Faced with a looming weeklong vacation, I was left a little bereft of creativity. Asia, once again, lied before me: wide and open and verdant and filled with noodles of various kinds. Of course, flight costs had begun to skyrocket, friends who I could reasonably pressure into travelling with me were thin on the ground, and most of my belongings were still held somewhere in a port in Shanghai. Stunted for choice, I decided to turn to my old stand-by.
Korea, the site of my growing up, my metamorphosis from boy to manboy. Korea, the current location of a large fraction of my social circle. Korea, land of a lot of food I wanted desperately to ingest. I think sometimes of how regularly I desired to visit Canada, how frequently I had requests to return to the homeland and shower them with my presence. I realized, of course, that Korea had formed another significant portion of my life, and that revisiting it was not out of the question. No, it was actually logical, and something that I hungered for deep in the wanty parts of my spirit.
I booked a ticket, I packed a bag. I went home. To one of my various homes.
Let’s look at it.
And suddenly, we are at the end of our pictoral journey through India, and indeed through all of Asia. There are still plenty of words to be shared, stories to be told, songs to be sung, but for now let us slip our eyeballs over the colours, over the waves, over the alleys and seasons and trees. In our second month in India we made it to the east and to two of the most important religious sites in the world (I rose one day and sat by the Ganges for sunrise, and was sitting under the boughs of the goddamn bodhi tree by nightfall, a religion major’s wet-dream). And then, run ragged by our ravaging desire to basically see all of India in the span of two months, we flew to the south and became so tired that we just bummed around the beautiful beach towns and ate our faces off on sun-dappled shores.
India was so hard, you guys.
Oh, internet, I have tricked you once again! In preparation for my trip to Mexico, I went on a writing spree and pre-posted 4(!) different jewels of blogging splendour to be released into the wilds as I stuffed my face with quesadillas and low-grade tequila for 100 pesos a bottle. Even as I appeared to be rhapsodizing about my entry into India and regaling you with my fascinating anecdotes and bon mots, I was in the wind, as I often am.
Why did I go to Mexico? Why, to reward myself for all of my hard work in unemployment! But seriously, there were a few reasons. Some of my best friends currently live there. I had been to Mexico once before, but on a cruise when I was 17, and barely for a day, to the point that I barely count it as a notch on my travel belt. I had been feeling down from the job hunt, which has involved 5 months of continuous resume-ing and cover letter-ing all across the globe. Also there was that chance that I could have won that free trip but I totally lost and felt bad about myself, and nothing perks me up like a big frivolous money-hemorrhage in another country!
What was I saying? Something about Mexico. Avocados? I swear I had something for this. You get the idea. Let’s go!
Friends, we have arrived, at last, in India. India: land of cows. Land of curry. Land of Kolkata. Other things beginning with a percussive /k/. Fully one-half of our Big Wild Asia Megasojourn occurred within India, and I have lots and lots to say about its ups, its downs, and its soggy, curd-filled middles. But before we get to that, let us now, as we always must, sit through a round of Michael’s photography. Don’t think you can just traipse in here and scoop up only the words. Sometimes you need to endure my other hobbies, so that I can give the old word-grinder (that’s what I call my brain) a rest.
India: let’s look at it.
And thus we have reached Vietnam, dear travellers. Having already been to righteous ‘Nam before, I was excited to return: to see new cities, to explore new sites, and to eat so much soup that my belly grows distended, pops, and floods a low-rent hostel room with local beef and vermicelli. We hoofed around the north, the south, and that middle part, and all of it was very pretty. When I returned to Canada, I learned how to use my copy of photoshop starting with these very pictures! (Interesting sidenote: the main photo my friend used to teach me photoshop is not included here. We chose this photo because it included a pony, and also an enormous pony boner which she spent careful time removing and replacing with with sky or grass or whatever was behind the horse. Scrubbing the photo of that equine erection helped to illustrate the majority of the tools I wanted to learn how to use anyway. This file is still saved on my computer, under the filename “horsedong.jpg”. Don’t ever use my computer.)
What was I talking about? Oh. Vietnam sure is great!
Friends, we have come once again to the borderlands, to the threshold of another strange country. New roads, new mountains, new forests. New soups. As always, I have battalions of words doing Civil War re-enactments in my brain, fighting towards the frontline of my keyboard. What do I want to tell you about first? Monk boys leaping into a quick-flowing river on a hazy summer day? A hidden forest atop a magical waterfall? The looming spectre of dozens of dead Australians, wrecked by crystal methamphetamine and poorly placed rope swings? The words fall over themselves attempting to get out, I am strangled and left silent by having just too many anecdotes. In lieu: the fine art of photosmithing. Bask.
Prepare for elephant time.
Jan Peng is eighty years old and has a marigold wound through her ear. She is blind in one eye, a wound from an old handler when she reacted to some slight or another. She is enormous and still strong, and grows cautiously used to our presence, mostly because our presence necessarily includes all the watermelon and banana she can eat.
Most of the elephants here have seen hard lives. They’ve been broken and worked from a young age, either used for logging or corralled into the tourism industry. There are broken bones, ruined limbs, blind eyes. They are mighty creatures, but that has not meant safety from cruelty. Still, the park is safe. The mountain is safe. They have this forest, and this river, and this field.
Well, dear friends, it’s that time again. The tumult of words I have for you to describe my vacation is virtually endless, and yet those words still take time to percolate. To simmer. To stew. I must add delightful verbal spices and boil off my various grammatical cul-de-sacs before I can present you your fresh, steaming pile of sweet, sweet essays. And so, let us bask in pictures of Thailand which, as you may already know, is a very beautiful place. Elephants! Golden temples! Stunning beaches! Fire-breathing dragons, perhaps! It’s a land of wonder. Let’s go.
During the few times where we were not sitting in food courts being entranced by mostly-Mandarin karaoke singing (but for one charming Chinese-Malaysian nymph that sang a bunch of Queen, but we’ll save those stories for another time), we occasionally went sight-seeing. Sight-seeing! Us! Doin’ things in another country! Malaysia is a country of fairly interesting and harmonious triarchal multiculturalism, resulting in wicked-cool temples and mosques and mandirs wedged in all over the place. It also does good things for their cuisine. They are also maybe the nicest people on the entire planet.
But you didn’t come here for my stupid words, or my dum-dum observations of Malaysian culture. Those are for next Tuesday. No, today, you are here for the pictures! Lubricate your eyeballs with vaseline and get ready to look at things!
As I am currently fending off a particularly noxious strain of fever and insomnia, my ability to cogently string together human communicative fragments into your beloved, bourgeoisie “sentences” has declined. It took me three tries to write that sentence, and I’m relatively confident it was in English. If not, take the various constituent parts and construct, if you will, a hilarious insight about me, the world, or the human condition. I know you can do it.
While I convalesce, here are some vacation photos from Taipei, a quaint little burg in northern Taiwan, with some mad dumpling skillz. Watch and read and maybe don’t expect a lot in the way of interstitial commentary.