the film’s protagonists are advised to take a gory, gruesome “shortcut.”

Even for those who aren’t familiar with the movie, the old station is a chilling sight. Supposedly, the eerie movie set looks so real people occasionally mistake it for an actual gas station. Smashed, weathered cars rust outside. Glass bottles glitter in the trees, and creepy puppets peer out from unexpected places.

The gas station sits along the highway that runs through a small commune outside Ouarzazate, a city known as Hollywood’s “door to the desert.” It’s a hotspot for desert-based film sets and on-location shooting.

Unfortunately the “diner” is not accessible, but make sure to take a peek through the window. Old props, like cans of soda and food, glass jars, and a handful of flags, sit undisturbed throughout the space. The dust-coated items make it look like the decrepit diner was abandoned in a hurry.

Trailer the Hills have Eyes (2006)

 

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Tourist-o-meter Rating: 1/10. Not many people know this place because it’s far from our beds. But when you are in the area just check it out.
Disclaimer: I never claimed that I visited this place. Nor did I advise or force anyone to visit this place. Entering such buildings is prohibited and can be punished with high fines or in some countries you may be fined with a prison sentence.

 

 

 

Baby budgetfotografie

Eindelijk kan ik deze blog met jullie delen. Vorige week  kwam er een oproepje voorbij van mijn schoonzusje Jessica voor een baby fotoshoot van haar kleine kruimel Livay ter ere van zijn eerste verjaardag. Natuurlijk had ze zelf al honderden foto’s van dit mooie pasgeboren knulletje, maar foto’s van hem in een feestelijke setting waren er nog niet. En dat is precies een reden waarom het zo waardevol is om een fotograaf uit te nodigen, om ook dit soort foto’s te maken. En wat een fijne shoot was dit! Een fijn, licht huis, lieve mensen, leuke stuiterbal Livay en natuurlijk een prachtige setting ! Ik hou van het fotograferen van de natuur maar dit beviel me ook wel. Die pure momenten, de chaos die hoort bij dit soort sessies en die lieve momentjes tussendoor.

Ok, ik hou op. Scroll snel naar beneden en check de foto’s ! Weten jullie iemand die ook dit soort foto’s wil of willen jullie prijsinformatie dan kunnen jullie contact opnemen via 06-13545294. Let op: ik ben geen professionele fotograaf maar gewoon een hobbykloot. Maar daar is dan ook de prijs naar 😉

Groetjes Ran

 

 

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Cambodia (dutch blog)

Ik was in slaap gevallen op het voordek van de boot van Siem Reap naar Phnom Penh, de hoofdstad van Cambodja. Je vaart dan over het Tonlé Sap meer. In regentijd groter dan de helft van Nederland. We deden er ongeveer zes uur over en ik was helemaal rood verbrand. Onderweg legden we aan bij een klein vissersdorpje om wat te gaan eten.

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Jaren 50 cruiseboot op het Tonlé Sap meer

Onder het eten keek ik naar een oud mannetje met een kromme rug. Hij droeg een oud grijs jasje met een beige pet. Aan zijn rechterhand  fonkelde een blauwe zegelring. Hij stond aan de rand van het water en keek over het meer. Hij bracht ineens zijn handen langzaam naar zijn mond en maakte een raar, hard kloekkloek-geluid. Dat deed hij drie keer. In de daaropvolgende minuten overspoelden honderden, misschien wel duizend eenden de waterkant. Ik wist niet wat ik zag en keek het streekmeisje dat naast me zat te spelen met haar armbandje, verbaasd aan. Ze lachte terug.

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Cambodjaans streekmeisje

Er volgde terstond één groot gespetter in het water vergezeld door een kakofonie van eendengekwaak. Eenden vind ik sowieso leuke beestjes. Het is de enige vogelsoort die loopt alsof ze de hele dag paard heeft gereden. Enfin. Het oude mannetje pikte een willekeurige eend eruit en heel liefdevol pakte hij haar op en stopte haar onder zijn stoffig grijze jasje. Het mooi gekleurde kopje van de eend stak ter hoogte van zijn borst naar buiten. Wederom bracht de man beide handen naar zijn mond en een tweede raar, hard geluid overstemde het eendengekwaak. Plotsklaps was het één groot geroezemoes in het water en alle eenden maakten zich uit de “voeten” en vlogen weg. IMG_4074.jpeg
Het mannetje liep over de steiger onze kant op. Onder het lopen pakte hij de eend onder zijn jasje vandaan, aaide het beestje een paar keer en brak vervolgens, vergezeld door een laatste kwaak, zijn nek. We waren met stomheid geslagen. Ik stond op en al kauwend op mijn kip-curry liep ik het mannetje achterna. Hier moest een verhaal achter zitten en ik zou het te weten komen ook.

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Ta Prohm Temple, Banteay Chhmar, Cambodja

Ik haalde hem in en in mijn beste gebarentaal -engels spreken ze hier nauwelijks- vroeg ik hem waarom hij de eend zijn nek had gebroken. Aangezien hij verbaal niet in staat was het me uit te leggen nam hij me mee naar zijn houten paalhuisje op het water. Hier zou alles duidelijk worden. Eenmaal binnen liep een tiental kuikentjes onder luid gepiep hem tegemoet en hield halt bij zijn slippers.

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Koh Rong Sanloem, Sihanoukville, Cambodja

Verderop zag ik een tiental eenden in een soort broedhok op een ei zitten. Hij maakte me duidelijk dat als een ei op barsten stond, hij de moeder snel van het ei af trok. Vervolgens ging hij met zijn gezicht voor het uitkomende ei zitten en zorgde ervoor dat hij degene was die het kuikentje als eerste zou zien. Zoals jullie weten wordt diegene die het kuikentje, nadat ze uit het ei is gekomen, als eerste ziet, geacht de moeder to be te zijn. Het kuikentje zal je daarna continu volgen. Overal waar je ook maar heen gaat.

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Rode Khmer curry

Zich geheel inlevend in die moederrol had hij dus heel wat kuikentjes opgevoed en hen geleerd met een kloekkloekgeluid te komen en te gaan wanneer hij dat wilde. In de laatste jaren had hij dus zodoende honderden eenden getrained. De oude geeltandige rotzak bestierde warempel aan huis een lucratief eenmans eendenzaakje en verkocht na de slacht de eenden aan de mensen uit zijn dorp !

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Otres Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodja

Ik stond versteld van zijn uiterst inventieve manier van “running a business”. Hij hoefde de diertjes niet te voeren en hij hoefde niet te jagen. Het enige wat hij hoefde te doen was éénmaal per dag naar de kant van de rivier te lopen en zijn brul te laten horen. Nietsvermoedend kwamen de eenden dan regelrecht naar hun “moeder”  die hun vlak na hun geboorte zoveel warmte en liefde had gegeven.  Magnificent !! 😎

Moraal van het verhaal: het geluk fladdert in het rond. Grijp je kans ! 😉

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Koh Rong Sanloem, Sihanoukville, Cambodja

IMG_4502.jpegBinnenkort zullen ook reportages verschijnen van de Bamboo-train in Battambang, ’s werelds meest bezochte plek: de tempels van Angkor Wat in Siem Reap en de Killing Fields nabij Phnom Penh van de Rode Khmer.

 

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The old bastard

Khao Sok National Park, in dreamland on a floating lodge

In 2008 I visited Khao Sok National Park for the first time in my life. A few years after the all-killing tsunami. It’s like a hidden gem of Thailand. It has one of the oldest rainforrests on earth, huge limestone mountains shooting straight up in the air, deep valleys, breathtaking lakes, exciting caves, wild animals and much more. We just booked one night on the Ratchaprapha lake and this was an unforgettable experience! 

We stayed in Khao Sok Plern Prai Raft House which had comfortable wooden cottages in the middle of nature.Angelica and I arrived very early with the train from Bangkok and arrived in Surat Thani. In front of the railway station we were picked up by a minivan. After an hour enjoying the views of mountains and forest and a quick stop at a local market, we arrived at the pier of the lake. We hopped into the long tail boat which seemed not very stable (luckily this was not the case).

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We went across the lake and before we knew, it was only us and nature. It felt like entering Jurassic Park and see dinosaurs around the corner of the lake. Of course that didn’t happen but it was just magical.  We heard sounds of birds, insects and monkeys but couldn’t see them. 

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Very foggy in the morning at 05:30AM just before sunrise
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Sunsets are beautiful at the lake !

After an hour we arrived at our floating lodge which existed of a floating pier and around 20 basic floating lodges. The lodges are made of wood and have a matras only. The view was amazing!  Every lodge has a canoe which we used to explore the lake. After the canoe trip we stepped into a long tail boat and we were driven around to spot some animals in the jungle. We saw monkeys and a lot of birds. In the evening we had a delicious meal with fresh fish from the lake, rice, fruit and a lot more. The sky was full of bright stars and the best of all: No mosquitos!
The next morning we woke up early to see the sunrise. We had breakfast and headed back around noon to the pier. This was such a great trip and I can recommend it to everyone who loves to go on an adventureIMG_9771.jpegIMG_9728.jpeg

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Foggy in the early morning 06:00AMIMG_9763.jpeg

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How to get there
Khao Sok National Park is situated in the south of Thailand, 100 km south of Surat Thani. From here you can arrange a minivan to take you to the pier of the lake, it takes about one hour.  The minivans are comfortable with airconditioning and before you know, you’re already thereIMG_9737.jpegIMG_9784.jpeg

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Kitchen
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Dinner room
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Bathroom
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Bedroom

 

NUTS weekend Bastogne

Our friends Tinka, Sven and Sander asked Angelica and me to join them to the NUTS weekend at the Bastogne Barracks. Bastogne is always worth a visit, and I would like to make you discover one big  seasonal event of Belgium in Bastogne. From our place in Hillensberg it’s only about a two hour drive. As a child my family went to Bastogne only once to do some shopping, as there’s a huge street market, where you can buy fresh food, fruits, vegetables, but also plants and flowers, biscuits and chocolates. Due to the tourists shopping or having dinner in Bastogne is not cheap ! Traditionally in mid-December Bastogne celebrates the commemoration of the Battle of the Bulge, which is the name of the horrible and frightful battles taking place in and around Bastogne, the Ardennes, northeast France and Luxembourg between December 16th 1944 and January 25th 1945. The second weekend of December is called  “Nuts weekend” at the “Bastogne Barracks”. There are some exhibitions to visit, as well as the vehicle exhibition and vehicle restoration centre.

After a two hours drive and a coffee pitstop we arrived in Bastogne where we found a parking lot very quickly. My friends had plans to have a 12 km walk in the fields around Bastogne but it was very, very cold and a bit windy so we changed plans and visited some venues in the village with 15.000 inhabitants. In this particular weekend they even organize convoys through Bastogne and to other sites in the surroundings and many enthusiasts dressed in historical uniforms are present with or without vehicle.

We visited several halls where different vehicles such as tanks and jeeps were renovated. There were also buildings where people had reconstructed daily life during a war. You could see a lot of original stuff from that time. There were even people who walked around in original army clothes, such as a NAZI pastor. We also saw children’s toys from that time such as Playmobil but with specific war puppets. Congrats to all those volunteers to do their very best to perform such a realistic presentation to show what the circumstances have been like.

After visiting the military venue we  headed to Bastogne centre to see the parade. In this parade some old soldiers were driven around in wheelchairs. These men must have been between 90-100 years old. The massive public along the road began to clap spontaneously for these war heroes. These men have ensured our liberation. The mental scars have dragged them all their lives. We had all the respect for these heroes. Then we looked for a local restaurant to eat something. In a shop we bought la Chouffe beer which we drank in our cozy AirBnb. We played card games the whole evening and it started snowing outside. What a great day in Bastogne!  Absolutely to be recommended and to notice in your agenda for the next years. 

Why is the weekend called: NUTS ?

In Bastogne the besieged garrison began to worry seriously about the slow advance of the 3rd army. General Anthony McAuliffe, the garrison commander, had confidently rejected an ultimatum by Heinrich von Lüttwitz on 22 December with a legendary short answer: “Nuts!“. The German general threatened to throw the city into ruins if the 101st Airborne Division did not surrender “honorably” within two hours. The American General McAuliffe found the ultimatum utterly absurd, for he was convinced that his troops were winning this battle against the Germans and he was not worried about the fact that they were surrounded.

Where to stay ?

Check this lovely, cozy Airbnb and get a local bottle of beer for free when you book this place: https://abnb.me/pDdiUJ6kDS

Mind Mystery, Horst

Imagine yourself in the mysterious world of Siebrandt, a quirky inventor who once lived here and caused a huge bang during one of his experiments, which turned the house upside down. We have never heard of Siebrandt again, but at Mind Mystery we learned everything about him, because despite his absence Angelica and I felt still close to him … At Mind Mystery there is a lot to see and to experience the theme of optical illusions. Visit the museum and discover everything about the great artists, see countless holograms and all kinds of optical art. Get lost in the mirror maze and lose gravity in a gigantic spatial illusion. Play puzzles throughout the park and make the craziest selfies and group photos in Siebrandt’s house, where everything is turned upside down. Increases or decreases in the Ames room and floats above the ground in the square. All this and much more for a pleasant morning or afternoon entertainment at Mind Mystery.