Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

   Kuala Lumpur was a very pleasant surprise. What a great place to retreat for a couple of days. I found a very cheap hostel and spent three days wandering around aimlessly. I got a massage for 45 minutes for about five dollars and marveled at the Petronas Towers like the other masses of tourists. KL is a night time city with sprawling markets and food stalls bustling during the wee hours of the morning. Perfect for a guy like me. I bought about 20 dollars worth of food and found a homeless guy to have dinner with. (He was more than happen to be woken up by Curry Monster).

   I took a train to the Batu Caves, an impressive cave structure which acts as a temple. The Hindu deity Murugan welcomes you before you ascend the 272 steps required to enter the cave. It was a very impressive afternoon.

   And the night food market was amazing. Hundreds of stalls, all cooking a specific dish or two. Small menu's perfected by a lifetime of dedication and passion.

   I even got hit on and asked out by a bartender. Great city. Until you get stuck in the airport for 13 hours...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bali, Indonesia

   Admittedly, Bali didn't grab ahold of me right away. The charm was not immediately apparent. Something seemed missing as we drove in past the American based hotel chains and luxury resorts. I thought this was supposed to be a mystical island with magic powers, village aboriginals, witch doctors,  and above all, a retreat from such drives of consumerism. A place where people went to escape from the world. But this?? This could have been florida. As my friend advised. Get away from Kuta beach ASAP.

   My mind was quickly put at ease as we sat down to attend a dance performance in Ubud on one of our early nights on the island. Mystical? You better believe it. A daze of engulfing hypnosis fell over me as the passionate music flew into my ears. The dance was stunning. Entrancing. Haunting. Chilling. Shudders swept across my skin. It was, without a doubt, one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen. The beauty of the act brought tears to my eyes.  It's rare to find such passion, precision, dedication, and beauty in the performing arts. I would fly all the way across the world to see this dance again.

   We retreated to the north of the island to a beautiful home-stay on the coast of the Bali Sea where we met a local tour guide. We took an sunrise trip on an outrigger boat to go dolphin watching. I expected to see a few dolphins. There were hundreds. Curses of regret filled my mind for deciding not to bring my 300mm lens on the boat. The sunrise was perfect, the morning brisk and brilliant. Snorkeling above a vibrant reef filled the afternoon

   The next day took us to a massive waterfall. The experience was incredibly overwhelming. The hike to get to the bottom left feelings of incredible regret that we would have to climb back up. The titillating water refreshed and cleansed the spirit. While hordes of people sat by the bathwater swimming pool at the hard rock cafe and ate chicken pasta and sipped overpriced sugar water, we were the only people anywhere near this masterpiece of mother natures epic design.

   We took a boat to Gili Trawangan, a small island off the east coast of Bali. A postcard perfect way to spend a birthday. Truly paradise. The charm of Bali was more than apparent by the time I left, my heart and soul replenished. No wonder my co-worker quit  and moved there after a two week trip.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Philippines 3, Palawan

   Palawan is the embodiment of everything I have ever loved in life. I fully expect it to be a wonderful place to spend my retirement years. I know I have a lot of world left to see, and it's a bit early to decide on a place to retire. And if something ever comes up that tops it, i'm willing to change my mind. But for now, it acts as a placeholder, the last thing on my seemingly never ending to do list.  # ∞: Move to Palawan. Open a homestay. Get in the kitchen. Hang the harness up for good. Sell the land, sell the car, sell the house. Put the shoes in the trash can. Trade in the winter jackets for sunscreen. Grab a mango. Enjoy.

   I have been to a lot of wonderful places. Places that have grabbed onto my heart, squeezed it, sucked it dry, made me question why I would ever leave. People that have filled my heart with joy. That have made me question why trivial things get me down or matter to me at all.  This place was a little better than all of that. Palawan calls my name at night, like a Siren that I will never escape. I'm afraid to go back before i'm ready to settle down for my last great ride. I'm not quite sure that I could leave it again. This is where I learned what falling in love means. This is where every human should want to retire, but hardly any actually do. Fine by me.

   So what if my house is an hour from the nearest grocery? What else was I going to do anyway? Maybe I should knock some other things off my to do list and move this one up...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Philippines 2- Malapascua

   We loved the Philippines so much that we decided to go back right away. We booked our tickets for the weekend, and then the next day I ended up with the worst food poisoning of my entire life (right on top of an awful hangover). I missed atleast three days of work. I left my bathroom one time to crawl to the doctor and then straight back in. I probably lost 15 pounds in 5 days.

   But that wasn't going to stop me from going back to the Philippines. I was feeling quite a bit better, but nowhere near good. I thought I was going to die the whole flight. I had to sprint across the airport to the bathroom after we landed. I was smart enough to bring a roll of toilet paper with me, which i'm fully convinced saved my life. Lesson number one that I learned from international travel: Never under estimate the value of toilet paper.

  We took an incredibly rough and bumpy bus ride for about 6 hours from Cebu to the boat launch for Malapascua. The drive was absolutely beautiful. And it seemed excessively dangerous. Huge bay windows as big as the side of the bus were open, anyone could have fallen right out of the window at any time. This coupled with an aspiring F1 driver and the remnants of food poisoning, combined with a lack of air conditioning, and a fresh mixture of wildlife (chickens mostly), made for one of the most interesting experiences of my life. It was stunning and lively, and even though I felt like death for every second, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

   And then we got there. I almost fell into the ocean as we boarded the outrigger boat, my sense of balance lost somewhere on the side of the road. After about 20 minutes, we were standing on a post card. Perfection in every direction. We found a place to stay that was about five feet from the water. Three of us split the room for 30 dollars a night total. We pulled the bed onto the patio and slept under the stars. When the sun came up in the morning, we would drag it back inside and lazily fall back to sleep. Amazing seafood was within 1000 feet of our room at all times. I think one of us fell in love, but I can't remember. I know for sure that this is where I fell in love with mango.

  One night we found a hippie circle on the beach. The stars were countless and we spent hours singing songs, playing guitar, talking to pretty girls, and drinking on the beach. The heat of the day was brutal, but the night air was perfect.

   Death and destruction fill the news with gloom. But if you look deep, there are happy people that enjoy life everywhere you go.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Philippines; San Fernando

   Some places grab you from the first second and never let go. The Philippines is a very special part of my life, and has been from the second I landed. And despite suffering large lacerations on my foot due to late night beach strolls mixed with jagged rocks, and having potentially the most hectic car ride of my entire life, it was enough to make me go back three other times. Best road trip ever. I fully intend to retire in the Philippines and live a simple, beautiful life in my later years.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Singapore- Chinese New Year 2010

    Singapore was a place that I knew very little about. I certainly wasn't expecting a highly developed metropolis like I got. And a pleasant surprise it was. The food, as usual, sticks out the most. One can wander around any section of the city and expect to find fantastic food on the cheap around any corner. Incredible Laksa will cure any ailment. The people of Singapore take incredible pride in their food. It is, without a doubt, a world class food city.

   My roommate happened to book a flight to Singapore for the same weekend. We did a terrible job of coordinating and it ended up taking forever for us to meet up. It also happened to be his birthday AND Chinese new year. I was staying in Chinatown, so we met up to check out the festival. It ended up being a neighborhood-wide celebration with live music, street vendors, beer, and amazingly crowded streets.

  Ben happened to know some people in Singapore, so we met for drinks for Ben's birthday. I can't remember how Ben knew them, but I do remember how beautifully stunning the two girls were. We drank scotch and had a great birthday celebration. It's always amazing to wear shorts in February.

  Singapore is like Asia light. It would be a great way to break into Asia for someone as a first timer. But that's not to take anything away from it. It has a rich, vibrant culture that is bold and unique. I ended up with some wonderful friends from Singapore. They will forever be good friends. The people are lovely, the food is perfect, and the city is picturesque, clean, and proud.   Go to Singapore.