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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?”
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Isn’t there a pasar somewhere around here?”
“Pasar! Tamu! Market!”
“Oh — the market is over there.”
“Is there a lot of fruit?”
“No fruit; only…”
“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.
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.
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…
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 (!!).
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).
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.
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…
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.
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?
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.
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?
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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”?
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…)
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…
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.
’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?
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…
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…)!
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…)
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…
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
“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.
Two-and-a-half months in the Malay world — Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak, and Sabah. Had intended to stop off in Brunei for a few days as well, but, ultimately, couldn’t justify the exorbitant prices for accomodation.
All my photos from Singapore can be learnt here, whilst all my ones from Borneo can be learnt here. Heartily do I recommend these places. Heartily, I say!
Well, now that it’s possible to use one card for all the different transit options; and now that I’ve found (after much searching) a hostel to replace my beloved/departed Cosmopolitan (it’s not in the same ZIP code in terms of meeting interesting people, and it’s more expensive, but in some ways it’s better — best of all, it’s about forty paces from a Coconut man who’s always got good quality stuff); and now that I’ve found a place within walking distance to get a bus to/from Penang (the city very stupidly built a miles-from-anywhere replacement for the old, conveniently located main terminal, and the new train service is $20 for the four-hour passage); and now that I keep finding new places to get reasonably priced good-quality Watermelons…I guess I can say that I don’t totally despise KL anymore. It used to be that every time I visited, it had gotten more infuriating; but now is the first time it’s actually gotten less infuriating. Cool enough.
First time visitng Singapore, and I didn’t even make it through Passport Control before having my dimpled ass hauled in. After thee scanning machine got jiggy with my backpack, I was carted off to the Customs interrogation office, and, eventually, defrocked of my status as a switchblade (AKA “folding knife” AKA “flip knife”) owner.
After about twenty minutes’ waiting, I was informed by one of the three clerks handling the case that this type of knife is not allowed in Singapore. “Will you hold it for me, so I can retrieve it when I leave the country?” I wondered. He took my question to mean that would it be okay for me to leave the office now and be on my way?, and laughingly estimated that “the process” — which consisted, on their part, of filling in and stapling together form after form after form of paperwork (sheesh, couldn’t they just have saved us all a bunch of pain in the arse, done a goddam retina scan, and known my whole entire history tout de suite?) — would take about an hour. I didn’t know whether that meant an hour from then, or an hour from when I’d been apprehended, but figured that either way it would be a tricky situation getting back onto my bus — if it weren’t there waiting…well, that’s self-explanatory; but even if it were still waiting, that would mean all the other riders of that bus would be royally pissed off at me, and pelting me with broken bottles and used barfbags and some stuff.
“In case the bus has already left, come back here, and I will find you another one,” he reassured me. But when I offered what I thought was a helpful suggestion, viz., to contact the bus bay and let them know of my whereabouts and whyfors, he brushed off said suggestion like as it was the tiniest fleck of dust in all the known Universe. When I asked what would become of the knife, I was told that it would eventually be “destroyed”. Noting the look of surprise on my face, the clerk shrugged his shoulders and lamented, “What else could we do with it?” My helpful suggestion that at least they could sell it in Malaysia and make a little bit of money was met with the same disregard as had been my first helpful suggestion.
But despite they didn’t care, none of them, for my helpful suggestions; and despite I had to show two different people how to open the knife (and one of them had to show a third); and despite I was asked the same three questions — Where did you purchase the knife? (KL); How much did it cost? (30RM); What did you use it for? (Opening fruit) — by five different individuals; and despite the whole “process” actually took about two hours; and despite my knife (which, by dint of having survived intact a change-of-management housecleaning bid at the KL hostel in which I had left it for safe-keeping whilst I was in Nepal, had gained some amount of sentimental value to me) is now slated for destruction…it really wasn’t so bad a time, mostly on account of the staff were all very friendly and easygoing (even downright affable, some of them).
Friendliest of all was the Malayan (as opposed to Malaysian, note) chauffer appointed to ferry me to-and-fro’ the Customs office and the Police Force office — about a five-minute walk — several times as it turned out on account of the former had failed to fill in some of the forms to the latter’s satisfaction. “They’re very particular,” the chaperone duly informed me as we departed the office.
She had married a cracker from the United States and subsequently lived in Houston for twelve years; but once their marriage busted up, she high-tailed it back here to SG. So, anyhow, she was rather keen to hold forth in re livin’ in the USA. She also, once I’d broached the subject, let on that Durian is her favourite, too; and sat and kept me company at the two offices’ waiting areas — which was welcome and all, although she did ask a couple of pretty odd questions. Firstly, she wanted to know when I would be coming back to Singapore; and I was like, let’s see if I’m even allowed in the first time before I begin making plans for the second. Next, she wanted to know whether I liked Singapore; my answer, as honest as I could make it, amounted to, “So far, it’s nothing too special…”
Before being permitted to ever see my goddam passport again, I was required to sign my name, in six or seven different places down the page, to a form setting down the aforementioned whereabouts and whyfors of the aforementioned SNAFU and authorising the aforementioned Police Force to undertake the aforementioned destruction of the aforementioned contraband item of aforementioned sentimental value. True to his aforementioned word, the affable Customs clerk seconded me, free-of-charge, to a Golden-Mile-bound coach about ready for takeoff, and my eleven-hour passage (as per the schedule) soon concluded some seventeen hours after it had begun (thanks also to the ineluctable Malaysian bus operator delays along with an amount of ungodly traffic on the Causeway)…but not before the clerk took it upon himself to make me good and aware that, “It is very, very rare for a white man to enjoy eating Durian.” I tried explaining him that it’s not so uncommon as local peninsular mythology would have one believe, but he wouldn’t hear of it; instead repeating at least three or four times, “It is very, very rare for a white man to enjoy eating Durian.”
Singapore itself is a kind of nirvana for barefooters, I am able to report: The sidewalks being as they are broad, tree-lined, numerous as, and wholly free from obstructions. Moreover, there appear to be more parks and beaches here than can shake a stick at. Also, the totally awesome vices — gambling, prostitution, et al. — are legal, while the totally idiotic and nuisance-causing vices — motorcycling on the sidewalk, smoking at the bus stop, et al. — are all illegal.
What’s not to love?? Well, after my little dust-up back at the frontier, and considering the country’s authoritarian reputation, I’m now afeared to jaywalk here (gotta admit, it’s kind of a small price to pay for the thrill of doing jalan jalan in what’s got to be the most pedestrian-friendly city in all of Asia). Worse, it’s about twice as expensive as any place I’ve been in Asia; while the two Coconuts I tried to drink were the furthest thing from the sweet/fizzy melange of awesome that slakes those hot/humid blues like nothing else possibly can be able to do. And though there’s a Durian stall about every block or two, I’ve yet to spy even one single biji approaching what I’d call “decent quality”.
Oh, spitting. I don’t know about spitting here. Spitting is, of course, the most awesomest vice in the known Universe, but I don’t think I’ve seen anybody doing it here; making me think it might be illegal. So, we’ll see. We shall in all likelihood certainly see…
Do you like leaves and/or trees? Then, what are ye waiting for? Bring your dimpled ass to Singapore already!
In re the pictured gazebo and its accompanying description, it took me a good three or four minutes’ time after having snapped the photo — puzzled and amused, and wondering, “But where’s the Gardens’ least conic architectural and ornamental feature?” — before realising that the sign is supposed to read iconic. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes…
Plus ça change — even in nineteen and eight (as seen here in rule #6), the sharing with neighbours of cultural ephemera procured with one’s own funds was considered, by the money-men, to be offensive behaviour — plus c’ est la même chose, ain’t it?
Well it seemed pretty incongruous for the city planners to have invited an Ecuadorian ensemble to Singapore to perform the big Christmas night concert, but, anyway, it was certainly a rousing set. And, after all, they did mix in rather spectacular, salsafied renditions of both “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and “Feliz Navidad”…
Jaywalking: Early and often. Oh, I did wait a day or two before my initial foray; but after that, it was all systems go. Zero police whistles heard.
Spitting: Early and often. Not on the sidewalks, to be sure — but then, I never spit on sidewalks anyhow. Zero police whistles heard.
Pissing in the bushes: I only did it once, as public restrooms abound. Nevertheless, zero police whistles heard.
In all, I think Singapore’s reputation as the nanny-state non plus ultra is rather undeserved. Is it clean? Yes, very — but that’s because it’s very wealthy (is my guess), and can afford to spend lots of energy relocating all the discarded plastic out of sight. But it’s not like the fuzz are standing on every corner with truncheons drawn, or nothin’.
Fuckin’ KL Durian pigout got thee year started right. All-you-can-eat Durian is never as good as you think it’s going to be; but this one was pretty decent, and the staff were very friendly. Can’t complain.
Checked in to my guest house here, met up with my bro’ Lauri Ilves, began digging in to the mountain Durians he’d procured from a local stall, thought of my bro’ Mads Tobias Gisle Johnsen’s mad feat of consuming only Durian flesh and Coco water for six weeks straight (which he pulled off in ought-fourteen), and made a note to myself that perhaps this could be the place to try to duplicate said feat. I mean, that’s some fucking good Durian right now! Somebody remind me again why it took me so long to finally touch down here?
First time eating Dabai, one of the famous Borneo jungle fruits. It’s about 80% seed, tastes like Cheez Whiz, and doesn’t digest so well. In other words, totally addictive! You soak them in warm water to soften them up enough for mastication.
But Durian is the star of the show here — they’re selling them just about everywhere you look, and while there are plenty of shit ones for sale, we’re able easily to find some extremely great ones at very reasonable prices.
People say Kuching is reminiscent of Penang, but to me it feels more like Chanthaburi — except that instead of rabbits, here they’re obsessed with cats.
Spoilt for choice at Kuching’s weekend market. You want it? It’s here…
The Durians are better in other parts of town, and the Watermelon I et was just decent. But…
Dragonfruit ~ best I’ve ever eaten.
Papaya ~ best I’ve ever eaten.
Soursop ~ FAR the best I’ve eaten since Hawaii (which is seven years ago now).
Rollinia ~ First I’ve even seen since Hawaii, and almost as good. The Rollinias win best in show for me: Pine Cone Pudding for the fucking WIN, ain’t it?
Didn’t even get around to trying the Sapodillas, Bananas, Citrus, Cempedaks, or Marangs yet. As far as jungle fruits go, along with the previously noted Dabai, there’s one that’s tangy/bitter with an aftertaste of Marinara sauce (pictured directly above), and one that looks kinda like a mushroom thing and tastes like Avocado (pictured directly below).
Also, the vendors and fellow-market-goers are incredibly friendly, warm, good-humoured, and welcoming; and there’s a big dining area with handwashing sinks aplenty — along with, for thee entertainments, easily the lousiest karaoke practitioners you will EVER hear. Plus, best of all: No motorcycles or cars in the aisles! Come on and check it out, why don’t you.
Very appreciative hat-tipping thanks, as always, for the intrepid legwork of Ms. Lindsay Gasik (the owner of my hostel said he’d never heard of a white person knowing of the existence of MJC Market before, and was flabbergasted when I reported to him that we’d met two other Americans there as well; causing him to surmise that, “Maybe there is something to this Durian blogger…”).
Oh, hai, I’ll have one of those, one of those, one of those…oh! and one of those.
A group of three very friendly retired Sarawakians (okay, true, Sarawakians are all very friendly) buying from the same vendor as me and with nothing better to do — their words — offered me a ride back into town. On the way, I asked them whether they recommended my visiting Brunei. They all immediately and vehemently reacted to the negative. After a pause, the lady explained their reasoning: “No beer!” (It’s illegal in the Sultanate.) Later, I walked past an Australian dribbling a basketball along the Esplanade, whose greeting took the form of the words, “Hey, buddy, how are you?” I’ve just never been sure how I feel about being called “buddy”.
Crazy days in Kuching. Every time we show up at MJC market, it starts raining cats and dogs. But the Durians here seem to be the best quality and cheapest prices of all the different markets around the city. Kuching Durians — okey, they aren’t in quite the same ballpark as Penang’s, but they’re fucking good, mang. Moreover, it’s just about impossible to overstate how friendly and engaging the people are here. In fact, the population appears to have been overtaken by a general giddiness at the sight of these two white idjits mowing through quantities of Durian all over town.
Besides, when our driver arrived to take us back to the riverfront (we wanted to see how easy it would be to hitch a ride, but it was already dark and still raining by the time we were ready to leave), he was jamming out the first Rage Against The Machine album from his car stereo’s speaker system. Yeah, we livin’ it large here on Sarawakian shores…
Fuckin’ GREAT entertainment at thee Food Court to-day. The guitarist impressed muchly with his Malaysian Surf stylings, while the five or six singers through whom the band cycled (including a coupla ladies with gorgeously soaring vocals) held their own as well. This-here gent near to stole the show, channeling Klaus Meine like nobody I’ve ever heard. I’m still royally bemused by Southeast Asians’ unquenchable Scorpions infatuation — but one’d certainly never hear yours truly complaining about it!
Like moths to thee flame arrived Kuchingers to the nightly feeding frenzy at eMart’s Matanga branch. Wasn’t too impressed with the quality, frankly — but lo and be-fucking-hold, just as we was fixing to beat feet back here to downtown, we finally done and got our grubby mitts on a reasonably priced cache of the ever-elusive Graveolens Durian. Cutest goddam sight you ever did see, but we couldn’t reach no goddarn consensus in re what they ever even tasted like: I said Jakfruit, Lauri thought cheese, and Chris was all about fricken Hazelnuts.
Ben LaSalle and Merry-Ellen flew back to fuckin’ Humboldt while Lauri Ilves and Chris Hind moved on to motherfuckin’ Sibu. Jordan’s still here, but he fuckin’ couldn’t care less about fruit. So that left me to eat up all the fuckin’ Durians in town (maybe leave a few for the motherfuckin’ locals).
I started by schlepping my dimpled ass up to fuckin’ Third Mile and there found a most pungent specimen being proffered by a fuckin’ Chinaman whom really could’ve passed for a goddam fuckin’ Japanesian. When I pointed out to him the two wormholes near the bottom of, he bade me select another fuckin’ fruit but I was pleasantly fuckin’ surprised to find him amenable to my counter-offer to purchase the very same motherfuckin’ fruit for fuckin’ ten Ringgits rather that the fifteen he’d fuckin’ quoted. A pretty fuckin’ good tradeoff for the both of us, I thunk: The parts that were good were really fuckin’ good, while the parts that the motherfuckin’ worms had got to were not so really fuckin’ good.
I went back to his motherfuckin’ stall to inquire about possibly purchasing another motherfuckin’ Durian, but that friendly motherfucker fuckin’ gave me one for free in-fucking-stead! God damn it, motherfuckin’ Sarawakians are thee best!!
Walking back into town, a old man stopped me and demanded to know my fuckin’ country of origin and, once divulged, my motherfuckin’ opinion about Donald fuckin’ Trump. He prognosticated that like Bush I, but unlike Bush Jr., Trump would fuckin’ be unseated on motherfuckin’ re-election day. He then asked whether I agreed with his motherfuckin’ prognostication, but didn’t wait for my goddam motherfucking reply; fuckin’ electing (har har) to steer the conversation in other fuckin’ directions instead. When it started to fuckin’ rain, he opened up his motherfuckin’ umbrella and indicated to me that I ought to do the same goddam fucking thing to my motherfuckin’ umbrella. As he was taking my leave, he shouted over his shoulder, “One-term President!” making me laugh out fucking loud, but then it turned out that Lauri hadn’t moved on to fuckin’ Sibu after all. Weird.
Ha ha ha ha — Lauri Ilves decepted this naughty motherfucker with a hollowed-out Papaya, giving him time to stash thee unused ones safely away inside his rucksack. Turns out, those thievin’ sons of bitches ain’t quite as wily as advertised!
Mother Nature will fuck…your dimpled ass…UP (in a good way), ain’t it? Funny thing is, though I received plenty of mosquito bites down at the (Bako National) park HQ area, I recorded nary a one out on the trails…
The tide went out earlier than expected this morning, so we were stranded at the park for several hours ’til it returned — enough time to hie our dimpled asses all up into a few more hikes. The last of which emerged, in point of fact, as my favourite of them all; so praise be to the Tide Gods, god dammit!
Last day in Kuching; I et/drunk: A great Coconut, a great Papaya, a great Rollinia, and…thee showstopping finale of my fortnight hereabouts — Durian In Black, fresh from the Borneo Highlands. O la la, that’s some quality degustation! While I can’t say that I grok Kuching quiiiite as readily as I do Penang, I am certainly reluctant to leave here.
Anecdote: The big-deal spanking-new tourist attraction in town is this pretty neat footbridge over the river; constructed in such a manner that it sways to and fro’ in the middle. At night, it lights up real purty and all. Anywho, after sunset I walked across there for old times’ sake, and just on the other side, sitting in the shadows on a concrete barrier thing, was a guy in a Batman suit and mask. Just sitting there doing nothing — no free hugs or anything. “Where are your shoes?” he asked me; and I’m thinking, “‘Where are my shoes?’ Why the fuck is your dimpled ass sitting here in a fully pleated Batman outfit, and you’re not even giving free hugs or anything? ‘Where are my fucking shoes?’??” Later, I passed by a bearded Britisher sitting on some steps polishing off a Durian and some Rambutans while some goofy meshugana Dutchman was busy lambasting him for not eating a steak.
Fuckin’ tantalising five-hour passage from Kuching this morning. You know what I’m saying? It’s like fuckin’…tantalising — clippering through the South China Sea and then upriver here to Sibu and so forth. (In point of actual fact, I haven’t the foggiest clue what a Clipper ship is, or what differentiates one from, say, a Schooner, or a Galleon, or a Man-O’-War, or what have you. And I’m far too fucked up on Durians right now to try thinking back to those oodles of misspent hours during my youth with my dimpled ass sitting parked in front of the teevee screen, endlessly watching My Three Sons reruns from dawn ’til dusk, to try to clue meself in. But, “Clippering through the South China Sea” just sounds like something one ought to be doing in these parts, ain’t it?) Shit-howdy, maritime travel is so much better than the stagecoach bullshit — almost even as good as riding the rails, if I may say so.
Tamboi — Borneo’s answer to the Mangosteen. Is tasty, but nowhere close to the transcendent experience that is Mangosteen feeding. Also, it’s even more expensive than Mangosteen. This Cempedak, on the other hand, represents pretty unbeatable value for money. At 15RM for the biji, it was almost too big for one hungry fruitlover — who’d just walked an hour in the sweltering heat to present at the market, no less — to eat in one go. Chocolatey, too! I’ve eaten lots of chocolatesque Durians, but can’t remember tasting it in Cempedak before now. I kind of turned away from Cempedak a few years ago, after having eaten one that didn’t sit so well. But after this one, and a very nice small one I chowed in Sibu the other day, I think I’m back in thee Cempedak fold.
Bintulu, like Sibu, is all right, if kind of boring. The people are friendly, and the fruit is great — as is the shoreline access. Actually wouldn’t mind staying another day or two, but, there aren’t any dormitory-style accommodations in town, making it impossible to stick to my daily budget. So, locomoting one’s dimpled ass onward to Miri shall it be…
OH MY GAWD DURIANS TRUCK MIRI!! They’re perhaps a teeny tiny bit on the pricey side; but thee product here is of very, very, very high quality. As is the Dabai — the best I’ve tasted, in fact (and I think I’ve eaten Dabai every single day since arriving in Sarawak).
Also, the owner of the hostel has a friend whom owns a Kedongdong tree, and she (the hostelier, not the friend) shared them around with us. Now, the Scandinavian girls from my dorm are making up songs about Kedongdong. Yea! heavy and a bottle o’ fuckin’ bread, we doing it up big style here on the world’s third-largest island…
p.s. “Banning Of Styrofoam For Food Packaging Use” is my new favourite sentence in all of the English language. I do of course acknowledge that my visceral hatred of plastic and Styrofoam packaging isn’t quite consistent, considering the frequency with which I partake of aeroplane travel anymore. Nevertheless, ban that shit forevermore, say I!
The Thorn Birds. World’s champion Durianist, Miss Lindsay Gasik, has joined our merry little ruffian band here in Miri — meaning, natch, that our dimpled asses are now officially en fuego. Hear now our frightful call: From here on in, no Durian is safe from our probing eyes and attuned noses. We WILL find you. We WILL painstakingly asses your merits. And, oh yes, should you prove worthy, we WILL devour you forever.
Fucking Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Canistel AKA Eggfruit AKA “Avocado Cheese”, where in thee name o’ Jehova have you been all of my freaking ragamuffinin’ life?? It smells exactly like Pumpkin. I want to say it tastes like fruitcake; but the texture is more like chalk (if chalk were much softer). Yes, I do believe I am totally in lust with you, my cher Avocado Cheezey Cheese.
Difficult to imagine a more appropriate juxtaposition than this: The habitat destruction enabled by all the oil in those tankers’ hulls in the background is the very reason we’re reduced to trying to appreciate, in the foreground, artificial representations of the wildlife which once populated the area in abundance. They oughta put up a statue of a camera-toting, kebab-eating, plastic-disposing, shopping-mall-patronising, baby-having human person — our type is much more endangered than we know.
Ah, well, there are some nice views here, ain’t it?
Just so you know, should they ever decide to replace this with a Tugu Peringatan Triple Six, I’ma set up a permanent encampment here, and you won’t ever see me again (unless you were to come and visit, of course).
Every once a while, one finds oneself in a location of such pleasing mien that the humble passer-through would just as soon sit his/her dimpled ass down on thee floor, and remain there seated ’til the goddam cows come home — if not later. Kampung Tanjung Aru, here in KK, is one such a place.
What did it? ’twas the beautiful blue-green, whitecapped sea, unmarred by those ugly tanker ships visible further upcoast; ’twas the eerie, wind-whipped whistling sound permeating the area, ’twas the days-gone-by nostalgia evoked by the sight of the waves crashing through the houses’ stilts; ’twas the kids gaily splashing around in the roiling water; ’twas the exceptionally friendly locals, not the least bit uptight over seeing a shirtless/barefoot cracker wandering around their neighbourhood — just a few hundred metres from the mosque, no less; ’twas the freshness of the wind-blown air; ’twas the glory of the egret; ’twas the gathering clouds, readying themselves for their daily afternoon raindump; and like that. Natch, it was also thee complete and total absence of those nasty mean Malaysian annoyances, whose unrelenting presence daily causes homeboy to want to out with temper-tantrums untold. You heard right: Here be no motorcycles, no cigarette smoke, no mosquitos, no exhaust fumes, no sidewalkless roads or pedestrian detours to navigate through, and no construction noise. Fucking excellent days indeed!
“And it’s a quarter to four on the other side of the world…”
The northernmost point of Borneo Island. Probably, it wouldn’t be terrifically prudent to up and opine that it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever instructed my dimpled ass to visit. But I’m pretty sure I’ve never been as gobsmacked upon arriving in a given location. I mean, of course I expected it to be cool — but I wasn’t at all expecting…this. Shit-howdy!
Uh, and you also get miles-long stretches of nice, sandy, rubbish-free beaches from which to witness the gorgeous green bigwave ocean rolling by. AND it’s low season, so the place is almost totally deserted. AND there’s no loud, bumping music or loud, roaring longtail boats to harsh your naturevibe down. AND you can boop across the traffic-less street whenever you want and go tromping through the jungle (just be careful you don’t get your dimpled ass fricasseed by the local mosquito population).
The only problem is there’s no fruit around here, so I’ve gotta eat cooked food for a few days. There are plenty o’ Cocos to ease that particular pain with, at least. (N.B., the ol’ pictures-don’t-do-it-justice-alert is in FULL effect here.)
And just a FYI: There’s a Uruguayan girl staying at my same guest house who’s done Ayahuasca give-or-take one hundred times over the last six years. Oy, backpackers are the best!
A very, very, very, VERY thankful tip of thee hat to Michaela Krejcí for piquing my interest in this place. I’m already dreaming of someday returning for a longer stay — just gotta get hold of a bicycle to go finding some fruit stands with…
Locomoted my dimpled ass out to the Tip Of Borneo for already about the twenty dozenth time, found a rocky seat on the promontory, and rolled a Coconut into the sea. Having completed that particular labour, only one as-yet-unaccomplished goal now remains to be checked off of my life’s list — to wit, being selected to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” at thee Grand Vizier’s Garden Party and busting out with “Hair O’ The Dog” instead. (A bit cliche, to be sure. But what can one do — our dreams choose us, and not the other way around, ain’t it?)
Yo, this spot, this Borneo tip, this very topmost jut of this very large island? It’s so compelling, so unknowable, so shot through with allure that I find myself desiring to while out the last and final tranche of my allotted born days right here in this very same place; just rolling Coconuts into the sea one after another after another until the man arrives to inform me that my terrestrial parking meter done got expired and it’s now time for me to skedaddle my dimpled ass from off of this most mortalest of coils. Got a few errands to run first, but then I’ll be back.
Last few snaps from thee Tip Of Borneo. Supersad to leave there, but, flight had already been booked, consarn it.
Here’s one for your I-knew-I-was-old-but-I-didn’t-know-I-was-THAT-old file:
Three of my guest house colleagues I had previously acquaintanced at the hostel here in KK — a German gent, a British gent, and a Uruguayan lady (she of the hundred hits of Ayahuasca). Had a lot of fun hanging out with them and all, and happened to mention that the British gent’s fl0wing, curly locks reminded me of Chris Cornell’s. Not only was the remark met with three pained stares of absolute blankness, but it took them a good three or four minutes’ coaching before they were able to correctly pronounce the word “Soundgarden”. Fuck, I’m old.
Since I know your dimpled asses will never be able to get to sleep until I give my KK fruit testimony, well, here it is…
This place is thee Papaya paradise of all time (at least that I’ve ever seen)! There are tonnes of ripe, quality, non-GMO fruits, from many different vendors, at very good prices, every single day from morning ’til late afternoon.
It’s right in the top tier for Coconuts — along with Makassar, Indonesia and Kampot, Cambodia. Great quality, quite good prices, conveniently located, vendors keep reliable hours. Nothing could be finer.
Watermelons — both red-fleshed and yellow- — are a bit on the pricey side, but are quite good and very consistent.
Cucumbers very sweet and very cheap.
Mangosteens are about four times what one would pay in Thailand, and the quality’s not as good; but the strike ratio is much better. And, god dammit all, it’s Mangosteen.
The only place I’ve ever seen Canistel, which is delicious and inexpensive. I’ve finally figured out what it tastes like, too — frickin’ very sweet Graham crackers (and the texture may best be compared to rather soft Graham crackers).
Mangos I never tried, ’cause they’re ten times the price as in Thailand. My first day in town, I (probably a bit haughtily, ’tis true) mentioned the fact to one of the vendors, and they all started making fun of me after that, calling me “Thailand Boy” and whatnot.
Bananas I never tried during my entire stay in Borneo! I always intended to, but there was so much other good shit on offer, I just…didn’t ever get around to it.
Best of all, the markets are close to the waterfront, so not only do you get to take your meals whilst basking in the marvelous view, but also can toss your leavings into the ocean without feeling guilty about fucking over their compostability when putting them into the goddam bin.
Great fruit, supercool hostel, fresh air, almost no motorcycles, pedestrian corridors…KK gets a pretty god damned big thumbup from yours truly.