All posts by fagansblog

About fagansblog

Former broadcast journalist. Former spokesperson for UNOCHA during humanitarian emergencies in the Philippines, Nepal, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan Keen traveller. Connoisseur de vino tinto barato. Wannabe writer, but feels inadequate after reading a good book. Believes in quality education for everybody. Zero tolerance for racists.

UN Radio interivew

Radio interview on the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s north-east.

A “forgotten crisis” is taking place in north-eastern Nigeria which the UN humanitarian affairs office (OCHA) warns could be the worst on the African continent. Seven years of insecurity sparked by the terrorist group Boko Haram has affected up to 15 million people in four states, leading to mass displacement. It has also caused a major food shortage as agricultural production has stalled. As a result, some 400,000 children face starvation. Dianne Penn asked OCHA Public Information Officer Órla Fagan about the extent of the crisis.

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Death in Banki town….

Death in Banki town….

Shovels are almost as valuable a commodity as food in Nigeria’s north-east these days, because with a shovel you can bury the dead. This is the reality for hundreds and thousands of people fleeing from Boko Haram violence and suffering the effects of mass displacement. Such is the ensuing humanitarian situation that ordinary citizens are unable to recover from treatable diseases such as malaria because of their weakened nutritional status.

Farmers in the north-east haven’t returned to the land for three years in a row because they fear either attack from Boko Haram or the unexploded devices and land minutes

Fallow, fertile land on the way from Maiduguri to Monguno in north-east Nigeria.
Fallow, fertile land on the way from Maiduguri to Monguno in north-east Nigeria. Photo: Orla Fagan

and land mines planted in place of crops across their farms.  The result is food shortages across an area that was the bread basket of Nigeria as fertile land lies fallow.

I travelled by helicopter with the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) over towns and villages for kilometres on end – all razed to the ground by Boko Haram violence.

Houses and premises are shells – empty, with the roofs of buildings gone and some of the towns going back to the jungle with rapid growth after the rainy season. Burnt out cars and trucks are randomly scattered as they were abandoned when set on fire. In Bama town, two burnt out cars and a truck remain on the courtyard of a petrol station – an apocalyptic scene more reminiscent of a Mad Max movie. You half expect to see Bruce Willis coming out of the jungle with a blackened face and an AK47 with a shoulder strap of bullets slung over his shoulder.

I was back in the helicopter a few weeks ago, travelling to Monguno, Banki and Gwoza on different days. All these areas have become newly accessible to the humanitarian community. I was travelling with Kevin Sieff a journalist with the Washington Post and Jane Hahn a freelance talented photographer – both were deployed to cover the unfolding humanitarian crisis. They had visited Gwoza a year previously, just after the Nigerian Armed Forces pushed out Boko Haram and they wanted to revisit to see what progress was made and also to see some of the lesser-reported areas.

banki-016We travelled to Banki on Wednesday 28 September after a 45-minute helicopter trip. The Nigerian Armed Forces controls the town and its officers are understandably paranoid about the possibility of Boko Haram attacks. Citizens are not free to move beyond the perimeter of the town for fear they will share their miserly food allowances with the rebels. Some believe there is a strategy to starve the rebels, but if that is so, then it is also affecting thousands of innocent people left without insufficient food on a daily basis.

There is not much traffic in Banki – the roads around it are too dangerous for humanitarian convoys to come from nearby Maidiguri, the capital of Borno state. The World Food Programme bring in food from neighbouring Cameroon. The first food convoy arrived in July and delivery is sporadic and dependent on road conditions and security.

Even the health clinic is run with personnel who come in from Cameroonbanki-015 and is open just a few days each week. Hundreds of people queued outside in the heat of the sun waiting as the nurse performed triage, making decision after decision on which patients needed immediate treatment and who could be treated for minor ailments or left for another day to see the medics.

I sat by in the medical tent and watched Kevin interview a few women with clearly malnourished babies, as they fed them with a mixture of water and sugar from syringes, in between feeds – these were severely acute malnourished children who would die without intervention. On a bed was a woman rolling around in pain, occasionally vomiting into a bucket. On another bed a young medic attended to a baby, as her mother sat on a chair watching in bewilderment. The mother, Adama Adam is just 15 years old and already married two years to a 22 year-old man. Fana, her daughter is six months old and weighs just 5 kg. Fana is Adama’s only child. Far too many young girls who should be going to school are married as children themselves and whipped out of school – Adama was just 13 years old when she married. Some men in this bigamist society are fathering scores of children with no thought, awareness , or questioning on whether there is enough land to support this massively increasing population.

Back in Banki, the afternoon heat intensified in the medical tent as the doctor brought in a portable oxygen tank for Fana to assist her breathing. She was hopeful that the baby would make it when her organs showed signs of recovery and Fana peed on the bed. The oxygen tank battery had run out and the doctor gently picked up the baby and with great banki-044care moved her to the car where she could recharge the battery. A while later the medic came back into the tent and I asked how the baby was doing, the doctor responded that she was hopeful of a recovery. In order to get Fana to a better-equipped hospital for treatment, they needed a military escort for the ambulance to protect them from Boko Haram attacks. With no reason given, the military refused the escort.

After some time, we proceeded to an orphanage to see the living conditions of the children and a compound full of women, who claimed their husbands’ were abducted; they were possibly Boko Haram widows.

Kevin, Jane and myself were returning to the clinic along the sandy streets when Jane recognized Adama as she walked alongside her sister-in-law who was carrying the remains of Fana, her tiny body still wrapped in the bundle of cloths. Adama walked alongside her husband’s sister, arms hanging by her side, as if, without a child to carry, she didn’t know what to do with them. Tears poured down her face. Fana’s death was caused by malaria but her weakened nutritional status prevented her ability to fight the disease and like so many weakened children, she just didn’t have the strength in the end. Not having access to adequate medical facilities also didn’t enhance Fana’s chances of survival.

Jane, with her journalist instinct used body language and hand signals to ask if it was okay to photograph the two women as they walked back to the house where the family had taken refuge. We followed them into the compound as other family members and people living there gathered to see what had happened. Adama’s husband leaned against the wall, watching, not knowing what to do.

Adama and some family members went indoors as we looked on from the outside. Adama’s sister-in-law knelt on the floor with Fana still in her arms, while a male relative took the baby. Adama, overcome with grief, passed out as the room became crowded with people who came to see what was happening and offer sympathy.

In this culture, funerals are the business of men. Women have nothing to do with the burial. The imam (holy man) came along and with a hand-made hatchet went to the corner of the compound and began digging. He then broke some sticks and placed them across the small hole he had dug. He gently placed the body on the sticks and began washing Fana’s body. The body is washed over the freshly dug hole incase an infectious disease caused the death, so the water used to cleanse the body is absorbed in the hole and not a danger to others in the compound.

A rag was then brought out and the baby’s body wrapped in the material and tied in several places. Fana was then placed on a board and carried to the front of the compound where the men prayed over the body. A wheelbarrow was brought out and the body placed in the barrow as the men in the family went to the army commander to seek permission to bury Fana on the edge of the forest.

I returned to the helicopter pad, to wait and reflect on the afternoon’s events as Jane and Kevin followed the funeral and see Fana’s burial. I felt depressed, deflated and just really helpless. Kevin and Jane were stopped at the edge of the town because in Banki there is an invisible line – on one side the Nigerian military are in control and on the other side it is Boko Haram territory.

September 28 was  an upsetting afternoon, not least for Adama and Fana’s family. We were witnesses to something that’s happening day in, day out for many families in Nigeria’s north-east.

Nigeria is considered a wealthy country, but there are millionsLand laying fallow as farmers fear attacked by Boko Haram if they return. who live below the poverty line, and in conditions that are incongruous to what should be happening in the 21st Century. These crushing levels poverty with zero quality of life, where children die unnecessarily is just fodder for Boko Haram recruitment.

Innocent people are suffering. The international community is reluctant to contribute to the unfolding humanitarian situation because they believe, and probably rightly so, there is sufficient wealth in this oil rich country.
In the meantime, scores of children and vulnerable people die each day, waiting for assistance that may never come. There are too many demands, with too many crises around the world, from Syria, to Yemen to Lybia, to the Central African Republic with billions of dollars required to assist the most vulnerable citizens of the world. But if we don’t provide the most basics, including food, health and clean water, then it will come back and bite us in the ass. Nigerians striving for a better life, will march towards Europe in their droves to escape the grinding poverty and then maybe, just maybe people will then take notice and do something to address the growing humanitarian needs developing in Nigeria.

Until next time….

Yours, Fagan

Back to Africa: Nigerian experiences


I was reminded of just what Nigeria is like when I visited the embassy in Dublin’s leafy upmarket Leeson Place in late June. The visa application office is in the basement of this beautiful old building and it has its own entrance ensuring Joe or Josephine Public is kept far from the embassy offices.

If you’ve ever tried for a Nigerian visa, then you’ll know just how frustrating and protracted it can be. The first time I went to Nigeria I was travelling from Liberia while working for an NGO and it took me five trips before I could gain entry to the embassy. On my fifth attempt, I managed to get my foot inside the door and once achieve, I refused to leave. And that was just to get the application form.

Most of the Nigerians who were queuing in Dublin had Irish passports and required a visa to go back ‘home’. On my first two visits I came well prepared with a book but so swift was my visit I over-paid the parking metre outside. On my third visit Sod’s Law kicked in – I forgot the book and spent my time feeding the metre as I waited for the diplomatic visa to be processed and issued.

On that last visit for the visa, I ended up waiting so long I needed the bathroom. To my surprise, (okay I’m being facetious), the toilets were actually located outside the building; something I don’t imagine exists anywhere else in Dublin in the 21st Century. The inside of the visa application office was reminiscent of a dole office anywhere in Ireland 30 years ago, before the Department of Social Welfare decided they needed to  smarten up and pretend to show a little respect for its clients. The carpet tiles were curling at the edges for the want of a cleaning and the walls hadn’t seen a lick of paint for many, many years. There were notices posted everywhere warning that verbal or physical violence would not be tolerated. Notices also threatened that if you even stopped your car outside the embassy gates for just one minute, you may forget about receiving any service. The Nigerians themselves were true to form and vocal about the treatment of ordinary citizen by their government. One Nigerian man commented that he had lived in Eastern Europe where government officials also “sat upstairs (referring to the embassy offices) scratching their arse.” His words, not mine. Another woman told us she was at the embassy every day at 9 a.m. for one week and came prepared with her lunch box. I have to say – there were more than a few chuckles that day.

Nigeria was just a wee culture shock from my previous posting in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, with its shiny towers, good public transport and general easy lifestyle. While the city of Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria, is in the heart of Africa, it’s quite unlike any other African city I know (outside most of South Africa).

Renting in the federal capital, Abuja

Abuja was created just 40 years ago to gather the country’s civil servants in one spot. A planned city with huge boulevards and motorways, Abuja is like many cities in West Africa, full of (thankfully) Lebanese restaurants and supermarkets and the bonus of it all, some South African supermarkets. The city empties at weekends as most Nigerian civil servants travel back to their villages and towns after the Muslim Friday prayers. This sprawling city has a shortage of accommodation so rent prices are equivalent to the astronomical rents paid in New York or Geneva. Abuja is also where the UN agencies have their country offices and where I’m based for the next few months.

Accommodation is something else and like Dublin there is a shortage of properties to rent. There are an awful lot of very wealthy property owners who exploit the ex-pat community and civil servants who frequently travel to the city. The first apartment myself and another newly arrived colleague went to look at was dingy beyond belief. You could hardly see the hand in front of your face it was so dark and the ceiling was particularly low – the one-bedroomed apartment was renting for US$1,500 per month. It was such a depressing environment I would have ended up on Prozac within a week, if I had chosen to live there. We ended up in a ‘super luxury apartment’ paying half of my salary in rent. To add insult to injury there is a further charge for laundry, with no washing machine in the apartment.  Super luxury the apartment ain’t, but what is luxurious are the number of Mercs and Lexus cars parked outside each day.   There seems to have been some very big party (possibly a wedding) at the complex and a 600SL (but what would I know about cars?), parked outside for a few days with the number plate ‘Emir of Zunu’.

Extreme sports

The one positive aspect of the accommodation is that it is within walking distance of the office and the footpaths are more than decent, ensuring walking is not an extreme sport as it can be in many other cities across Africa. I wouldn’t feel safe enough to walk the 3.2 kilometres home alone and do so only when I have company. Walking back to the accommodation in deep conversation one day there was beeping behind us and as we turned around to see a car travelling at about 20 kph up the footpath we had to scramble to the grassy bank to avoid being run over.

I hate assuming stereotypes, but patience isn’t a strong point for most Nigerians. Sitting with the work driver one day and waiting for the solar powered traffic light to turn green, there was a horn honking behind the first car to make the right turn at the lights. When the driver, respecting the rules of the road and the pedestrian crossing didn’t move, the honking-horn driver mounts the footpath and bypasses the cars waiting at the lights to turn right.

Transport around Abuja is reasonably cheap but like everywhere else cars are held together with pieces of string and rubber bands. They frequently break down at the side of the road, or sometimes even in the middle of the road, where they can be abandoned.

I’m still in the process of trying to find another Issac, my lovely taxi driver from Nairobi and so far I’m not having much luck – but I will continue to try. The office drivers are available for a few months to bring us in and out of work, but there’s the supermarket shopping at the weekends and the trips to Blu Cabana, a rather nice place so chill out of a Sunday afternoon – not that there’s much else to do on a weekend in Abuja.


Sundays’ are not the day to change money, unless you want to chance your arm with the guys lining the street sitting on the chairs under the trees. The official exchange rate for the Naira is fluctuating like a yoyo and frequent trips to the moneychangers rather than the banks will render you a rate of at least 20 per cent better on the official rate. When I arrived early July 2016 there was 260 Naira to the US$ – on 30 July the rate went from 316 to 322 on one day! Black market rates on 29 July were 375 Naira to the US$. Not only will the dropping Naira help make rents cheaper, it will also keep the price of red wine very reasonable, well at least until stocks run out! Some of the best South African wines are available in Nigeria so there are a few great aspects to living here for a few months anyway.

Now work and B0ko Haram antics…. well, that’s a different blog altogether. So until next time, I’ll leave you with some of the photos.

Yours, Fagan.

Moving on…..

IMG_1427Moving country, moving house, changing job, divorce and the death of a partner are reported to be some of the biggest causes of stress. The first three mentioned on that list, I’ve experienced with far too much regularity.

I’d love to say that I’m so accustomed to moving country, ergo house and job that it doesn’t take a feather out of me, but I’d be telling lies.  I don’t even move countries, but continents; from Indonesia (South East Asia), to Sierra Leone (West Africa), to Afghanistan (Central Asia), Iraq (the Middle East), Kenya (East Africa) and back to South East Asia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Because the nature of my work involves humanitarian response I have rarely stayed anywhere for longer than a year. Picture if you will the number of ironing boards, clothes irons, clothes hangers, wine glasses and coffee pots that were bought on arrival and distributed on departure from each country.


My last sojourn involved being based in Bangkok, which is a great city, when you’re well paid and can afford the lifestyle it has to offer. For the more fortunate ex-pats the choice of really good accommodation close to the city is extensive and the high prices reflect the quality of what’s on offer.  I may as well be living in a caravan if I don’t have an oven in the kitchen and when I lived in Manila I had a two-ring stove and a microwave that never worked. After some time I found it just plain depressing not to have access to a decent oven, especially when I didn’t consider Filipina food up to my gourmet standards. My stipulation that the apartment must have an oven in the kitchen guided me on what was available for the price range.  The Thais like to eat out and as most non-salad food is fried, there are few apartments even in the high-end range that offer an oven in the kitchen.

I got lucky in my quest for living accommodation and ended up in a very large 2-bed apartment located just off the main shopping area. It was situated on a minor soi (side street), sufficiently out of the way so as not to feel overwhelmed by tourists but removed from the noise and the bustle of a big Asian city like Bangkok.

Before Bangkok became the big bustling Asian city that it is, it was made up of a series of lanes and alleyways that defined the city.  All human life lived in these lanes and alleys. You could buy anything you needed from fruit to fridges, sinks to sofas; have a haircut; enjoy a massage or eat your dinner on the side of the road.


When I moved into the apartment in Bangkok, you could take a ‘shortcut’ to Luan Suan, an upmarket street, which is home to Gagan Restaurant one of the top three restaurants in Asia (and serving the most fantastic Indian-fusion food).  There are also some decent restaurants on the street and access to the Bangkok Transit System (BTS).  The shortcut was a series of small narrow lanes, with a huge tree almost similar to a willow tree more common in Europe, whose branches hung low, forming a semi-circle, marking the entrance to the laneway. You felt as if you were stepping into another world, and indeed you did step in to some unique culture, that’s not found in many other cities or places.

Motorcycle taxis weaved between the street food-sellers, the cyclists and the pedestrians who frequented the street. There were several massage parlours and the women would sit outside on the steps when there were no customers, often eating meals there.  There was one or two hair salons, a house where English lessons were conducted from the open carport at weekends, small grocery stores and a variety of eateries from a colonial style house converted to a restaurant, to small family run restaurants. The small restaurants usually entailed some plastic chairs and tables on the street and a mobile kitchen with open fire and boiling pots of fat for cooking – little regard for safety there. The plastic dishes from the restaurants were placed into large buckets and in the evenings as I took the shortcut home, the owners would wash the dishes on the street with water from an unidentified source. Sitting among cockroaches one evening while eating at one of these restaurants guaranteed a lost of appetite and I didn’t repeat the experience.  I was also turned off from eating local when travelling by car one day, I noticed two restaurant workers, during a quiet period sitting beside the kitchen and one woman was scouring the other’s hair for head lice.

Luan Suan itself is an upmarket street with lots of ongoing building construction at the top of the street towards Lumpini Park. I had a few friends who lived off Luan Suan and would frequently walk over to them for dinner.  Garbage from the restaurants would be left out in plastic bags on the sidewalk, ready for the bin collectors to come at night and clean the streets.  As you walked up the road, rats would scurry out and of the bags of rubbish and scatter at the sound of voices or footsteps.  I had never seen so many rats in my life and the open drains gave them easy access to scurry up and down the road. I took to walking down the street clapping my hands like some mentally deranged eccentric, but it worked and I once spotted seven rats scurrying out of some plastic bags, down the open drains.

The number of rats around food helped my decision to shop in the supermarket. The other option was to spend the day going from market to market to buy vegetables and then trying to find transport to do so.  The variety of vegetables and fruit is remarkable but then you have to know how to cook the local food to really experience the scale and variety of food on offer.  I tended to stick to what I knew, but paying Irish prices in a country where labour is cheap is upsetting added to the fact that there is some conglomerate capitalist rubbing his greasy palms at the prospect of massive profit.


Bangkok has many expats living in the city and the supermarkets cater to all nationalities. There’s nothing (well, maybe Helmanns mayonnaise) that you can’t find in the big supermarket from smoked salmon to salami, but I frequently chocked on the prices I paid. For some reason instant coffee is a premium produce with security tags on jars of Nescafe, the way you’d see them on bottles of whiskey elsewhere.  A 100 gramme jar of coffee costs about €20. The cost of wine in the country is outrageous and after India, Thailand has the second highest taxes on wine in the world. A bottle of Carlo Rossi (the cheapest, most awful wine in the world) is about €20 a pop, so I would use every opportunity when travelling to bring an extra large suitcase and lots of towels to wrap enough wine to open a small shop.

Members of high society in Thailand like to be seen drinking wine in the roof top bars of the fancy hotels dotted around Bangkok.  It’s considered a status symbol and gives these posers, a sense of sophistication. You can’t buy booze in the afternoons, apparently because children get out of school during this time and the king thinks it may influence the younger generation.


Any public criticisms of the king of Thailand, no matter how minor, will ensure a long jail term.  It is difficult to access if he is genuinely as popular as the media make him out to be, as saying otherwise would ensure time behind bars. According to the media, there is a fierce public loyalty to a man who is reputed to be one of the wealthiest in the world and whose family behave like feudal overlords in the 17th century.  At the cinema the national anthem is played before every movie and if you don’t stand to attention, then I dread to think of the consequences.  If you happen to be walking in Lumphini Park at 6 p.m. or past a military establishment, then you must stop while the anthem is blasted over megaphones.  The city is littered with enormous posters of the king and queen over many years.  In one poster, himself is dripping in sweat and when I asked one day why would you use such a picture, I was told that it reflected how hard he worked for the Thai people.  The notorious traffic jams in Bangkok are frequently caused by military escorts forcing the traffic to stop as a motorcade containing members of the royal family, going to or coming back from shopping sprees!

Happily there is one unmarried princess, who works tirelessly for the poor and marginalized in a deeply divided country.  The 87-year old king is crippled with failing health and lives in his own personal hospital.  His queen is similarly in bad health after a stroke in 2012.

The heir apparent, the Crown Prince (63) is surrounded in controversy.  His dog Foo Foo was promoted to the rank of Air Marshal and on his death received a four-day Buddhist funeral followed by a cremation. On the dog’s birthday, photos were released of the Prince’s naked third wife and the dog at a birthday celebration (he is now on his fourth wife, according to reports).  Many Thais, who would prefer to see his 60-year old sister, known for her altruistic and charitable work, accede the throne.

The support for whoever accedes to the throne very much depends on the military who are the real power kingpins in Thailand. The first woman prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra was removed through a military coup in 2014 and there are no signs of any early return to democracy, despite promises of reform. Shinawatra, is a wealthy businesswoman whose eldest brother Thaksin was also a previous prime minister. Reports accuse her brother, who fled the country when he was deposed, of ruling through his sister and using power to further business interests.  It’s very much an urban/rural divide with the Shinawatras’ being voted in by and representing the rural population. When there was a water shortage due to El Niño in 2015, the government cut off the water supply to the farmers while car washing and water for plants was still available in Bangkok.

It will be interesting to see what will happen when the king dies and many believe that the military will use his death as an excuse to remain in power, until things settle down.  An Irish friend who believes the king’s death is imminent is stacking up on bottles of gin for over a year now, as he believes there will be a ban on the sale of booze in the kingdom for at least six months after the royal death!

Another form of Chinese torture

Unlike the price of booze, the Thai massage is famous and costs as little as €10 for an hour’s therapy.  The local massage comprises of slight women walking on your back and yanking limbs and muscles you never knew existed.  Language can also be a problem and much to my shame my Thai was limited to giving instructions to taxi drivers and some basic words for hello, thank you and wrong number etc. This made finding a decent masseuse a hit-and-miss affair, trying to explain that I have an arthritic hip and it shouldn’t be yanked or I’ll scream the house down with pain. Indeed a greater challenge was finding therapists who had some kind of qualification.

A Japanese friend who previously lived in Bangkok, pointed me in the direction of the Chinese massage spa just off the BTS.  The place fascinated me and was just a 10-minute train ride from where I was living.  It was on a minor soi and when you turned into the compound a couple of dogs lazed under the trees to escape from the heat of the day.  This was no luxury spa – there were two rooms and a row of uncomfortable wicker chairs in both rooms.  There was a third room with a plastic sliding door that was almost permanently pulled shut, which fascinated me; well at least what was behind it interested me.  It was like some form of religious temple and there were days when lying on the wicker chair and for the want of something to look at, I would strain to get a glimpse of what was going on inside.  Some days when it sounded as if there was chanting and on one particular day tens of young people poured out, as the door was firmly pulled behind them. There were very few foreign clients, but some pretty fancy cars with Thais or Chinese would pull up outside for this no frills establishment. Lots of certificates covered the walls and like most other places there were some therapists who were better than others.

You couldn’t make an appointment because of the language barrier and I’m not sure they even took appointments, so you ended up with whatever therapist was next in line.  Like most places there were good and not so good therapists, but I hated when I arrived and it was  ‘Granny’s’ turn.  The woman must have been in her 80’s and she had a habit of holding my foot under her armpit while working on the other leg.  Another woman, who appeared to be the boss, spent most of her time watching Chinese soap operas on her smart phone.  They must have been short of staff one day when I ended up with her as a therapist and she had some English.  Without doing anything else she touched my feet and told me my knees were inflamed and then pointed to my hip.  She pointed out some other ailments by just touching my feet; I have to say I was fairly impressed by her skills.

The type of massage practiced by the Chinese was Rwo Shr, brought from Taiwan by a Swiss priest Father Josef Eugster, who introduced that particular method to many countries in Asia. Many people like to be cosseted in a spa with essential oil and have a massage that makes them fall asleep.  I much prefer to have a medical massage that sorts out some of the pains and aches I have developed with increasing age and I have to admit, despite the excruciating pain experienced during the massage, I came out walking on air and feeling fantastic.

I recommended the Chinese massage to a few friends, some of whom are yet to forgive me for the pain they endured and who have never returned to these gifted Chinese therapists.  I eventually found something nearer home, practicing the same method of reflexology, but with much more comfortable chairs and soothing music in the background to take my mind off the pain.

Bangkok is a big, brash South Asian city where everything and anything goes.  It’s exciting and exhausting, it’s hot and sweaty; it’s rich and poor. But whatever it is and however it wears you down at times, it’s an exciting place and there’s always something new on the horizon – it just depends on how you look at it.

Photography by Orla Fagan





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Until next time




The case of a well-dressed young Hungarian woman with the refugees at the Eastern Railway Station in Budapest

Refugee Crisis in Hungary

What happens when you have 5 minutes until your train leaves and there are three thousand migrants standing in your way? The personal account of Rita Perintfalvi. For the original article please click here.

“The train to the Promised Land: the refugees and me, waiting/longing for the early morning train.

The newspapers are filled with stories about the refugee crisis, I know. But I was there this morning, wanting to catch the early train to Vienna to get to work, as I do every week. The train was to leave from a different platform than usual. I quickly realised that it was because this platform could be cordoned off and the police could form a protective shield around it. I had 5 minutes till departure, so I had to rush, when I was suddenly faced with hundreds of refugees in front of me, who were waiting outside the cordon…

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NEWS FEED: Orla Fagan reports into RTE Radio and Television live from Bangkok

Bangkok Explosions – update.
rte news blue tv
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RTE RADIO 1 DRIVETIME 17th August 2015 Top Story (in at 06:40)
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Reporter Orla Fagan