October 09, 2005
Every time I come to Shenzhen days turn into weeks, and I dont really know if what I have accomplished here I could have done better on the internet relaxing in some distant place. China is stressing and I get mired in the details where its better left to others to do. I sent a package, waited in line at the post office for half an hour,forgot the invoice and had to come back later. I realize now the handwritten invoice is probably too dogdy to pass the customs of any country, and I just caused a bigger problem. I go shopping: I have more stuff than I can shove in my bag--even throwing away all my old clothes. And what clothes? Ive been watching too much "gay eye for the straight guy", pink polos, bright lime green stripes. Its winter, not even summer. I go to Hong Kong on the subway and train, it takes all day for the return trip, more customs, and I just go to hong kong to send a package and save 10 bucks that it would cost to send by cargo company. I eat noodles at the same shop, have a coffee at Pacific Coffee on Nathan Rd. and check my email. What a routine? I must be going mad! This is worse than a real job!
The worst is that I miss my old girlfriend who always came with me on these trips, and now Ive broken up with here and I feel like shit, and see her everywhere (well, she's Chinese) Now, I look at myself and think "what have I done?" I just have to plod on, keep thinking about the future goals, I guess. I have a tendancy to hold onto regrets though.
Indispensable is my Ipod, I've got music going through all of this. Its a dream, a movie, its my life for as long as I can remember Ive coming and shlepping around Hong Kong (like since 1995)
October 02, 2005
Heres what I did today: spent most of the day in my aircon hotel room with broadband access. (200yuan) Thats not making the most of my time in China, I admit, but its so hot here, so humid, the sun just burns down and all the airconditioning increases the temperature a million degrees. Plus the holiday weekend crowds. Went out to "mans world" and got some fake Tommy shirt, Lee jeans, it was fun. Mans world is just behind Womans world in Huachang rd. area. I dont know if I overpaid, but I got some nice stuff.
The best vegetarian restaurant in this whole world, I swear, is located here. Its run by some evangelizing Buddhist Taiwanese people. But what food! So many vegetables, so much care taken in preparation. In France I would have an orgasm seeing just one of the items on the menu, but here there are so many incredible dishes. And Cheap!!! I paid 1 euro for a plate of mixed things and a drink, with a soup!?!?! The BEST IN THIS WHOLE world. Its a kind of Taiwanese/Cantonese veggie hybrid that should be all over the world but I know its impossible.
September 12, 2005
After a hiatus of about 5 months, I'm back in the travel blog. I've been living in Nice all this time and plenty of cool things happened. The weather is now changing from blue sky all the time to cloudy and rainy, so Im going back to Bangkok, Khao San rd. and starting a new Asian adventure.
April 05, 2005
Here is some inside info about Lowu border that may be useful to other "foreigners":
1. The little shops selling cigarettes and drinks just after you cross into China are actually money changes, and give you the best rates. They change the money for the real commerce, and Hong Kongers buying houses in China, dont let their lack of signs fool you, these are big operations. And dont lose your cool because they take your hundred bucks into the back to verify it. I saw a foreigner start yelling in Hong Kong because the lady didnt count back the money, just gave it to him in a clump. But Chinese dont always count back money, especially when its just a few dollars. Keep cool. Dont think you are getting scammed all the time.
2.The foreigners always get targeted by the pirate DVD and software touts. Dont buy from these guys, its much cheaper inside China (computer center or Sega electronics center) 4 RMB is the real price. Besides this, most of this software and movies dont work.
3.Just get out asap, because all the touts will give you a headache. The standard sales line is "Hello, you buy watch, Hello you buy gucci hand bag...etc. They will grab your arm, follow you all around. There are gangs of street urchins near the Shangri-La hotel. Pimps up and down the streets "You want Miss?" There is an old man with a sorry looking monkey with hair falling out that will jump on you and you have to pay to get it off. The pitiable lady with the baby who appears to be eating out of the garbage--she put her takeaway rice box inside. They stay there all day. Get out of Lowu, this is where all the hustlers and theives wait for you.
April 01, 2005
California Fitness in Taipei is one of those big commercial chains of big box fitness centers with all the Les Mills courses and too many treadmills. Here is how you join: approach an employee with cash,(NT1500 or US$50) They will "give" you a free 1 month VIP membership card (available to all employees friends and relatives). This is better than paying a real membership, and if you want, get another 1 month after. In Hong Kong I had to create a HK ID number since they dont let non-residents join, but instead of bribing, I used one of those rediculous "special" promotions, where a skinny high-school graduate salesguy spent hours trying to convince me to join for a year or take personal training.
The place is great for someone living in a cheap flop house hotel or hostel though: nice clean white towels, steam room and sauna, good showers with soap and shampoo, Q-tips, and hair dryers.
For a gym-junkie traveller like me this is the only way.
March 22, 2005
Getting sick in Taipei is easy: plenty of toxins in the food and air and lack of sanitation at restaurants. Everyone knows this. But besides the vomiting and diarrhea, the sweats and the headaches that are par for the course, I am always surprised at the mental shake-up that goes along with sickness. I was humming along nicely building up life, activities, relations. I suddenly now feel to drop it all. It seems the Ba Gua martial arts that I have been really trying hard at for a month and a half--well what have I learned? A few arm and leg movements? Might as well have been picking berries. The business idea I had for Taipei? No way. This pollution exposure probably takes years off of my life. I have almost gotten better: I did my basic yoga routine today, felt greasy gunky sweat come out, hopefull the last of it. Europe is looking more and more attractive.
March 18, 2005
I had planned to start this blog in Chiang Mai but it didnt get typed.
Stephen is the yoga teacher at Yogasala in Chiang Mai. The first time I met him I wasnt quite sure what to make of him: he has one of those eye problems where he often looks in a side direction instead of looking forward at you. Some large front teeth that protrude stlightly, a quite large chest in proportion to his body. He speaks with a posh English accent, slowly, choosing words, in a spacey way that many long-time yoga pratitioners speak. In fact he is very funny with a dead-pan delivery and many jokes, quite often when you are all twisted up and straining muscles. He has a kind of community of people organized around his yogasala. There is a social tea after the asana classes, and they also go out for evening. His classes are serious without being too serious. There are plenty of small tricks with blocks and straps to help you attempt difficult asanas or work the problems out of your own bending.
Because I tore an oblique muscle I didnt attend the Ashtanga class, just the Vinyasa. Then I managed to injure myself further so I had to stop yoga classes altogther. I had planned to stay in Chiang Mai 2 weeks doing 4 hours of asanas per day. It was a perfect plan, with a good teacher (and English speaking, a rarity for me) I had to leave. Not the first time I have been thwarted by my own body and overzealousness. I think this is where many people temporarily give up, then slowly lose their good habits. Then after one year these people muse about how they once were making good progress in their practice, and talk to their friends saying that they have been learning yoga (or whatever) for over a year.
I have torn 5 muscles this year. The strategy to beat this is to give up this excercise but devote the same amount of time to another exercise. If you cant jog, then cycle, if you cant cycle, do weights, if you injure your arms, do abs, and so on. It is now 2 weeks later, my obliques still hurt to do side bending or jolting excercises, but everything else I can do!
March 13, 2005
BKK. Khao San Rd area is my HOME only because I keep a bag in perpetual storage at a hotel. It's mostly clothes I bought at the clothing market ("if I buy 10, how much discount can I get?) that I don't like enough to carry around. Since October I have passed through BKK about 10 times, my yearly average is about 4. I noticed something new this time: how many rats come out at dusk. You dont see them at first because its rush hour and maybe your attention is focussed on all those sweet university students in black skirts and white form-fitting blouses. But look near the drains, under the feet of the commuters-the rats are out getting first pickings of the night.
I traded my books in to Shaman books, they rip people off now. That fat @#$% manager at the desk who can barely read English now offers 50 baht for a first rate book which they sell for about 300 baht. JM Coetzee: Nobel and Booker prize winning books, also some rare Zen Buddhism books, they offered me 250 baht for 5 books which was not enough to buy one book in their shop. I was so angry. I went to every other book store and table, but they either sold junk or not interested in buying that day.So I traded for Gogol and Isaac Bashevis Singer, classics in poor condition, but at least I felt I gained a small victory since these books were undervalued by that hippo.
Fitness: Khao San fitness center, a tiny gym on the 3rd floor across
from the police station. There is enough room to do yoga if there is fewer than 3 customers. The pulley machines and weights are cheap with hand-grips that will tear your skin off. There is some grungy looking lifting gloves in a basket. There are a few serious yoga studios in Bangkok, but too far from Khao San, at least I havent found any yet.
At MBK shopping center I hopped into a taxicab with a rigged meter. The cab
putted like it had a tractor engine, the ID photo of driver was not on the dash.The ID # was handwritten on a piece of duct tape, not even cut evenly. At 60 baht I tossed the money into the hand of the driver when he was stopped at a light and jumped out. The driver of the next cab I found told me I should call the cops, but I feel that he had some guts chugging around in his jerry-rigged deathtrap, and 60 Baht is not serious amount. About 55% of the taxis I took lately in Bangkok try to overcharge, especially to and from the airport. I'm going to take the bus from now on.
March 12, 2005
My trip never ends, and I can't really specify when it started. I have been footlose since 1993. I became a heath nut about one year ago as I finally got over a devastating and crippling bout of lower back pain. Imagine malicious electricity shooting up and down your body,someone hammering forks into your tailbone. Increasing pranic energy (or chi), re-programming my body, losing weight, health, fitness: these are primary to me. As I travel, I find teachers, practice, and secondarily, discover new places.