Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kaohsiung kindness

I promise to post a pile of pictures soon. My battery died tonight in the midst of my walking session.

I had a funny day.

I started out seeing the Taiwanese Museum of Literature in Tainan and was given a personal tour by a guy, "Paul," who'd lived in the USA for a few years and was keen to share his knowledge and English with me. Afterward, I hopped a train to Kaohsiung, which was sort of poo-pooed in the guidebooks and by everyone else here. But I love Kaohsiung. It's a port town. I have an affinity for port towns, so it wasn't a hard sell. Add the former British Consulate on the hill overlooking the harbour (which is now a cafe and museum) and a smattering of art-culture areas, such as the Film Archives, a large Central Park with "Art Spotlight" and the Love River area and I've decided that this is my favorite city in Taiwan.

After I'd whiled away a couple hours on the hill of the British Consulate, I wandered down the stairs to the bus stop and tried to figure out which bus to catch. This proved difficult, since it was all in Chinese. My feeble attempt at Chinese translation by comparing my map to the sign was a complete failure. I finally asked a group of strangers if they could help. After a bunch of back and forth (a Japanese lady who spoke English and Chinese was conferring with her Taiwanese friends), I hopped into a Lexus SUV with two locals and a Japanese couple to get a ride to the nearest subway station. People here are really sweet. Honestly.

In other thoughts, I've been unemployed over a month and a half. It's hard to believe it's been that long. But then it feels like only yesterday I was leaving Portland and that was a year ago. Well. Whatever. I am very happy with my wandering lifestyle. Daily, I think how amazing it is to be having this experience. I feel like I am part of the whole world and we are all connected.

There is something to being "peace" and sharing that peace with the world.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Taiwan musings

I'm in Tainan, south of Taipei, on the west coast of Taiwan. Grace and crew headed back up to Taipei and I headed off on my own to see more of the country via train and bus. It's pretty easy, as there are Taiwanese angels on every street corner just waiting for me to pull out my map or guidebook and look lost. They're very sweet and helpful and even tell me that they like Americans. Ha.

Today I was at the Altar of Heaven, a Taoist temple, where I sat with a local woman who shared all sorts of things in a very short time, including her belief that Obama was Lincoln reincarnated. She had two sons, one daughter and two grandchildren aged three and five. By the time we were through, I'd learned the principles of Taoism, her entire life history, shared a cup of tea, was sent off with a plastic rain poncho and advised to go home early because it was dark and I was alone.

A sick joke - Taiwan's garbage trucks

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Singapore and Taipei Photos

Man-made cave in Singapore Botanical Gardens. Good place to hang out when it's 96 degrees and 100% humidity.
The stage in the Botanical Gardens in Singapore, where I whiled away an entire day. Sometimes you have to take it easy. I also met a guy (Paul) at the info center who had a great view of the world and had done his undergrad in Wyoming, of all places!

It was roots on a tree I think. Good colors.
The Mosque in Singapore. I met a Muslim girl there who answered all my questions about Islam- talked to her for about an hour... Just gorgeous inside. It seems like most religions have the same core values. Unfortunately, most also see men as the leaders and more highly evolved. I have not found one yet that I am willing to ascribe to.
Flying to Taipei on KLM airlines. What a treat. I even like the window artifact on this picture. It's ok.
All the buses in Taipei look like this. See the driver in the back door? That's their normal work attire, year round. It's Christmas every day in your heart! Serious. Heheh.
Taipei 101, currently the tallest building in the world. Lots of shops at the bottom, office in the middle and very expensive viewing platform at the top. There seems to be a theme in Asia with this shopping thing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Taiwanese Christmas

I've arrived in Taipei. I'm with Grace (friend from NZ) in a coffee shop & bookstore having a "lattea," which looks like a beer. It's actually a layer of salty creme on top, with green tea below and sweet green tea at the bottom. See photo above taen just minutes ago.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart. I'm thinking of you all from across the oceans. It's a very happy day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Airport Contemplations: Take 2

Sometimes I wonder, "Am I wasting my life?" What constitutes"wasting?" I am certainly living more that I ever have before- I guess that is the biggest thing. I've never been as connected to our fellow beings, our tress, our butterflies and birds and dogs and creatures as I am now.

It's the simple things, like sitting here watching people when I don't understand their words, but they're laughing and smiling, walking together, carrying their kids on their shoulders. I understand their language of humanity and love.

The thought of returning to a regular life where I rise and follow someone else's schedule, someone else's rules sounds painfully restricting right now. I can't help but think I'm getting older, but that would be happening regardless of my status in life. (Unless more grim happenings come about... Heh.)

If life is about loving, learning, and living then I should have no regrets or doubts about this time. I only hope to better understand my fellow earth-mates and share my spirit throughout the world.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas in SE Asia

Here I am in the Singapore airport, where they have free internet terminals scattered throughout. How handy for time-killing if there is such a thing at airports after one has made their way through the maze of airport security and immigration.

I'm about to fly up to Taipei. It still doesn't feel much like Christmas, despite my evening last night spent singing Christmas carols in one of the cathedrals of Singapore. Maybe it's the drenching sweat that appears on my clothing the minute I walk out of an air-conditioned building. Maybe it's the no cards, no gifts, no family thing. I don't know.

No matter my feelings, I wish you all a Merry, Merry Christmas, a few days early. May you all make it home to your loved ones if that is your wish. And eats lots of Christmas cookies for me!

Friday, December 19, 2008

KL and Singapore

I can't write much. Not enough sleep last night to type any words of wisdom, other than it's a little strange that Christmas is approaching and I am in the heat and humidity.

Hmm. They look upside down. Please stand on your head now and you will get the right idea.
The local barbershop. I didn't have time for a haircut. So sad.
My bunkbeds...
More of the guesthouse.
My guesthouse. And there was an optical down below. I was just meant to stay there.
I The monorail. I love all forms of public transportation.
The old train station in KL. Pretty hard to beat that architecture.
The National mosque in KL. While I was sitting there a voice started coming from the tower. Then it started singing.
I had to get a fancy coffee. Or I was going to die. It looks better than it tasted.
View from Petronas Twin Towers sky bridge. On the 41st floor. Not for those with fears of heights. Luckily I've gotten over that problem.
Have you ever seen such a cute little toilet? (This was in KL.)

The Art Museum. It was an old something. I forgot. It's really late here! :)
Me in this silver egg piece of art. I think it's one of my more original self-portraits.
The canal in Singapore. It doesn't look very Asian.
Merry Christmas from Orchard Road, where they have miles and miles of shopping malls- it's a personal hell for me. I hate those places. I don't know who is shopping so much to keep them open. It makes me nervous.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Odd happenings

Sweltering heat and humidity welcomed me as I stepped off my Super VIP bus onto the KualaLumpur (KL) sidewalk. My first move was to avoid the touts (people trying to sell you a hotel room) and get directions to my hostel, Grocer's Inn. It's in Chinatown, right next to a streetside barbershop. Inside are yellow walls and very aged wooden furniture, in the realms of antique.

After showering and redressing in dirty clothes (I've not yet resorted to just perfume as a detergent, but that may be soon coming), I set off to see a few sights of KL. I wandered through Chinatown (stressful) and then to the Central Market, which I recognised from my previous layover visit in 2005. It's essentially a mall, but in a very cool art-deco building.

After getting disoriented a few times ( vey common in KL) I found my way to Jamek Mosque, where I donned a robe and my first head scarf and was greeted with enthusiasm by the young and old man minding the door. When I said I was from the US, the young one said, "Everything is so strong there! It's a great country." Funny coming from a Muslim, considering our issues. But it was lovely.

After the mosque, I set off to find the old train station. Looking a little lost with my map in hand, a few locals took it upon themselves to offer help and gave me the fastest route. I was about halfway there when I looked up and saw what I thought was a familiar face.

I shouted, "Mamma Mia Pizzaria!"

He turned around. It was Mateo/Mateusz (he goes by either). In a city of over 2 million, it was a strange collision... We sat on the curb a while and smoked another menthol-clove cigarette (don't worry, this is not a new habit). Then sat down for a smoothie (called "shakes" here) before walking around KL through Little India and surroundings.
Mosque... see the people "sleeping," ahem "praying" inside?
I love the mix of architecture here.
KL from the top of a hotel bar where I didn't buy a drink, but I used the bathroom! :)

Central Market, duh.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Photos- Ko Pha Ngan, Georgetown, Cameroon Highlands

I found these guys on a hill in Ko Pha Ngan. They were just too cute. I'm gonna have these on my compound in Montana someday instead of gnomes. Well maybe gnomes too.
Sunset on Ko Pha Ngan. Can you feel the peace?

Jackfruit, my new favorite fruit (it's about 8 inch in diameter.) Those little sections come out and you eat them and they have a little, well big, seed in the middle. Don't eat that part!
Turtles at the Temple. There were hundreds of them!
Typical Polish Tourist (Mateusz). We met on the minibus travelling from Thailand to Malaysia. He was with his friends who were working in KL (Kuala Lumpur) and they were going home. We were both going to Georgetown/ Penang. Ended up spending two days wandering the city on foot and bus, passing a dead rat and dolphin along the way, getting free tofu-brown sugar dessert from an old Muslim guy in a wheelchair, smoking a few menthol-clove cigarettes, and bargaining like you've never seen before! I learned a bit about Poland in the process. They sure like KFC! Heh, heh.
Me with the best Chinese year-- my dragon.
Kek Lok Si Temple from the top of the Pagoda.
His Girlfriend.
Pineapples and fire--two of my favorite things, together! Just like Reese's cups! :) Only I don't really like Reese's Cups.
Check out the pantaloon shorts on this lady! If only you could see her dance (no torso movement at all). Mateusz thought she would be good at elephant riding.
Too bad we didn't have any marshmallows. After the festival to rid evilness was over, they burned everything. It was very hot. This was across the street from our guesthouse.
The guesthouse, 75 Traveller's Lodge, in Georgetown, formerly an antiques place- now owned by a professor of architecture who is currently a visiting prof in Tasmania. It's over 100 years old and filled with antiques.
Kenny, the 75 year old man who saved us from sleeping in the streets and gave all the inside info on the guesthouse and Georgetown. He also lived in Queens for a while.
The morning light- that end room with the bars was one of the rooms. Not a lot of privacy, but a ton of character.
I was just amazed by the lighting in there that morning...
Me showing my "American-ness" during my favorite pasttime, riding buses. Why is it that all my foreign friends take me to American fast food places?
All the sidewalks were covered in archways and painted beautiful colors in Georgetown. It was my dreamtown, colorwise-- just gorgeous.

I just liked the ground here. You know me and rocks and leaves, we have a serious thing going.
Cook Islands take 2. The guidebook said this was a paved path and the locals said it would take about one hour. Either I am blind and out of shape or they were not telling the truth!
The satellite dish makes it everywhere!
Cameroon Highlands tea plantation, where I took a tour of the tea factory and learned the process of tea making. Afterward, I walked back through these fields with a German girl and Swiss guy. Only fell once. Hehe. I have an affinity for the ground. I really should have been shorter. It would have been much safer for me.

When my camera battery died for the day. So sad!
I am headed to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow for a few days then to Singapore, after which I will fly to Taipei to see my friend Grace for the holidays. Carrie is joining me in Thailand on Jan 9th just after the stroke of midnight. We'll be embarking on a sister's tour of Northern Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Travelling south

I got a wild hair up my ass and decided that I should bus it down to Malaysia after the Full Moon party. After 1 hour 40 minutes of sleep, I got up and caught a taxi to the ferry back to mainland Thailand, after which I boarded a songtheaw (taxi-like thing) and then a couple minibuses before arriving at the Malaysia border. I lost track of how many hours it was- a lot!

The major glitch in the plan was some sort of stomach issue that morning. With a squat toilet combined with a ferry boat cleanliness, I was well in the throes of montezuma's revenge and other things. Ok, too much information. But I managed to get to Malaysia after about 20 hours of nausea, etc.

The guidebooks had warnings about crossing at any other point other than Satun and this little island off the coast of Thailand, but I crossed at the regular road crossing, after inquiring locally about safety. I was in the company of five other foreigners who were traveling together and working in KL, Malaysia. They were from Poland, Estonia, Columbia and I can't remember where else... It was no problem crossing the border and arriving into Georgetown, Malaysia.

More tomorrow... (with pics.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On Travel

"Don't strike off to "hit all the sights" or actualize all your travel fantasies from the get-go. Stay organized and interested, but don't keep a "things to do" list. Watch and listen to your environment. Take pleasure in small details and differences. Look more and analyze less; take things as they come. Practice your flexibility and patience - and don't decide in advance how long you'll stay in one place or another." - Rolf Potts, Vagabonding

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Photos from Ko Pha Ngan

Best Pad Thai Ever

Ko Pha Ngan Coast from the lighthouse
View from my hammock in front of our bungalow
Our attack dog
Our window
Our ceiling
Our room

Oh just for your interest... here's all my worldly belongings- left in storage in Auckland.