Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

May 26 2015

Vietnam 5

We got up early to catch the good light, and before it got too hot, walking down through downtown Saigon to the river where boats of all sizes and shapes were plying the broad brown waters. On the banks, a woman knelt in prayer as she released some fish that had been captured for that express purpose. I suppose one’s responsibility for such actions doesn’t quite resonate past the personal level all the time.

We walked to the bridge designed by the Eifel of Tower fame, the steps of which reeked of trash and urine. Nearby a field of young Vietnamese men practiced formation in a very languid fashion. On the other side of the bridge a TV or film production was ongoing, with the crew positioning a complex array of mirrors and filters to make the editor’s job less hellish as the sun came and went. The director and his assistant huddled on the steps not far away, looking at the monitor.

Breakfast was had on a street nearby, and we talked with the owner in Chinese as she was, as seems fairly common here, of Cantonese ancestry. Unfortunately, though the food was good, we lingered too long, and when the cops came to collect their shakedown fees, they were unable to escape fast enough and got caught in the net.

We examined an interesting mixed Hindu/Buddhist temple down the street before walking back through a market to the tallest building in the city, which features an observation deck. As it costs money to go up, it wasn’t crowded, and they offer free wifi and water in addition to free dots and substandard, wavy glass that screws with your photos. I wonder if they also light it up at night from the inside as well. Perhaps someday I’ll come back and find out.

But the daytime view was fine, and really let me get a grasp on the layout of the city. Perhaps I should have gone up there at first to get my bearings, instead of leading Prince Roy on a series of merry, exhausting chases around the city. But I didn’t, so, well, sorry about that, my liege.

From up top, I did managed to pinpoint our next destination: Across the river was a large, densely packed area of what looked like older houses, punctuated by a single orange pagoda. We got one of the staff to write the neighborhood’s name down (it turns out he takes the bus past the area every day), and we caught a cab out there.

pagodaIt turns out that the pagoda is new, and built next to the smashed ruins of the old temple. Little shards of porcelain gods lay in the mud, but two were intact and placed lovingly on one of the concrete pillars. I wonder what that is all about. We were invited inside by a monk, who showed us around and took pictures of us in front of the altar.

After that we walked back into the alleys of the densely packed neighborhood behind the temple. It was fascinating and fun, and we were greeted by almost everyone. It is in District 4, one of the poorer parts of town as I understand, but the houses were mostly neat and clean, some of them quite nice. Nice little parks dotted the area.

We made our way towards the canal bank, where things got very industrial very fast. A guard waved me away from the actual waterfront, and we walked in a large U back to where we’d started. Lunch was delicious beef pho at an electronics repair shop.

After taxiing back to PR’s place and showering up, we bade his Highness farewell and caught a cab to the airport, this time making sure the driver used his meter. At the airport we barely had time for a small snack before boarding our 777 to Hanoi. The good news is that we got emergency row seats. The bad news is that the seats had no windows, so I had wedge my head into the space between the seat and the fuselage to see the wonderful cloud formations outside. Our stewardess gave me a talking to about filming in the aircraft after I shot video of her pointedly refusing to help passengers with their luggage (I’m sure she’ll enjoy the Youtube video).

The flight had left in a downpour, but the weather in Hanoi was much nicer. We had to take buses into the airport, but it wasn’t that bad. We then got on a bus into town, which is a long trip. It was just after sunset, the empty rice fields glowing under massive electric billboards and the lights from lonely motorcyclists.

Things got seedier as we approached the city, and then nicer again. It was nighttime when we forced our way through the touts and caught another cab to our hotel, the Merci. I suspect the driver understands Chinese, because after Chenbl mentioned a less-than-life-changing tip, we seemed to be travelling in circles for a long while.

We checked in and then went out for dinner, and suddenly the world was a giant frat party. The streets were full of Western kids. Hardly any Vietnamese were to be seen. We sat next to a table of young Americans who were dining on a debate of the merits of locking people up forever with no reason, with a side of chunky entitlement. The dinner was ok, as was the a/c, as the weather is evern muggier up here than in Saigon. The crowds outside were just out of hand as we forced our way back to the hotel.

Tomorrow, hopefully, we’re going to catch a ride to Halong Bay and get on a boat.

 

posted by Poagao at 12:26 am  
May 24 2015

Vietnam 4

We had breakfast at a steakhouse this morning. The steak was a little on the chewy side, but the French bread was good. After that we walked over to the bus station, where middle-aged men crowded around the opening doors of newly arrived buses in an effort to get some business. We boarded a bus and headed out to the Chinatown area, where we walked through a street market and then a more substantial goods market, and then through some alleys bordered by neat old two-story houses. Many of the residents spoke at least basic Mandarin, so we chatted with some of them about their families and how they’d come to Vietnam, etc.

We also visited a series of temples, some more like those of Taiwan, some different. They tend to use the central door here rather than leaving it only for the gods’ use as they do in Taiwan. Across the street from one of the temples was an emtpy ice cream place that turned out to be surprisingly tasty.

The last temple was a multi-story affair locked inside of a tuggle of other buildings; Chenbl got dizzy inside due to all the bad energy there. Even Prince Roy and I felt it; we didn’t at all feel welcome by the practicioners, who were upstairs chanting in front of giant statues. Of course, they might have been unhappy with the chatty Western tourists that came in behind us, but I suspect they weren’t a very happy bunch in any case. It felt good to leave.

But we were tired and hot by this time, and as I was on my last battery, we elected to take a taxi back, PR chatting with the driver in Vietnamese. I felt bad about dragging PR all over town during the hottest part of the day; Chenbl and I doggedly headed out by ourselves for another loop around the area while there was still light, but I think we should have followed PR’s example and just took a break in the A/C, because my feet were aching and my head swimming by the time we got back. We did see quite a few Western tourists around town, young men with beards and lenseless glasses (and one with a conical hat) and young women with ponytails and lenseless glasses. There are far more Western tourists here than in Taipei.

Dinner was a delicious affair at a rooftop restaurant called the Secret Garden, in an old building that someone stole the elevator from at some point. Tomorrow is our last day in Saigon, but we’re going to try and get some more sightseeing in before our flight up to Hanoi.

posted by Poagao at 11:19 pm  
May 23 2015

Vietnam 3

Today was brilliant. Breakfast was some more delicious pho, beef this time, at another place Prince Roy knew of, only a few blocks from his place. The blue decor looked to be from pretty much the same era as the place we went last night, but the breakfast crowd was more active. A huge screen showing security cam footage was hung on the wall in between the heads of various animals.

helicopterNext on our itenerary was the war museum, which features a bunch of leftover U.S. military equipment such as airplanes, helicopters and tanks. Chenbl and I then walked around town a bit, stopping by a couple of temples, before walking back to Prince Roy’s palace, where we met a couple of Vietnamese women who were going to take us around town on the backs of their scooters in search of the best and most sanitary street food this town has to offer.

It was wonderful, a great way to see more of the city and sample a lot of great food. Being Taiwanese, of course we weren’t daunted by the scooter traffic, but…well, ok, the traffic here can be kind of daunting. But we soon learned to ignore it and just enjoy the ride. We stopped in five places for various meals, but it was paced well so that we didn’t get too full, and we learned a lot about all the dishes, all the way to a range of desserts. I noticed that, though the skies are full of huge bundles of electrical wires, people here leave their balconies in unfettered glory, rather than blocking them out as they do in Taiwan. It makes a huge difference in the mien of the city. I also love the huge trees lining the avenues, like something out of a Miyazaki movie.

We got back to Prince Roy’s place after 5pm, and went out again at night to shop for jackets. After that PR took us to a great little microbrew bar, where we sampled a bunch of beers in the second story of an old building on one of the city’s main old streets. We also had delicious chicken and shrimps dishes before picking our way through sidewalks crowded with evening diners (whoever sells those little red plastic stools must be making a killing) back to PR’s place.

What a great day!

posted by Poagao at 11:14 pm  
May 23 2015

Vietnam 2

I slept soundly at the Victory Hotel, probably due to the lack of the helicopters that featured so prominently in the advertising, but the musty, slightly less sucky room we ended up with also lacked hot water in the shower. Or much of any water, actually.

The hotel breakfast wasn’t bad; we sucked up some beef pho while a river of scooters flowed by, occasionally reaching up the sidewalk. A man who was apparently the late Isaac Asimov sat just behind me, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask Chenbl on exactly which plane the man existed. I do know that he was having toast.

It was muggy outside, muggy even by Taiwanese standards, when we set out, heading by the old presidential building and eventually across the street up to the cathedral. I say eventually because we spent a lot of time standing on the corner studying just how to cross a street here. It’s really an art; you have to pace yourself and appear unconcerned as you stride directly into the path of a hundred charging scooters, who (hopefully) all move around you in a potentially murderous ballet.

cathedralVarious tour groups milled around the cathedral and the adjacent old post office, which was architectually quite neat, and is apparently still a functioning post office, as well as a tourist market. A wedding photographer placed his subjects out into the street for a photo, but though he may have been hoping to sell a shot of a car accident, nothing untoward happened until an older European gentleman embarassed his wife by running up for a picture with the bride.

We walked down towards the river, intermittently passing and being passed by a group of Aussie retirees. A large construction site promised a working subway by 2018. The old buildings are shaded by lovely old trees, but the tone of the area got distinctly seedy as we approached the river, which I found surprising. Surely the river is the life of a city? But when we reached the river, the city just kind of…ended. Nothing was on the other side but empty fields. I don’t get it, is it haunted or something?

We walked back up towards the hotel, as we had to check out, but first stopping so I could sample some of the local Dunkin Donuts and get a drink (I know, I’m terrible, but the donuts weren’t bad, actually; better than the Taipei version that so deservedly failed), and to be told by the official Sony store that they are above selling such droll things as battery chargers.

Back at the Victory, we doused ourselves with cold water from the shower, as the day had become really hot, and checked out just in time to find that the water we drank from the fridge was actually taxed in such a convoluted way that they hotel staff had to spend a couple of minutes figuring out how much to charge us. Then we sat in the lobby while I emailed Prince Roy to see if he’d landed yet. When he replied in the affirmative, we proceeded to walk over to his place. This would have been about a 5-minute walk, but Chenbl had mistaken one end of the street for the other, so we walked the entire length of the street twice before actually finding the place.

Prince Roy has a very nice pad, I have to say. He took us out walking around the city, showing us some of the sights. We went to a sprawling market or two looking for jackets, and eventually ended up having some delicious chicken pho at an interesting old restaurant decorated with 50s-era tiles and mirrors.

posted by Poagao at 7:55 am  
Feb 28 2010

Back in KL

February 25, 2010

Prince Roy and Spicygirl took us to breakfast at their favorite restaurant, a little place near their office, decorated in tasteful shades of blue. I’ve seen a lot of blue in Laos for some reason, and it’s always tasteful. In fact, most of the men in the place, apparently on their way to work, wore blue shirts. The noodles, however, thanks to my outright hatred for spices and cilantro, were fairly tasteless.

Proceedings at the airport were quick thanks to our lack of check-in baggage, and we passed the time before boarding watching badly produced military programs on the airport TV. We also ran into the group of Malaysians once again; they were on our flight.

The Air Asia flight took off more or less on time for once, and the flight was mostly smooth. Laos faded into a grey haze below as I took pictures of the red plane engines framed by the blue skies out my window while enjoying the massage chair treatment courtesy of the child sitting behind me.

Back in Kuala Lumpur, we were picked up by another Malaysian friend, Tianshun, who drove us to get massages given by two fellows from Fujian Province in China. They expressed their desire to work in Taiwan, as yet stymied by government policy. Back in the car after some fried rice, Tianshun regaled us with stories of car theft and other social order delights of KL, which he connected with recent immigrant workers from Indonesia.

We headed to KL Tower, an observation tower not quite as tall as the Petronas Towers, to get some shots of the city as dusk fell. It was full of tourists, and as the sun set I realized that the background lighting made night-time shooting very difficult. The tourists’ trying to use flashes on the glass didn’t help things, either. So I took shots of the tourists instead, earning a glare from a man after photographing some women in burkas sleeping by the window.

After coming back down, we attended a “Cultural Show” which featured three dancing men and three dancing women. The dances themselves were rather effeminate; Tianshun insisted that all Malay danced were that way, and in no way reflected on the sexuality of the dancers. There was also a traditional Malay band on traditional instruments. I got the feeling that some of them also played in rock bands.

posted by Poagao at 12:01 am  
Feb 28 2010

Back to Vientiane

February 24

We were up early again this morning, this time visiting the morning market, a busy scene. Vendors were setting up stands, laying out colorful vegetables and presiding over large spreads of bloody, fly-covered meat. Already the monks were out begging for alms, and I shot a couple of photographs before moving on past the one corner where all the foreigners gather to watch them. We went back to the temple to visit our wifi-stealing friends, Thong and Dham, but Dham had a headache, and Thong, looking very serious, sat us down at a table and proposed that we fund his higher education. It was all a bit awkward and sad.

We walked on to the end of the street and down to a rickety bamboo bridge across the river, but a man was waiting there to collect a fee, so we turned back and walked to another temple, where a man and a woman hurried up to us to collect another fee, but we declined, tired of all the fees. I suppose it’s just a natural result of being oversaturated with tourists from rich Western countries for so long.

We found a small, run-down temple that didn’t charge for entry, and walked around the grounds. A monk was practicing writing Japanese on a chalkboard, while other monks listened to rock music in their dorms. A rough model of one of the airplanes that takes off every day from the Luang Prabang Airport hung on the ceiling; I wonder if they dream of being on that plane. But I’m probably overanalyzing things.

We had some lunch at a café where Chenble startled the resident tomcat into thinking another cat was nearby by meowing in a high register. The tomcat jumped up and searched around our table, even looking out the window for its nonexistent mate. After lunch we browsed the market for gifts for friends, and then went back to the hotel to check out. A tuk-tuk drove us to the airport, stopping at the gate as tuk-tuks aren’t allowed inside.

As we got our tickets checked in the lobby and sat down to wait before boarding the MA-60 back to Vientiane, I was thinking of all the monks of Luang Prabang, most born to poor families who couldn’t afford to raise them, novices until the age of 20, when they can either chose to become full-fledged monks or a civilian life. As the plane took off, I got a good view of the town, including the monasteries and the statue on the hill where we had watched the sunset the night before. We’d told Thong we might be back at 11.

The flight down to Vientiane was a lot bumpier than the one there; the plane stayed at lower altitudes in rougher air, but things never got truly scary. We arrived ahead of schedule, taking pictures of the clouds on the tarmac before walking into the arrivals area where Spicy Girl was waiting. She drove us to the big arch at the intersection of several roads, built by the French in 1969. It seems that they never quite finished it; the interior was rough and unfurnished, all bare concrete. The upper floors were all gift shops, but the view from the top was nice. The grates on the windows at the very top minaret mirrored the shape of the roads below, weaving the scene into a portrait of the Buddha.

Back at the bottom of the tower, Spicygirl marveled at my daring in snapping pictures of random people there. “What if you offend someone who wants to fight you?” she asked. I handed her my camera.

“Try swinging that around,” I said. “The 16-35mm 2.8L is not only a fine lens for wide night photography; it can also render a man unconscious with one blow.” When it came time to take a shot of policemen guarding the presidential office, though, I ate my words and asked if it would be ok to photograph them. They said no.

We drove to another temple, a big gold thing that had just closed as it was already 4 p.m. On the way in we were recognized by the group of Malaysians we’d met at the waterfalls outside of Luang Prabang, where they overheard Chenble mention that he’d caught ghosts in one of his shots.

Prince Roy was getting off work at 5 p.m., so we drove to a spot nearby and walked around, poking around an old temple that was undergoing renovation. Again, many cats roamed the place. Spicygirl and Chenble agreed that the Lao reverence for cats might have something to do with the nation’s financial status.

Prince Roy met us at a nearby café, and we set off for dinner at a pseudo-Korean barbeque place, where meat and vegetables are cooked over hot coals. It was good, but I ate too much. Now we’re back at the princely estate. Tomorrow we fly back to Malaysia, and find out if Air Asia can get at least one flight on schedule.

posted by Poagao at 12:00 am  
Feb 27 2010

Northward

February 22, 2010

Prince Roy drove us to the domestic terminal of the airport this morning, dropping Spicy Girl off on the way. We had plenty of time, so we had some breakfast in the international terminal. The domestic terminal was an exercise in retro design, sparse and muted. I had some reservations about having breakfast before a flight in a relatively small prop plane, but I needn’t have worried. The flight was smoother and more comfortable than a large jet would have provided. The pressurization didn’t even give my ears any trouble, and we were in Luang Prabang in no time.

The help desk at the airport in Luang Prabang wasn’t very helpful. They did manage to suggest a hotel on the river, the Mekong Lodge or something, but after an expensive taxi ride into town, we were told by a guy standing outside that it was completely booked. Luckily for us, however, they did just open a branch down the street. I suspected this was a trick and actually went into the lobby to confirm, and they were indeed booked. The new branch is also on the river, and we bargained the price of a nice room with a balcony overlooking the river down to US$65.

After putting our things away, we walked over to the tourist information center, where we were assisted by a Chinese-speaking woman with crooked teeth; Po Jiao is a member of the Dai minority and lives in a village just outside of town. We booked two tours with her, one to some waterfalls and another up the river to see some caves.

By then it was noon, so we had some chicken sandwiches at a nearby hotel/restaurant that was charging 10,000 kip for their wifi password; I declined. Then we walked around town a bit until returning to our hotel at 1:30 to catch the bus to the waterfall.

It was almost 2:00 before we gave up and went back to the tourist center to ask what was going on. Po Jiao made some calls and found that since our hotel was new the driver didn’t know about it. Eventually the van showed up, and we joined the two Canadian women who were also going to the falls. A small TV screen was showing a series of Lao music videos featuring a band, old footage of the war, and various dear leaders. I’m afraid I must have seemed a little rude as I divided my attention between her and the scenery, which included an elephant and many leafless trees.

There were bears at our destination. I hear there were also tigers, but I didn’t see any. We were lucky to get the two hours we had, as the driver seemed to think the delay was our fault, and originally only wanted to give us half an hour. The smallish black bears were lazing around a complex surrounded by wire fences. Two of them seemed to be playing poker; another couple were having rough sex on top of a playpen.

The waterfalls themselves were nice enough, with the limestone shelves giving the water a light blue cast, but the place was overrun with tourists, many swimming and diving. Actually, most of Luang Prabang is overrun with tourists. You see more tourists than locals in most parts of town, it seems. Chenble was showing me a photograph he claimed included the ghosts of people who had dived in the water before (they were just rock shadows) when a voice just behind us made both of us jump. “Is that a ghost shot?” It was a member of a group of Malaysians, excited at the thought of such a thing.

On the way back from the falls, the driver stopped at a poor village with a sign announcing its participation in some kind of tourism development plan. The gist of this plan, I gather, is that a dozen small girls will swamp tourists that are brought there, demanding that they buy woven bracelets and little bags. There was also an elephant.

Back in town, I walked down by the riverside to take pictures of the beached boats as night fell, muddying my sandals as I walked. Then we browsed the night market, where I bought a T-shirt with the Lao alphabet on it. Dinner was from one of the alley-side buffet deals, all the dishes cold and vegetarian. Each plateful of food was 8,000 kip; Chenble, who is a structural engineer, somehow managed to fit half the entire buffet on his little plate. We sat next to a Western girl who was practicing Japanese with a girl from Japan. While she didn’t seem to know much actual Japanese, she had the exaggerated cuteness down pat.

We walked to the end of the street, down by the river on the other side of the peninsula, and then up to the temple, where we came upon two young monks looking at a laptop on the wall, their young faces lit up by the white Yahoo! on the screen. They were both studying English, so we chatted for a while. It turns out that they’d discovered that they could snatch a free wifi signal from one of the cafes at that spot. We might see them again tomorrow, if we can get up early enough.

posted by Poagao at 11:58 pm  
Feb 27 2010

Vang Vieng

February 21, 2010

The Elephant’s breakfast buffet this morning featured delicious Fukien noodles, scrambled eggs, omelets, fruit, French bread and orange juice, which we ate under the baleful glare of a scary blonde kid with a huge forehead at the next table. The hotel’s beds and sheets were quite comfy, and I slept better than anywhere else I’ve done this trip, so getting up was a bit difficult. The morning began mistily, but the sun came out while we ate, and the day was hot by the time Prince Roy showed us to the boat rental place.

I sat in the front of the slim, flat-bottomed boat, furthest away from the buzzing motor, and we slipped up the river past the hotel, under the wooden bridges and empty swings and slides the backpackers would be lining up for later in the day when they awoke from their slumber. Rugs on wooden platforms and hammocks slung between trees on each bank beckoned, and I wondered what it would be like to just take a week or a month and just pass the days in such places, reading, or dreaming or just staring into space. Some of the places were named “The End”, and I wondered how many foreigners did indeed spend their last days here or in similar places.

Despite various wriggling that I assumed were accompanying Chenble’s attempts to take photos at strange angles, the ride was smooth until we hit rapids, the motor struggling to get us through as the boat’s bottom scraped against the rocks. The view of the karsts against the late-morning sky was wonderfully refreshing, especially in the cool breeze accompanied by the rushing water, which was seldom more than a few feet deep. Occasionally we’d pass Lao people fishing for something on the river bottom or washing clothes. A couple of the suspension bridges reminded me of Bitan and home.

The ride back was not quite as awesome, as the sun, hotter now, was in our faces. Prince Roy was waiting for us back at the Elephant, and after checking out we decided to take a walk on the other side, past the hippie enclaves and cow pastures, to a small karst with a flag on top. It was reputed to have a cave. A sign was posted at the foot of the path up extolling the views and displaying a price for admission of 10,000 kip. The Lao man manning the post had run out of water.

The “path” turned out to be a rock slide sprinkled with a few rough bamboo ladders. Prince Roy led the way up, and by the time I had scrambled up, he was out of view. I climbed until I ran out of mountain, but it turned out I was on the wrong peak, so I had to follow the sound of PR’s voice to the real peak, where he was sitting underneath the flag. The view of the surrounding fields and karsts was quite nice, though the effect was somewhat spoiled by a nearby Lao karaoke session. Chenble eventually made his way up as well, and PR, wanting to proclaim his mountaineering superiority, went over to sit on a slightly higher outcropping to survey his realm.

The climb back down was different and more difficult in ways, but still fun, especially the parts where I had to swing from low branches over small crevices. At one point I had to wait above a ladder for a couple of Brits who were ascending. “We didn’t expect any heavy traffic today,” one of the told me.

“Well, get ready for some more heavy traffic,” I replied, referring to Chenble, who was still on his way down.

Someone had thoughtfully set up a rug on a table at the foot of the hill for climbers to rest on before returning to the village. The herd of cows was running around the fields as we crossed, little packs of bulls following certain cows in heat while other cows looked on. I felt like I was back in high school.

After I soaked my feet in the river a bit, we headed over to the Australian bar for lunch. It was quite authentic, swarms of flies and all. The hamburgers were good despite the sweet buns and tough-as-nails bacon. On the way back to the car, we passed a bar that was not actually showing Friends episodes, but Simpsons episodes instead. I suppose that counts as an improvement.

We left Vang Vieng at around 2:30 p.m. The drive back was similar to the drive up, with the same lawless drivers, trucks overloaded with goods and people passing on bridges and blind curves, and herds of aimless cows. Though the houses seemed fairly neat and well-kempt, even the poorer-looking ones, the temples were in the best condition. We passed the bit of good Japanese pavement and the Japanese bridge, and a strange accident in which someone had hit a tree in their own front yard, somehow involving a “King of Bus” bus.

Coming back into Vientiane, the city looked more appealing than it had when we were leaving from the airport. Prince Roy dropped us off at a restaurant overlooking the Mekong River, Thailand on the other side, where we sat drinking juice and watching people frolicking on the sand spits below while he went to pick up Spicy Girl. We ordered after they arrived, and despite a few mixups from the kitchen, the food was all excellent and the atmosphere very relaxed. If you’re in Vientiane and you have the means, I highly recommend it.

After dinner, we stopped off in the city’s Backpacker Central area to walk around amongst the foreigners, occasionally spotting a Lao person, who almost inevitably offered up a tuk-tuk ride. The area’s full of little cafes and guesthouses, nice old buildings spared from the relentless bombing during the war.

I’m at Prince Roy’s and Spicy Girl’s castle now, where my Thinkpad is (you guessed it) refusing to accept the wifi signal. Tomorrow we’re flying to Luang Prabang. Hopefully we’ll be able to find a decent hotel there. I’m looking forward to seeing it; even PR hasn’t been there.

posted by Poagao at 11:57 pm  
Jun 03 2008

Prince Roy has left the island

It’s amazing how fast Prince Roy‘s tour went, but we had a lot of good times over the past couple of years. Last night I met up with my former classmate as well as Mark and Wayne at the Red House bar on Shida Road for a final night of drinks and conversation. The rain pattered on the canvas awning above our heads, and the smell of the mosquito coil reminded me of our Tunghai days. We all agreed that after PR left, we’d lead healthier, if less interesting lives.

beershotAfter the bar closed, we walked around the area in search of other hangouts, all of us (except possibly Wayne) reluctant to let the night end so soon, though it was well past midnight by the time we left. “Hey, friends, where are you going?” one guy yelled to us, in Spanish for some reason, as we walked past. We ended up sitting outside a place on Xinsheng South Road across from the park, where we had kebabs, sanbei chicken and veggies, chatting for a few more hours. The restaurant was also closing, so we walked down Xinsheng to Heping East Road, where Wayne turned west and home. Mark, PR and I walked the other way, all the way to PR’s empty house, where we bade him farewell and found cabs home in the rain.

As I watched the lights across the river flow by from the big wet expressway, I tried to imagine what it must feel like to pick up everything and leave Taiwan for a life in another country. It was difficult. In a way, it’s an exciting idea, but I’m so content with my life here as it is that it would freak me out more than a little bit. Eventually I settled on imagining leaving on an extended trip, with the idea of roaming the world for a while before eventually returning here. A bit more comfortable thought. By the time I got to bed the sky was already light.

The departure from our fair island of Prince Roy and Spicy Girl marks the end of an era, especially accompanied as it is by our new administration, the possibility of a new US administration on the way, the Olympics, three links, and a host of other developments. Things are afoot. Someone asked me the other day how many cycles of friends I’d gone through here. It’s a fair question, I suppose. Many foreign friends have come and gone. Some came back. Taiwanese friends have gone and come, as it were. In any case, none of us are the same person we were or will be; I heard once that all of our cells are replaced over a period of seven years, so that you’re literally not the person you once were. So things change, people change….alright, I’ll stop trying to be all Deep here and let you figure out what all of this means, if anything.

posted by Poagao at 10:13 am  
May 01 2008

Tokyo video

The Tokyo video is finally up, both on Youtube and the new Vimeo page I just set up out of a mixture of curiosity and frustration with Youtube. It’s reallllly long and probably less interesting to people who aren’t me, but I like it. I think it’s a good record of my trip in any case. Vimeo, it turns out, not only has a larger screen with better resolution, the sound is much better, embedding doesn’t break my layout, and uploading is easier as well. I think I’ll be sticking with that.

Today was Labor Day here, a public holiday for all us oppressed workers, etc. I haven’t gotten out of the house yet today, and spent the time I didn’t waste trying to upload the video by doing laundry and other household stuff. But Prince Roy just called and said he was going to Sababa with some co-workers for dinner, so I’m heading over there for some dinner.

LATER: Dinner was good as usual, although they got my order wrong. We procured one of the veranda tables to take advantage of the nice cool evening air. As it’s work tomorrow, they couldn’t stay out too late. On our way over to CKS Hall, a plump and friendly black dog followed us, stopping with us at each intersection, until it convinced PR to buy it a sandwich. He ate the meat but not the bun (the dog, not PR).

Tomorrow: back to work. I’m now out of my little room and into the big cubicle farm, but in that context it’s a very nice seat. I may have to get some larger earphones, however, as I’m not yet used to the volume of regular office chatter. This weekend PR, Daniel and I are planning a trip down to Taichung and Tunghai to visit our old stomping grounds from when we were students there a couple of decades ago. I will try to refrain from taking too many pictures.

Enjoy the video:


12 Days in Tokyo from poagao on Vimeo.

posted by Poagao at 7:22 am  
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