United Arab Emirates, November 2011

There is no doubt that, United Arab Emirates is country which has done unbelievable job in last forty years. Prior to independence in 1971, the UAE was split by areas ruled by different local sheikhs (emirs), hereditary rulers of the territories, and the United Kingdom.

The common agreement between 7 emirs (local rulers of seven emirates) contributed significantly to all those we have today.

Oil reserves’ exploration few years after the Establishment of country, has changed completely the image of the United Arab Emirates. Check here, one small blog entry, what one young UAE student writes about the “before and after” UAE.

UAE’s oil reserves are world the 6th largest and I would say number one how are invested all those oil revenues (around 80% of GDP is based on natural resources export). Since, everyone is aware that those natural resources in future won’t be demanded in nowadays level, the UAE Government decided to invest money in infrastructure, tourism and different kind of external investments. Although, some important parts of wonderful business buildings are still empty, touristic sector brings significant revenues. Tourists are mostly interested to experience this amazing combination of “high technology” in a heart of Arabic desert.

The UAE is federation of seven absolute monarchies – local rulers (Emirs) of every of seven Emirates. They have an absolute power in their Emirates, with the Abu Dhabi’s (capital) sheik as the President of Country. Every of seven Emirs participate in the Federal Supreme Council and Emir of Dubai is traditionally the Prime Minister.

It is very interesting that only 17% of inhabitants actually hold the UAE citizenship and they are either extremely rich (and do not work), or work in Government and other highly responsible state organs. Other 83% are foreigners who are working on wide range of service jobs around the country (mainly foreigner are Arabs, Iranians, Indians, Pakistani..).

Moreover, beside infrastructure investment the UAE Government invests big amounts of money in education by providing a high quality education to all its citizens. In key areas of Governmental functioning and education, which usually require high expertise (professors, managers..), famous experts are hired to participate in development of young generations.

Thanks to one such initiative, which has even become traditional and globally recognized, I have managed to visit this country. The “Festival of Thinkers” gathered for the 4th time the most distinguished speakers globally (11 Nobel Prize Laureates, successful businessmen, politicians and artist). More info HERE.

Since, the most amazing fact about the UAE can be partly experienced by looking at breath cutting picture of even more amazing infrastructure objects I decided to emphasize this visual presentation in my blog.

Please check MY ALBUM with explanations posted bellow of every photo. Please, have in mind that everyone can access the link (no facebook membership required).

Together with photos, enjoy one song I was enjoying during my flight Brussel – Abu Dhabi.

 

Milenko

 

 

 

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Taiwan 14

“Every begging has one end!”. The same for our unforgettable experience from Taiwan!

In the morning 250 international guests met the Vice President of Taiwan Mr Vincent Siew. As a nominee of the Kuomintang Party Mr Siew became a Vice President in 2008 and one interesting thing for him is that he had decided to study in Taiwan, despite a successful application to the Harvard University. Second interesting fact is that Mr Siew’s constant smile has earned him the affectionate nickname “Smiling Siew”.

In the Presidental Palace we enjoyed in national costumes from every corner of the Earth. Here are some of them:

Traditional clothing from Papua, Serbia and Nauru

USA, Slovakia, Serbia, Montenegro, Latin America…

In the evening the SayTaiwan organized the most unforgettable night of all our experience in Taiwan – gala dinner in the best hotel in Taiwan, The Grand Hotel Taipei.

Source: Wikipedia

After Chiang Kai-shek‘s retreat to Taiwan in 1949, serious problem how to accommodate all foreign diplomats due to lack of five stars hotel in Taiwanin that time arose up. The hotel’s roof is constructed in Chinese style together with every floor representing every Chinese dynasty. Additionally, numerous decorative dragons and lions contribute even more to high representative value of the Grand Hotel in Taipei.

Programs was perfect! We enjoyed in the the finest performance of Chinese artist, amazing humor of two presenter as well as short stories of some hosts and their international guests about their common experience from last two weeks.

But as the best ending of our whole Taiwan experience was five minutes video which presented the best moments of almost all international guests which they spent with their host families.

In the end: Taiwan and its people will always stay in my heart. I will not and can’t never forget their simplicity, friendly attitude and all hospitality given to us. Many thank to Taiwanese Government making my dream real. Also, thanks to my dear host family for making every minute spent with them as with my own family. And, in the end thanks to my dear host brother Ichao for all effort to make my Taiwanese experience so amazing. We spent 13 days together and that is something that I will always remember as some of the most beautiful days in my life. Thanks brother for high quality pictures too!

Thanks again for everything especially for experiencing your struggle for freedom and your country’s successes. These things and your simplicity and greatness will be my eternal inspiration!

THE END

P.S. Two phto albums from my whole trip in Taiwan can be found here:

1. http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150260056613990.331036.627243989&type=1&l=7e489a0956

2. http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150286273818990.337821.627243989&type=1&l=954ead6d42

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Taiwan 13

Last days in Taiwan were reserved for a place I could not imagine even in the most strange dream I could visit it. The island Kinmen is a symbol of war between two Chinas – People’s Republic of China (Mainland China) and Republic of China (Taiwan).

Kinmen was the site of extensive shelling during the big conflict between above mentioned ideologies, I would say. Although this group of islands is so tiny, it was extremely important for Taiwan to keep them. There is no doubt that a huge contribution to the fact that Kinmen is today controlled by Taiwan, belongs to the United States which threatened to use a nuclear weapon against the People Republic of China if it attached the island. Despite a lot of victims died during bombing, Kinmen is today controlled by Republic of China (Taiwan) although it is only 2km from PRC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip to Kinmen was the first encounter with other participants in the SayTaiwan program, since we were hosted in different parts of Taiwan. Some of them I have met through our previous facebook communication, some of them from other international experiences. It was really funny and nice to see them again and to meet new people from virtually every corner of the Earth.

Let’s back to the Kinmen Island! For about 30 years the island was military reserve and in 1990 Kinmen returned again to civil governance. But, war signs are still very intense and visible everywhere. In this manner, our first destination was open-air Kinmen War Museum. Although small, museum can offer to visitors to experience the war for three minutes in its Virtual Open Room. For us who have experienced wars in our countries it was not something very strange, but in any case all those rockets’ voice reminds me on all victims fallen in all stupid ideologist wars around the globe.

Then we quickly embarked on our bus number 9 and headed to the Memorial Museum of the late President of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek. There the main attraction is Chian Kai-Shek’s calligraphy inscription where he strongly express his hope and desire that Mainland China will be again conquered and retaken from communists.

-Chian Kai-Shek-

-In front of Memorial Museum-

But one even more interesting tourist attraction is the sea cave which saved many Taiwanese boats from bomb destruction. Today, installed internal lights contribute to the fantastic atmosphere inside of cave.

But, you have not yet heard the most amazing fact about Kinmen Island. Despite an excessive economic development due to convenient and cheap business transit between two Chinas, the island is widely recognize for its production of knives and swords. And can you guess what those Kinmen knives are made from? The steel is obtained from thousands of bomb shells that the Communist forces fired at Kinmen, in a failed attempt to take the island away from the Nationalist troops. Although even today it is not allowed to swim in the sea in Kinmen due to huge number of bombs around, innovative Chinese from Kinmen found one saving grace in it. Highly qualitative knives and swords are being produced from bombs who were thrown around the whole island and killed many people. Creativity is always above destruction!

Before we went to hotel we visited some pastry shops with traditional Chinese cookies. They were various and delicious (and we tried almost every cake for free as much we wanted – what a hospitality)!

And now, let’s see how is inside of one Chinese traditional house:

Our almost all last day in Kinmen was reserved for local shop’s tour which produce different cures, only made by local plant (my grandmother had an exclusive honor to get an original tiger fat from Kinmen).

In the end, our main goal of that day was the International Peace Conference which was held only few hours before our departure from Kinmen. Very army and civil performances, accompanied by wonderful guests’ speech on freedom, concluded those wonderful two days..and almost my Taiwanese experience.

-Youth performance for peace

TO BE CONTINUED….

P.S. Since all modern history of the Kinmen island was marked by wars, I wanted to make photo with young solders who fulfill their duty to homeland here. They just humbly asked their superior for a permit and when he accepted, we made this photo at the Kinmen Airport.

Good bye, brave people!

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Taiwan 12

Although, only few hours left more to be spent with my host family they took care again that even these last hours were filled with great moments and entertainment.

Last night in our beloved Yunlin County was actually similar as we have started. Three host families organized a farewell dinner for us in one very nice Chinese restaurant (the same as the barbeque party as our welcome event to Taiwan). But since we were hurrying very much, we made some photos in front of my host family.

Here is one with my host mother and father

As the best summarization of our stay with our hosts, this dinner had a plenty jokes and funny memories we all remembered and enjoyed in them.

But the equal funny was toasting with our host families as the expression of our deep gratitude for every wonderful moment we spent together with them.

The first ‘cheers’ with host mothers

Then the second ‘cheers’ with host fathers…

…and the last one with grandfather

CONCLUSION: The Taiwanese beer can be strong!

During the lunch and after than photographing, my host brother was again briliant with his sense of humour. I could not understand any single word of it, but I saw people laughing very much. But I guessed that the main jokes were all ours we have experienced during our nine days we spent together. ;-)

Three guests with their complete host families

My dear host family and two another guest

In the pastry shop, where we have started our Taiwanese experience too

 

My hosts bought me my favorite Chinese pine  pie and gave me them with a strong wish to change my country. Some gifts were from the pastry shop too.

 

God bye, Yunlin – our home in the last 9 days! Your people’s simplicity conquered my heart! God bye, my dear family!

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Taiwan 11

That day meant definite good bye to the southern part of Taiwan – first Kaohsiung City, our main travel goal for this weekend, and to my host family as well. I couldn’t even remember and understand how all these days have passed so quickly but let’s meet Kaohsiung City now.

After the plentiful and various food we had last night at the Kaohsiung Night Market, we managed to wake up at 9. But since I had to write my blog in the morning, we left hotel at about 11 am. This “blog duty” was our funny joke, since I could find much a time for writing it after our all day long trips. ;-)

It was first opportunity to see the second biggest city in Taiwan. The economic strength, based mainly in heavy industry’s facilities (manufacturing, refining, and shipbuilding) can be witnessed by entering city from it north side.

-Kaohsiung City

But an initial push to economy had been achieved by Japanese rulers who had estimated and utilized very well all Kaohsiung’s position benefits and had furthermore built small port. Today this port is the biggest container port in Taiwan and 6th biggest in the world.  A major port, through which pass most of Taiwan’s marine imports together with strong economic development (especially after the Second World War) contributed significantly to a rapid population growth till nowadays almost three million of people.

-Kaohsiung Port

By walking around it is possible to feel a special atmosphere which every metropolis offers but something special with Kaohsiung were two uniquenesses: people and special way of architectural organization. More concretely, some extremely friendly motor riders impressed me amazingly since we spoke very openly at a three traffic lights. Also, due to a big heavy industry concentration, Kaohsiung has a high pollution rate. But despite this fact, the city managed to have a combination of nature (threes, river in the city center) with high modern building from which the Tuntex Sky Tower is the most impressive. Additionally, the hosting of World Games completion in 2009, has contributed at a high scale to a development of city’s infrastructure. In this manner, the two modern lines of metro were opened in 2008, together with some highly modern sport objects. For those who don’t know the World Games are a massive sport gathering, primarily composed of sports not featured in the Olympic Games (dancing, canoe marathon, karate, bodybuilding…).

Since my host family arranged goodbye dinner with two another host families (the same as at our first barbecue party in our first day in Taiwan) we didn’t have much time left. We had only half an hour to visit one of the biggest touristic attractions in Kaoshiung – the Lotus Lake. Although it was extremely hot there during the whole season, the sun didn’t manage to dry up all the Lake’s water. Moreover, many temples and gods’ statues make this place timelessly beautiful, especially in the late afternoon, when the setting sun is reflected in the water.

Next, in the southern part of lake the Tiger and Lion Pavilion are located, as a clear symbol from the Buddhist and Taoist heritage. Entering a dragon’s throat and coming out a lion’s mouth symbolizes turning bad luck to good fortune. This way from “bad luck” to “good fortune” is accompanied by wall paintings with the most famous Chinese rulers and their family, as well as scenes of heaven and hell to inspire people to do good deeds during their lifetime, and to provide threatening examples of retribution for wrongdoing.

Furthermore, after the lunch and meeting one SayTaiwan volunteer, we headed directly back to Yunlin County.  My host sisters took a direct bus to Taipei, and it was our last opportunity to say hello to each other. I am thankful to them for every moment they took care about that I feel as a member of their family. Although the two days’ trip was our last opportunity to spend time together, it was enough and one more, of numerous times, I felt all their unselfish hospitality and love. I hope I will have an opportunity to host them in my family.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Taiwan 10

New day started off too salty again! As I mentioned in the last post, the Salt Factory is so innovative that it uses every single kilo of salt in creating different products. The waste doesn’t exist for them! But that was not all. Except of nowaday’s touristic attraction the Salt Mountain, very famous touristic dessert is a salty ice-cream. I didn’t like it at all, but people around me (mainly natives) enjoyed their “sweets”.

In the Salt Kingdom

Furthermore, food was everywhere and my host sister explained me that Tainan is famous for different mainly meat kind of food. Despite this fact we decided to have a lunch in the local Italian restaurant in order to taste something from Europe. One of six local Universities is located very near from the restaurant and together with them atmosphere, posters and sounds were in youth style.

Handsome girl is looking for room-mate…

Next, one special surprise for me was all-inclusive supply in the Tainan Market. The innovative Chinese mind created and offered almost every kind of snacks and small products. A free competitions and dominant tendency for creating something new, contributed to a huge diversity of products and food on the market.Some of them are:

Strange but extremely innovative and useful plastic staff for closing plastic bags…

“Home protector” dragon (all shops offer different kind of small sculptures inspired by this one)

New way of walking around

In the same manner, the concept of Night Market is extremely popular not only in Taiwan, but in all Asian countries.

The Kaohsiung Night Market

A main idea is to offer almost every kind of local food with good prices and quality. Before this experience, I could never imagine that the Chinese cuisine is so rich, since more than 400 different meals were there. Although our European taste is not accustomed on the most kind of food here, I managed to find some of them as completely new and with acceptably good taste. But, the most extreme and strange were: some kind of salty food made by chicken or pork blood or soups with strange ingredients. But since I am sure that everything comes from our mind and taste of food is mainly defined by characteristic we prescribe to it, all these tastes can be learnt and accepted as normal after one period of time.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Taiwan 9

This day started off with WII games. This completely new approach to a concept of video games has become extremely popular when Nintendo realized the new generation of games, called WII. Main purpose of this effort was simulation of real game as much as possible. Since the family we visited last night had a WII game system,  I tried to compete hardly in tennis, bowling and box. I was amazed how the WII managed to reach almost real simulation by taking into account all elements of game (for example: strength of ball shooting in tennis, or box movement during a battle). Although it was my first time ever I have tried this kind of game, I won in some matches. For example after much real perspiration I knocked out my host brother and won that box WII match.

Next, after the last and the most tiring game, my temporary host family in Hsinchu brought me to the city center where we visited one of the FOOD MALLs in order to find one good meal. Here it is important to explain, that Asia abounds with food center where one can find many different kind of food in the same floor area.

We greeted my dear friends in Hsinchu and headed to Miaoli County, about 120 km southern from Taipei. Our destination there was the Taiyen Salt Factory, an impressive example of Chinese innovativeness. Can you imagine that this factory only had an ocean and today they produce all these products based on salt:

 High quality salt 

Salt sculptures – which increase the revenue one thousand times

Water enriched by iodine

Cosmetics

And in the end they didn’t know what to do with rest of salt production, and Taiyen created one big Salt Mountain which has quickly became a famous touristic attraction.

But amazing Chinese mind, didn’t stop there. By taking into account an incredible positive impacts of salt water to human body, swimming pools with salty water are created in the area of factory. This facility attracts many tourists which directly helps to higher demands of other Taiyen products.

Really incredible combination of innovativeness and quality!

Next destination Kaoshiung City, the second biggest in Taiwan with my host brother and sisters!

TO BE CONTINUED…

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