Saturday, 24 January 2009

Elephants and Things

After 18 months in Karachi, making good friends and seeing a tiny bit of Pakistan (nowhere near enough of it) it is with a lot of good memories and regrets that we leave. Where to?.. Thailand new job, new location etc. So new Blog. Should do. I fancy writing about my daily life and pick up on the odd things, quirky stuff you know, like seeing 7 people on a motor bike, along with the family dog of course! Loads of just things for reflection. What to call it. How about 'Alan in Thailand'.... Hardly original. Somehow I don't think so. Not this time round. Also I found I never wrote about times outside of Karachi, overseas trips etc. They never seemed to fit in with the title. I went on line to try and find some inspiration and came across a good Blog which ran it's own competition for anew name. Made my efforts seem lightweight!!! Very impressed and hope you don't mind the mention here.

How do you follow that. err.........

Alan not in Karachi ?

Alan after Karachi ?

Beyond Karachi ?

Karachi no more ?

Life after Karachi ?

On from Karachi ?

Also given my wife is called Wanna and is Thai and that one friend always writes to us 'Wannal' maybe something from that.

Bananas ? (Why I hear you ask, no idea it just came into my head!!!)

Somtam phu ?

Issan ?

Life moves on ?

Chang ?

Elephants (and things that go bump in the night)

OK Elephants it is. Opps just checked with Google and its taken. No real surprise there.


That's it

bye bye to this Blog. Hows the famous saying go

"The Blog is dead, Long live the Blog"

(That's corny to the extreme).

See you at the new Blog.

Sunday, 27 July 2008


Sorry no posting but I've quite literally been at sea. Finished my assignment in Karachi on 11th of July and flew to Seychelles. Departed by sailing boat on 16th to Maldives where we are presently moored. Beautiful place.
Will be adding a lot of sailing posts to my sailing blog in next few days so come back for the link and follow up.
Fahim how we doing on the video?
PLEASE LINK TO if you want our latest travel news.
Will be back on posting soonest.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Departing dinner

We decided to invite a lot of friends for a Thai dinner before we departed. It was our way of saying thank you to so many people and have them all together to meet each other as well. I've added a few photos from the video I took, and if your not in them and should have been, well, next time. Again thanks to you all for making our initial stay in Karachi such a fun one. See you!!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Tek Tek

Having had our day out in Clifton Beach we made a point of collecting some shells. I do not know their name but they look like the ones you see on the shell petrol station signs.
We collected about 20 kilos of them straight off the beach. They were literally rolling up the beach by the wave action. Really amazing to see. (got it on video!!). Everyone watching us to see what we were doing. Everyone seems interested when we got out some plastic bags and started collecting the shells. Only the live ones of course. Some of the young boys and girls got into the action and helped us. We did not need to dig, just pick them up of the sand.

Got them home and cleaned them up to get the sand and dirt off them. Then Wanna boiled most of them and also put a few aside and we cooked them on a griddle plate.
This morning I cleaned up the shells and made a fair curry even if I say so myself! Wanna followed it up this afternoon with a tip top Thai Yam. All washed down with a few beers. Excellent. I did not have time to take a good photo of the finished curry. We had eaten most of it before I remembered to take a snap. So trust me it might not look like a food book photo by it tasted great.

Clifton Beach

Amazing finally managed to make a few snaps from the movies. Clifton Beach is amazing. Thousands of people every where. Most are enjoying walking along the beach and getting their feet wet. No swimming costumes here. As you can see two ladies are in the full 'Guinness bottle kit'. Everyone who has a chance is busy selling stuff. They charge you for parking and then again for entrance to the beach. Could not quite work it out. More amusing was the guy offering to look after your shoes. Check out the photo. He has a collection of old fruit boxes. Dread to think what state/smell the shoes are in after being there all day. We did not take advantage of the service and chose to keep our shoes on. Good idea as it turned out. Not the cleanest beach but it was just good fun. Looking round I am sure I was the only Brit within miles. Seems that was on a lot of peoples minds as well when they saw me. Everyone was so friendly, selling cakes, sweets, cigarettes and one chap wandered past selling toast. Yes toast. He has a smallish tin with hot charcoals in topped off with toast. Not my idea of a beach snack!!
Add in the guys offering horse and camel rides and put it all together and the picture is complete. Great fun and we plan to be back again tomorrow for shell collecting. No doubt again I'll be the subject of great interest!!

Clifton Beach...?

Time is running short and we are due to leave Karachi this coming Friday. Lots to do before then, apart from packing, including closing out several things we promised ourselves we would do. These are last minute restaurant meals, visits to places, trips in and around Karachi, saying good bye to numerous people etc.
Well times almost up, and yesterday we managed one item on our list, our last a trip to the Clifton Beach. We were joined as far as I could tell by the rest of the Karachi population who seem to descent onto the beach on Saturdays and Sundays. I don't think for one moment they were there to say good bye to us but it was good to see such a crowd. Well we, that's Wanna and I plus a few of her Thai friends went down to the sea last evening to have a good look round and also to collect a lot of shells which we had heard were in abundance. Made for a very interesting trip, but ... and I mean but, before I go into the details I need to tell you something......
Unknown to you readers, earlier yesterday we became the proud owners of a new Sony Handycam. I know I can hear you all already, "not more crap video footage. ..please spare us!!", well I would if I could, but, I've got this compelling urge to Blog most of my trivia!!! So stick with it please. In amongst the hours and hours of footage, there might, just might, be lurking a master piece. (Emphasis on 'might').
Maybe from here on in it will be different. How so ? I plan to use the camcorder for most recordings as it comes complete with every conceivable goody including single picture capability. Its a Sony HDR-SR12E. To you and me that simple put means I've put down a lot of money for a very small black plastic box with glass sticking out one end and an array of buttons the other. Yes lots of money for a very small box!!!
For you it means putting up with some frustrating times ahead. Having to read my sorted/edited video footage. These frustrations that I am sure to encounter during the editing process will be happily shared with you. No expense spared! So Clifton Beach Blog/post is in the editing room! All to follow after several more sessions with my new black box. Till next post. Tomorrow?...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Food yet more food

I seem these days to be only posting about eating. During the last few days all my non working time has been taken up with sitting in restaurants and eating large quantities of superb Chinese and Pakistan food.
I arrived in Karachi a year ago weighting in at 82 kilos and leave with 89 kilos. Most of it is settled comfortably around my waist and not in my suitcase.
SO again last night another restaurant. As Ian finally left today so last night was a special occasion for us all. Khalid with family took us to "Sujjad" a restaurant out of town. About 15 kilometers north of Karachi on the super highway. This was at 10.0pm. Thousands of hungry Karachites were also going in the same direction making their way out of town to eat dinner. Most people here do not eat dinner till after 10.00pm, with a lot of them happily thinking midnight a good time to start out. How they do it and still get to work next morning is beyond my understanding. Me, by then I'm curled up asleep in bed. Seems a lot of Karachites come out there for evening meals. I can see why. Good food, fresh air and just so relaxing. Ate too much and now knocking on 90kilo +.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Village Restaurant

Ian's leaving us on Monday. Hes been here about 13 months working with KICT. He has been a strong part of our team and so much so that the lads in the office decided to take him for lunch. In fact we all went. Village Restaurant is situated on the beach front on Clifton. It offers basically a buffet type range of foods. A really fantastic and amazing range of Pakistani foods. Curries, kebabs, grills sea foods, some local dishes which we will never see in UK. The sweets, I can't call them deserts (way to much sugar in all of them) are just so good. Now time back at the office for a coffee and a doze.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Empress Market Part 5

Nearly there. We've completed the shooting including the coffee scenes for the 'before and after' the market shoots. Poor Fahim! It is now down to him to complete the editing. He is going to try and get it done this coming week. We should have one more meeting together and then hopefully close it out and submit to Dawn Newspaper. Now, I'm not to concerned if we win or just get an acknowledgement that we participated in their competition. Its been fun and we can do some more films over the coming months. Today we had Fahim, Wanna, Qaiser and myself all geared up for these final shots. Went well. Emad, Khalids son also joined in.
Today we had two cameras so there was scope for some more sophisticated filming. Well that was the plan at least. Having two cameras we then needed two camera operators. , Both are in the photos below. Emad in the blue jeans and Ahmad, one of the waiters. All good fun. Good luck Fahim! See you next Thursday/Friday.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Gas Bikes.

Just when you think you've seen it all going back and forth to work daily on the same road seeing the same cars and the same bikes... Boring.
Then out of nowhere its there, a gas powered bike. Quietly cruising by me as we are going bumper to bumper and he floats by. Ingenious. Only had a few seconds, just enough to register what I was looking at and click a single photo. All he had done was strap on a small gas cylinder and link it to the engine.
I checked it out after seeing this. Seems all you need is any old gas cylinder and a piece of plastic pipe. Also some sort of regulator similar to any other gas burner. Link it to the carburetor and your powered up. That's it. Done, sorted! Then 'on your bike'.
I'm going to have to look more closely into this next time and for now he was gone off into the distance while we, yes that's right you guessed, we were still bumper to bumper! It just seems too simple. Whatever next. Maybe my Honda accord could do with a make over.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Waiting for the Train

It's been a quiet week on the reporting front. In fact a quiet month. I did go to a music night with Khalid last Saturday, but, took such lousy photos they did not warrent posting.
Today work has also been quiet, and so I took time out to sort through a few files and came across some movie clips. This one seems just so typical of Karachi.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Fishing and PGFA Dinner

Good day yesterday. Went to Korangi fish harbour for a look round. This was followed by the annual PGFA dinner. (Paksitan Game Fishing Association). Both were real fun.
I always like fishing ports. The smells and general layout of boats and gear. There's something about them that is always facinating to see. In the case of Karangi it is however somewhat sad. A beautiful port with what seems like nerw berths with over 4 meters of water. No boats moored up except some impounded japanese vessels. Seems since it was built about 12 years ago with foreign aid money it has never been used. Such a waste of money and opportunity. Given the possibilities it really is depressing walking round empty warehouses and wide open spaced with no one about. Korangi is about 15 kilmeters north east of Karachi. Might as well be on another planet. Seems to be in the middle of nowhere.
There are hidden in the back a couple of local fibreglass builders but not really very much else. Bit of a ghost town really. We came across one group of workers who were building a big 'dhow' type pleasure boat. That was it.
The evening was taken up by attending the 2nd annual dinner of the PGFA. It was great. Met a few guys who I have been on email or phone to over the last year. So now I'm lined up for camping in Gilgit and fly fishing further north. Should be a good 2009 and plenty of new things to see. Getting quite excited about it.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Empress Market Part 4

Becoming a bit of a series. Empress 1 through 4....
Anyway Fahim, Wanna and I finally got our first day at the market and it went well. We had a good idea of what we wanted. But the usual thing, once there things seemed to be a little different. Fahim placed the first section on the uTube.

Fahim does Empress Market

Wanna's collection of clips

The best part was chatting to everyone and Fahim speaking Urdu made such a difference. I am sure we will end up with some good stuff. Will try and do some more this week.
The Dawn new paper competition ends shortly. We want in.
So constructive comments to make it all better ....please and more please..................

Monday, 2 June 2008

Ormara and a night out from Karachi

This is a longer post than most as I went away for the weekend. Lot to write about.
This was my second trip to Ormara. Ahmad had decided we should make it an over night one and so give us a bit of time for a spot of fishing. Official reason for the trip was to undertake a site visit to the naval base and check on some ongoing ground improvement works. Can't tell you about that or I'll get shot!
Mujtaba joined us for the trip so there was plenty of chatter and banter on the way down. Who will get the biggest fish etc. And indeed who got the biggest one last time. I was not bothered I knew I had got and was going to get the biggest one tomorrow.
Ormara, lies about 350 kilometers west of Karachi. It is a small fishing village, existing on a short spit of sand perpendicular to the coast and running out to sea sea with a mud cliff ‘hammer' head at the end. Difficult to describe so I’ve added a Google photo, and believe me it is spectacular. The whole area comprises soft mud/sandstone hence the peculiar layered effect on the mountains, brought about by the wind erosion. Quite spectacular. The problem with taking photos of it all that is it so vast there is no sense of depth and the extent of the plains and mountains is lost in a small 4x5 print!! However, I did try, and actually found that a movie is probably better, as there is some movement in the frames, and this lends itself to giving some sense of scale. The other problem with taking photos was the Navy. No photos allowed!! So my trip up the hill to base camp etc, all interesting, but no printed memories.
So after starting off from Karachi around 10.30am we made our way along the main highway and had our first stop at a road side ‘cafe’. (Actually it's the only road side cafĂ© for about 100 kilometers either way!!) And there were only 4 other customers. We ordered some tea and Nan bread with chana (peas to you!). The Nan bread was baked fresh as we waited. It was good, very good. The cafe is located against a spectacular view over looking the sea and a fabulous mountain back drop. Amazing looking round this area and the only mess is caused by man. Plastic bags and litter etc. If you avoid seeing it, then, the place is quiet simply fantastic.

Back on the road. Its a long road, part long and straight and some windy and reaching 2000+ meters above sea level. I've added a short clip to give you some idea of the rugged terrain and maybe provide some sense of scale and vastness of the area. Ahmad had some CD's from John Denver so I've used one track to remind me of the flavour of the trip!! Next time I'll ask him to add Pakistani music to the Cd player.

Well Ormara once there is a small dusty place and seems to exist mainly on fishing and small shops supplying local demand. The demands have increased as a result to the Navy being present. You can buy just about anything and its amazing when you look at the short video and see nothing but a really basic village. I bought a new car charger for a nokia phone!!
Whiskey, Gin and Vodka are also available if you know who to ask. A 1.5 litre bottle is about 1,500 Rupees. Fantastic value as the same in Karachi is going for about 3,500 Rupees or more. It depend on who you know, as you won't find it in a shop! I was sure there was no way I was going to find anyone to sell it to me without a good introduction. Need good contacts. I was told it is smuggled in from Iran. So some stops off in Ormara and the rest makes its way to Karachi. Iran is only about 300 kilometers away! I think I could with such assistance while away a few evenings in Ormara!!! I'll sort it out for the next trip.

The village is not much to write home about but you really need to see to arrive at that conclusion if you follow my meaning. Not sure even I follow it!! Its full of little shops all selling small scale items.

Well, we had a walk through. (I seem to be adding a lot of video this post!)

Mujtaba then showed me round the area where they were making fishing boats. (I've added it into this posting as it is all part and parcel of my trip to Ormara).

They make wooden boats in Ormara, in the same way that their fathers and forefathers did. The wood is not local, but imported from up country. It is generally of poor quality. Nor is it properly cured so the bending and shaping depends to a large extent on the shape of the original wood pieces.

Tools comprise a manual saw, hand turned drill (bow and arrow) and an arris for rough cutting and shaping. And a hammer to drive in the nails. (steel nails no less, not copper nails). They will not use an electric drill, stating that it will burn the wood..... Go figure....

Interestingly the general shape is good. I had Mujtaba take a close look and make a professional judgement. Seems all OK.

....Till next time....

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Empress Market Part 3

The short video is slowly, I mean slowly moving forward. Check earlier Empress Market entries. I went down to the market this morning and took a few site shots. It was about 09.00am and things were just starting up. Fabulous array of traders and rickshaw drivers etc getting organised for the day. Here in this posting you have some fabulous shots of the good side of Empress Market. I know it is easy to write about these places and make it all sound so 'pretty' and so forth. However a friend chatted with me today (thanks Mac) and suggested/requested I try and portray more of the real feelings about visiting and being in such places. He's got a good point and I've decided therefore to add a bit more to this posting and try to explain what he meant. When you look at these pictures you all see an array of colours and a generally smiling and happy set of people going about their daily business with little or no mention by me of the dirt, squaller, rancid smells, piles of shit etc which you have to step over to get anywhere, and far less, any comment by me, on the generally poor live style of so many of them ( life style being an exaggeration by any stretch of the definition). You can be forgiven therefore after reading my Blogs for assuming life in Karachi is not so bad. Well for some like me it's great, but it is not so good for most, and for a vast majority of souls working in and around the market area its tough, uncompromising and I imagine downright depressing.
So during the next few posting I think I will make a determined departure from my usual topics and put in an effort and concentrate on a few of the environmental and social aspects to life in Karachi. A sort of 'these are the bad side of things'. I'll be going back to Empress market as a starter, and will try in a very realistic fashion to capture the 'other side' of it all. Hygiene or lack thereof will be a predominant feature. Could be I do a 'nice' video of Empress Market and maybe a second one as if to say there are several sides to Karachi. Good and definitely not so good. I've stayed away from it thinking readers don't want to know, and I've been happy to write about good stuff as well, but, now maybe it's time to look at the 'dark side'.
What do you think? Do you agree? If you've managed to read this far please give me some feed back on this aspect. Thanks.(p.s. that's what the comments box is for!!!). Look forward to hearing from you.

The secret to "Success" ..... is never, never, give up trying.