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15. August 2000 10:40
by Rene Pallesen
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Silam and Jungle Ops . . .

15. August 2000 10:40 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

silam and jungle ops
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Silam and Jungle Ops . . .
It is so bloody hot in Silam! It must have been at least 40 degrees and 100% humidity!

Silam was the overall headquarters, and Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) was referred to as Jungle Ops. Jungle Ops controlled all radio communications and conducted the race through the the jungle.

From Kota Kinabalu, we flew to Lahad Datu and drove the rest of the way to Silam. Silam was the site of one of the repeater stations. We had to set up a HQ a few kilometres from this station... heaps of opportunities for a few walks in the jungle.

The operation at Silam was huge!... I had never seen such a busy place before. The place was crawling with energy. It was bigger than any military operation I had ever seen! You would be amazed to see the logistics involved in this project ! At the time I did not have the time to take a lot of photos.

We had many army trucks transporting the competitors' equipment - very good cooperation from the military. They helped out with the preparation and set-up of HQ, and with the transportation of fuel.

Arrival of army trucks at SilamArrival of army trucks at Silam

Office at HQ

This is the headquarters on the left.

The whole Ecochallenge race is governed from this office.

The map in the background contains the position of all the checkpoints at which the competitors have to go through.

View from helipcopter

Aerial view of headquarters
Both of the above photos are aerial shots of HQ and were taken from a helicopter.


I managed to get a nice aerial shot of Silam HQ. The big white patch in the middle is where the competitors stored all their equipment. Just to the left are the containers from where the race is controlled. The 4 'finger-like' white pads on the right are the heli-pads. The long rectangle to the left is the eating area, and just above it is the hospital.

Aerial view of Jungle Ops HQ


Approaching DVFC in helicopter.


This is actually a research centre in the middle of the jungle - commonly known as DVFC (Danum Valley Field Centre).

DVFC is not normally accessible the tourists and the general public, only to researchers.

DVFC is concerned about contamination into the jungle.

Jungle Ops HQ


Outside Jungle Ops HQ.

The green boxes contain bottled drinking water.

By the time the race was over, most of this had been consumed - quite amazing really, considering there were really only 10 people at Jungle Ops.

During the competitors were not allowed any help from us, and that included the provision of drinking water.

Paul at HQ



Paul with some of the radio equipment at Silam.


He is standing next to the HQ matrix, which contained all the communications equipment for headquarters.

Paul is also standing next to the only 2 beds in the HQ building. These were used by the radio operators to nap in between shifts.


Below, you see me sitting in the catering tent at Silam.


I think it must have been a good day, to have been sitting there, smiling... I am just guessing here, because obviously I did not take the photo, and I cannot remerber the place.

Me relaxing at Silam

Bad hair day

Bad hair day?


I did not have a shower for a very long time, and to hold my hair in place, I adopted various techniques, such as the sunglasses-hairband...

This place is a breathing ground for tropical diseases!

As you can see, my right eye is really red. I somehow managed to get conjunctivitis and did not know it was contagious. I did not want to trouble the medics as they were pretty tied up with the competitors. When my vision on the left eye was getting blurry and I had problems seeing what was in front of me, I was ordered to get it checked. Just as well I did!

In Kota Kinabalu, I had the same problem on the other eye... at one point both my eyes were infected. It started on my left eye on the way to Kota Kinabalu in the plane ! It then spread to my right eye. The nurse at Silam told me that I should be careful because it could re-infect to my left eye. It started to look and feel a lot better after using the eyedrops that they gave me.

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:39
by Rene Pallesen
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Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

15. August 2000 10:39 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

ecochallenge sabah 2000
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Click here for full size map of Sabah, Borneo

Ecochallenge in 2000 was held on the east coast of Borneo, in the jungles of Sabah. It was an extreme race where the competitors taking part have to endure 10 days of running through the jungles; kayaking and swimming many kilometres offshore; and mountain-biking for 150km on dirt roads. All in all, the fastest competitors travelled 600km in a space of just over 5 days!


I had the privilege of being there, being the developer of software that was used by the radio communications team. I also helped out with the setting up of all equipment and made many trips to the repeater stations.

Being in the jungles of Sabah, let alone part of the Ecochallenge preparations, has proved to be a challenge and an experience worth remembering, and hope to be part of any future Ecochallenge events.

As shown in the map, the red trails are where most of the competitors either ran or walked. The purple trail was the kayaking/canoeing leg. The orange trail was the mountain-bike leg and the blue trail was where the competitors had to swim with all their equipment.

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:39
by Rene Pallesen
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Preparations at the Magellan Hotel

15. August 2000 10:39 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

preparations at the magellan hotel
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

View from from balcony of our room


Preparations at the Magellan Hotel
( Kota Kinabalu ) . . .



All the Ecochallenge teams gathered together at the Magellan Hotel in anticipation of the race, which was due to start on 20th August.

During our stay at Kota Kinabalu, we were staying at the most extravagant hotel - as pictured on the right. It is huge! It has 3 swimming pools, and takes us an hour to walk around the perimeter.

The radio communications team had to arrive a few days before the start of the race because we had to hand out over 2,000 pieces of radio equipment. We had problems getting the necessary approvals for helicopters so I ended up having to hand out most of the equipment whilst Glen and Paul sorted out the issue of the helicopters. We had to get all the equipment and our team to Silam before the the race started.

Paul & Glen preparing the equipmentPaul & Glen preparing the equipmentPaul & Glen preparing the equipment

Glen and Paul checking all the equipment and re-programming some of the radios.
Yes, I'm busy working too!



Behind me are all the radio equipment, ready to be handed out. I am standing here waiting for the competitors to arrive as I have to sign out the equipment as I give them out.


We had to improvise a lot of the furniture, using old crates to set up tables.

Vegging in really nice rooms




After the race, Glen and I decided to make most of the luxury and just veg... aaahhh... bliss!

Relaxing on our balcony













Created: 7 Dec 2001

4. March 2000 11:07
by Rene Pallesen
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Chilli Festival ( 4th March 2000 ) . . .

4. March 2000 11:07 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

chilli festival 4th march 2000
Three Dancing girls


On this particular Saturday, I drove to Terrigal to see the Mexican Chilli Festival... it was excellent. I shot two rolls of film up there. Some of these pictures have turned out beautifully!

A couple of my Mexican friends were doing the entertainment there. Victor is very good at playing the mexican harp. His wife, Shiraz, is an excellent dancer.

I took a series of shots in colour and a series in black & white. I shall first show you the ones in colour and then in b&w, as the b&w ones are very artistic!

Victor playing the harp

Victor playing the harp

Victor playing the harp

Victor plays the harp like a dream!

I was once at Lance's place - Lance was helping Victor record his music onto CD. The harp does not look like your ordinary orchestral harp. It was ornate and somehow different. It is was a very beautiful instrument.



One of 3 dancers

Shiraz

One of 3 dancers

As you can see, these women are gorgeous! Something about silk stockings, I think...

Shiraz is the photo in the middle. She did quite a few numbers, and this was one of them. All 3 girls danced in a colourful combination!



Dancing couple

Dancing couple

Dancing couple

Here you see Shiraz dancing in a duet.

I have seen her do this dance at a similiar concert May last year, here in Lindfield. Victor and a couple of guitarists provided accompaniment to the dancing. Shiraz moved so fast that at times, all you could see was this colourful wave of skirts.

Her partner's costume reminded me of the costumes the Spanish toledos wore (except without the cape).



Shiraz in white

Shiraz with feathers

Shiraz in red

As you can see, Shiraz danced a number of dances that day.

It takes a lot of energy to do those dances!

14. November 1999 11:10
by Rene Pallesen
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Donkey Day Out . . .

14. November 1999 11:10 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

donkey day out
Grandparents on donkeys


Whilst we were in Morocco, our whole family went riding on donkeys.

That included my grandparents! They needed a bit of support to keep their balance, but otherwise they were doing all right.

You can see my grandmother, my brother Claus and my mother in succession behind by grandfather.

My father on a donkey!



Here is my father! Do you not think that he looks so much like his brother in one of the photos on the 80th birthday page?


Claus on a donkey!




Here is my brother on the donkey. It is quite amazing how much these small animals can carry.


Mum on a donkey!



My mum on her donkey. Not quite as elegant (maybe relaxing a bit would have helped) as the rest of the family, but at least she didn’t fall off!


This is one of the few pictures I have of her where she is not smoking! (oh, and the other one at my grandmother's 80th, of course! It was a very nice picture of her smiling!

Me on my donkey!

Finally, someone got a photo of me on my donkey!

14. November 1999 10:59
by Rene Pallesen
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Morocco ( 1999 ) . . .

14. November 1999 10:59 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

morocco 1999




Our main reason for the trip to Morocco, was to come together as a family and attend my grandmother's 80th birthday. We also managed to explore Morocco, and even had a fun day riding donkeys - yes, the whole family - my grandparents, parents and brother!

We met different people and there were some really beautiful women in this country. There were some interesting buildings and we even found some strange goats!

The Women of Morocco . . .


One beautiful girlAnother beautiful girl

Girl being offered


People in the city tend to be more extremist/fundamentalist when it comes to religion, then those who come from the country areas.

One reason could be that the people living in the cities are mainly Arabic, and those living in the countryside are Berbers.

Berber women are less dressed up than in the cities.

Some of them are extremely beautiful.

Also, I noticed that those in the city tend to be more self-conscious of photos being taken than those in the country.People are naturally a bit shy, but by showing friendliness, it a makes it a lot easier to take good photos.

Hmmm... Do you know that I was actually offered to buy this girl on the right for two camels? I do not know why they wanted to get rid of her. Maybe she was making too much trouble in the village?

Anyway…I refused the offer.

Henna hands




The girls decorate themselves with what is called henna. It is a dye that stains there hands for a long time. They paint different patterns onto their hands and it actually looks very pretty. Much nicer than tattoos - which are permanent!





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Goats . . .

A goat in a treeA goat in a tree (black & white)More goats in a tree!

We came across a couple of trees full of goats. They were climbing around the tree to reach all the green leaves. Our first though was that someone put them there, but they were too much out of reach for that idea.

14. November 1999 10:34
by Rene Pallesen
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My Grandmother's Birthday ( Morrocco 1999 )

14. November 1999 10:34 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

my grandmother s birthday morrocco 1999






Mon Grandmere

My whole family was in Morocco to celebrate my grandmother's 80th birthday.

This is my grandmother. Even as an 80-year-old woman, I find her pretty cool (you should see some of the pictures I’ve got of her with dark Blues Brothers sunglasses).

(No need to say that the flags are Danish.)

It was a family reunion. We do not all live in the same place, but all of us make this journey as it is one of the few times that we all get together. Unfortunately, there were a few of us who could not make it.

It was important for me to be there it was hard to tell whether the whole family will ever come together again as a large group, as my grandparents are no longer living there.


My brother








My brother, Claus!

Another person I find pretty cool is my brother.

He has not been well in the last few years, but I love him anyway
( Definitely can't do without my big brother )
My



Mum's pretty cool too! She will probably hate me for putting this photo on my homepage. But it is a really nice photo of Mum with a big smile.

She hates the idea of me climbing mountains, but at the same time she bought me a climbing helmet as a Christmas present. She thought it will keep me safer when I am so far off the ground.

Thanks Mum for supporting me.

I also find my dad pretty cool. He’s a bit of a nerd just like me which means that we probably understand each other better than anyone else in the family.

My Dad's brother & his wife








This is my dads brother and his wife. The resemblance is unequalled. My dad and his brother looks very much like each other. They have the same bad habits (just like my grandfather) and both their wives are smoking like chimneys.
Me stuffing myself!



Finally, a picture of me...

I do belong to the family even though most of them have probably forgotten about it by now!

I am sitting outside one of the food places on the local market. We each got a serve of excellent calamari, shrimp and fish. I think this was the best meal I had while I was in Morocco.

Most tourists would avoid a place like this just because of the hygiene, but I have never had diarrhoea because I had been eating local food.

Perhaps all this travelling I do has made me immune to germs and bugs! Or maybe I just pick good food!



Do you want to see my family on a Donkey Day out?
Click Here!






Created: Jan 2000 Last Updated: 16 Sept 2001

15. March 1999 11:00
by Rene Pallesen
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Laos

15. March 1999 11:00 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

laos 1999





Laos is not a place one can forget.

One day I would like to go back there again in my travels.

It is a beautiful place with friendly people who welcomed me with open hearts.

It is also a place of sorrow because of war and loss.
Yet the people try to go on with their lives despite the war.
They live in hope and their beliefs keep them going.

There are tribes there who seem unaffected by western influence and change and keep to their tradition after all this time.

I met many children there, some happy, some sad.

I also spent time with a special family and also managed to enjoy the local food.




War . . .


Various types of bombsMore bombs

All the eastern parts of Laos was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War. More bombs were dropped in this area than the number of bombs dropped during the entire Second World War (approximately 10,000 bombs for every citizen of Laos). Laos has the sad reputation of being the most heavily bombed country in the world ...

Ever.

The Ho Chi Min trail went through Laos, and the Americans tried to destroy it with every means. They tried everything from carpet bombing, dropping cases of Budweiser Beer (hoping that the Vietnamese soldiers would get drunk) to dropping washing detergent during the wet season (hoping the trail would get slippery). It is estimated that the Americans only succeeded in stopping 10 percent of the traffic on the trail.


In Vietnam, the Americans were not allowed to bomb within 500 meters from temples and hospitals. Their rules of engagement furthermore said that they were not allowed to return to their home base with a bomb load. The result was that they flew across the border to Laos and dropped all their bombs there. In Laos, there were no rules of engagement. They could bomb whereever they wanted to bomb.

Cluster bombs




This also means that there is quite a large amount of UXO (Unexploded ordnance) in the country. Land mines and unexploded cluster bombs (shown on left) are some of the biggest problems.

In Laos, there are still approximately 4 accidents per day resulting from UXO.

Bombs outside a house




Sad as this may seem, people have been pretty creative about using some of the leftover bombs. In this case they have used a couple of 2000-pound bombs as decoration outside the house.
Bombs everywhere




No matter where you go you are reminded of the war.

In all the local villages there are unexploded bombs and shells from the cluster bombs.

Bombs used as scrap metal




A lot of the remains from the war are sold as scrap metal. In this pile there are shells from cluster bombs, wheels from tanks etc. >>>


Bridge made from bombs



<<< Shells from the cluster bombs have been used to make this bridge.


Fences made from bombs




Here as fence posts outside a house. >>>

School with bombs




Outside a school, the schoolyard was surrounded by the shells from the American cluster bombs.













Grandfather  his orphan granddaughterSorrow . . .




This girl's parents were both killed by Hmong guerillas in 1997.

There are still areas where there are lots of problems with guerilla warfare. This is especially the case on Route 7, along the eastern border towards Vietnam and in the western part of Laos west of Vientiane, in the area between the Mekong River and Thailand.

The government is trying to control these problems, but it is difficult with such wast areas of jungle.

Unfortunately such incidents have affected a lot of people. This girl is not the only person in Laos who has lost her family.

Remember that the area has virtually been a permanent warzone since the Vietnam war, until the mid 90’s.

The person behind the girl is her grandfather.
He is now looking after her to make sure that she gets an education

He is after all, her only family left.













Beautiful SunsetHope . . .




Looking at this beautiful photo, it seems really serene and calm.

You couldn't really tell that things are pretty bad in some parts of the country.

The northern part of Laos is especially poor. The mountainous terrain limits what can be grown. Outdated farming methods using “slash-and-burn” of whole mountainsides are not very appropriate for feeding a growing population. A lot of the western countries are represented in Laos with health care workers. What Laos really needs at the moment is help using more environmentally-friendly farming methods, which at the same time improve the growing of crops. The slash-and-burn method basically means they burn a whole mountainside to grow rice. There is nothing left to hold back the nutrients in the soil, and fertiliser is not added. After a few years there are no more nutrients on this mountainside and they move on to the next mountainside. They need to learn how to grow crops in terraces and add fertiliser from their animals to the soil.


Vinchu - a Red Cross worker

One of the problems with growing rice is that the men are unempleyed most of the year while they are waiting for the rice to grow.

Vinchu is working for the Swiss Red Cross. She intends to buy a piece of land in the 32-kilometre village of Muang Xai, and convert it into a fish farm. This would keep some of the men occupied for most of the year. The profit from the fish farm could be used to take care of the village’s basic needs such as education of the children and buying medicine.

Vinchu is one of the few catholics in the country. She is fluent in English and has had a primary healthcare education. This has enabled her to get a job for one of the foreign representatives in the country, which means she is getting a salary that is considerably higher than what her peers get. Also she gets paid in US dollars instead of kip, the local currency.

On average, the government employed in Laos receives 100.000 kip a month (approx US$30). This is not enough to survive on, so most people have either two jobs or let the wife work as well. Lots of people have small vegetable gardens. This allows them to grow a few things to sell at the markets.


Dragon Boat Race






The employees from the hospital in Muang Xai have not received any money from the government for more than 6 months. The government declared that they should participate in the annual dragon boat race.

Vinchu paid for transportation of the employees to the local river, and other expenses, from her own paycheque.

Most of the people in the boat are doctors and people from the hospital.



Me in a sailing raft


Vinchu and I in a sailing raft!














Great Stupa at Vientiene
Religion . . .




Buddhism is a big part of Laos.

The holiest place in Laos is the stupa in Vientiane. There are practically no temples in the eastern part of Laos due to heavy bombardment during the Vietnam War. The only great temples around is the one in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.


Monk at Great Stupa




The Buddhists in Laos are a bit less extremist than in Thailand. People do not have small alters in their homes, and it is not compulsory for the males to become monks.

In Laos, becoming a monk is voluntary. It is mainly people from the poorer parts of the country that become monks, because it is a good and cheap way to get an education. Some of them are studying English and are therefore very eager to practice their English on the tourists.

Monk calling for prayer






When they call the monks in for prayer, they either beat a big drum or the use a wooden ram to chime the bell.











Tribes . . .

3 Hmong girls in traditional garb

There are three main tribes in Laos. One of these tribes is called Lao Tsung (or HMong).

They live mainly in the northern part of the country.

Old Hmong WomanMe wearing a Hmong hatOld Hmong Woman 2

The women still wear traditional clothing. I am wearing a traditional Hmong hat.

A Hmong Woman and I

The Hmong have a dialect that is different from the other tribes. They keep to themselves and are very isolated from the rest of the society.

Hmong Village

The difference between the Hmong village and the other villages is that the Hmong build their houses on the ground instead of on stilts.

An Opium PortraitMan smoking opium

The Hmong is responsible for most of the opium growing and trading in Laos. The government is trying to stop this trade, but it is difficult as the Hmong live in areas that are not easily accessible.

The Hmong are also responsible for most of the problems in the area around Route 7.









The Children of Laos . . .

The kids in Laos are wonderful. There are always kids around you no matter where you go and they are always very joyful and curious to find out who you are.

Kids playing by a riverKids playing by a river

You see a lot more kids playing with each other in Laos than in the western world. I guess it also somehow encourages them to grow up being socially responsible. This could be the simple reason why people are so friendly and welcoming in this country.

Lots of people say that it is because of the religion but I believe that it is something more fundamental than that. People in the western world have just forgotten how to be responsible towards each other. Why? Maybe they do not spend enough time in one another's company.

Kid playing snakeKid playing snake

In Vang Vieng, I saw a kid playing around with a snake. It did not seem to bother him or his parents that it might be poisonous.
I don't know if the pad on his chin was caused by the snake. I doubt it though since he had been very sick.

He was pretty proud of his snake.
I am not sure what kind of snake it was. I did see a few other snakes around, especially at the temples.

Girl carrying child


It tends to be the elder children’s task to look after their younger brothers and sisters while the parents are busy. The system seems to work fairly well since the whole group of children play together, no matter what their age group. It is therefore not such a big burden as some might think.

The photo was taken approx 40 kilometres north of Muang Xai (where Vinchu was).

Beautiful flower girls










This photo on the right is one of my favourites.

It was taken in the northern part of Laos, at the 32-kilometer village outside Muang Xai.

The girls were collecting flowers outside one of the local schools.

Beautiful flower girls



The younger kids tend to be afraid of Europeans. Most of them have never seen a white face before.

This little fellow here was a bit worried about my presence...

Girl eating chewing gum




This is the girl’s first piece of chewing gum... Pretty interesting to watch! *smile*





In the cities kids love to have their picture taken.

3 kids
















Tanoy's mother and friend



The Tanoy Family . . .

I stayed a few days with a family running the Tanoy Guest house.

The eldest daughter of the place was called Tanoy.

The girl on the left of this photo is one of Tanoy’s friends from school.
The woman on the right is Tanoy's mum. Tanoy’s mum is 40 years old and has had 6 kids. She does not look that old and still looks absolutely stunning.






Below are a series of shots of Tanoy herself.

I guess she will one day take over the guest house.


Tanoy herselfTanoyTanoy on scooter

Whilst I was staying at the Tanoy Guest House, I saw the preparations for the annual Water Festival.

Every year when the monsoon ends and Water Festival coincides with the full moon, The festival included Dragon Boat racing.

Tanoy's mother making lanterns for the Water FestivalMonks making lanterns for the Water Festival

Everyone was taking part by making lanterns for this festival, including the monks!

All the monks were making lanterns to decorate the temples.

Man drinking already!Party starts!Girl on my shoulders

The festival lasts for three days.

During the festival, they celebrate with all their friends and families. They also drink a lot of “Lao Lao” (or Laos Whisky), which is a kind of rice wine.

Everyone walks down to the river during the day to watch the boat races.

Later in the evening, everyone parties some more and drinks more beer. It does not matter that it is pouring down. The whole village is at the party and everyone is happy.

Drinks galore!The kids are also having a good time!

On the night of the festival, people light candles. They also float the candles in the rivers. House lit with candlesMan lighting candles

Unfortunately it was raining a lot that night, so people had difficulties keeping the candles lit.

Outside the Tanoy House

At the end of the day, I managed to get a photo of me sitting outside the Tanoy Guest House!








Food . . .

Young woman cookingPig being weighedWater buffalo

The food is excellent in Laos.
It takes some time to get used to eating noodle soup for breakfast, but once you get used to it, it is excellent.

There are pigs and turkeys all over the place. Above is a pig being weighed.

An essential part of farming is the water buffalo - it is important for pulling the heavy plough and there feet are designed to walk in water-logged gxround.

Old woman carrying heavy basketsGirl throwing rice

All ingredients used are very fresh. People are walking around selling vegetables on the streets.

It is hard work getting the rice ready for eating. First the rice is to be pounded to break the husks. Then thrown up in the air to remove the husks from the rice itself.









Created: Jan 2000 Last Updated: 16 Sept 2001