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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