Behold glorious Hangzhou, city of a very nice lake, some cool pagodas, and actual woodlands! I can barely stand all the nature. Alas, like most weekends of late this particular weekend was shrouded in dark clouds and a hazy mistglob that covered all the lands in grey. Well, being China: greyer. Luckily, the Hangzh’ was still very pretty in its own dreary, spooky way, and I have collected a day’s worth of photography for you to point your oculoids at. Continue beholding.
Overall, most of the people assembled for the Hindu self-mortification ceremony were very into Will’s dancing.
We had stumbled, as we often did, into something rare and special and probably not meant for us. Boisterous and expanding across a rural roadway, we heard loudspeakers and shouting and joyousness, and we buzzed closer like moths driven to a technicolour flame. We had taken the ferry away from Yangon to Dalla for the day, and each rural roadway so far had proved fruitful and interesting and unexpected. We were drunk on sackjuice and adventure, and the sound of a party lulled us in.
I spied the goddesses long before we saw the hooks. I pointed out Lakshmi surrounded in parasols and bright orange petals, and then I pointed out the gentleman on the rickety wooden kitchen chair. Iron crescents slid in the skin of his broad, dark shoulders, and he grit his teeth and stared into the distance. Maybe he was on sackjuice as well. We realized instantaneously that this was probably a private religious ceremony, something sacred and honourable. Our baboon presence, with our flip-flops, DSLRs, and SPF-60, was at best ancillary to the nature of the celebration. We turned to go.
Hands grabbed at us, dabbing paint on our faces, smearing our palms with ruddy brown and red. Everywhere townsfolk reached out to shake hands, ask how exactly we managed to stumble into a Hindu religious festival in Myanmar. We shrugged, as while this situation was kind of becoming a custom for us, it was probably not for the residents of Dalla. We motioned towards the exit, which was the dusty road from whence we had first walked, and the people around us scoffed and waved. A pshaw, as though saying, “So soon? But you haven’t even seen the best parts!”
As discussed in the previous post, travel has just sort of become a fixed aspect of my life. When presented with any significant period of time off of work (with “significant” meaning “more than three consecutive days”) my fingers naturally bring up flight search aggregators. I mentally tick down the list of visited countries, and those other nations and cities nearby to which I have no trudged. I mentally pack a bag, think of how sunny and monsoony the destinations around me might be, and calculate necessary SPF. I am barely capable of planning what is for dinner each night, but I planning a vacation is as easy as drawing breath.
As such, a week-long break off of school seemed like the perfect time to jet down to sunny Singapore. Singapore: that place I realistically could not have jammed in while travelling either Malaysia nor Indonesia. Singapore: that nice-sounding city state with money and palm trees and a famously expensive and expensively famous eponymous beverage. Singapore: the place I am definitely buying plane tickets for. Away!
After a weekend hiking the various beauteous ridges of the Huangshan mountain area, I am left a little bereft of words. I saw a number of them available at the park: most of the various points of interest were all named hilariously, like a bunch of Christian inspirational albums masquerading as a mountainous region. Of course, with these words in mind, and my own words sapped out of me by so much sun and hiking, I’m a little dry on things to bring to you. My legs are achey, and so is my face, so here are the pretty pictures, is what I’m saying.
After the glorious weirdness of Dalla and the delights of Yangon, we took, as all traveller in Burma must, the long road up to Bagan. Being the sometimes ignorant turd that I am, I knew little of the area except that it was full of temples, and possibly a lot of them. In Southeast Asia or India I had some inkling of history, connections to local religious beliefs and a sense of cultures, while Burma existed outside of my cultural awareness bubble. We slid off of the long overnight bus into the wilds of the archaeological zone and were left to fend for ourselves amid the prickly brick pagodas piercing the endless, scalding sky.
Let us now gather, children, around a warm sack of fermented woodlands beverage and enjoy some photographs of joyous, spectacular Myanmar. As an ornery completionist, the lack of Myanmar on my Big Dumb Asia MegaSojourn caused me great, undue anxiety. To the west of Thailand was a huge unruly blob of the unknown: dark roads, unseen temples, unslurped noodles. There were whole swaths of countryside I had not trod upon, great pools of sweat I had not yet exuded, great glories of the continent that were as yet a mystery to me. When friends from Korea declared their intention, I knew it was time to explore. Set your eyeballs on these shinies, kids. Myanmar is pretty golden. (The joke being that much of Myanmar is covered in gold leaf. Get it?)
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.