The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis Galapagos book review: The essential ‘Wildlife of the Galápagos’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 03•14

WildlifeGalapagosBookHere at WoWasis, we recommend two nature guidebooks for travelers to the Galapagos. We’ve already reviewed Pierre Constant’s Marine Life of the Galapagos: The Diver’s Guide to Fishes, Whales, Dolphins, and Marine Invertebrates, which is the essential marine life guide. For land animals, plants and flowers, you won’t find a better one than Wildlife of the Galapagos (2000, ISBN 978-0-691-10295-5), written by Julian Fitter, Daniel Fitter, and David Hosking.

At 4 ½ x 7 ½ inches, it’s easy to carry when hiking and its plasticized cover is rugged enough to survive well through constant use. The book contains more than 400 color photographs and covers more than 200 commonly seen species, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants. At 256 pages, it includes essays on history, climate, and geology, and make for a very good preliminary read before reaching the islands. Like many books on the Galapagos, it’s not readily available when you reach the islands, so you’ll want to buy it before you go.

DreamAd-Wowasia_4The book is also a key to planning your trip well before you go. Our favorite part of the book is the 23 pages of island maps denoting hiking trails with keys to where you’ll encounter specific animals and plants. We’ve written a previous post on how to simplify a Galapagos visit, must reading, because at first the plethora of options seems so daunting (and expensive).  We now wish that we’d read this book before our visit. If we had we would have been better aware of the spectacular geological views to be had on Isla Bartolomé, which is otherwise a bit too easy to miss. The authors are keen on photography and the book is to a very large extent geared to people desiring to come away with memorable photographs.

If you’re contemplating or planning a trip to these remarkable islands, you’ll want to buy this book first in order to determine your own visiting priorities. Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore.

WoWasis Galapagos book review: ‘Floreana: a Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 30•14

FloreanaWittmerLike author Johanna Angermeyer, writer Margret Wittmer spent decades learning the intricacies and challenges of learning to live in the Galapagos islands. Unlike Angermeyer, though, Wittmer’s infrastructure was non-existent to the point that she and her small family had to create everything from scratch. As detailed in Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos (2013, ISBN 978-1-55921-399-8) her life was caught up in a series of triumphs and tragedies that for a time involved World War II. She and her family survived to create a sustainable tourism culture on the remote island of Floreana, the history of which also involved a well-known disappearance and possible murder. Margret, her husband Heinz, and stepson Harry left their home in Cologne, Germany and arrived in Floreana in August of 1932. They were loaded with numerous supplies:

We had made arrangements to sell the flat, and had invested all our savings in equipment and supplies, notably a good set of tools both for agriculture and household use and plenty of food stores. We took two hundredweights each of rice and beans, one hundredweight of flour, twenty-five pounds each of coffee and Quaker oats, five pounds of cocoa, plus three bottles of brandy, washing soap, matches, oil, tinned milk, and potatoes and onions for planting, a bale of yellow material for extra clothing needs, and a typewriter, in case any of our experiences should be worth putting down on paper. While we were in Chatham [island], we bought many more seeds and plants: sugarcane, yucca (a sort of tapioca), banana shoots, coffee beans, otois and camotes (two sorts of sweet potato), pineapple, pumpkins, mangos, papaws, avocados, and a cock and two hens.

The Wittmers began their life in Floreana by living in a cave. Among their first acquaintances were Dr. Friedrich Ritter and his girlfriend Dore Strauch, naturists and alleged vegetarians who’d had their teeth removed and replaced with stainless steel dentures before arriving on the island. Eventually a woman who called herself “Baroness” Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bousquet of Vienna arrived with two lovers, an attendant, and grandiose plans to set up a resort. The Ritters and the Baroness did not get along, and eventually, in March of 1934, the Baroness and her colleagues disappeared, allegedly having siled away by boat, bound for Tahiti. They were never heard from again, and Wittmer suspected Ritter may have had a hand in the disappearance. The mystery has never been solved.

DreamAd-Wowasia_4Later that year, Ritter died too, of food poisoning. Recounting his death, Wittmer noted that Ritter seemed to want to have nothing to do with Dore while on his deathbed. Another unsolved mystery.

Margret and Heinz Wittmer had two additional children, born on Floreana. They worked hard, prospered, and hosted thousands of visitors, eventually founding an inn which still exists on the island. Son Harry disappeared after a boat accident one year, Heinz died in 1963, and Margret completed this book in 1982. She passed away in 2000, at the age of 96 and son Rolf in 2012. Daughter Inge continues to run the lodge

While many dream of having a Robinson Crusoe-like existence, the Wittmers lived it, and Margret’s story brings a heavy dose of reality to the fantasy. At one time or another, they were at odds with the American, Ecuadorian, and German governments, then made up. Neighbors could be both a trial and a lifeline. Wild animals, particularly bulls, were a terror one moment and food the next.

John Woram has compiled a wonderful bibliography of books, journals, and manuscripts written on the subject of the Galapagos. A great start is Margret Wittmer’s Floreana, a true adventure tale that reads like a novel. Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore.

WoWasis Galapagos book review: The best Marine Life guidebook on the Galápagos that we’ve seen

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 28•14

ConstantGalapagosIf you’re like us here at WoWasis, you’ll go scuba diving or snorkeling in the Galapágos Islands, then come back to your hotel wondering what you saw.  Then you’ll go looking in several of the tourist shops looking for a good marine life guidebook. But you won’t find one. Instead, you’ll find plastic fish charts with limited numbers of examples and an expensive guide to Galapagos fish that will ignore invertebrates. That’s too bad, because colorful invertebrates constitute a lot of what you see below the surface (if you’re looking for Galapagos land life books, see our book review of Wild Life of the Galápagos).

Pierre Constant’s Marine Life of the Galapagos: The Diver’s Guide to Fishes, Whales, Dolphins, and Marine Invertebrates (2007, ISBN 10: 962-217-767-0)  is just what you’d need. And we’d recommend that you buy it before your trip and take it with you, as it’s not all that easy to find when you arrive. In this book, there are 288 color photographs, 27 maps and illustrations, and 30 pages of biological and geological data that explain why the currents move they do, how water temperature contributes to the marine life, you name it.

Nidorellia armata, photo courtesy Pierre Constant

Nidorellia armata, photo courtesy Pierre Constant

Each photograph is keyed to a short paragraph describing the marine animal, and the index is keyed to English, French, and Spanish common names. Then there’s a scientific name index as well. The guide is small enough to fit into your bag, so you could easily take it aboard your boat, although it’s so pretty that you won’t want to get sea water on it.

What got us moving away from books that solely focus on fish was the fact that one of the most beautiful things we saw underwater was a starfish, iridescent yellow with black spines. It wasn’t in the fish book because it’s not a fish. We found it in Constant’s book, and it’s called a Chocolate chip star, or Nidorellia armata. But we wish we’d known what it was then, or at least been able to take the guidebook back to the hotel and look at the pictures over a beer. Constant also provides great vignettes about marine life that’s deadly or poisonous. Even though you’re not to touch anything down there anyway, aren’t you now glad that you didn’t?

DreamAd-Wowasia_1-1Constant’s a veteran diver and underwater photographer, runs a dive operation on Isabela, and he’s a good writer. He puts the book is easy-to-understand classifications too, so you don’t have to be a marine biologist to understand everything. It will be too late when you get to Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, as they don’t sell it there (or maybe they do, but it sells out quickly). Our recommendation? Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore before you go.

WoWasis book review: ‘Killing Pablo Escobar: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 24•14

indexIt’s been more two decades since Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror over the nation of Colombia ended, but travelers still encounter vestiges of the carnage. In Bogotá’s Museo Histórico Policia, for example, a whole section is dedicated to the hunt for and death of Escobar. You’ll see a roof tile stained with his blood, his solid gold glasses frames, and his gold and silver Harley-Davidson. As documented in Mark Bowden’s Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw (2001, ISBN 0-87113-783-6), Escobar was a master media manipulator, civic Robin Hood, cagey political animal, and public terrorist, all rolled into one.

The book contains many fascinating elements, including his success in having government officials, police, and military all on his payroll. Threats to the families of these individuals guaranteed their loyalty and he carried out vengeance ruthlessly when he was not obeyed. The beginning of his undoing came when he sponsored the in-air explosion of an Avianca commercial flight, killing all 110 people on board, but not the intended victim, political candidate César Gaviria, who had purchased a ticket, but had not taken the flight. The job of hunting down Escobar finally fell to Colonel Hugo Martinez.

Eventually, a surrender was worked out and Escobar was exiled to his own comfortable prison, full of every imaginable creature comfort and an ongoing parade of guests. When the government started to build an additional perimeter fence, Escobar escaped. It wasn’t difficult, as he had corrupted virtually the entire guard force. Escobar’s strategy for pots-incarceration survival was a study in brinkmanship, and included setting off bombs in public places as well as assassinations of political leaders and media personnel. His undoing began with a secret vigilante force, “Los Pepes,” who destroyed his assets, kidnapped and murdered his associates and lawyers, and threatened immediate family members, outdoing him at his own game.

While careful not to draw conclusions without hard evidence, Bowden’s opinion is that Los Pepes couldn’t have done their handiwork without the knowledge of Martinez’s team, and in fact, probably included them. While this brought forth much hand-wringing on the part of both U.S. and Colombian officials, it was tacitly allowed to continue. Martinez force was incorruptible, and had learned to its dismay that every move that was conveyed to the police or military was immediately telegraphed to Escobar.

Eventually, Excobar tried to negotiate another surrender, with the stipulation that his wife and children be allowed to leave the country. But Martinez and his colleagues and associates, which by now included Colombia’s most powerful political and justice authorities, weren’t going to allow that to happen. Arriving in Germany, his family was turned back on the tarmac and returned to Colombia.

The final hunt for Escobar is detailed in wonderful cloak-and-dagger details. In a final coup de grâce, the kill team shaved off the ends of his moustache alà Hitler. The book remains a must for readers wishing a historical perspective on Colombia and the drug wars, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the most intriguing criminals of the twentieth century. But this book now at the WoWasis eStore.

WoWasis Galapagos book review: Johanna Angermeyer’s ‘My Father’s Island’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 20•14

AngermeyerFathersIslandWhen we here at WoWasis toured the Galápagos Islands recently, we were frankly surprised at the relative modernity of the town or Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz. The island is replete with electricity, air conditioning, internet, and flush toilets (like the rest of Ecuador, though, used toilet paper is placed in a basket and not flushed). The name Angermeyer figures prominently in this town, derived from four brothers of that name who arrived here from Germany in 1935. Johanna Angermeyer, author of My Father’s Island: A Galápagos Quest (1989, ISBN 0-670-82732-0) is the daughter of one of them, Johannes Angermeyer.

The book is a fascinating tale of the author growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she was born, Riverside, California, Quito, Ecuador, and the Galápagos. She spent considerable time in all three places. It’s also her personal quest to build a family history, and thank goodness she includes a family tree to assist the reader in fathoming its complexity. From a familial perspective, the tale she weaves involves five brothers who set off on a quest to flee the Nazi regime in the mid-1930s. The remote Galápagos Islands was their goal, and four of them reached it and took up residence on Isla Santa Cruz, building everything from scratch and living a life that Angermeyer describes as being right out of Robinson Crusoe. Johanna, whose biological father Johannes had died years earlier, finally made it to the island for her first visit when she was thirteen years old. She fell in love with it, spent summers there while she attended school in Quito, and eventually moved there permanently in 1971. Far from the creature comforts so easily found there today, the author lived a hard-scrabble existence, as recounted in this passage describing one of her pre-residence visits:

In the tropics, without refrigeration, the safest place for meat or fish was in your belly… Each household normally knew through the ‘bajucco’ (a tenacious vine) just when another hunter or fisherman was going out. In between times the children net-fished on the beach, then distributed mullet from house to house. When no one went out, we ate rice and avocado, when available, or tinned tuna, or bread if one had an oven. When someone got hungry, they took half the day off and took a gun into the bush. Sighting of goats were reported. Sometimes big bucks followed the house-goats home and were shot before breakfast from a bedroom window.

(One) afternoon [sister] Mary said my hair smelled like a stagnant goldfish bowl and it was decided we should take our laundry and dirty bodies over to Pelican Bay for washing. Borrowing the most uncapsizeable and therefore heaviest of Gus’s skiffs, we took turns rowing tight circles and zigzags across the bay, my sister, as usual, telling us what to do. But it was Mother who remembered how to wash clothes, scooping up brackish water with a bent rusty can from the same crack in the lava she had used all those years ago, lathering the clothes with blue lye soap, rinsing them in a bucket and hanging them over bushes to dry. It was back-aching work. The lye burned our eyes if we brushed the perspiration from our face with our hands. The soap did not rinse out thoroughly and our perverse dying-bushes brushed the clean clothes into the red dust every time a breeze told them to. Shampoo was so expensive that we washed our hair the islanders’ way; squashing ripe avocados on each other’s heads, sprinkling soap flakes over this and creating a pale guacamole lather. The oil was so rich that, once rinsed, our hair shone and our skin felt as soft as if we’d used the costliest soap.

One of the book’s great personal celebrations is described when a new privy is built.

DreamAd-Wowasia_4In addition to being a fascinating story of a settler family in a beautiful, remote, and often unforgiving environment, the book has tremendous value for today’s visitor. Driving on the road from the Isla Baltra ferry and walking through Puerto Ayora, it’s difficult to imagine how challenging it was for the early settlers, and Angermeyer’s book brings it all into focus, bringing the reader into her personal world as well as that of her uncles, who were profiled in magazines and adventure television shows of the era.

Angermeyer does leave out a few important details of her own life, including her marriage and the fact that they’d lost their infant daughter. Part of her recovery over the tragedy was in recording interviews on tape with many of the early settlers. Those interviews contributed to this book, which was published in 1989. After living in the Galápagos for twenty years, she and her husband moved to England, becoming involved in conservation and animal welfare.

Although the book is twenty-five years old now, it has lost none of its luster. Especially for the visitor coming to Isla Santa Cruz for the first time, it’s an eye-opener and worth bringing along for the trip. For readers who have never been there, it serves as a temptation to travel there. And it will bring back memories for those that have, and who may very well have a new perspective on what they’ve seen and what they’ve missed.

WoWasis museum and book review: Quito Ecuador’s Pre-Columbian Casa Del Alabado

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 16•14

Chorrera woman

Ecuador’s capital of Quito boasts a number of interesting things to see, but we here at WoWasis found none more fascinating than the fascinating pre-Columbian museum, Casa Del Alabado. The guide book is something you’ll probably want to have, but more on that later.


Jama-Coaque warrior

The strength of the museum is in its ceramics collection of human figures, the most compelling of which, in our opinion, are from the Chorrera (950 to 350 BCE.) and Jama-Coaque (350 BCE to 1530 ACE) cultures. The museum, housed in an old colonial home, is well-laid out and easy to navigate, and the displays are well-lit and paced so that remarkable pieces stand on their own. As is the case with many museums in South America, visitors may take their own photos, and we’ll guess that you’ll want to. The Chorrera figures, in particular, are amazingly modernist, and the Jama-Coaque are almost Rococo in their elaboration. We found the collection so astounding that we took a second tour through the museum as soon as we finished the first viewing and were able to catch our collective breaths. We were dazzled.

The 'World of Spirits' book

The ‘World of Spirits’ book

The gift shop has a book on the collection that offers a wonderful overview, The World of Spirits in Pre-Columbian Ecuador, which we elected to buy when we got home, rather than carrying it on our trip (buy it here at the WoWasis eStore). We’re glad we bought the book, which offers photographs of several of the pieces that we just plain missed as we viewed the many other treasures in the museum.


Jama-Coaque woman

Museo Casa del Alabado
Cuenca Street N1-41, between San Francisco Square and Santa Clara Square
Quito, Ecuador
Tel: +593(2)228-0772
Open from Tuesday to Saturday. From 9:30am to 5:30pm, Sunday and Holidays from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

Bachelor in Bangkok: Khun Lee’s Top Ten Rules for keeping a Thai bargirl as your girlfriend

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 15•14

BachBKKLKee1cWoWasis correspondent Khun Lee’s Top Ten Rules for keeping a Thai bargirl as your girlfriend:

I have written often in this column about the different aspects of going with both pay-for-play gals and regular gals.  Certainly there are arguments for the merits of both, and many guys enjoy a playboy’s life in Thailand pursuing both kinds of ladies.  It would be easy to assume that the simplest thing to do would be to stick to the professional gals, as all of the rules are know by both parties from the start and it should be relatively easy for the guy to navigate through the inevitable problems that arise.  However, in my experience as well as the experiences of my best mates, guys who stick to the pros nearly always end up in failing relationships, beaten, broke, confused and shattered when it all comes crashing down on their heads.  Why is this and what can be done about it?  Well, it would be easy for me to reiterate that the professional gals are only for sex and fun and not girlfriend material, but these words fall on deaf ears as guy after guy comes to Thailand and falls head over heals for the first gal he meets.  And I don’t need to tell you what kind of gal will be the first to approach him!  So for all you guys out there that want to throw caution to the wind and attempt to convert a naughty gal into a regular squeeze here is Khun Nana’s Top Ten Rules for keeping a naughty nightlife gal as your main gal.

And please guys, these rules are for those of you who live in Thailand or will be bringing the gal back to your homeland.  For those of you pathetic lost souls sending money from overseas to a naughty gal you met here, there is nothing I could ever say to convince you of the insanity of your actions.  However, we local guys do very much appreciate that you are sponsoring and subsidizing our sex lives.

1) If you are paying the bills and/or giving her money, you are in control.  This rule is number 1 for a reason, and it is because in every situation in life and especially in Asia, the person with the money who is paying for everything is the boss and has all of the power.  If you only remember this rule you will be way ahead of 90% of the guys who are keeping naughty gals as girlfriends.  In my apartment building in Bangkok there are at least 10 guys who are living with naughty nightlife gals and nearly every one of them has lost the power in the relationship (to be fair I should say gave up the power) and is being totally dominated by his gal.  These gals can smell fear and if you don’t act like the leader in the relationship they will walk all over you and have absolutely no respect or concern for your well being.  Heck, I can’t really blame the gals as I don’t even respect these guys.  Never forget that the one who is paying the bills is the one with all of the power.

2) Sometimes you will need to remind your gal of rule number one.  Last year I was in Pattaya with a close mate who has a Bangkok live-in that he bought out from a go-go bar.  We were out on the town drinking and chasing babes when his main squeeze called his mobile.  I could hear that she was giving him a hard time on the phone, but my mate is a savvy player in the nightlife game and wasn’t about to let her manipulate him. This is what I heard him say next. “Oh I shouldn’t be in Pattaya partying with Khun Nana because I have a girlfriend? I am really glad to hear that since the 10,000 baht a month I have been paying you to stay with me has really been eating into my budget.  Since you are my girlfriend I won’t need to pay you any longer, and I am sure you will also be getting a job so you can help out with the bills. This is great!”  There was apparently only the sound of silence on the other end of the line, and we partied our arses off for another 4 days.

3) Never forget that it is all about the money.  If you want a real girlfriend then go out and get one.  If you are paying a pro to stay with you then it is about the money for her and if you ever forget that fact you will be beyond the point of redemption.  You don’t need to think about this in a mercenary way.  When you are in the movies and she laughs at a joke you don’t need to remind yourself that she is only there because you are paying her.  The point here is that you chose this form of relationship because you have all the power and call the shots and you really didn’t want all the crap that goes along with dating and pursuing a normal girl.  I can totally understand.  Countless times I will be out on a date and the gal will begin to whine about something or get jealous and possessive with me and I will think “why didn’t I just go grab a gal tonight, do her, pay her and go home to watch Sportscenter.”  This form of relationship is about money and sex and fun and if you aren’t getting everything you want then cut her loose and go find the next one.

4) Settle the payment terms right from the start.  If you give her money every time she puts her hand out you will be broke in a matter of months.  These gals can really be greedy about money (see rules 1, 2 and 3) so tell her from the start how much you are giving her every month and stick to it.

5) Draw a line in the sand.  In spite of rule number 4, she will make up all sorts of tales about her poor family and sick water buffalo and bla bla bla so you need to show her right from day number 1 that the agreed upon amount will be all she is getting.  Although in many cases her Thai boyfriend can really use the extra money as the motorcycle she bought him is looking a little ragged.

6) Have some respect for boundaries.  Just because you are paying her doesn’t mean you purposely disrespect her.  If you need to do another gal then go to a short time room or a massage parlor.  Once you move a gal into your home taking other gals to the room is absolutely off-limits.  Don’t take other gals to your favorite drinking or eating places that you share with your main squeeze.  Respect the boundaries.

7) Expect something of her. When you pay a professional gal to be your live-in, many gals will consider the fact that they spread their legs for you to be their only responsibility in the relationship.  Well, I know how ludicrous this sounds but then you are the guy who wanted a naughty gal for a girlfriend so you got yourself a lazy, irresponsible lifeless lump. At least expect her to clean the room or do the food shopping or maybe just make the bed.  They are like children, spoil them and they will act like spoiled children.

8) Don’t ever go up to the jungle (village) with her unless you go with less than 1,000 baht in your wallet. Yes guys, you may not have accepted the fact yet that she is with you for the money but everyone in her family knows it and will arrive at the parents home with tales of woe and both hands out.  Really I could write an entire book about my many mates who have traveled up-country with naughty gals and the perilous journeys they have had.  Dirty Geoff and I should do just that and write the book.

9) Don’t let her embarrass you in front of others.  If you are taking her to a friend’s wedding you will need to insist that she wears a long-sleeve shirt to cover her last 3 tattoos.  For heaven’s sake don’t lose your job because of her.  You may like having a naughty gal for a girlfriend but there is a good chance your rich Thai boss will fire you if you have the audacity to prance her around the office.  I have a friend who lost a very high paying position with an international company when he came to work one Saturday with his naughty gal in tow and the regional manager happened to be there at the same time. You may think this is unfair, but name one country in the world where guys pick up a gal in a naughty bar and bring her to their place of work.

10) Never forget rule number 1. If you are paying you have all the power and make all of the rules. If you aren’t happy then exchange her for a more acceptable version.  Once the gal sees that you know who is in charge, she will also be happier and feel more secure as this is the Asian way.

Read Khun Lee’s other WoWasis columns for more advice on navigating the adult dating scene through the backstreets of Bangkok

WoWasis book review: ‘The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Drug Trade’ by Alfred W. McCoy

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 15•14

McCoyHeroinThe first edition of Alfred McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Drug Trade was written in 1972 and was updated in 1991 and 2013. It has an amazing longevity, and has been cited numerous times in other works. As a plethora of researchers have discovered, the book, although nearly 50 years old now, remains an important work that documents much of the history of the narcotics business in Southeast Asia. That’s a simplification, however, as it touches on areas as disparate as Turkey, Iran, Corsica, Marseille, the United States, Afghanistan, and Australia. And it makes for fascinating reading. Anyone interested in the global business of narcotics will find the book to be valuable and its index is superb. It better be, because there are so many players.

Every page is full of well-researched information and every chapter is fascinating enough that readers may very well find themselves launched into their own trails of investigation. We here at WoWasis took copious notes and found the following subjects among the most interesting: Lucky Luciano’s prostitution and heroin racket, Corsican crime syndicates, the ongoing battle between the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and the CIA, the Burmese-Shan-KMT dynamic in the Golden Triangle, and Thai military, police, and political corruption.

AsiaPromoBannerBeing veteran Thailand watchers, we found he most compelling chapters to be those chronicling the story of narcotics movement in the Land of Smiles. What with Thailand’s coups, flirtations with democracy, and constantly changing political vistas, it’s not an easy task for a researcher to keep the names and dates straight, so McCoy’s book becomes something of a constant reference that doesn’t gather much dust. During the time when Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration was noted for extra-judicial killings of drug traffickers, westerners often wondered how Thailand got involved in the narcotics business in the first place. As McCoy’s work points out, erasing the business of drugs in the Golden Triangle area is far more complicated than killing a few drug runners.

At 734 pages, it’s not an overnight read. Aside from readers interested in the world of narcotics, we’d recommend this book for anyone with a desire to know more about a major element in the business world of every country that touches the Golden Triangle area of Southeast Asia. Buy this book now at the WoWasis eStore.

WoWasis thrills over wall murals in the Getsemani neighborhood of Cartagena, Colombia

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 04•14

LibertadGirl1cGetsemani is a picturesque neighborhood of colonial buildings and houses just across the Bahia De Los Animas from Cartagena’s old city. The colors of colonial Cartagena are legendary, and are showcased in the astounding number of beautiful wall murals in Getsemani. To see many of them, you’ll want to get off the main streets and walk down a few nearby side streets, like Calle De Loma and Callejon San Agosto. In addition to the murals, you’ll see what like is like for the residents of Getsemani. Their houses are mostly open to the street to allow for better airflow. You’ll see courtyards, people watching TV and listening to music in their living room, and hear conversations shouted across the street to neighbors. At night, people set up card tables, drink, and listen to music.

AmorEnGetsemani1cThe murals run the whole gamut from primitive to outstanding. A mural of a woman’s face in Plaza de la Libertad uses metal door rings as earrings. A black Carmen Miranda lies on her side in a bed of flowers on Calle de Lomba, arms stretched over her head, disgorging an armload of fruit. ‘Amor en Getsemani’ is epitomized by a beaming young woman. Walk further and you’ll see a smiling mermaid, a woman racing on motorcycle, and all matter of abstract people and places.

FruitLady1cWe here at WoWasis found delights, mural-wise, all over the old city, providing a number of beautiful walks with wonderful surprises at every turn.

WoWasis tours Bogota’s Museo Del Oro, the Gold Museum of Colombia

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jun• 28•14

Breastplate6headsGuatavita2c.JPGBogota, Colombia is a city of 14 million people, and frankly, doesn’t have much going for it, in terms of the international traveler. It’s tough to get around during rush hour (try to find a taxi), so you really do need to head back to your hotel around 3 pm. Some of the downtown areas near the old city are “no-go” areas. In fact, the city it reminds us of, here at WoWasis, is Oakland, California. Overall, not much to see, pretty run down, and just plain dangerous in areas adjacent to tourist-related spots. On top of that, the city outlaws liquor sales when the national team wins an important match. Not a problem for locals, who stock up beforehand, but awful for visitors looking for a beer or a glass of wine, and a real punch in the gut to the tourism industry, which is in recovery from decades of  “off the list” edicts from other countries.

LimeContainerPuertoNare2cThat said (we really had to get it off our chest, Bogota was low on the fun factor), one of South America’s finest and most unique museums is there, and it’s good enough to warrant a side-trip for a day to see it. It’s the remarkable Museo Del Oro, the Gold Museum, three floors containing some of the greatest Pre-Columbian gold pieces on display in South America. It’s not just the artifacts, either. The curatorial aspect of the museum is critical, and tells the story of gold in the Andes in four distinct stages: The Working of Metals, People and Gold in Pre-Historic Colombia, Cosmology and Symbolism, and The Offering. Each stage is its own display area, containing artifacts specific to the subject.

It’s not easy for the layperson to put all these beautiful and priceless gold objects in perspective. Most international visitors do not live, we’d guess, in countries with a Pre-Columbian history. They have a difficulty remembering the names of the groups and areas that made these objects. We’ve never liked audio guides, as we find they tend to get in the way of the wonder of making one’s own discoveries, not to mention the scads of earphone-wearing attendees that tend to clot up in front of many of the best pieces in any museum collection. The Museo Del Oro made the task of figuring it out less onerous by grouping the objects into these four thematic areas.

There is a guide in book form that’s available for purchase, one of the best we’ve ever seen. At 222 pages and replete with color photographs, it’s an essential take-home, a handsome historical fact book that allows the visitor to luxuriate in seeing the collection without having to read every damn explanation. At about $13 USD, it’s a bargain.

FemalePendantMid-Cauca1cPerhaps best of all, from our perspective, is that the museum encourages the visitor to take his or her own photographs (without flash) in order to remember his or her own favorite pieces. We’ve never liked museums that ban photography as a means of securing revenue through its overpriced catalogue. Patrons have already paid for admission, and they deserve to preserve their own memories of the collection. Come here, and you can take your own photos, then buy the guidebook, go back to your hotel and read about it all, and we’re betting that eventually you’ll come back for more.

In a large capital city sadly lacking in major visitor attractions, the Museo Del Oro stands out as one of South America’s finest museums, making a trip to this city worthwhile, even when the local football team wins and you can’t get a drink to save your soul.

Museo Del Oro
Carrera 6 15-88
Bogotá, Colombia
Tel: (571) 284-7450