This is the personal blog of London photographer, backpacker, traveller Mark Coughlan. The intention of the blog is communicate updates from my personal website and on my photography projects and travels both in the UK and worldwide. When backpacking the obscure places on earth, this blog will be continually updated with images and thoughts from the road. [Read more about me]

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Maoists win the elections in Nepal...

Taken from the BBC website:
The Maoist party of former rebels in Nepal has for the first time explicitly claimed victory in the country's national elections.
The Maoists' leader, Prachanda, said he would head a new government, with the monarchy abolished.

Officials in Nepal say the former rebel Maoist party has won elections to the country's new assembly.
With all the votes counted, the Maoists have won almost 30%, with their nearest rivals taking 21%.
An official announcement on the final make-up of the assembly is expected shortly, with the Maoists' percentage projected to give them about 220 seats.

The Maoist leader Prachanda has said the first meeting of the assembly will abolish Nepal's 240-year-old monarchy.
"It is my desire to be the president," news agency Reuters quoted Prachanda as saying.
"But since there is no provision in the present constitution, we will have to reach some agreement with the other political parties," he said after meeting UN officials and foreign ambassadors in Kathmandu.
Monarchy's end
The elections were held on 10 April and as the results began coming in, it became clear that Maoists would emerge as the number one party.
Last Saturday, Prachanda claimed victory and said he would head a new government.
The two other big parties have been badly beaten but the Maoists want to include them in a coalition government.
Many of the traditional politicians of the defeated parties have so far been reluctant to enter into a coalition with the former rebels.
The Maoists have said that King Gyanendra would be accorded economic, social and cultural respect as a citizen of Nepal if he co-operated with the abolition of the monarchy, which is due soon.
Earlier, Prachanda said he wanted to meet the monarch to persuade him to step aside and move out of the royal palace rather than being forced to do so.
All of Nepal's main political parties had agreed before the election that King Gyanendra would be removed from his throne, ending centuries of monarchy in the Himalayan nation.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

It's been an expensive week....

With four months until I depart on the Mongol Rally, the biggest expense in taking part in the challenge was forked out - A whopping £460.80 for seven visas, all at a heart stopping click of a mouse.

Using a Visa Service company, the following visas are now being processed from a small office somewhere in London:

Iran --> £122.00, 10 days
Turkmenistan --> £39, 5 day transit visa
Uzbekistan --> £70.80, 15 days
Kyrgyzstan --> £59, 1 month
Kazakhstan --> £50, single entry, 1 month
Russia --> £68, single entry, 1 month
Mongolia --> £52, 30 days from point of entry (anytime during a given 90 day period)

** Note, this doesn't include a Turkish visa (bought on the border), unavoidable bribes and taxes!

The annoying part of this massive outlay in dosh is that we will just be driving through many of these countries as fast as possible enroute to Mongolia. As the Mongol Rally is in fact a race, and that we hope to make it to Ulaan Bator for Saturday 16th August, we have had to decide which countries to spend extras days in. Iran, Uzbek and Kyrgyzstan have our votes, and we have scheduled a couple of days off (if all goes well) in these two countries.
In applying for these visas you need to stipulate an "Entry date", so a rough itinerary has been drawn up which looks incredible ambitious.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Histotic election for Nepal

Nepalese vote in a histotic election - the first in 22 years

Taken from the BBC website:
People in Nepal have completed voting in elections that will decide the future direction of the country.
The polls are for an assembly that is expected to re-write Nepal's constitution and abolish its monarchy.
Officials say polling has been mostly peaceful, although three people including an independent candidate were killed in poll-related violence.
Results are expected over the next 10 days. Officials say that polling has been postponed in 10 constituencies.
They say that the postponement was because of voting irregularites.
Correspondents say that Thursday's voting was in contrast to the run-up to the polls, which was marred by violence. On Tuesday at least eight people were killed in election violence, which prompted international calls for calm.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Nepal says that turnout in much of the country seemed high.
The three deaths, all in the south-east of the country where ethnic tensions have been high for more than a year.
EU electoral observers and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have been among those expressing concern.
Thursday's elections are Nepal's first polls since 1999 and follow a 2006 ceasefire agreed between the government and Maoist rebels.
Around 17.6 million people are eligible to vote.
Despite reports of minor incidents, observers say there are indications of a high turnout.
"I came to vote here today believing this process will settle political instability for good," Mukunda Maraseni, a 40-year-old bank employee who was waiting to cast his ballot in the capital, Kathmandu, told the Associated Press news agency.
Some of those killed in the run-up to the polls were Maoist workers shot by the security forces.

But one was an election candidate who died in uncertain circumstances near the south-eastern town of Nepalgunj.
King Gyanendra seized absolute power in 2005 but was forced to give up his authoritarian rule the following year after weeks of pro-democracy protests.
He has since lost all his powers and his command of the army.
It is hoped the election will consolidate the end of the Maoist insurgency, which stopped two years ago, says the BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The campaign trail in Nepal...

The fate of the world's only Hindu monarch is about to be decided. Elections are being held in Nepal on Thursday, but if Nepalis vote to abolish the monarchy in the Himalayan kingdom, some Nepalese politicians are vowing to fight to the death in a religious war.

Ahead of Thursday historic elections, Nepal's first in 22 years, "People and Power" goes on the campaign trail in Nepal.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Home for the Elderly - New Charity.

Some of you may be aware that I am in the process of starting a charity to promote and enhance the final years of life of the old people at Pashupati Briddhshram in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The aim of "Home for the Elderly" is to raises money to directly purchase essential supplies and equipment for the 'Old Home'. Every penny will be spent locally in Nepal on much needed items that will offer dignity and comfort in the final years of life for the Elderly people.
Learn more about what the charity is aiming to achieve on our new official website.

I spent three days in Kathmandu in January where I photographed the plight of the Elderly at this home and the inhumane conditions which they live in - which has inspired me to start this charity. Photos from the 'Old Home' can be viewed here.

What I desperately need is help people that would like to get involved in this project. It is still very early days so I'd really to hear from anyone who has perhaps visited the home when on holiday in Kathmandu, anyone who has the skills in setting up a charity and/or anyone who cares for the elderly people and would like to make a difference through this charity work.

Please take your time to view the new website and get in touch if you would like to help in anyway.

A year in Tibet...

Not sure if many of you managed to catch the wonderful series that has just finished on BB4 - A Year in Tibet.
It was a five-part documentary series following a year in the life of the society living in and around Gyantse, Tibet's third largest town.

If you're quick, you can catch a couple of the episodes on BBC iplayer now.

If you are too late, you've missed a facinating series, but fear not - here is a 10 minute clip fromthe first programme to give you a flavour. Hopefully the series will be released on DVD at a later date.

A Year in Tibet

The Girl with Eight Limbs....

So many people that I have spoken to about this programme missed this incredible story, recently on Channel 4 as part of their 'Bodyshock' series of documentaries.

Here is a brief introduction to the video clips below:
Two-year-old Lakshmi was born with one of the world's rarest physical abnormalities. Joined at the pelvis to her half-formed conjoined twin, she has four arms and four legs. In her remote Indian village she is revered as a living god. With exclusive access, this film follows Lakshmi's family on an epic emotional journey from their rural home to a hospital in Bangalore where her parents must decide whether to proceed with potentially life-threatening surgery to remove her extra limbs.

I have split the one-hour programme into 10 minute segments for easier viewing:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

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