Friday, 28 November 2008

How does it feel to be a millionaire?

I'm officially a (dong) millionaire today. Went down to the money changers to get dong today - 2 years later, same ol' place. Wow. Havent been down to United Square in a while, but it really hasn't changed much - they prettified the fountain though, the lights and all. Starbucks is still there, but too bad i didn't have enough time to drop by for a drink. Rushed down to town after to get timbers boot sauce, but apparently the one at Taka closed down. Thanks in part to me waking up at 6 today, just knocked out after the whole month of exams. Its a great feeling, just crashing out after a good hot shower, locking + chaining the door and, thinking, ok, im gonna wake up when im gonna wake up.

These few days of R and R have been really great. Treating myself to a languid lunch/dinner and then going back to conquer Rome through the night with a nice drink by my side - ok i admit im a bit hooked on Rome: Total War. Currently on Carthage and rewriting history by booting the Italians out of Italy. And staging secret amphibious landings on the Aegean sea (complete with war elephants, sacred band phalanxes and onagers - all ready to take a city=).

Oh, and i got my Theroux - the Great railway bazaar from Border's today. Heard this one was good, and it reminds me a lot of my train journeys as well - im actually growing to be a bit of a train freak myself, too. So, Vietnam in a week or so. Haha. That fast. Its almost as if i haven't even really prepared for it yet. Seriously, India is still very much on my mind - i've promised myself i'll go back soon, even if there really were some parts that drove me crazy =) It really depends on your mood, really - like you could wake up feeling on top of the world and greet every scammer with joy and fight the crowds and side step cows, but when you're down, India has a way of getting to you. I remember those days where i was the only foreigner in town, it gets to you sometimes, slugging back 4 flights of stairs to the mouldy room with flaky paint in the evening. You just suddenly feel so alone, and bored that you just want out at times.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Memories of Vientiane

The Joe Guesthouse. 5 USD, right by the Mekong. Rooms were a bit dark and depressing though. But still, met some great people there.

Pha That Luang.

Laos parliament house.

Talat Sao Mall - a bit of an incongrui-ty in Vientiane.

Walking down Thanon Lane Xang, the main avenue that leads to the Patuxai (victory gate).

A beerlao by the Mekong under the moonlight.

Leaving Vientiane - waiting for the bus at the Joe to Vang Vieng.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

If i had to make lists,

Almost over... Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday 1900. whew. 2 papers to go, Media effects which is alot, but certainly more humane than cultural studies, and then forensics. Im almost smiling now. Well, actually i am. After the 3 killer papers and then chilling out over the weekend, finally getting some decent sleep (at night too...).

Looking at those Varanasi pics it's really one of my favourites ever. If i had to make lists it would read:
  1. Pokhara, Nepal
  2. Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal
  3. Varanasi, India
  4. Ban Nam Goy - a population 80 village, Laos
  5. Chennai, India - i am a Chennaiker at heart =)
  6. Rangoon, Burma - driving to Kyaiktiyo in the pre-dawn light, stopping by endless fields of paddy to watch the most amazing sunrise, ever. Ok, this brings me. I will go back to Burma, soon.
  7. Amritsar, India - and the India-Pakistan border Attari-Wagah.
  8. Taipei, Taiwan ROC
  9. Siem Reap (for the Angkor temples), Cambodia
  10. Udon Thani, Thailand - Thaksin rally and everyday Isan life, very friendly people

Actually all the places i've been to just took my breath away, but these are the few that really made me go, "wow, so im here". And then pause to catch breath and smile to myself. It must be a dream.

And the just forgettable:

  1. Sauraha/Royal Chitwan, Nepal
  2. New Delhi, India - even walking down the legendary Chandni Chowk failed. Fled after 3 or 4 days, purpose of stay was just to catch the train. The one exception, though, was Humayun's tomb - amazing, this architectural predecessor to the Taj.
  3. Agra, India - the town, that is. Taj Ganj specifically. Bleuch. And it poured like mad and did i mention i fell into an Indian gutter.

Oh yea, and just for fun and out of boredom (10 principles for communication campaigns... ho hum), i calculated the distance my trusty 3 year old pair of leather Timberlands have carried me, taking the brunt of injuries such as rusty nails and spilled hot chai. 29,659 km. woo hoo. and walking on...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Finally made it to Varanasi! after all i've read and heard about it - it was one of the places that made me think, ok, i have to go to India. It felt amazing that afternoon arriving in Varanasi after the very long train ride - looking out at the mother Ganga in the afternoon sun and going, well, im here, at last =)

Stepping outside the Shanti Guesthouse. First day, walking down the snaking alleys and maze of side streets and side streets of side streets in Varanasi, down to the ghats. We switched guesthouses like 3 times, but finally still, irony irony, wound up at the Shanti - some of the other options were just too sterile/characterless/soulless compared to the Shanti's flaky, moldy walls and shoddy rooms (plus the four floor climb to my room) - the rooftop restaurant, of course, the place to be in Varanasi where we hung out and talked languidly over late breakfasts of toast with beans and eggs, muesli, cold coffee, hot chocolate (first time in India... bit of a sense of home to us all, i guess. And yes, after all the curry (North) and thaali in South India) following an early morning stroll down to the ghats, and just relaxed and shared stories before going for an afternoon siesta, waking up when the day cools at around 4, popping out again to the ghats, catching the Ganga puja ceremony at 7 when the great mother Ganga is put to rest for the night, which involves priests of Shiva chanting, blowing on the conch shell as a symbol of the deity, tolling of bells, chandeliers of fire and throngs of pilgrims. And being sandwiched in it all in the sweltering heat listening as the chants intensify and the bells toll, looking out into the darkness that is the river Ganga.

Ahh... i realise how much i miss India... Varanasi, Amritsar, Chennai, and around Tamil Nadu especially, where i spent long periods of time walking the streets amongst the crowds without seeing a foreign face for days, and stopping by the makeshift stalls to buy chai, stand around and just people watch with other people.

I can remember my last proper cup of chai in India - the breakfast brew at 7 in the morning before catching a cyclerickshaw to "Paul Travels" headquarters (a small provisions shop with the owner frying wafer thin ommelettes as free brekkie (promised on the ticket) and watery chai with travellers milling around) for the bus to Sunauli-Belahiya. Then the long ride into Nepal.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

I wish all this could be over soon

Sigh. Its been a long time. At least it feels like a long time, drowning under piles of work and the exams as usual, with tonnes of readings to clear. And i absolutely love the readings on postmodernists constructions of identity. And feminism, of course. Oh, and communication history too, an absolutely unnecessarily verbose volume by Ev Rogers.

I wish all these could be over soon. In 14 days. Not too long but i'm already dying on another of my long nights up here in my loft. Miss those days on the road already, the freedom of it all, waking up and smelling the diesel fumes from the belching buses at the sandy bus depot, headed for another city, another small town, another place. Grabbing breakfast on the go. Spilling freshly brewed, potent coffee down the front of my jacket and checking out the food stalls around the bus station for the usual staple of bananas, 3-minute-noodles, bread etc amongst the more unusual preserved birds, unidentifiable sauces, weird meat cooking on the grill... Life on the road.

Sometimes you just feel that you got to be on the road again. This is one of those times, with Seger in the headphones screaming "to the mountain's where im going to..." And mellowing to the bossa nova tunes Lisa Ono, which so brings back memories of those nights i've spent alone in my room, mulling over what to pack for tomorrow's departure, all the stuff laid out on the bed, with my maps, guidebooks, air tickets, passport and all strewn around, the Bossa Americana CD playing on repeat in the background (i'm such an organised person, i know - i used to plan everything but in the end follow nothing. Now i don't plan). That was before Burma. Its like all the emotions before leaving on my first, ever, trip come rushing back now, listening to the same songs - the mixture of excitement, anticipation, happiness, freedom, and that bit of fear, laced with nostalgia. Now i suddenly feel the urge to go out after the exams to go sit at the cafe i used to camp in 2 years ago, planning my trips over a tall coffee which i can make last for 6 hours. Perhaps i'll do that, in 14 days, after the exams are over. And probably grab a new Lisa Ono CD too.