According to an article on an Australian news site, Thailand is diverting some of the Mekong’s water to refresh it’s own rivers and streams. This is not making downstream neighbors, especially Vietnam, happy at all. The Thai government says that what it’s taking from the Mekong is not having a “significant impact.”
It’s an interesting article that also goes into the regional drought and the record low level of the Mekong River. I rode my motorbike by the Mekong this morning on my way to work, but I forgot to check if the level had risen due to the release of water by the Chinese dam upstream, as I mentioned in my previous post. I’ll try to remember to check it out on my way home today. More later.
Recently, the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) awarded Laos the “World’s Best Tourist Destination” for 2012. In part, the award presentation stated that:
I must say what a privilege is for our delegation to honor a country that is becoming a WORLD BEST TOURIST DESTINATION.
It is also a great pleasure to address our salute to the great people of Lao, a people that had build throughout centuries a perfect civilization, with hundreds of monuments of historical and civilization relevance ,a people that had offered to humanity countless riches: from religious temple and scriptures to literary texts and historical writings.
You can read more about the award at the ECCT website here and here. Coincidentally, I’ll be traveling to Laos (and Thailand) next month, and I’m really looking forward to getting back there. I guess the continuing popularity of Laos, and its people and culture, is a double-edged sword. Hopefully, the influx of tourists will help increase the standard of living of the population and raise cultural awareness, but, alas, more tourists and more money coming into the country means, many times, an increase of traffic, pollution and infrastructure problems, as well as a loss of the old values and charm that have made the country such an attractive area to visit.
As an example, my first visit to “The Land of a Million Elephants” was in 2005. I remember Vientiane as being a very laid-back city (it still is, in many ways) with bicycles and motorbikes outnumbering cars by a wide margin. Now, traffic jams are common in many places and life seems more frenetic. Still, it’s a great place to visit–succulent, spicy cuisine, stupendous scenery and friendly, welcoming Laotians. Give it a try if you’re ever in the area.
Congratulations to Lao PDR!
Oh, yeah, I forgot to ask. Did any of you watch the wedding on Friday? With an estimated viewing audience of two billion, I’m sure a few of you must have. I watched it for, let’s see, about 5 hours. Yeah, I watched the whole thing, including pre- and post-wedding coverage. I switched channels between CNN and BBC. The BBC channel here had a much crisper picture, so I spent most of the time watching it there.
I really enjoy the pomp and pageantry of these types of events, and the British monarchy does them better than any other institution in the world. I love the music, the clothing (how about those fascinator hats?), the tradition, the horse guards, and the celebratory atmosphere. The world doesn’t seem to have too many fairy tale stories these days, so this was, in my opinion, a feel-good event. Bravo, Great Britain. Fascinating. Hats off to ya. I just hope I live long enough to see a coronation.
Because of the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan, I decided to find some information about the nuclear reactors in South Korea, and, especially, where the nearest one to Yeosu is located.
According to this Wikipedia article, more than 31% of Korea’s electricity production is supplied by nuclear power. That’s more than any other country outside of Europe, including Japan’s almost 29%. By contrast, France’s reactors provide a whopping 75% of its electricity needs, while the U.S. gets 20% of its electricity via nuclear facilities.
According to another Wiki article, there are four power plants in South Korea, with the nearest one to Yeosu located in Yeonggwang, which is about 80 miles from us as the crow flies, according to my Lonely Planet map of Korea–not all that far away. According to the same article, there are 21 reactors at the four plants, with 11 more due to come online by 2021.
Of course, with the dire news from Japan, Korea’s government is conducting a safety check of all the plants to determine their vulnerability to tsunamis. The Yeonggwang plant is located in the southwest part of the country, but the other three are in the southeast. From the article in the preceding link from the Korea Herald:
Of South Korea’s four nuclear power plants, three–Uljin, Wolsong and Gori–are located on the southeastern coast facing Japan. If a major earthquake occured on the western coast of Japan, it could send tsunami waves across the East Sea that could hit these facilities.
Let’s hope that never happens.
I just finished jogging and turned on the television to CNN and found out about the HUGE 8.9 earthquake in Japan. A live helicopter feed from northern Japan is showing rising water from a tsunami going up river and flooding some farmland, and fires that have broken out in the background. Quite a scary sight. Wow, they just started showing, live, another tsunami heading for the coast–really impressive shots.
I was jogging at the time the ‘quake hit, but I didn’t feel anything. We’re quite far from where it happened, so we haven’t seen any effects in our area. The tsunamis are forecast for east, north and south of Japan. The bulk of the islands are between us and the tsunami area, so we probably won’t have any high waves, either. Good luck to everyone in the disaster zone. More later.
A few days ago I received a warning from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul as part of their emergency warning system to U.S. citizens who are enrolled in the program. The email’s subject line is “Announcement of One-Day Military Firing Exercise in Northwest Islands Off the Coast of Korea Between Dec. 18-21, 2010.”
Yes, it seems that South Korea is going to conduct live-fire exercises on the same island that was attacked by the North a few weeks ago. The email goes on to say:
This warden message is being issued in response to the announcement on December 16, 2010, by the Government of the Republic of Korea that it will “hold a one-day live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong Island between Dec. 18 and 21.” The Embassy does not assess that there has been an increase in the threat environment in South Korea.
Given the increased tensions since the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, 2010, it is understandable that U.S. citizens would be concerned regarding the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. However, the Embassy reminds U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea that military training exercises are routinely conducted throughout South Korea throughout the year, to include civil defense drills normally held eight (8) times a year. U.S. citizens should stay informed through local media about upcoming military exercises and civil defense drills that sometimes occur at short notice and for which the Embassy will not routinely provide advance notification. The Embassy continues to closely monitor the current situation. Should the security situation change, the Embassy will update this warden message.
Now, South Korea, which claims the island as part of its territory, has every right to conduct the drill, but I thought at the time that it would be a very provocative action. Sure enough, there are many reports, including this one from the Wall Street Journal, that quote North Korean officials as saying that it will “attack South Korea more violently than it did last month if Seoul proceeds with plans to test-fire artillery from the island Pyongyang shelled.” Most South Korean and American officials are downplaying the likelihood of that happening, but who knows about the crazies up north.
Since today is the 18th, we’ve got about 4 days to see how this plays out. Stay tuned for more.
Not much to report from Yeosu, but CNN earlier quoted the South Korean Yonhap News Agency as saying that the North had fired off a couple of surface-to-air missiles today. It might be an erroneous report because I haven’t heard anything more of it. Not sure what they might have fired at–the war “games” won’t start for a couple of hours yet and they are pretty far from the area of the attacks of a few days ago. Hopefully, all of this will pass peacefully, with no escalation into something more calamitous. More later.
Update at 12:52 p.m. local time: Reuters Canada is reporting that Yonhap stated the North has placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads and has deployed surface-to-air missiles in the area of the previous attacks. No mention of any SAMs being fired, but other sources report that artillery fire was heard on Yeonpyeong Island and residents were ordered into shelters. There’s been no report of any shells hitting the island, though. (A more recent report says that people were in the shelters for 40 minutes and left them when it was decided that there was no danger.)
Hopefully, this isn’t my last post for a while. War games involving South Korea and the United States will begin tomorrow in the Yellow Sea (West Sea to South Koreans) near the line demarcating the North and South, and Crazy Uncle Kim in the North says that this will bring the peninsula to the brink of war. The U.S. has deployed an aircraft carrier to be part of the exercise, so if the nut jobs want to start something, I’m sure they’ll have their hands full.
Hopefully, nothing will happen. Hopefully, North Korea will get an earful from its only ally, China. China has a big stake in all of this. Many analyses that I’ve read state that it can’t afford to let the North Korean regime get involved in a full-scale war for a couple of reasons. It would likely mean the collapse of the N. Korean government, which would mean that hundreds of thousands of refugees would cross the northern border into China. More dire for the Chinese is the possibility of a new pro-American government coming into power, something they certainly don’t want to see.
However, many South Koreans are calling for blood, and CNN is reporting that protests by members of the military are spreading in Seoul. The protestors are demanding that a strong response to the recent shelling is necessary.
Hopefully, the situation won’t escalate any further, and, hopefully, I’ll be posting tomorrow. After all, it’ll be my ??th birthday. 🙂
Although this typhoon is nowhere near us, it’s still of great interest to me, being the extreme weather guy that I am. 🙂 At the moment, it’s heading toward the northern Philippines, packing winds of 165 miles per hour and gusting to 200, according to Weather Underground .The name is contributed by Korea and it means catfish in the Korean language. But, wow, what a powerful storm! Most typhoons lose steam after they travel over land, and Megi is no different. It’s predicted to fall from a Category 5 typhoon to a Cat. 2, but it’s then supposed to increase to a Cat. 3 after it passes through the country. Yeah, this is a real killer of a storm; I hope everyone in the Philippines stays safe and is well prepared for the huge hit they’re probably going to take.
P.S. I just saw on CNN that the U.S. military in the area is reporting that SUSTAINED winds are at 180 mph. If true, this has to be one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history.
What a feel-good story. I just watched the last of the rescue workers return to the surface to complete a remarkable operation. Congratulations to everyone involved in getting the 33 trapped miners back to the top. I watched as much of CNN’s round-the-clock coverage as I could, as I’m sure many around the world did, and it was so emotional to see each of the miners reunited with their loved ones. With so many negative headlines, this was one of the great stories of recent times. Now, everyone go out and celebrate with a bottle of Chilean wine (if that’s your preference) or some juicy Chilean grapes. Chi!Chi!Chi!–Le!Le!Le!