Events celebrating and protesting LGBT rights have taken place in many parts of the world over the last several months. Hong Kong enjoyed its annual parade on November 10, with a theme “dare to love”, attracting people from all over the world. Starting from Victoria Park, the attendees dressed in a variety of fashions denoting their occupation or favorite social theme, calling for equal opportunities and fair treatment in the work place. With a huge rainbow flag and colorful popping bubbles, the happy throng paraded through the city centre creating a carnival-like atmosphere during the two-hour-long procession.
A huge rainbow flag is carried by participants during the 4th Hong Kong LGBT parade.
Brunei is probably not a usual destination for most travel and it is always labeled as boring or “no fun”. My parents chose this place for holiday and they invited me to come. I was more than happy to join since I haven’t been to a strict Islamic country yet. I was so surprised to find that the gasoline in this country was cheaper than water! Located in Southeast Asia, Brunei is super rich in natural gas and petroleum resources, which allows its people to enjoy great wealth.
The first impress that I had for Brunei was the low pace lifestyle. It took each of us around 5 minutes to cross the customs when we first arrived. Eating in the restaurants, we were normally required to wait for around half an hour to get your food. Though the efficiency drove me mad sometimes, I gradually got used to it and tied to be more patient for Brunei people.
The tour guide told us that Bruneians were very proud of their amazing social welfare such as completely free medical care and education. If a students want to study aboard, the government will pay the tuition fee as long as they will serve the country for ten years after graduation. And also, if people suffer serious illness and need medical treatments outside the country, the government will pay all your expenses including the air tickets for the patient and family who accompany.
There are more we can jealous of – the housing policy. Local people can apply for the public houses and borrow money from the government. Normally, it takes around 7 year for people to pay off the loan, with just few hundred Hong Kong dollars per month. It is easy to find a lot of public houses along the streets while we were visiting the city. You would not believe that all those houses have a huge garden and 10 bedrooms at average. However, alcohol and cigarette are forbidden in Brunei, which has made my dad a bit upset during the trip. So if you are a alcoholist, it is not a place for you then.
Nothing can be more excited than getting an opportunity to visit North Korea, the so call most isolated and mysterious country in the world. So many questions came to my mind immediately – Is it safe there? Can I have enough food to eat? Where can I exchange my money before I go? I was confused, curious and a bit worried.
We, a group of journalism students, took the Pyongyang airline in the Beijing airport. Each of us had a North Korea style hamburger on the plane. Seriously, it tasted really terrible and that is why I decided to head to the grocery store for some cup noodle once we arrived the hotel (but this is a stupid decision).
We were not allowed to take any pictures at the Pyongyang airport, but some of my classmates did. Unfortunate, the tour guide saw that asked them to delete the photos right away. In fact, the customs officer even checked some of our iPhones very carefully when we crossed enter boarder. But anyway, we all got into the city!
Every photograph we wanted to take needed permission from the tour guide because we was not allowed to capture certain aspects of life in North Korea, like the local people, soldiers, workers and construction sites. But since we were a group of people, sometimes we just took it anyway when the guide busy introducing the attractions. Two cameramen followed us for the whole journey, filming almost every moment. They said they would make a CD for us at the end and we could choose to buy it or not (it was damn expensive as I remember).
We could not wander around freely, which was a completely different experience of travelling. We have little opportunity to interact with locals and in turn, the locals were too afraid to interact with the foreign visitors. The tour guide told us if the citizens have talked to tourist, they would get into trouble.
We stayed in a five-starts hostel where electricity was cut off from time to time. No Internet of course and no phone call could be made, but we could still “enjoy” some local and Chinese TV channels in our room. I have never seen their currency during the whole trip. However, RMB was accepted in all souvenir stores. I was very curious how they exchange the money back?
In our five-days trip, we checked out a lot of statues and monuments where we needed to offer flowers and bow to show the respect of their president and revolutionary martyrs. We also went to the DMZ, the most fortified border between North Korea and South Korea. It was fun to visit one of their kindergartens and primary school and watch the performance by local kids.
Everything that they showed in us in Pyongyang City looks great but don’t forget many North Korea people are still suffering starvation and struggling with their life. People here are not able to enjoy the freedom that we have. After I came back, I checked out a lot of videos and books that disclose the real life of people in North Korea. I felt extremely complicated and upset.