Taiwan (And Hong Kong) Unbound: Adventures In Chinesia

Here we go, Taiwan/Hong Kong digest.  Like per usual, hyperlinks point to the relevant timeline post, with lots more pics.  Like not per usual, full-res photos haven’t been despatched to Flickr, on account of the latter jacked up their prices, so I don’t wanna deal with them no more.  So, I’m hosting the pictures on my own site — it’s a very basic interface, but, okey, at least I don’t gotta pay extra for that. Therefore, all Hong Kong and Taiwan photos are now online here at ze Durian Apocalypse.


January 3:

This WILL be on the quiz.


January 4:

They’ve got lanes painted into the sidewalks to keep the bus queues very nice and organised-like. And you’re all, “Oh, that’s neat.” So then you find the lane for the route you want, and when you look up, it’s like, “Holy fuck, this shit is longer than the line for Space Mountain!”

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January 4:

A timely reminder from your friends at the Lands Dept. (reads: “TRIGONOMETRICAL STATION Do Not Deface Or Damage”).

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January 4:

Coconuts. If they only had Coconuts in Hong Kong, I could consider living here full time, just frickin’ sending my dimpled ass hiking by day and guzzling down Cocos by night. And to think, I might never’ve even visited here in the first place if not for Asiana Airlines’ forcing of my hand with its inscrutable blunderings. Three cheers for inscrutable blunderings, gol dammit!

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January 5:

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The hiking opportunities here are basically limitless; so it’s kind of a cross between deer-in-the-headlights indecision and kid-on-Xmas-morning anticipation when choicing where to instruct one’s dimpled ass to on any given day go to. But, natch, getting a ferryboat to one of the outlying islands was a must. Going ’round Cheung Chau is more country stroll than hike, being that the trails are almost all of the paved variety. There are some nice hillclimbing, though, so it’s still a good spot of exercise, and all. But, anyhow, with scenery like these, it’s almost beside the point that you’re also leaving the cigarette smoke and noise pollution of the city behind you — though that’s certainly not unappreciated!

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January 6:

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That’s a lot of Buddhas. To be honest, though, the Buddha museum at Nakhon Si Thammarat is about 10,000 times better — but then, I’ve never been a fan of Chinese Buddhist iconography. Also, give that CEDD graphic designer a raise!

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February 27:

Worn out your copy of Voulez-Vous and looking for a replacement? Fear not, friends: I’ve got your dimpled asses covered!

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February 27:

N.B., motherfuckers! (Although there does appear to be a loophole for female owners.)

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February 28:

Presenting the newest superhero the cool kids are in a few months’ time all going to be going crazy over.

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March 1:

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If I could afford to live here, this would be my routine every day from now until the End Times™:

~ Awake.
~ Listening on the new Bassekou Kouyate ‘longplay’ record album.
~ Hiking my dimpled ass utterly unto oblivion (or close enough as makes no difference).
~ Eating four-bazillion-and-three of these little MiniMangos™, here. They’re about twenty-seven U.S. cents apiece; that’s not exactly great value for money — but neither is it piss-poor. Anyway, that angle doesn’t matter a jot, because these things are so goddamned cute and so motherfuckin’ delicious that you can’t ever stop eating them — even if you wanted to (which I don’t).
~ Listening on the new Ladytron ‘longplay’ record album.
~ Asleep.

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My admiration of and gratitude for the sheer magnitude of and ease of access to the trails system here knows no bounds. But that said, just imagine how indescribably beautiful this place must have been before the developers got their hooks into it…

Also, I seen the biggest eagle I ever have to-day — but only for a few seconds before it disappeared into the mist. I dunno, might have been a CIA drone, or something.


March 2:

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Passing Jogger: You’re barefoot.
Me: That’s correct.
He: There’s broken…broken glass all over the floor.
Me [There wasn’t; but…]: Yeah.
He: Very dangerous!
Me: Yeah.
He: [Jogging away.]

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I’ve been issued this very same frantic warning so many times over the years, perhaps it’d do to declare the following Open Letter To All Well-Meaning Citizens: Your concern is appreciated. But the thing is, barefooters are, despite their condition, able to see the ground in front of them. If there’s broken glass in their path, they will endeavour to manoeuvre around it — or, should that strategy prove untenable, throw on some sandals until the danger has passed. Please don’t lose any more sleep over this issue (and please do have a pleasant tomorrow).

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March 5:

When you pass a Chinesian person on the trail, he or she always merrily chirps, “Good morning!” Nice and friendly, to be sure — but they use the same greeting irrespective of the time of day. Of course, I don’t know how to say Good anything even in Mandarin, let alone Cantonese. So, “Good morning!” I merrily chirp in response.

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March 12:

And on the seventh day, they created…sunshine! Landed my dimpled ass back here in Taipei and was promptly rewarded with six days sans even the minutest peep of The Orb — two of those were merely overcast; the others raining down just exactly like I was back Seattle way (except a bit warmer). To-day finally dawned gloriously blue-skied, and hiking time was afoot (ha ha, no pun intended — but I like it, so I’ll leave it in).

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My third iteration climbing Mt. Qixing — the first was a hellstorm of rain and wind at the summit; the second dry but socked in with mist; and to-day sunny but hazy in the distance. So I’ve still yet to experience its legendary views in full throttle. Also, you can see, while there is colour in them thar hills, I appear to’ve arrived too late to catch the peak of cherry blossom season. Crumbled cookies and all that.

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Second verse, same as the first. In point of fact, though the terrain is not as varied and the views are not as panoramic as Qixing, I rather prefer Zhongzheng. Why? No crowds! It’s just oneself, the wind, and the butterflies. Too right.
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March 18:

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Fawking crazy day on the trails to-day, combining the features of many of my favourite locations of recent traverse — the spooky, ethereal fog and mist of Haputhale, Sri Lanka; the gigantor trees of Sepilok, Sabah; the cool, autumnal temps, endless miles under the canopy, and large elevation gains of the Issaquah Alps; the stunning mountainous scenery of northern Bali (mostly socked in on this day, but the glimpses were almost unimaginably tantalising); the steep/tricky climbs and descents requiring rope assistance of Penang Hill and Mt. Kinabalu — into one, big, massive superhike the likes of which my dimpled ass has very rarely ever before experienced.

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It’s still no match for Nepal, mind you, but it has altered my perception of just what hiking in Taiwan can really come to mean. Alas, the winter/spring bugaboo of shite quality air is slated to make an unwelcome return this week, which will probably end up slowing yon roll for a while; but hopefully not for too long: Striding these hills is frickin’ habit-forming!

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March 18:

Custodians of mirth, ain’t it?

Every god damned time, I see these motherfuckers on the “Internet”; they’re so in love with the Red Banana. And every time I try to too, I’m just like, “That’s a motherfuckin’ meh if ever there were a motherfuckin’ meh.” You know what I’m sayin’?

But now, oh lord now, right here in Jiji town, I have SEEN the motherfuckin’ LIGHT, y’alls. I say, I say, I say Holy McShizzles, Batman!, that’s some motherfuckin’ quality Bananaism right now.

(The lady threw one in as a motherfuckin’ freebie with my Papayas and Clementines, and now I am hooked. These motherfuckin’ fruit vendors…sharp as a tack, ever single one o’ them-all.)

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Sheesh! This thing is almost as big as my you-know-what…
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Image may contain: tree, plant and outdoorSecond visit to Xitou, and I still haven’t come close to unearthing all its wonders. I’m beginning to realise, however, that I may have made a strategical error in planning and partaking of these waterfall hikes during low-flow season. They’re still purty, and all, but…gotta try come back after a typhoon has passed through.

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It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, by the way, when being in amongst Chinesian peeps. On the one hand, they love to move their dimpled asses through space-time, so it’s deuce easy to find public exercise equipment in the neighbourhoods. And, up in the hills, their trails systems are truly stupendous — planning, execution, maintenance, access, the whole of the goddam shebang. But but but but but, on thee other hand: When they’re out in the bush in their droves (just the same as in town), the thought of allowing more than four seconds’ peace and quiet to occur just creeps them the ever-loving fuck out. They’re loud; they’re obnoxious — dare I say downright boorish? — they arrive at the scenic overlooks before you do; and they work in tag-teams, so it’s impossible to wait them out. The only way to experience a respite is to keep climbing higher. They do like to exercise — but they don’t wanna get left behind by their tour buses, so there are built-in limits…

And that puts a wrap on this week’s episode of GET THE FUCK OFFA MY LAWN, YOU PISSANTS! — make sure to tune in for next week’s thrilling edition, won’t you?

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March 21:

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Fuck me running, I couldn’t be more in love with this place if Yeshua hisself turned up and plopped my dimpled ass into a vat of slimy goop. No, I haven’t been teleportated to Yellowstone Park (not that that’d be a bad thing); nor is that a thermal feature roiling away on the right side of the frame there. The effect is in point of fact being caused by the inlet flow from an aquaduct originating at a nearby reservoir (or so assures the signage).

The hostel people quoted a twenty percent discount for longstay — but the goddam forecast is calling for rainy skies and cool temps for a solid week; so I think I’ll reluctantly scoot away somewhere sunnier before returning to sample the local trails in earnest…

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There’s a gadfly on the loose at Sun Moon Lake! I daresay he or she has elevated his or her craft to the level of artistry…

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March 22:

Completed the two-day circumnavigation with near-perfect weather both days; totting up right at 100,000 steps on the ol’ pedometer for the two days combined. In case the photos all look more less the same, please don’t allow thus to dissuade your dimpled ass from visiting here: When walking alongside, the lake and its surroundings look so fugging beautiful, tourist can’t NOT take a picture…but that doesn’t mean it’ll do the scene justice. It just doesn’t mean that, bitches!

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March 23:

And it’s almost as beautiful even when it’s all rainy and foggy. Not as much fun to walk around during, though…

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Never expected to come to this little tourist village and find Eggfruit — the only other place I’ve even seen it was in Kota Kinabalu (where they call it “Avocado Cheese” even though it tastes nothing like either one). Not nearly as good here as it was there, but, not bad.

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March 24:

This beats any and every human-composed and -performed symphony like a red-headed stepchild, ain’t it? It’s much appreciated, too, to be able to find some areas of deep repose as, apart from Malaysia’s, Taiwan’s noise pollution may be the worst of any country I’ve visited.


March 25:

It stopped raining about an hour before sunset. That certainly was friendly of It.

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March 26:

There’s A (Butterfly) Riot Goin’ On.


March 26:

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Triple-Steps Tuesday at Houjian Mountain. Oy vey, these Asian trail architects are sadists of the purest stripe. Well, regardless of the fact, I duly locomoted my very own dimpled ass up to the very top step, and found there (yet again) the very best of sceneries. Welcome to make the attempt, natch, but says here one’d have a difficult time convincing me that there’s a more better place to walk your feet, listen your ears, breathe your lungs, and look your eyes than right here in thee hills of little ol’ Nantou County, Taiwan.

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p.s. Didja ever lay eyes upon a more behemoth incense coil than the one pictured here? Because I, personally, have not. (Well, I mean, NOW I have — but before this, I personally had not.) And it smells like real incense, too; not the bullcrap joss stick waft like you get at the Chinesian temples in Penang. So you know, dimpled ass trapped in a joss stick cloud is approximately 10,000 times more worser than tear gas situation.

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March 27:

Some fun pics from around Jiji and Shuili.

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March 28:

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Had intended to send my dimpled ass up this trail last weekend, but three straight days of pretty steady rain postponed the adventure ’til to-day. The trail is roughly the same distance and elevation gain as Mt. Si, but feels markedly more difficult to my way of thinking. A truly great hike — the lower third comprised of 1,800 stone and earthen steps as is so common in hiking trails here in the Orient; the upper third was more of the sadistic, super-steep, rope-assisted, strewn-with-rocks-and-massive-tree-roots terrain which is also so common here; while the middle third, a gigantic bamboo grove which, apart from the incessant gnat population, could be the most beautiful, the most peaceful, the most serene place one would ever hope to step foot, is enough to make a sumbitch want to scurry on up there over ‘n’ over again. God damn Taiwan is the ultimate hikers’ paradise writ large, in my opinion. (Before you ask: Nepal is the trekker’s paradise; but day-hiking there, while quite nice, really doesn’t hold a candle to Taiwan.)

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March 28:

Always recommend a sunset stroll beside a gorgeous lake to buffer one’s return to civilisation after a long, grueling day’s hike.

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Even though it be lowflow time, we still can’t allow too many days to pass without we send our dimpled ass on a waterfall trail, ain’t it? And, do you know?, if you wash behind your ears always and are nice to your siblings, the waterfall gods might even send a whole buncha leaves coptering through your footage you’re shooting. Thank you, waterfall gods!

And, yes, it’s snakes country. And yes they’re in season right now. And yes I’m scared shitless I’m going to step on one and it’s going to fill my dimpled ass up with venom. And yes that’ll probably be curtains because I’m usually tromping around hours away from anywhere and can’t afford to get a Taiwanese SIM card and prefer to hike alone. And no I can’t stop going hiking. And no I can’t wear “proper” shoes like everyone keeps instructing me to. So yes I hope they’ll take pity on me — but who the hell believes I deserve that? And, no, you can’t have my stuff if I buy the farm here because I’m giving it all to the retarded kids.

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p.s. Check out the badass effect in the second clip created by the sun reflecting off the moving water and back up onto the trees and whatnot. When’s the last time you ever saw anything that trippy on a Hollywood movie screen. NEVER, that’s when! Mother Nature wins again, bitches.


April 1:

Whoah (I say), whoa there. Just et my first Atemoya. This shit is definitely better than Custard Apple, and infinitely better than Cherimoya. Not ready to say it’s better than Soursop, but, I feel I should warn you that that day might in fact come. It really might.

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Along the Puli Green Bikeway.

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What, there’s a bus number 0 here?? My thoughts are these:

a.) Did I just wake up in a Bergman movie?
b.) I’m going to ride the shit outta this route.

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April 6:

You know how most of the time, so long as you keep moving, mosquitos will allow you to pass by unmolested and wait for the next schmuck to come through and hopefully stop for some nice loitering around within their demesne? Well, Taiwanesian mosquitos, NO, they’ll latch on to your dimpled ass whether you keep moving or not. Fuckin’ assholes.

But that’s nothing at all to do with to-day’s topic — viz., that there’s yet another Asian festival in progress. This one’s to do with tidying up the gravesites of the dearly departed (along with, I would suppose, the undertaking of similarly venerative gestures); but it’s really just an excuse to light off ten million firecrackers — and, natch, for hostel owners to jack their rates up by 30% or so throughout the entire four-day weekend.


April 6:

Hostel livin’: The owner of this joint at which I’m currently residing here in Tainan — a Korean national who made money hand over fist working in the Arabian oil sector for seven years, but when he decided to knock off and chillax for a few, the Korean government informed him that they were going to tax the ever-loving shit out of his nest egg unless he did his chillaxing outside of Korea, so he came here instead and after some time grew bored with chillaxism and opened the hostel for something to do — is, as you may have noticed, some kind of mad scientist type, seen here inventing a converter box which will enable the Japanese buskers staying at the joint to greatly reduce the quantity of batteries required to run their instruments and amplifiers, thus very much lightening their load whilst simultaneously tripling their maximum playing duration (they’re apparently making halfway decent money, as it happens).

Well, one thing you can say about Taiwan is that the architecture is incredibly boring. But not so this building, which is so beautiful I almost pooped my pants when I came ’round the corner and unexpectedly spied a glimpse.
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Adding to my collection of geographical extent observations. Let’s see, there’s…

~ The westernmost point of Oahu: 8 out of 10 on my exclusive Scale Of Awesome (which is my intellectual property, so please don’t try to use it without paying royalties, okay?).

~ The sothernmost point of Taiwan: 2.5 out of 10. (Other sites within the park — from which these photos were taken — rate much more highly, just to clarify.)

~ The southernmost point of continental Asia: 0.5 out of 10.

~ The [northern] Tip Of Borneo: 9,000,000 out of 10.

So I guess I need to work on my Easts — any recommendations?

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p.s. Met a friendly three-person contingent of a group on its 52nd day of a 57-day circumnavigation of the entire Formosan coastline. About seventy people will have participated for various lengths of time — fifteen of them for the whole shebang. God damn, how I wish I’d known about this activity!

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April 12:

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Jialeshuei: It can’t top Hampi in the Trippy Rock Formations To Climb One’s Dimpled Ass Atop, Betwixt, And Between championships (because nothing can) — but it’s not without its charms, to say the least!
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April 14:

Back to Jialeshuei again; and it’s like FUCK museums, man. This is the REAL modern art, right here — because it took zillions of years to make perfect. What artist has that kind of patience? Nobody! Mother Nature, she still got the belt (of that you may rest assured).

Psst, hey parents, want to impress your goofnut kids next weekend? Bring their dimpled asses here and turn ’em loose. Best…Easter egg hunt…EVAR!!

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April 20:

Not, perhaps, the imagery evoked by the words “Moon World” (nor even “Moom World”, as one of the signs mistakenly reads), “badlands”, “no vegetation can grow here”. But, okey, it’s pretty enough scenery. And the staffperson at the visitor centre was very nice and friendly — although she was unable to pronounce the word “pavilion”, even with my coaching — she made several game attempts at it, bless her soul, before finally giving up, and thereafter referring to the Sunrise Pavilion as the Sunrise Whatever. But I’ll tell you what: She was exceptionally diligent in providing pamphlets with maps, and even obsessed over photocopying a bus timetable, even after I’d snapped a pix of it with my smartphone. She related that it was possible to stay onsite in one of their “Moon Huts” for ten bucks a night (twelve-fiddy on weekends), and be just a twenty minute walk away from the Sunrise Whatever — which is where these photos are from; but it’s apparently quite the sight when it’s actually the sunrise, and not some hours later.

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I wanted to explore around a bit more, but it’s not really easy to get to the recommended areas on foot — which was all right, as it allowed me to both work on my tan and rack up some crooked numbers on the pedometer during the eight-mile walk back to the bus transfer area (it was gonna be a three-hour wait for the next bus to there anyhow, so…). So perhaps we’ll give it a try at a future date. Maybe sleep it up in the Moon Tubes, and get our dimpled asses outta bed in time for sunrise, god dammit all! After all, according to one of the pamphlets…

There are always treacherously steep sandstone cliffs to scramble up that can, at times, be quite perilous. It is easy to completely lose one’s bearings with the mazes of limestone and gravel cliffs towering above, and the steep hills can encircle and lead into areas that feel alien and otherworldly — therein lies Caoshan Moon World’s charm.

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April 21:

Finally someone is getting serious about confronting the wordwide striding menace head-on. Thank you, Taiwan!

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April 22:


April 22:

The situation in Dulan. Will report back if I find out more.

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They have these black squirrels here; they’re so fucking fast. And I know you’re thinking, “Well, duh, all squirrels are fast.” NO — not like this, they ain’t.
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They were all chillaxing on a Coconut tree; and some goofball let off a Whistling Pete, and so they got into formation and started flying hither and yon, hither and yon, hither and yon. One single Whistling Pete! Next time, I’m going to get my dimpled ass down to the res and get a whole box of them; start training my own personal birds air force — I don’t gotta take this shit any more.


April 23:

Mt. Dulan. Maybe the most difficult, and certainly the most treacherous Taiwanese trail to-date (not fall-over-the-cliff-and-never-heard-from-again treacherous, but even slip-and-fall-and-dirty-your-britches treacherous is enough to require one’s continuous attention). Even the walk from the bus stop to the trailhead is brutally steep and exposed to the sun. Feeling mojoless after that climb, I had to sit down in the O-deck located at the trailhead to ponder whether I had it in me, having had only one recovery day from a long/steep hike in Jinlun two days prior.

Finally I decided that it was early enough that even taking it very slowly would not present a problem in re the daylight, and if I wasn’t feeling it, I could always turn around and try again on another day. But getting out of the sun and under the canopy gave me a nice battery recharge, and when I noted that I’d knocked out 20% of the distance in about fifteen minutes’ time, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Shit, Holmes, you keep up this pace, and you’ll be back in time for General Hospital!”

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No sooner had the words left my mouth that the trail began to show its true colours: Mud, slippery conditions, bugs, overgrown stretches — yes, it’s possible for a trail to be a little too lush — and then the long, steep, tricky sections requiring rope assistance. It was to put it mildly not easy, but it was beautiful — and the jungle symphonics were about the best I ever did hear.

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I saw only one other person the entire time — an older Chinese gent who’d passed me on his motorcycle on my way to the trailhead. We met as I was almost to the summit, and after an enthusiastic greeting, he was off like a rocket back down to the bottom. He was apparently in such a hurry that…well, perhaps he had a dentist appointment he had to get to.

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As for your humble narrator, I took so much time on the way down basking in the music, I didn’t make it back to town in time for General Hospital or even close — but the Coconut shack back down at the bus stop was a fine enough sight indeed!

By the way, I saw this one insect flying — it looked like a lunar lander, or similar. Huhn, that’s a new one on me.

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April 26:

Fun in the sun!


April 26:

That’s right, bitchez: I stood on two different tectonic plates at the same goddamned time. Bring your dimpled ass to Yuli/Fuli and you can do the same goddamned thing!

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Aaaaand fun in the gloaming!

Can hardly beat tromping them motherfuggin’ COUNTRY ROADS, ain’t it???
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Okey, the rocks here may not be as stone-cold awesome (get it???) as the ones at Jialeshuei, but they’re pretty stinkin’ great nevertheless. P.S.: This place is a rock-skippers’ paradise.
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Image may contain: mountain, sky, outdoor and natureThe Walami Trail — one of the more famous in Taiwan, it was originally constructed by the Japanese (local Taiwanese seem generally to be of the opinion that it was good that the Japanese were here, because they left behind a lot of solid infrastructure; and that it’s good they left, ’cause it enabled the Chinese to get back to the project of exploiting the aborigines), and serves as the eastern end of a cross-island trek which requires eight days’ time to up and complete. The people saying that the trail traverses a magical faerie world, or e.g. looks like the movie Avatar (and there are many)…I think they need to get out more often. It’s far down the list of my favourite Taiwan trails. But, anyways, it IS a nice walk, and the gorge alongside which it snakes IS beautiful, and there are a few waterfalls and suspension bridges and whatnot. So, sure, it’s a fine day spent; but let’s not fly off the handle, here, shall we?
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By the way (and this is just me ranting now, so feel free to change the channel any time), I put 63,000 steps onto the pedometer with a goodly amount of elevation gain on a very hot day with only four hours’ sleep AND undertook a little resistance band routine upon my return — and never ate a single thing ’til 5:00 in the PM. And such arrangements are thrown down by my dimpled ass on the regular. My point being, the authority figures telling sordid tales of breakfast’s supposed importance are jackanapes. So very, very jackanapes.

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May 3:

Hostel art for the win.

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May 5:

Holy fuckshizzles, Bat-homie, those are some mountainous mountains. I cower and tremble before thee, but am also drawn like moth to the proverbial flame.

It’s been in a rainy period for now several days’ time, so I thought to go visit some waterfalls I seent on the map. And just in the last little bit — like the last half-mile or so — my dimpled ass was duly thwarted by a fuckin’ locked gate. So, after submitting a Big Fuck You to locked gates everwhere, I went down to the river, where at least I got to check out the “fishway” (AKA fish ladder) and some more of those crazy Dalrymple-style rocks over which I can’t stop swooning — they’re all the way up and down the fuckin’ coast, ain’t it???

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May 5:

First one to say it ten times fast will be able to harness the demonic forces for their benefit!

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May 7:

Man, this Watermelon tastes like fuckin’ vanilla milkshake. I suppose I’ve eaten a couple thousand Watermelons the last ten years or so, and have never had one quite like this. You just never know…


May 8:

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Another indelible day away from the city.

Wuta: A railway station so remote, it doesn’t even come with a staffperson to check tickets — nor does anybody seem to know or care that the entranceway’s card sensor is on the fritz. But get yer dimpled ass down here and make the one-hour walk out to the coast, and you’ll be treated to: A beautiful black sand beach, a supercute waterfall, ubermajestic cliffs slash eye-popping coastline, uberfresh air, and the good old Pacific Ocean. Oh, yeah…and still more badass rocks.

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May 13:

Last day in Hualien: So enthralled with these mountains.

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May 14:

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Maaaybe my last chance to get a hike in, on account of it’s stormy weather in the forecast for the foreseeable future. That being the case, one couldn’t not send one’s dimpled ass on a triple-waterfall hike, ain’t it?

It’s been raining a fair amount this month, so I actually thought the throughput might be a little higher — still in all, the falls didn’t disappoint, and it was another glorious day in Taiwan.

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The trail was one of these deceptive ones that are so common here — starts out very easy, and then all of the suddenly, holy hell breaks loose: Muddy conditions, lots of up and down requiring rope (and even ladder) assistance, some river crossings, massive tree roots, bugs, cobwebs, the whole nine yards. And slipperier than a motherfuck in places. Indeed, I lost my footing real good one and suffered the worst fall on a hike in many a year just five minutes from the end. Luckily, though, the trail gods were on my side to-day, and I came through it with just a very slightly sprained wrist. Counting my lucky stars…and dreaming of returning here to Hikers’ Paradise sooner than later for more funtime goodtime adventures.

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May 16:

Been a while since I done a new “Video Vlog”, but #000003 is now live and loaded. Don’t shit all over it all at once, ain’t it?


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Philippines/Sabah/Hong Kong Digest (Now With Bonus Korea Content!)

Flickr jacked up the price of its pro accounts, and the limit for non-pro accounts is a measly 1,000 pictures! So, all my Flickr pics will apparently soon be trashed — but, at least for the moment, the Philippines, Sabah, Hong Kong, and Korea pics are situated there.


September 7:

Thee best Durian farm in the known universe? Hint: It’s not Bao Sheng…at least not this year. Not even remotely close. And the specific is generically true as well — Davao’s harvest this year is of such tremendous quality, and the prices are so unsanely miniscule, it’d be a criminal crime untold to even mention Penang in the same breath. That’s how hard and how far a previously untouchable champion can fall. Take note, Penang: Davao done crack-a-lacked your dimpled ass right down onto the canvas; and from where I’m sitting, you probably ain’t ever get up again.

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That said, I still MUCH prefer living in George Town to Davao (and Taiwan even more so), as it’s almost completely impossible to breathe in any fresh air here — in addition to which, G-Town’s Mangos, Mangosteens, and Cocos beat Davao’s like a red-headed stepchild. Still, if you want the absolute highest quality Durian, and/or the best value for your Durian Dollar, Davao is now the place to be.

Thanks too much Bernard Bautista — I’d say you’re doing the Lord’s work; but in fact you might just BE the Lord.

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September 8:

We had us a goddam earthquake here to-day. At a guess, probably in the 4.5 range — big enough to be pretty fun, yet small enough to preclude any possibility of damage. You could call it a Goldilocks quake, if you wanted.

So…as you were, ain’t it?


September 16:

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Another year, another three hour tour (okey, it was actually more like eight) ’round Talicud Island, another lamentably woeful batch of photos failing to capture the stirring natural beauty laid out before our very eyes.

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Nevertheless, having now completed two full participations in this activity, I feel justified in declaring it the killerest, bestest, most funnest day o’ thee year. Lo, if only we-all could convene for this activity every single day from now onny on — that would be the smashes, ain’t it?

Madayaw Davao Fruit Fest for the wins, y’all. A remarkably fabulous fortnight it has once again been.

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September 21:

I see all these fuckin’ people walking down (or sometimes up) the fuckin’ street — right past about five stalls per city block practically giving away exceptionally high quality Durian — while slurping on their fuckin’ iced cream cones, and I’m just like, “Yo, your fuckin’ parents raised your dimpled asses up fuckin’ erroneously, ain’t it?”


October 3:

The importance of eating your greens, ain’t it?

I could/would sitting and watching these crazy fucks’ crazy antics all day every day for the next eight years. Unfortunately, your 30RM buys only a few hours’ viewing each in the morning and the afternoon — while the hiking trail that is meant to occupy one’s time in between is closed indefinitely. Classic Malaysia. (Although if it were on the peninsula, the notice would be accompanied by a very smarmy- and insincere-sounding declaration that, “Any inconvenience caused is greatly regretted.”) Funny thing about Borneo, though: In town, I come down with zillions of mosquito bites; but in the jungle, very few. I mean, very fucking few.

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Lastly, those who take pleasure in asides might be interested to note that the day’s endeavours began fairly inauspiciously when, right as I was arriving for the morning feeding, one of the aforementioned crazy fucks shat out of a tree I happened to be walking under, and PLOP!!, it landed — my mouth to god’s ear — less than a micrometer away from my foot. Mind you, this wasn’t some silly little birdshit landing upon — where if it registers a direct hit, yeah, you’re kind of squicked out by it for a couple dozen seconds or so, but then in the end you just wipe yourself off and go on about your day. No, this was more the size/shape of a cowshit. A small-ish cow’s shit, like — but falling from the sky! I honestly don’t know what I could/would have done had it found the mark — but there were certainly enough people standing there with cameras at the ready that the image of my bald head covered in orangutan shit would, I suspect, already have conquered the Internet by now…

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October 4:

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Among the ‘Sepilok Giants’, ain’t it?

Everybody laughs when I tell them that trees are the closest thing I have to a religion. But in fact I’m not joking: Everything people think they need from ‘god’ can in my estimation be accessed by simply bringing one’s dimpled ass in the woods and walking among the giants.

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According to what I seen on the map, though, I expected there to be one Sepilok Giant — you know, like One tree to rule them all and in the darkness bind them, or whatever. But there turned out to be well over a baker’s dozen with the credentials, so until further notice I’m going with the multiple goddam giants interpretation. Either way you slice it, it’s game/set/match Borneo. Again.

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October 5:

Thee Sepilokian hijinks continue apace…


October 5:

No fucking plucking!

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October 6:

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Followed me dimpled ass back into the Sacred Place, and traversed some trails I’d not got around to on thee first visit. This time, I did see one tree that seemed as though it could be the biggest in the entire forest. It wasn’t that much bigger than some of the others — but big enough I thought I’d better have my picture taken with this one as well.

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Meanwhile, a pretty rippin’ noontime squall left behind a beautiful, misty sheen. God DAMMIT, that’s one handsome-looking grove. According to the park signage, the rain is often followed by a daytime appearance from the local population of giant flying squirrels (whom usually don’t come out and recreate ’til after sundown). They didn’t show their faces this time, though; so I had to entertain myself with watching the weekend lenssmiths comparing their sizes instead…


October 13:

Jungle Jack Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And LOVE The Rambutan

Hostel-owner Jungle Jack claims to have special powers when it comes to selecting Rambutans, and who the fudge am I to disagree? These are far and away the juiciest and sweetest I’ve ever heard of. Still got the issue with the skin of the seed sticking to the flesh, but, shit-howdy, I just can’t stop eating them.

Meanwhile, sitting here about five minutes’ walk from the entrance to Kinabalu Park and the climb to the summit of Southeast Asia’s highest peak, trying to figure out why I’m even considering shelling out. Even with Jungle Jack’s bargain basement last-minute deal-wrangling, it’s still $350 for the roughly twenty-four hours it takes to get one’s dimpled ass up and back down again — with no guarantee of clear weather at the top. It’s highway motherfucking robbery, is what it is. But…considering it I for some damned-fool reason currently am.

Huhn, maybe a few more of these scintillating Rambutans will help me to think this thing through a bit more clearly?


October 16:

It works like this: You pay Jungle Jack your goddam fucking 1,200 Malaysian Ringgits; he takes your passport and goddam fucks around with it for a while before returning it back to you; then next morning you eat some cold Durian for your pre-climb meal even though you’d have preferred something juicier — alas, the Rambutans are all gone and the Terap is not masak — and you’re now ready to commence hiking!

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You, along with your three Jungle Jack’s compatriots — two Dutch, one Irish — are taken to meet Sylvester, your guide. You flash your ID badge at the gate and pass a cute little waterfall right at the outset, and things are looking up. But soon it begins to rain, and when you ask the three British Jungle Jack-ians coming down the hill how far up the rainy conditions extend, they offer an evasive response, causing you to fear the worst. Your fears are in the end confirmed; but despite the wet you complete the climb from 1,800 metres of elevation to 3,300 in five hours give or take (including time spent watching your companions eat their smashed-up peanut butter jelly sandwiches at the halfway point), and you thank your lucky stars that you’d opted to spring for that high-quality poncho — it’s even got a knapsack pouch, for fuck’s sake — back in KK town.

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At the lodge, they feed your dimpled ass some vittles and you go to bed early, but you can’t sleep even three or four winks at all because last you saw of Sylvester, your guide, he’d said that he was worried the Park Rangers might decide to close the summit if it continued raining all night.

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But it’s dry as a pickle at 2:00 in the AM, so they get your dimpled ass out of bed and feed it some more vittles until 3:00 in the AM — at which point Sylvester, your guide, bursts into the dining hall and tells you to get your goddam fucking dimpled ass out on the trail and ascend the final 800 metres’ elevation to the Kinabalu summit before the goddam fucking sun comes up.

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You strap on your goddam fucking headlamp and do as he says, though it’s the most difficult goddam fucking thing you’ve ever done. But when the sun arrives and does its illumination routine, you come to realise that it was goddam fucking worth it: It was not only the most difficult activity of your goddam fucking life, but also one of the most exciting.

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Sylvester, your guide.

On the way back down, you spend so much time dawdling trying to prolong the experience that your friends have got way out in front of you, and when you finally re-join them in the dining hall, they’re — what else? — stuffing their dimpled asses with vittles, so you explain to them that when you last saw Sylvester, your guide, he was sitting on some rocks at one of the resting areas with his goddam fucking shirt off.

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But, sure enough, thirty minutes later, Sylvester, your guide, again bursts through the dining hall door, this time carrying a young lady in his arms. He’d rescued her dimpled ass from…somewhere, and brought her here so she could get enough vittles in her to walk away under her own steam.

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You take that as a sign that it’s time to descend back down the mountain before they turn the lights out on you. In the doing, you come to realise that Sylvester, your guide, is acquainted (first-name basis) with every single person in this forest. And you also come to notice that said forest, in its rainless guise, is really quite nifty. Nifty, as in: Bitchin’ enough for twenty.

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Later, back at Jungle Jack’s, you think you’re going to get the best night of sleep evar, but soon enough his goddam fuckin’ dogs begin barking forever; and when that finally stops, some nearby goddam fucking electronic instrument begins instructing, forever and ever, in a very loud/shrill voice, “Please change battery” — and everyone (including yourself) is too goddam fucking lazy to get up and destroy it with a hammer.

And that, ladies ‘n’ gennlemen, is the true story of how you climbed Mt. Kinabalu to-day.

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October 22:

And just what awaits the traveler to tiny Kundasang, Sabah? Well, pull up a stool and I’ll tell you…

1. Rollinia — world’s greatest iced cream cone.

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2. Jungle Jack’s — possibly maybe world’s second-greatest hostel (De-Talak Hostel will always be numbero uno).

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3. Kinabalu — one of world’s more beguiling peaks.

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4. Massive cabbage statue — many a town square in SE Asia rocks a big Durian statue, but this is the first cabbage I seen.

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5. A view worth suffering for. Oh, wait, what suffering? Cool temps, no mosquitos, clean air, quality fruit. It’s the cat’s meow, I daresay! Come pay a visit and tell me I’m wrong.

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October 22:

What is and what should ever be, ain’t it?

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October 23:

Dateline Sandakan. Woke up, gashed my skull on the underside of the too-low top bunk, and decided to venture outside the centre of town of a Tuesday morning. First stop: The dreamily named Sim Sim Wet Market.

When I passed two boys out flying their kites when they should’ve been in school, I knew I must be getting close. Then a gaggle of old biddies sitting on their dimpled asses doing nothing inside a little roadside shack asked me where I was going to.

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“Isn’t there a pasar somewhere around here?”

“What?”

“A tamu.”

What???”

“Pasar! Tamu! Market!”

“Oh — the market is over there.”

“Is there a lot of fruit?”

“No fruit; only…”

“Fish?”

“Fish.”

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“Bummer. What about there?” I wondered pointing to the boardwalk leading to yon neighbourhood of stilt houses just offshore (“water village”, or “kampung air”, as the locals call such agglomerations — “air” being the Bahasa word for water).

“There is no fruit there.”

“No, I mean, is it a nice view?”

“Yes! Go there!”

So I went there. There’s a very beautiful water village in KK, but this one was pretty meh. Almost at the end, however, the shirtless mofo seen herein bade me snap his photo — then made me wait around while he went inside to retrieve his sourpussed grandson (or whomever the youngster was). Showing him the pic, I asked, “Bagus?”

“Bagus!” he thundered, smiling widely.

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When I returned to shore, only two of the old biddies remained, and one of them had to be roused from her supine woolgathering to bid me farewell. But bid me farewell she happily did.

Moral of the goddam story: Sandakanian locals will never understand your pitiful attempts to speak their language unless you take their picture first.

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October 24:

Some more shots from atop, around, and about Kinabalu Mountain (got a little lazy WRT the editing/collating).

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October 25:

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November 4:

This place is just stupid expensive — much worse even than Singapore or Taipei. Crazy good hiking and perfect weather, though.

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November 5:

a.) Bird secretions for the win!

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b.) According to the regulation, noted activities violate the regulation — isn’t that a tautology?

c.) Hasn’t satire been repealed yet?

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November 5:

“But why should I bother with painting them brown / When they’ll all be pulled down in the end?”

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November 6:

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A night and half-day in (chilly) Seoul courtesy of Asiana Airlines; whom, about a week ago, inexplicably moved my onward flight up by half an hour, thereby setting off a frustrating chain of events resulting in the previously unscheduled stays both here and in Hong Kong. All’s well that ends well (I could never in a million years afford on my own dime to lodge in the place they put me up), but, gotta say, the customer service wings of both the airline and the booking agency were severely wanting — unreturned e-mails, interminable waitings on hold, limited options, lack of contrition, and so forth. Still, in the end, it was worth the headache — if for no other reason than I’m now more than a little obsessed with Hong Kong…

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p.s. Seoul is a bit more expensive even than Hong Kong, judging by my usual method of finding the nearest Indian joint and notating the price of a veggie Biryani — in Hong Kong it’s about nine U.S. dollars (!), and in Seoul about eleven (!!).

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Limited Zakka (Taiwan Digest)

(All Taiwan photos online at the olde Flickr page.)

August 9:

Here at the scene of my favourite movie of the young millennium — Edward Yang’s Yi Yi — but don’t recognise any of the film’s locations. I do suddenly have a strong desire to watch it again, though (natch).

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It’s an easy enough, if quite expensive, city for the first-time visitor to arrive their dimpled ass in — plenty of English signage, very pedestrian-friendly, very clean, fast Internet, excellent transit, fabulous air quality — but it’s rather boring in my first impression.

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In re parks rule no. 15: In one park I visited was a staffer operating a leaf-blower, and in another was an open-air karaoke hoe-down. In my assessment, both activities very greatly disturbed public tranquillity — and despite my longstanding apoplexy at the sound of the former, the latter may actually have been even a tiny but more disturbing…

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August 10:

This is odd: People keep initiating conversations with me in Mandarin, and when I indicate that my knowledge of the same is approximately two words (plus a couple few that it perhaps shares with Hokkien — the language in which Malaysian Durians are named), they begin speaking to me in English instead — and their English is really fucking good. So why don’t they just begin speaking English straight away? My best guess is that most white people here are expats or other residents with some level of fluency in Mandarin? It’s a head-scratcher.

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August 12:

Taipei may be boring, but the hiking opportunities served by its mass transit system are truly stupendous.

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August 13:

One location; two views.

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August 14:

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Hi! You can wang me, you can hang me, you can mang tang fang b-bang me…but don’t you EVER Shakadang me, ain’t it? These are some right proper Chinesian landscapes, here — enough to make one suspect those Taoist sons of bitches knew a thing or two about a thing or two. But “…the shrine was destroyed again by the forces of nature”, “The clear sound of a bell has a power that can exceed the imaginations…”, “You can see Liwu River emanating from the mountains and running eastward…”: Whose dimpled ass up and authored these goddam info boards, anyhow — frickin’ J to the double-R Tolkien?

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August 15:

Infoboard word of the day: “Trodden”.

Infoboard snippet of the day: “…the masterpiece of the gods that is Taroko Gorge.”

Infoboard full sentence of the day: “These winter visitors add even more color and music by their participation in the daily avian festivities that take place here all day, every day.”

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August 19:

Shit, NOW what am I supposed to do to-day?

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August 19:

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Older Chinesian produce-hawkin’ ladies are the best — so averse are they to displaying anything looking slightly other than perfect that as soon as they see your dimpled ass showing even the minutest interest in the relegated fruits, they rush over and offer a scorchingly good deal to take the entire lot off of their hands. So it was with these purple Dragons, here, which I scored for only fifty Taiwanese dollars (that’s about 1.666 if you’re counting in greenbacks). You can see that they’ve begun to develop some blemishes, which is aight because that’s in point of fact the stage at which they taste their absolute bestest. (Some people say that this is only true for white Dragons; but in my experience, it works for the both of them.) These ones weren’t quite as good as I thought they were gonna be — but were nevertheless fantastic value for the cashmoney.

Also: Turquoise fog lines for the win!

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August 21:

Huhn, that’s trippy — I lived on Boren Avenue in Seattle for five years, and now my hostel in Kaohsiung is just off Boren Street. Well, the former does run through Little Saigon, so I suppose there must be some connection?

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August 21:

Which pic you prefer — with the tankers, or without? My bro’ Chris Hind is against the editing of photos, ’cause he says it’s not the truth. But I say, to hell with the truth — give me instead an image unsullied by human fuckery…

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August 22:

Uh, remember that time that rather than actually eating my Mangoes, I made a goddam fort out of them instead? In fact, there were some even bigger ones on offer — but I didn’t have enough for the down-payment!

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August 22:

Another city, another fantastic hiking opportunity on the outskirts of town — this one only about forty-five minutes’ walk from my hostel. The trails are more mosquitoey down here in the south than up north (where there are shockingly few of them), so at any given time you’ll have about a half-dozen bites working their ways through various levels of intensity — but it surely is worth the annoyance. And the trailhead has even got a nice, flowing spring-fed pool one can walk around in after thee hike to help ease the jarring of the return to city life.

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And necessity that is, as this city is suckage writ large. Why? Because scooterpocalypse — which, despite the word’s undeniably comedic sound, is not the least bit funny. Can’t work out whether the mad scooterists actually don’t see pedestrians, or are actively trying to run our dimpled asses down; either way, it’s a huge pain in the backside. And, even, where there are city blocks with sidewalks, they’re either jam-packed with parked scooters, or with scooters locomoting through at top speed as though the sidewalks are their own exclusive causeways. It’s superfucked.

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By the way, a crazy fuckin’ synchronicity happened on the day I arrived here when I passed by this goddam Pachinko Palace just a day or two after having referenced to my sister the family Pachinko machine of days gone by. Had planned to go hiking again to-day, but it’s a all-out rain day, so I was like, “I’m gonna go get me fuckin’ Pachinko on instead!” Which I did attempt to do — only to be greeted, two paces inside the door, by a terrible, enveloping cloud of cigarette smoke. So, my great Pachinko adventure lasted all of about ten seconds. I mean, what fucking year is this? Taiwan’s cigarettes are the most noxious-smelling on planet Earth, too — at least that I have ever experienced. (Although admittedly there aren’t very many smokers; but there are more of them in the south.)

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My other gripe is that the fruit down here in the south was supposed to be (according to what I’ve been told on several occasions) much better and much cheaper than in the north. In fact, I reckon it’s about the same on both counts — which is to say, consistently decent, rarely excellent, pretty expensive. But in fact, the fresh markets here — though they are quite large — close up shop in the early afternoon, while the ones up north stay open from early morning ’til well after dark; so fruit-shopping is actually much more convenient in the north.

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Oh, and guess what else? There aren’t any assgun nozzles here?! I’ve never seen a C.R. in all of Asia whose crapper wasn’t fitted with an assgun nozzle — unless it was some outback squatter with a cistern instead. But certainly not ones that were toilet-paper-only…until I arrived here, that is. Stupid.

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August 23:

Well I guess one good thing about a dystopia would be that assuming you had a chip implanted, you could probably just call up a concordance of yourself any time you wanted to know which words you’d used most during your lifetime. For me, I think the top two would be “motherfucker”/”motherfuckin'” and “mosquitoes”. (Of course, I very frequently use them in the same sentence, so for gambling purposes, that would probably be considered a correlated parlay…) Number three, I’m not sure — maybe “jackanapes”?


August 24:

Back at Hualien: Another “gorge-eous” day in Taiwan. I’m strongly considering expanding my holy trinity of Yellowstone, Annapurna, and Hampi to a quadrinity (there’s such a thing, right?) including Taroko. Yeeeeee!


August 25:

Natural motherfuckin’ molecules, y’all! Accept no substitutes.

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August 27:

Your guess is as good as mine!


August 28:

Will this be on the quiz?

August 28:

Being that the summit was totally socked in during my first visit a few weeks back, I to-day made a second bid to clamber up Mt. Qixing and avail my dimpled ass of its (purportedly) epic 360-degree views. No dice, alas: Socked in again — although at least this time ’twere sans the lashing rain and winds of the first visit. The rolling mist did occasionally part just enough to give a tantalising glimpse of what might lay beyond; but it was only upon descending below the cloudline that one was able to better appreciate the mighty fine fineness of this landscape. I’ll tell ya, a son of a bitch could find hisself stone addicted to hiking in Taiwan — indeed, I know of one such son of a bitch whom already has become. Will return!

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In case you wondered, the three most annoying things about Taiwanesian people: They chew with their mouths open; the motorists drive as though completely unaware of the existence of any pedestrians; groups of hikers carry on as though it’s New Year’s frickin’ Eve whilst solo hikers accompany themselves with loud music blasting out of their backpack regions.

p.s. “Clinometric map”? “Vicinal recreation sites”?

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Keralan Kapers

From where I’m sitting, northern India is about ten million times more interesting, entertaining, mind-blowing, and electrifying than is Kerala. There’s just nothing to match the all-out cultural and sensorial onslaught of the north, and certainly none of the larger-than-life/beggar-the-imagination achievements as can be seen in the ghats at Varanasi, or the Taj Mahal, or the huge forts in Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, or the Golden Temple in Amritsar, or the tremendously beautiful man-made lakes in Udaipur, or the incredible colonial architecture in Delhi and Mumbai along with the sensational museums in the former.

The south, of course, is not supposed to be about the Gilliamesque spectacle that reigns in the north; it’s supposed to be the rustic, laid-back, rural side of India — the natural wonders, rather than the man-made. They call Kerala “God’s Own Country” — they being the locals, whom one can be assured will repeat that mantra within about fifteen seconds of having made an acquaintance (and just in case it had been forgotten, the same is printed everywhere on signs as well). Fifteen seconds later, they’ll not-so-humbly wonder  your opinion of their humble abode.

Well, guess what? It’s every bit as polluted as in the north. It’s every bit as hectic and harried. It’s every bit as pedestrian-unfriendly — in fact, even more so. The quality of the local fruit is much better in the north. The stench of burning plastic is every bit as acrid here, and every bit as frequently smelt. While people are friendly and welcoming here, they’re much more so in the north (though I suspect this may be because English is more widely spoken in the north). Yes, it’s less crowded than in the north — but there, the massive crowds are of fellow-pedestrians, so even if you bump into one or a hundred, you’re not going to end up flattened like a pancake as you will if you take your eye off the ball here in the sidewalk-less streets of the south.

Are the ocean and the sunsets beautiful? Yes — magical even; they’re in the end what makes Kerala bearable.  But there are a lot of places whose beaches and sunsets are every bit as ace as Kerala’s — indeed, nearby Sri Lanka’s give Kerala’s a right royal thumping, I’d wager. Are the backwaters beautiful? Yes, they clearly once were — but now they’re very dirty and oily and filled up with plastic, and often smelling like…well, frankly, smelling like what all y’all yahoos are always accusing Durian of smelling like. Even where it’s possible to for example find a stretch of unpolluted backwater, you’re still going to be within earshot of the noisy traffic roaring through on the road behind you. (This is not 100% always the case — but it’s very close to.)

They make a big show of being stung by such heretical remarks when delivered — but, I say, who goes fishing for compliments ought not complain when reeling in an untoward opinion.

But if I love the north so much more, why didn’t I just pay a visit to the friendly railway booking office and clickety-clack my dimpled ass back up to Varanasi, you may wondering? Well, it’s because it was the hottest season of the year, and the north, without the moderating oceanic influence, was in even more heat- and humid-stifling straits than the south.

So, c’est la vie. Hanging out at the beach, eating mediocre fruit, and answering the same five questions from friendly locals over and over again still beats workin’, I daresay…

Here be the digest. All my photos from Kerala can be learnt just here.

April 19:

All you schmaltzy motherfuckers can feel free to commence wetting your britches and cowering behind the ottoman right now, ’cause it’s not just the goddam Superbike no more — it’s the goddam Super Superbike. You motherfuckers.

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April 19:

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India is just a royal pain in the ass, as I’ve written many words about before. And plus, it’s so hot and humid here right now that everybody, including your humble narrator, just wants to be put out of his/her/its misery. And plus, the Mangos are pretty crap so far. They’re not as worse as in Sri Lanka last year…but they’re pretty crap nevertheless. The locals say it’s on account of climate change — their favourite topic nowadays — and who dares deny it?

A guy told me that a few days before I arrived, a big wind came up and eighty-sixed about five dozen trees just in the Fort Kochi area alone — and with them the electricity for two days’ time. You can see them cut up and left in piles blocking the sidewalks all around town. A warning from Mother Earth, he reckoned; and of course he was right. The warning has gone unheeded, alas, as everything has returned back to normal, as though it had never happened.

We ignore her warnings at our very great peril, I do strongly believe — but through it all, every day in India brings a sight so stupefying you’ll never even know up from down again. Five minutes after snapping these astonishing pics, I just happened to walk past one of the last theatres in existence giving nightly performances of a traditional theatrical style (Kathakalli) unable to draw audiences any more. “Okey, I’ll give it a look.”

And do you know, the performance was so powerful and so beautiful and so dramatic that it as thoroughly imprinted itself onto my being as just about anything ever has done. Walloped upside the skull yet again — and this time practically for keeps.

Welcome back in India.

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April 21:

Ha ha, Time Palace & Gift Shop would make for the greatest rapper/deejay names since Custard and Frizz were in their heyday!


April 29:

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TRIPLE SIX-SIX-SIX!!!!! The greatest bus ticket ever issued — and I quite like the interior as well; more like a Sri Lankan bus, what with the blinking lights (occluded in the picture) and the bumping dance music. Southern Indians seem much more dour than their northern cousins: Friendly, to be sure — but not so exuberant. On this bus, at least, is a chance to let their hair down a little.

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The conductor was pretty cool, too. When it was time to depart from the originating station, he hurried some kids onto the coach, pulled the door closed with the rope to which it was attached, then looked out to see if any more kids were coming. Noting that there were, he stepped back, kicked the door open, and hurried these kids on as well. Over and over again, the same routine; must’ve been a good four or five iterations. Why didn’t he just wait until all the kids had got on? Don’t know — I think he just liked kicking the door open. He was quite spry for a man of his heft.

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Unfortunately, I need to remove my dimpled ass from Varkala after only one night — despite its extreme beauty and (relatively) laid-back vibe — on account of the air quality is very, very poor. Everybody’s burning palm fronds, or something. Don’t know whether this is a seasonal thing, or goes on all year ’round; but it ain’t float my boat. It’s funny, every-other building is for Ayurvedic this-and-that, or eco-healing, or whatever. And I’m like: “Hey! McFly! Didn’t you know that the single most important component of healthful living is fresh air?” Sheesh.

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April 29:

King of fashion!

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April 30:

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Know what fuckin’ time it is right now? It’s fucking BODY SURFING O’CLOCK (is what fuckin’ time it is right now). The sea is so lovely here, and the sunsets so over-thee-top, it’s honestly very much like a religious experience being in the water during them. (Although that’s also why no pics to-date of the really fireworks…)

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May 1:

Youth wants to know: Why are Asian people so disgustipated by the thought of breathing fresh air?

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May 5:

Kovalam hijinks. Unfortunately, this place stinks, too — there’s a gasoline smell all the way along the shoreline. Sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker, but more less always present. It’s the curse of Kerala, apparently: The beaches are enthralling to behold, but you’d best not breathe through your nose…

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May 6:

Found in one of the storage spaces in my room. Beats the ever-lovin’ crap out of the Gideon’s Bible, I daresay!

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May 7:

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Are you freakin’ hallucinating my dimpled ass, or WHAT? Another mind-wrecking day down by the seashore — this time courtesy the unsanely dramatic wave-action and inestimably beautiful sceneries here at Azhimhala Beach, a few miles south of Kovalam. A sonofabitch could find hisself addicted to these Keralan beaches, ain’t it?

You wouldn’t think it from the pix and viddies, surely, but this experience was the closest I’ve come to openly weeping at the natural beauty of a place since…well, probably since the first time I laid eyes on the Ganges from the ghats at Varanasi, doggone three-and-a-half years flown by now.

India, man. It makes you scratch and claw + beg, borrow, and plead for each/every tiniest morsel. But when the payoff hits your soul like a ton of, you know, there’s just no other place like it.

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May 7:

’tis indeed a pity I’m such a fuckwit as a camermang, ’cause this place…visiting this place is about the closest I’ve come to having an out-of-body experience. Objectively, I wouldn’t even say that it’s as eye-popping as e.g. the Tip Of Borneo area; but, there’s some kind of force here, just pulls your dimpled ass IN. You know what I’m saying?

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May 8:

Clickety-clacking my way back up north. Had intended to visit Kanyakumari — the southernmost point of India — just to say I’d done it; but all the accommodations were either expensive or suffered poor ratings. I note, however, that the longest train route on the subcontinent originates/terminates there — three-and-a-half days, and a passage in Sleeper class is like fifteen bucks! Question is, though, how to provision oneself with fruit, considering the longest halt is only twenty minutes’ time (in the north, there were always multiple fruit stands right near the railway stations, but I’ve not found that to be true down here)? Could I arrange an airdrop en route? Not this trip — but one of these days I’m going to do that shit…

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May 10:

Hey, party people (yes, that means you). I filmed my first “video vlog” — stop and have a look-see, won’t you? If it made your buttcheeks tremble, you can feel free to press the “Subscribe it!” button (or press “You fucker!” if it didn’t…)!


May 12:

Two tours through India, and I still have no idea how the fuck cricket works. (Although I did return a batted ball to some kids whom had been too lazy to climb the cyclone fence over which it’d flown, having instead waited for the first passerby to hook them up…)

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May 18:

Has Kathakalli become my new religion? Yes, yes it has.

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May 20:

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Have all but given up on the Mangos here. A guy told me there are good ones grown in Karnataka — which, actually, I can believe, recalling the VERY great quality of the Watermelons and Bananas I was getting up there three years ago. But I’m loathe to venture inland, where it’s even more hotter than here on the coast (and the cooling monsoon ain’t arrive there for at least a few more weeks yet). So, the great, big Indian Mango Adventure was a great, big fail. But with sunsets like these-all, it’d be criminal to complain, I think. You know, it’s funny: I basically hate everything about Kerala except the beaches, the sunsets, and the Kathakalli — but I love each of those so much that I kind of can’t wait to come back…

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Situations Critical — Bali Digest

A digest of my two-point-five weeks in Bali here follows. All my Bali pics can be learnt over at thee Flickr page.


February 13:

“Some say the end is near / Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon / Certainly hope we will”…


February 13:

Goddam Ubud is a motorcycle hellhole like almost none I’ve ever experienced. It’s made all the worse because so many tourists get in on the act, too, and they don’t know their dimpled ass from a hole in the ground. In addition to which, the Coconuts, while plentiful, are expensive and sub-par. So (you can imagine), I was all prepared to compose an outraged torrent of unvarnished vituperative hostility calling total bullshit on Ubud and all it stands for.

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But then all of the suddenly, I started meeting all sorts of very cool people (I wasn’t even trying to — I was trying to be fuckin’ righteously indignant). And then I noticed they’ve got bins all over town for compostable material (!). And then I saw these boys playing soccer right in the middle of yon mudpuddle. And I acknowledged that the city’s reputation as a centre of artistic achievement seems merited. And I note, studying the map, that there appear to be some nature trails to escape the bullcrap by.

And, anyhow, I’ve already scheduled an assignation here, so, no choice but to make the best of it. We’ll give it the old college try, I dare say…

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February 14:

“I think the birds can see everything a little sooner than me”…


February 15:

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Ubud second verse same as the first: There are many many supercool places to see around here, but walking through town to arrive at the locations is a most horrific experience. Tip: Bring musik with you when you go walking — loud musik at that!

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February 16:

Heron oblivion all up in here.


February 16:

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Me [Experiencing my first-ever Moment Of Clarity]: They should invent Durian cereal!!
Czech Hostel-Mate: Yeah…maybe they shouldn’t.
Me: [Laughing out loud.]

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February 18:

Argentinian hostel-mate tipped me off to this video, thee most sublimely beautiful seven minutes of footage since they integrated sound into thee moving image.


February 18:

Fuckin’ Bunuelesque goings-on here in Ubud to-day.

To set the stage a little bit, it’s kind of impossible to find sweet Coconuts here — except for one bro’, “Gusti” by name, whom has a little shack up in the rice fields, and climbs the trees himself to get the harvest. “Seattle Supersonics!” he cried when learning of my provenance, endearing me greatly to him. His are mighty great, but otherwise…it’s not a Coco Mecca, to say the least.

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Nevertheless, one has to keep trying, right? When I this very same morning asked a local shopkeep if hers were sweet, she pointed to the tree under which we were standing, and informed me that those ones were. She bade her husband harvest one for me, and they got out a ladder and (rather warily) up he went.

Thinking it a neat scene, I snapped the enclosed photo, but when I looked down to fiddle with the settings and get another shot, the husband lost control of the task at hand, one Coconut bouncing off the ground and smacking me in the balls. When I bent over to see what was going on, another smacked me in the back of the head. A third one rolled into the sewer. And then — I shit you not — a bunny rabbit hopped out from under some bushes. The first bunny rabbit I’ve even seen here, in point of fact.

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Though apologetic, the husband and wife couldn’t stop laughing. There was a customer sitting smoking a cigarette watching it all unfold as well, but he took it in stride. Lucky thing it was a dwarf tree and they were the half-pint Cocos you see, otherwise I’d be in a bad way right now!

In (hopefully) unrelated news, the owner of the hostel says that voodoo and black magick are practiced here on the island.


February 20:

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North Bali Durian Retreat day two. In the jungle, with the beatific shaman: We ain’t drink Ayahuasca, but we did get our dimpled asses baptised in the sacred spring. That’s gotta count for something, I dare say…

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February 21:

North Bali Durian Retreat day three. Epically gorgeous jungle hike toward yon epically bodacious waterfall. This weeklong retreat was rather outside my budget range…but it’s utterly impossible to put a pricetag on experiences like these. My advice to you: Sign up early and often for next year’s powwow.

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There’s this thing that I do when hiking in Nepal, where I find my dimpled ass in such complete disbelief that it’s seeing what it’s seeing, that I simply throw up my arms in bewildered wonderment. This-here hike is, I believe, the only place outside of Nepal that I have acted in a likewise manner (albeit here I done it once, while in Nepal I do it four or five times a day). In other words, please take into account that the real live experience was about…I dunno, 5,037% more eye-popping that the photos would suggest.

A remarkable day in Bali.

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February 22:

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North Bali Durian Retreat day four. Market-hopping followed by another venture into waterfallland. I have no words to describe — nor camera skillz to convey — what we have experienced on this day.

But if you want to know what it is to be truly alive on Planet Bali, cast your lot with Justyna and Simon. They said they would make our dimpled asses work for it, and this they have done. But the rewards have been beyond the threshold.

Another powerfully emotional day in what is turning out to be one of the most satisfying weeks of my life.

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February 24:

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North Bali Durian Retreat, days five and six. We got in most of the important ings: Snorkeling, Haggling, Waterfalling, Cliff Jumping, Purchasing 36kgs of Dragonfruits during a GARGANTUAN rainstorm, Jamuing (a traditional Balinese drink made from fresh Turmeric, Ginger, and Coconut water — tastes like Tang, but with a bitter kick), Devouring twenty-five freshly foraged Durians in about fifteen minutes flat. The usual crazy North Bali mayhem, in other words. (Note that my dimpled ass did not participate in any of the cliff jumping “activities”, nor will it ever. And note too that my camera did not participate in any of the underwater scenarios, unfortunately.)

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After the week’s nonstop adventures, we’re completely zapped — and completely transformed. It’s a good place to be, in both senses. Plugging back in to city life is not going to be easy, to say the least; but I wouldn’t trade this week for love nor money.

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February 25:

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“If you win the rat race / If you come in first place / Then a rat is all you’ll be”

North Bali Durian Retreat, day seven. They weaned us from the teat to-day; kicked our dimpled asses out of thee nest, and vanished without a trace — gone to work their magic in a nebulous place called Fakfak, Papua, Indonesia. And what shall become of us, six wayward ducklings we, left to fend for ourselves on the mean streets of Ubud — the beautiful Eden dream shattered and become horrific waking nightmare? Only time will tell, of course. But, god damn it all, we seen The Light, if only for a week’s time. We really, really did.

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