Traveling is an addiction to me. Once you start traveling and get the fun of it, you would want to do it as frequently as possible. There is so much more left to see in this big world. Also, not to forget that there are still numerous countries, cities and places that I had no idea about. This time while researching about my day trip from Phuket, I heard about this archipelago located between the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean named the ‘Similan Islands’. The word ‘Similan’ meaning ‘nine’, were initially a group of nine islands but currently two more got added to the list summing upto eleven in total. My cousin and I booked the day tour including pick and drop to our hostel along with complimentary breakfast, lunch and snacks via an agent named WOW ANDAMAN. We had a 2-hour journey by road to the pier called the Khao Lak Pier followed by a speedboat ride for an hour to reach the Similan Islands. Those who are not used to the boat rocking back and forth were given complimentary motion sickness tablets. We could visit 4 islands in total – two snorkeling points and two beaches.
As we arrived at the office located beside the pier, we saw a huge arrangement of breakfast. There was an enormous variety of food like bread and jam, soupy noodles, chocolate and vanilla cakes and so many others. We were quite impressed with the arrangement. After breakfast, we were briefed about the islands we will be visiting and the DOs and DON’T’s.
Our first stop was in Island No. 9 where we saw this distinct piling up of huge boulders. These boulders are the signature of the Similan Islands, the topmost of which is called the SAIL ROCK. To reach the ‘sail rock’ which is on top of the cliff, we had to go through a nature trail with mini tropical rainforest around it. It took around 20 minutes to reach the top.
View from the SAIL ROCK Viewpoint
Nature trail up the viewpoint
The next two islands we visited were snorkeling points. I was amazed to see the crystal-clear water and the distinct shade of blue. While others enjoyed snorkeling, I enjoyed sunbathing on the deck of the speed boat. Our last stop was at island number 4 named Ko Miang where we were served delicious Thai lunch. In addition to this, we also checked out a small sea turtles conservation station. We chilled in the island for some time after which we started our way back to the Khao Lak pier at 3 pm.
Sea turtle conservation station
I had no idea that the Similan Islands is one of the most popular islands for its diving and white coral sand beaches. I was mindblown by its beauty. The best part was that the place was scenic and deserted at the same time. If you wish to visit the Similans, do visit within mid-October to mid-April when the monsoon season is over.
A dancer born with one hand is the first person with a visible disability ever hired by New York's famed Radio City Rockettes.
"I don't want to be known as the dancer who has one hand, and not because that's a bad thing," Sydney Mesher, who joined the Rockettes this season, told Newsday. "But because I've worked very hard to be where I am."
Mesher, 22, is missing a left hand because of symbrachydactyly, a rare congenital condition.
The Pace University graduate from Portland, Oregon, was hired by the Rockettes after her fourth audition. She said she has been "mesmerized" by the troupe, which dates to 1925, ever since first seeing them on TV in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Mesher said she started dancing as a child and attended a performing arts high school. In the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, audiences caught up in the show might not notice her missing hand, even where there are minor modifications to the act to accommodate her. In one number where the Rockettes ring a bell in each hand, she rings just one.
Rockettes creative director Karen Keeler called Mesher "an incredibly versatile dancer with a strong work ethic." Keeler said Mesher "is smart and determined, with an eye for detail."
The annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular runs through Jan. 5.
With dances and fireworks, indigenous residents of a town in the Guatemalan highlands on Saturday came to the end of a festival celebrating their patron saint, Thomas the apostle.
Much of the activity in Chichicastenango, including a procession with a wooden statue of Thomas, centered on the centuries-old church in the town.
Founded by the Spanish in 1520, Chichicastenango is a center of the Quiché ethnic group. In the 18th century, a Spanish priest found the Popol Vuh, a text describing Mayan culture and mythology, in the town and translated it into Spanish.
Chichicastenango is a popular destination at this time of year, with many foreign tourists flocking to the main square to witness the annual festival.
A day-long butterfly fair was held on the Jahangirnagar University campus on Friday with the theme ‘nature gets new pace if butterflies fly in sky’.
The 10th edition of the fair was held in front of the Zahir Raihan auditorium to raise awareness to preserve the beautiful insect.
Prof Abdul Jabbar Hawlader, Dean of Faculty of Biological Sciences of JU attended the programme as chief guest.
In the fair, Prof MA Bashar of Dhaka University zoology department was given ‘Butterfly Award-2019’ for his special contributions in butterfly related research.
Sold by her family as a bride to a Chinese man, Samiya David spent only two months in China. When she returned to Pakistan, the once robust woman was nearly unrecognizable: malnourished, too weak to walk, her speech confused and disjointed.
"Don't ask me about what happened to me there" was her only reply to her family's questions, her cousin Pervaiz Masih said.
Within just a few weeks, she was dead.
David's mysterious death adds to a growing body of evidence of mistreatment and abuses against Pakistani women and girls, mainly Christians, who have been trafficked to China as brides.
AP investigations have found that traffickers have increasingly targeted Pakistan's impoverished Christian population over the past two years, paying desperate families to give their daughters and sisters, some of them teenagers, into marriage with Chinese men. Once in China, the women are often isolated, neglected, abused and sold into prostitution, frequently contacting home to plead to be brought back. Some women have told The Associated Press and activists that their husbands at times refused to feed them.
A list attained by the AP documented 629 Pakistani girls and women sold to China as brides in 2018 and up to early 2019. The list was compiled by Pakistani investigators working to break up the trafficking networks. But officials close to the investigation and activists working to rescue the women say that government officials, fearful of hurting Pakistan's lucrative ties to Beijing, have stifled the investigations.
"These poor people have given their daughters for money, and (in China) they do whatever they want to do with them. No one is there to see what happens to the girls," said Samiya's cousin, Masih. "This is the height of cruelty. We are poor people."
David's death, at the age of 37, shows the extremes of the cruelties trafficked women face. Other women have described being cut off without support, abused physically and mentally. Previously, the AP spoke to seven girls who were raped repeatedly when forced into prostitution. Activists say they have received reports of at least one trafficked bride killed in China but have been unable to confirm.
David now lies buried in an unmarked grave in a small Christian graveyard overgrown with weeds near her ancestral village of Mazaikewale in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province.
Before her marriage, she lived in a cramped two-room house with her brother Saber and her widowed mother in Francisabad Colony, a congested Christian neighborhood of small cement and brick houses in a warren of narrow streets in the Punjab city of Gujranwala. Christians are among the poorest in Pakistan, a mostly Muslim nation of 220 million people.
At the urging of a local pastor, her brother took money from brokers to force her into marriage with a Chinese man. The pastor has since been arrested on suspicion of working with traffickers. A few months after their marriage in late 2018, David and her husband left to China. "When she left for China she was healthy. She looked good and strong," said Masih.
Her husband was from a relatively poor, rural part of eastern Shandong province that has long struggled with lawlessness. The conservative culture in such areas strongly favors male offspring, which under China's strict population control policies meant that a great deal of little girls were never born, hence the demand for trafficked foreign wives. Overall, China has about 34 million more men than women.
After two months, her brother got a phone call telling him to pick his sister up at the airport in Lahore. He found David in a wheelchair, too weak to walk.
The AP met David in late April. Living again in the house in Francisabad Colony, she showed her wedding photos, taken six months earlier. In one, she was dressed in a white gown, smiling, looking robust, with long, flowing black hair.
David barely resembled the woman in the picture. Her cheeks were sunken, complexion sallow, her tiny frame emaciated and frail. She seemed confused, her speech incoherent. When asked about her wedding or time in China, she lost focus — her words wandering — and at one point suddenly stood to make tea, mumbling about the sugar. She paced, repeating, "I am ok. I am ok." When asked why she looked so different in the wedding photos, she stared vacantly into space, finally saying, "There is nothing wrong with me."
"She has the evil eye," said her brother, who was present at the interview.
She died a few days later, on May 1.
Dr. Meet Khan Tareen treated Samiya on her one visit to his clinic in Lahore.
"She was very malnourished and very weak," with anemia and jaundice, he said in an interview. Preliminary tests suggested several possible ailments, including organ failure, and he said he told her brother she needed to be hospitalized. "She was so malnourished . . . a very, very, very low weight," he said.
Her death certificate listed cause of death as "natural." Her brother has refused to talk to the police about his sister. When contacted by the AP in November, he said there was no autopsy and that he had lost her marriage documents, copies of her husband's passport and the pictures David had showed the AP.
David's cousin said the family is hiding the truth because they sold her as a bride. "They have taken money. That is why they are hiding everything," said Masih, who is a member of the town's Union Council, which registers marriages and deaths.
Breaking a family's silence is difficult, said a senior government official familiar with the investigations into the sale of brides.
"They might sell their daughters, and even if they discover that the marriage was bad or she is suffering, they would rather ignore it than lose face in front of friends and family," he said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The trafficking networks are operated by Pakistani and Chinese brokers who cruise Christian areas willing to sell daughters and sisters. They are known to pay off pastors, particularly at small, evangelical churches, to encourage their flock to do so.
Christian activist Salim Iqbal, who was among the first to sound the alarm last November about bride trafficking, is in touch with a number of Pakistani women in China via groups on the messaging app We Chat. He said one girl recently told him her husband doesn't give her food or medicine.
Another woman, Samia Yousaf, who was 24 when she was forced into marriage, told the AP of the abuses she suffered in China.
She and her husband went there after she became pregnant. When she arrived, nothing was as her husband had promised. He wasn't well off. They lived in one room on the edge of a field, infested with spiders.
She gave birth by cesarean section. Her husband's sister refused to let her hold her son after the birth and controlled when and for how long she could see the child during her six days in the hospital. "I started screaming at her one time when she took my baby," Yousaf recalled.
Her husband refused to let her breastfeed her son until doctors implored him to allow her to, she said. Unable to walk without assistance, the doctors asked her husband to take her for a walk and he repeatedly let her fall, refusing to help her back up.
After she left the hospital, abuses continued. Her husband denied her food. "He was cruel. I thought he wanted to kill me," she said.
Three weeks later, authorities threatened her with jail because her visa had expired. Her husband had kept her passport. Frightened and unwell, she pleaded with him to let her and her son go home to Pakistan.
But he refused to let her take the baby. She discovered her name was not on her son's registration, only her husband's.
The last time she saw her son was in September 2017, just before her return.
"Every day I think of my baby," said Yousaf, who works as a nanny in Lahore. "I wonder what he looks like. My heart is always sad."