North Vietnam Propaganda Stamps

Fifty years ago the Vietnam War was intensifying as the United States began a bombing campaign over North Vietnam called Operation Rolling Thunder which was intended to either force the N. Vietnamese to the negotiating table or bomb them ‘back into the Stone Age’.

The N. Vietnamese defended themselves as best they could and managed to shoot down many American fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, mostly by anti-aircraft fire, surface to air missiles and small arms fire.

To shore up morale in the face of devastating US raids, North Vietnam began issuing a series of postage stamps boasting of their successes in shooting down American aircraft.

This first stamp, issued in 1965, claimed 500 US Aircraft Shot Down Over North Vietnam.

This first stamp, issued in 1965, claimed 500 US Aircraft Shot Down Over North Vietnam.

In 1966, another stamp was issued claiming 1000 shot down (I am missing this stamp from my collection).

By October 1966 the total had risen to 1500 according to this stamp.

By 14 October 1966 the total had risen to 1500 according to this stamp.

By June 1967 (just 229 days later) the total had risen to 2000 according to the N. Vietnamese (i.e over two aircraft shot down per day)

By 5 June 1967 (just 229 days later) the total had risen to 2000 according to the N. Vietnamese (i.e over two aircraft shot down per day)

The artwork for this stamp was taken from this famous ‘Guerilla Girl’ photo showing Capt. Bill Robinson being taken into captivity by a diminutive female soldier.

Although it was claimed that the girl captured the US airman single handed, this was a staged photo and she was one of a large party who captured him.

Although it was claimed that the girl captured the US airman single handed, this was a staged photo and she was one of a large party who captured him.

Bill Robinson had the misfortune to become the longest held enlisted prisoner of war in American history from the shooting down of his helicopter on 20 September 1965 until his release on 12 February 1973. He spent his 7 1/2 years captivity in various prisons including the notorious Hanoi Hilton which I visited and blogged about some years ago. He was horribly mistreated – as he says in his biography* “We were all treated equally, we all got the hell beaten out of us”.

Later in 1967, the 2500th US aircraft to be shot down over North Vietnam was commemorated with these stamps.

Later in 1967, the 2500th US aircraft to be shot down over North Vietnam was commemorated with these stamps.

By 1968, the North Vietnamese were claiming 3,000 US Aircraft shot down.

By 1968, the North Vietnamese were claiming 3,000 US Aircraft shot down.

This stamp dated April 1972 brings the total up to 3500 and portrays a US airman in captivity.

This stamp dated April 1972 brings the total up to 3500 and portrays a US airman in captivity.

Later in 1972, North Vietnam releases these stamps, increasing the total of kills to 4,000.

Later in 1972, North Vietnam releases these stamps, increasing the total of kills to 4,000.

The final set of stamps was brought out in 1973, marking the end of US involvement in the Vietnam War.

This 1973 stamp, one of a set of 4 called 'Victory Over US Airforce' claims a grand total of 4181 US Aircraft shot down  over North Vietnam .

This 1973 stamp, one of a set of 4 called ‘Victory Over US Airforce’ claims a grand total of 4181 US Aircraft shot down over North Vietnam .

These were propaganda stamps and you would assume that North Vietnamese claims must have been greatly exaggerated. How many US aircraft were actually lost? Having trawled the internet it is quite difficult to find a definitive number that everyone agrees on. The number 2257 is mentioned often but it depends on whether you include helicopters, losses due to accidents, losses over Cambodia and Laos and other variables. A declassified US Airforce report (should be a reliable source) puts USAF (i.e. not including Navy, Army, Marines) combat losses of fixed wing aircraft at over 1600.  According to the Oxford Companion to American Military History, 8588 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters were lost. Whatever the true figure, it was a lot!

Norman Morrison Stamp

This is another North Vietnam propaganda stamp, portraying Norman Morrison, a 31 year old American Quaker activist who burnt himself to death on 2 November 1965 in front of the Pentagon to protest American involvement in the Vietnam War.

Norman Morrison

Norman Morrison

A sad, but ultimately futile, gesture. Will anyone remember his 50th anniversary? Maybe in Vietnam they will.

*The Longest Rescue: The Life and Legacy of Vietnam POW William A Robinson by Glenn Robins

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Jalan Tun H S Lee, Kuala Lumpur

Jalan Tun H. S. Lee is a 1.8 km long street running through the heart of downtown Kuala Lumpur. Before Independence it was known simply as High Street, indicating that it was one of the earliest and most important commercial thoroughfares in the town. 

Map of Jalan Tun H S Lee, Kuala Lumpur

The street has witnessed all the major events in KL’s history since the 1880’s and bears the scars of the city’s growth and development.

The street is named after Tun Sir Henry Lee Hau Shik, a former government minister. It runs from Jalan Gereja in the north (near the Telecom Museum) and finally peters out in an underpass beneath Jalan Kinabalu in the south.

The street is named after Tun Sir Henry Lee Hau Shik, a former government minister. It runs from Jalan Gereja in the north (near the Telecom Museum) and finally peters out in an underpass beneath Jalan Kinabalu in the south.

Most visitors to KL will, have travelled along sections of this street but few will have seen the need to walk along its entire length. If you were to inclined to make the long walk, this video gives a flavour of what you would see.

Jalan Tun HS Lee Street Scene

The street is a combination of old and new, scruffy and smart, high rise and shophouse and is typical of the untidy but colourful lanes you find in downtown KL.

Old shophouses exist alongside modern towers. There’s nothing twee about this street.

Old shophouses exist alongside modern towers. There’s nothing twee about this street.

This row of six shophouses is thought to be one of the oldest in KL dating from the 1880’s, with a roofline lower than its neighbours. It has had an award winning restoration and is now a boutique backpackers’ hostel.

This row of six shophouses is thought to be one of the oldest in KL dating from the 1880’s, with a roofline lower than its neighbours. It has had an award winning restoration and is now a boutique backpackers’ hostel.

There are a number of hotels and hostels in this street, mainly catering to the budget end of the travel market.

If the taste and price of the food is more important to you than the ambience, you’ll find plenty of places to eat in this street.

If the taste and price of the food is more important to you than the ambience, you’ll find plenty of places to eat in this street.

There is a wide variety of eating establishments along this street include Affriasia Village Kitchen (African food), Santa Chapati House, Solti Restaurant (Nepalese?), Betel Leaf, Oishi Ramen, Water Lily Vegetarian, LOKL Coffee Shop, Ayam Kampong, Bangladeshi Halal food, Kopitiam and Kedai Kopi Lai Foong.

Whatever you want to buy, there’s probably a shop selling it in Jalan Tun HS Lee.

Whatever you want to buy, there’s probably a shop selling it in Jalan Tun HS Lee.

Traditional Malaysian High Streets like this one have a wide range of retailers. Here are some of the categories found here: clothing, hardware, motorbike repairs, fertiliser and weedkiller, tea merchants, rubber chops and car number plates, money transfers, stationers, comic books, travel agents, jewellers, antiques, party accessories, pet food supplies, feng shui supplies, natural crystals, gifts, bags, nail and hair accessories, crockery and much more.

Sin Sze Si Ya Temple was founded in 1864 by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy and is dedicated to the deities Sin Sze Ya and Si Sze Ya.

Sin Sze Si Ya Temple was founded in 1864 by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy and is dedicated to the deities Sin Sze Ya and Si Sze Ya.

A narrow entrance leads to Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, one of KL’s oldest.

Guandi is the patron of righteous brotherhoods and includes both police forces and triads among his followers.

Guandi is the patron of righteous brotherhoods and includes both police forces and triads among his followers (not in Malaysia of course).

Another temple further down the street is dedicated to Guandi, the Taoist God of War.

Madras Lane may have obtained its nickname from the adjacent Madras Cinema, now a vacant lot used for parking.

Madras Lane may have obtained its nickname from the adjacent Madras Cinema, now a vacant lot used for parking.

An alley way nearby is know as Madras Lane (officially Jalan Sultan), renowned among Malaysia’s foodies as a destination for hawker fare such as curry laksa, yong tau foo, chee cheong fun and fish head curry.

This temple was founded in 1873 by a prominent Tamil called K. Thamboosamy Pillai, who was also said to have been instrumental in establishing Batu Caves as a Hindu Temple. He also contributed generously to the building of St. Mary’s Cathedral which no doubt put him on good terms with the British colonial administration.

This temple was founded in 1873 by a prominent Tamil called K. Thamboosamy Pillai, who was also said to have been instrumental in establishing Batu Caves as a Hindu Temple. He also contributed generously to the building of St. Mary’s Cathedral which no doubt put him on good terms with the British colonial administration.

Across the street is the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple one of oldest and most photogenic of the Hindu temples in KL.

In KL’s early days fires were a constant danger with most houses being made of wood with attap roofs.

In KL’s early days fires were a constant danger with most houses being made of wood with attap roofs.

Further down the street is blocked off by blue metal fencing behind which a massive hole in the ground is being filled with the new Mass Rapid Transit railway station for Pasar Seni. After skirting around this construction site, Jalan Tun HS Lee continues south on its final stretch which includes the police station and the site of the station of the Volunteer Fire Service. The Sikh Police temple is nearby.

This building was the original Victoria Institution school but is now used as a venue for cultural dance and traditional arts shows.

This building was the original Victoria Institution school but is now used as a venue for cultural dance and traditional arts shows.

This ends our tour of Jalan Tun HS Lee.

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Burj Khalifa Dubai – View At The Top

Burj Khalifa DubaiIf you are ever in Dubai with money to spare you can take an elevator ride to the observation decks near the top of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

The VIP tickets (stands for Very ‘igh Price) cost a jaw-dropping AED500 but give fast track access to the observation deck on Level 148 where there is a very elegant lounge staffed by Guest Ambassadors serving fresh juices and canapés.

The high speed lift whisks visitors to Level 124, ears popping along the way. An audio visual show is displayed on the walls of the darkened lift during the brief journey.

At Level 124 (called At The Top) guests transfer to another lift up to 148 (At The Top Sky).

The lift buttons go all the way up to Level 154 but these upper levels are private offices or residences. (There is a penthouse on the market at the moment for AED102 million if you are interested.) There is also an Armani Hotel in Burj Khalifa.

World's Highest Observation Deck at Burj Khalifa Dubai

At a height of 555m above the ground you would expect to see spectacular and far reaching views. Unfortunately Dubai does suffer from hazy, dusty or sand storm conditions for much of the year and this week was no exception.

The most impressive views were straight down and the buildings below looked like a town planner’s model.

Here are a few pictures of the view.

The tall towers on Shaikh Zayed Road look small from this height.

The tall towers on Shaikh Zayed Road look small from this height.

Even the Burj al Arab was barely visible through the haze.

Even the Burj al Arab was barely visible through the haze.

The World development of reclaimed islands is just visible in the distance.

The World development of reclaimed islands is just visible on the horizon.

Birds eye view of 'Downtown Dubai'.

Birds eye view of ‘Downtown Dubai’.

IMG_1264

There is an open air viewing deck on Level 148 but with roasting temperatures this week approaching 48 degrees centigrade it was no place to linger.

There's still plenty of space for development in Dubai.

There’s still plenty of space for future development in Dubai.

Visitors who don’t wish to fork out AED 500 for the experience can obtain standard tickets for AED125-200 (depending on the time of day) giving access to Level 124 only, where the view is nearly as good. By booking online for a fixed time and date you can minimise queuing too.

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Langkawi Revisited

I have just returned from a family trip to Langkawi.

We stayed at The Datai, an uncharacteristically extravagant place to stay for this normally thrifty traveller.

The main pool at The Datai is for over 16's only.  There's another pool next to the beach for families with kids .

The main pool at The Datai is for over 16’s only. There’s another pool next to the beach for families with kids .

The hotel is located on a private beach in the north west corner of the island.

Datai Bay is off-limits to all except guests of The Datai Langkawi and the neighbouring Andaman resort. The island in the distance is Ko Tarutao (Thailand).

Datai Bay is exclusive to guests of The Datai Langkawi and the neighbouring Andaman resort. The island in the distance is Ko Tarutao (Thailand).

It’s a lovely beach bordered by lush tropical forest. The sea water is clean but not as clear as the beaches on the east coast of Malaysia such as Redang or Perhentian.

Plenty of space at Datai Beach.

Plenty of space at Datai Beach. The Andaman is the white building in the distance.

One of Langkawi’s top attractions is the spectacular cable car ride on Mount Machincang. The 15 minute trip  is over 2km long and rises 680 metres.

View from Langkawi SkyCab Middle Station.

Near the top is an amazing curved 125 metre suspension bridge supported by a single pylon.

Sky Bridge Langkawi

Sky Bridge Langkawi

Langkawi Sky Bridge

If you don’t mind heights you can enjoy great views over the island.

Back at ground level we spotted this unusual insect, commonly known as a net-winged beetle. This adult female has a tiny retractable head. Apparently the male of the species looks completely different; like a normal beetle with wings.

Adult female Trilobite Beetle Duliticola Paradoxa.

Adult female Trilobite Beetle Duliticola Paradoxa.

If you want to see how it moves you can view this YouTube video:

https://youtu.be/0mOEFpxJFT4

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Malaysian Sakura

With a tropical climate, Malaysia does not experience the springtime blossoms enjoyed by more temperate countries like Japan.

However, at certain times of the year, various trees suddenly burst into flower for a week or so, adding colour to Malaysia’s streets.

Blooms of the Tabebuia Rosea tree in Malaysia

Blooms of the Tabebuia Rosea tree in Malaysia

Last week it was the turn of this tree, Tabebuia Rosea, known more commonly as Rosy Trumpet Tree or Pink Poui. It is sometimes nicknamed Malaysian Sakura, though it is no relation to Japan’s cherry blossom.

Rosy Trumpet Tree, near Kuala Lumpur

The tree can reach heights of 30 metres or more.

The tree originates from tropical America and is the national flower of a number of Latin American countries. In Malaysia, it blooms twice per year, usually in March and July.

Fallen blooms of the Pink Poui Tree

A rain shower causes the tree to shed its flowers, creating a pretty pink mess.

There are white and lighter pink varieties of this bloom and when all three are found together it does give the feel of cherry blossom.

Close up of the Tabebuia Rosea flower.

See you again next year.

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Inside the Sultan Abdul Samad Building

SultanAbdulSamadBuilding

The stately, copper-domed Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Merdeka Square is one of Kuala Lumpur’s most famous landmarks. Although tourists flock to take photos from the outside, the interior has been off-limits for years as it serves as a government department.

This year however, the Ministry of Tourism’s Department of National Heritage has been staging an exhibition in one section of the building, allowing the public to take a sneak peek inside.

Inside the Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Part of the ‘Our Heritage is World Heritage’ exhibition.

The exhibition, called Our Heritage is World Heritage comprises displays featuring Malaysia’s four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely:

  • Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley
  • Gunung Mulu National Park
  • Kinabalu Park
  • Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca

The exhibition runs daily from 9am to 5pm until 31 December 2015 and is free admission.

The exhibition was not very exciting and I was more interested to see what else they have inside this historic building. Security guards did not allow me to wander about but I was able to take a few pictures.

This interior corridor is in fine condition for an 118 year old building. The marble floor looks recent.

This interior corridor is in fine condition for a 118 year old building. The marble floor looks recent.

Main entrance lobby.

Main entrance lobby and atrium.

From this artist's impression it appears that more space is to be opened up to the public.

From this artist’s impression it appears that more space is to be opened up to the public.

This painting on one of the interior walls shows events in Malaysia's history.

This painting shows events in Malaysia’s history.

While in the vicinity, I also took a look inside the foyer of the neighbouring City Theatre which is housed in the former City Hall, a building designed by AB Hubback and completed in 1896.

Attractive foyer to the City Theatre, also at Merdeka Square in KL

Attractive foyer to the City Theatre, also at Merdeka Square in KL

It is good that the Malaysian and KL Governments are finding ways to breathe new life into these old heritage buildings.

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Putrajaya’s Strange Taste in Books

Putrajaya, where I lived until recently, is the administrative capital of Malaysia, where most government ministries are located and where many of the nation’s civil servants live and work.

The city has a pleasant, peaceful and prosperous atmosphere, ideal for conceiving the policies needed to steer the country in the right direction.

Those important decision makers need abundant sources of information and inspiration and a good book shop is a great place to start. There is a local bookshop in the Alamanda shopping mall but it is of modest size and cannot compare to the best bookshops in Kuala Lumpur like Kinokuniya or Borders.

Not that Malaysians are great readers. It is estimated that the average Malaysian reads just two books a year, compared to 20 or so for many European countries. This is understandable; most Malaysians drive themselves to work and do not have the long train commute which is where most Europeans get their reading done. And when Malaysians reach home they have large, extended families to interact with – there’s not much time for reading. Besides, as my children would say, who reads books anymore? That’s so 20th century!

So what sort of books are Malaysians reading when they do get the chance? At the local bookshop in Putrajaya they have a display of Top 10 Best Sellers. Near the top is a surprising choice – Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. It appears he has something of a following here among those with an incomplete, or selective, knowledge of history.

Mein Kampf

You would have thought Putrajayans could find a more uplifting choice of reading material! Harry Potter perhaps.

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