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Misadventures in Far Away Places – book

In 2003 I wrote “Misadventures in Far Away Places”, a Bill Bryson-ish type travelogue detailing my travels through South-East Asia and the Dominican Republic. It was my first attempt at writing and I really enjoyed spending time on it. I originally wanted to get it published in the traditional way (ie. getting it on store shelves) and even had an agent in New York look at it in it’s rough beginnings – he liked the stories but thought they would have to be worked around a ‘guidebook’ format. This didn’t interest me much.

I printed my book, had people I know read it (I blush now thinking of my first drafts), put it away for a while, then finally finished it in 2005.

Below you’ll see excerpts. This book is supposed to be read an open mind and a sense of humour – it was written during the single days of my mid-30’s and there are some R-rated stories in there.

If you enjoy the excerpts, click on the link below to got to my new website where you can purchase the full book for $15. The contribution is much appreciated, as is feedback!!


A small sampling of the 139 pages of my book.

On Americans Vs Europeans (Cabarete, Dominican Republic)

I ended up having a couple of beers at an American-owned place with large screen TVs. God bless Americans, you always know you are in an American establishment because the owner comes right up to you, introduces himself, shakes your hand, asks you where you are from and welcomes you to his bar. Americans know how to greet a customer. It’s always a bit of a shock when it happens and I have to admit that I got thrown off – I started talking to him, telling him my life story when I suddenly realized he really didn’t give a shit about anything that I was saying. He just wanted to greet the next customer. I sat down in my seat and shut myself back up, a bit embarrassed. I don’t know what’s better, the fake cheer and friendliness of an American, or the relatively unfriendly European. At least you know what you get with the latter (at most a smile, at worst to be treated like a guest, an unwanted and unappreciated guest at that).

On travelling with a moody girlfriend (Chiang Mai)

Sylvie took a piece of paper, wrote something and gave it to me. It was a nice little love note, apologizing for her ‘moods’ and promising she would be more careful. I gave her a kiss and Sylvie’s radiant smile came back. I told myself I would do whatever she wanted the rest of the day, whatever made her happy. I wanted her in a good mood. That’s how we ended up going shopping. Shopping is what everyone does in Chiang Mai and we spent the next few hours visiting factories: an umbrella factory, a silk factory, a silver factory. We learned how paper umbrellas were made, how silk was grown and harvested, how silver was moulded into jewellery. It was pretty goddamn boring and I suddenly felt myself feeling sorry for those married men that I sometimes see getting bossed around by their women, the ones following their fat wives around shopping centers saying stuff like “you look beautiful my dear ” in that defeated, dejected voice. I could suddenly empathize with them.

Food on China Airlines

I usually love plane food. But China Airlines (which is from Taiwan, not China) had really bad food, starting with a weird cold soup which was either rice soup, tapioca soup, or the maggot leftovers from a recent Fear Factor episode. Thinking of it reminds me of every time I’ve ever puked in my life.

Cultural sensitivies (Phuket)

I spent the afternoon on one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen in my life. Patong beach has white sand, fine white sand against a backdrop of emerald water and palm trees. It was crowded with mostly white tourists; under parasols they lay, happy and overweight, reading magazines and drinking beer. Others walked the beach, their bodies young and fit. The women were gorgeous, many were topless – the whole scene made me wonder if I had just stepped onto the beaches of France or Spain. Only the vendors – vendors selling fruits, t-shirts, beer, ice cream, watches, and paintings (among other things) – gave away that I was in Thailand. They wore shirts with large numbers on the back to identify themselves as vendors, the women wearing scarves on their heads, the men with hats as protection against the broiling sun. Actually seeing the fat, white tourists being served by the sweltering brown natives bothered me. It also really pissed me off the way some of the tourists would wave them away or ignore them when solicited – we Westerners can really be condescending fucks with our high and mighty attitudes. And the way we disrespect other cultures, taking no consideration as to their sensitivities…my eyes settled on a pretty and topless blonde playing some kind of racquet game on the beach, her boobs bouncing around in all directions. I ordered a beer, suddenly thinking that Phuket was a pretty damn fine place.

On preconceptions (Chep Lap Kok Airport, Hong Kong)

I had somehow pictured arriving in a crowded airport lobby full of babbling, shabbily-dressed Chinese people wearing large straw hats, all pulling at my sleeve and wanting to take me to some back alley with promises of Dim Sum and Lucy Liu. It wasn’t anything like that – Chep Lap Kok Airport is huge and incredibly modern. There’s a subway within the complex which brings you from the arrival gate to immigration. Planes take off above your head, you can see their underbellies through gigantic glass panes. The airport is cavernous, dome-like and airy. I suddenly felt like a poor country hick with my backpack and t-shirt. And the Canadian flag sewn to the bag – it suddenly reeked of insecurity (“Please leave me alone, I’m not American. We Canadians invented insulin, basketball, the green garbage bag and the zipper. We even invented the game of Yachtzee which you oriental people like so much…”)

Codeword for taking a dump that sounds almost sophisticated (General travel tip)

Travel tip: “Crappuccino”. Definition: “The particularly frothy type of diarrhea that you get when abroad”. Tell a fellow traveler that you “have to go for a crappuccino”, it will automatically discern you from the unknowledgeable, inexperienced traveler and you will no doubt be treated with equal doses of respect and sympathy.

Bad Driving (somewhere in the Dominican Republic)

Juan Jose’s driving was atrocious. Firstly, he drove slowly, but from the looks of it you’d swear that he was going 100 miles an hour – sitting straight with his head back, as if fighting the afterburner thrust of an F-16. He somehow managed to make each turn look like an adventure – it reminded me of the Nintendo game I sometimes play “BURNOUT 2: Point of Impact” – Juan Jose fighting each turn like they had magically appeared, along with imaginary school kids and trucks carrying jet-fuel. He would go into the turns heading straight for the ditch, would overcompensate by swerving into the other lane, then realize his mistake by swerving back the other way, the Toyota somehow managing a wheelie at 40 miles an hour. Also complicating things were the potholes. It’s as if he were examining the road 5 feet ahead of the car for any possible crater because he would never noticed anything further ahead. In one instance there were two motorcycles coming from the other direction; two men, farmers it looked, with bundles on the back of their motorcycles. Juan Jose didn’t see them, in fact he turned and went directly into the other lane attempting to detour a couple of potholes. I could see the faces of the two men, annoyance at first, then alarm, then anger as Juan Jose diverted his course at the very last minute. I looked back to see one of the men saluting us with his middle finger. I sympathized and concurred with him.

Things to remember when contemplating a date with a foreign speaker (Hong Kong)

I already had a full agenda for the evening, plus I wondered if she would even understand me; her English was bad and my Cantonese limited – there’s only so many times you can say “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine” and “I have diarrhoea” before the conversation gets stale.

The Good Life (Santo Domingo)

We were close to the Zona Colonial, walking up Calle Danae, a small residential street in the shadows of Hotel El Napolitano, when Juan pointed out a low-story office building with a dark glass door. He rang and the door opened up. We stepped into a reception area, a lady smiling and greeting us. Beyond, in the background, was a living room with low lights where I saw a few sexy-looking ladies sitting around in lingerie. Juan smiled and started chatting with the lady at the reception, seemingly talking about the weather. It struck me how casual Dominicans are about prostitution and sex in general – bouncing in as if going for a haircut, chatting as relaxed as can be “Hi Maria, how is the action today? How are the kids? Say, what’s the lunch-time special? I wouldn’t mind a blowjob but I rather fancy a bit of beaver today…” I felt shy, strolling into a “Casa de Chicas” (as they are known – and there seem to be many in the DR) made me feel uncomfortable. Juan; “You come here, it’s a good place” With that he started quoting me prices as if we had pulled up to the pick-up window at the local Tits & Pussy – “one hour not expensive, you can also have for many hours. For all night it’s more expensive, 2000 pesos ($50) but girls here are clean and very nice.” He chatted and we left, waving goodbyes to the girls.

Right across the street were a couple of hotels which Juan showed me. They were actually quite okay, and at 450 pesos (about $11), it was quite a deal compared to the hotels half a kilometre away in the zona colonial. Juan: “See, I show you good places in Santo Domingo – you get girl, then you take her to cheap hotel. It’s the good life!”

On Latinos and children (Dominican Republic)

I remember a kid, a small boy of about 2 years old, who played with the glass door of the terminal; opening the door, closing the door, re-opening the door…A lady came up to the door from the outside, middle aged and well-dressed, and had to gently open the door in order not to knock the little boy over. Once inside, she took him by the arm, knelt down to his level, and proceeded to give him a gentle lecture on how he shouldn’t be playing with the door. A few minutes later, the same scenario was repeated; a businessman came in with some parcels that he wanted couriered. Again the little kid got in the way. The man addressed the child and, with a wagging finger, told him not to play with the door. I struck me how different this treatment would have been in North America. In Canada a person would not have spoken to the child (god forbid you get sued for child or psychological abuse or for having infringed on his civil liberties). If anything he/she would have singled out the parent and given a dirty glance or made a commentary on the child’s behaviour (“Misbehaving little fuck, isn’t he?”). It reminded me of other scenes involving children and the sense of community, of getting involved, that you see in Latin America.

Bad translations at the zoo (Phuket)

I hired a taxi driver for a tour of Phuket. Both the Butterfly Farm and Aquarium are pleasant, although unspectacular. Then I went to the Phuket Zoo. The Zoo is large and has a wide variety of animals: tigers, monkeys, elephants (they have an elephant show where the elephants kick soccer balls into goals and slam basketballs into hoops) and lots of birds. “DO NOT EAT THE ANIMALS” read a large sign next to the heron cage. I scratched my head to that one. The herons looked fidgety – but it couldn’t possibly be that Thais come in here and eat the animals, right? (“oh look, the Niratappanasai family is having a barbecue in the ostrich compound again”) It reminded me of my last visit to Zambia in 1988, where I had lived for several years as a child. The economy had gone downhill in the ten years since living there, so much so that the local population would go to almost any lengths to get food, especially meat. One story, which had happened just prior to my visit, involved a couple of men who decided to sneak into a nearby game reserve and steal the meat left by the game wardens for the animals ( “Hey Mimbuku, we take food of animals and have party with those two really big-assed girls from the village”). They were found dead the next morning, chewed and gnawed through by a pride of lions.

I moved on to another section of the zoo. There, next to the crocodile pool, was another puzzling sign; “DANGER. DO NOT BEAT THE ANIMALS.” The crocodiles were huge, their jaws gaping wide, and I was starting to wonder how crazy Thais get when they drink. I wasn’t sure if the signs were simply a result of bad translation, but I left the zoo with a resolution to never pick a fight with a Thai.

Table of Contents (click to enlarge)

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One response to “Misadventures in Far Away Places – book”

  1. Laurent Boutin says:

    Hi Frank,
    Long time, no see!!!

    Hope you’re feeling good. We met your father saturday and told us about your blog. It’s great. I recognize your tastte for travelling around the world… I’m pretty jealous. I started reading about some of your adventures and strated laughing, reminding the night we crashed on the beach after going in a discotheque while on Costa Brava or the day we arrived in Spain and walked with German guy that had been ripped off.

    It would be nice to see you again!

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