Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘exploring’

I wrote this over a year ago. It had been 14 days since I was in Asia, and it sums up many of my thoughts about this whole over-arching experience.

Asia is gone to me, snuffed out in a way I anticipated but didn’t fully acknowledge. And I feel a sense of loss. I miss having no preconceived notion of what I will find around the next corner. I miss the signs of life that are unavoidable on the street, in every window. I miss the interactivity that comes from being a curiosity.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Pleiku, an altogether nondescript Vietnamese town becomes a forced, one-night stopover on the way to Hanoi from northeastern Cambodia. No map, no Vietnamese Dong, and we don’t know where the center of town is or where to find a cheap hotel.

Ryan remains at the bus station with our luggage as I shuffle off to source some money. The asphalt is burning under my feet and I can feel my skin sizzle as I trot off along an empty highway, head hanging low. Nobody speaks English and I am at a loss as to where an ATM might be this far out of town.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Weightless, we are propelled along by a forceful current, 18 meters below the water’s surface. Beneath us, the deep blue fades into an almost black, never-ending void. In front, the equivalent to a towering, vertical cliff is covered in a kaleidoscope of colorful coral and creatures of the sea. Above, below and behind and sometimes stuck together I see Caleb, Michele and Sabrina.

The idea of this ‘drift dive’ is to descend, maintain a depth of about 18m and allow the current to naturally and effortlessly guide us along like a conveyor belt. We ‘just’ recline and watch the production unfold. (more…)

Read Full Post »

It is 2 am and Michele, Caleb, Ryan and I, all in a state of delirium, stumble onto the street. We just spent 30 hours in a vehicle that remains a sorry excuse for a bus. Having passed through various cycles of pain and numbness, impatience and resignation, I find myself surprisingly composed and despite the late hour, capable of one last ‘rational’ thought.  It’s decided, this time for real:  I’m finished with buses! This resolution, like its predecessor, of course doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, adding it all up I have made and broken a version of it some 47 times – after every one of our travel days in the last four months.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

This was written in mid-January, when I first arrived in Bangkok from Kolkata, before flying to Burma.

Preparing myself mentally for Bangkok, I thought: I am not ready for the hyper-modern critique that this place will demand. To go from India and Bangladesh to Bangkok is too big a leap, too many eons of wealth, technologies, too big of a shift of position vis a vis Western culture.

Now I am here, and I am overwhelmingly preoccupied with the food. New flavors lurk everywhere, and so far they enthrall me. Noodle and lemongrass soups with fish sauce, chillies and sugar, squid on a stick with spicy and tangy sauces, fruit with sugar and chillies on top, Thai coffee, condensed milk in a good way, seafood a delight. Here is an adventure of unfamiliarity. (more…)

Read Full Post »

A sign at the entrance to a pagoda complex in Yangon. Entrance fees would be fine if they were paid to the monastery and not directly into the government's pocket. Myanmar. Burma. This land is two separate places. Myanmar is the place where the government has fixed an unrealistic exchange rate, so we must purchase bundles of 1000 kyat notes on the street, counting each stack and griping over every tear or hole. The only travel for us is on expensive buses with obnoxious music videos on continuous loop, no other transportation allowed for foreigners. Government checkpoints at the entrances to touristic zones demand US dollars for passage; faded or folded bills are rejected firmly. We are forbidden from straying from these areas; our bus windows look out on empty, dry scrublands as we are shuttled to the next town with guest houses licensed to admit foreigners. (more…)

Read Full Post »

A prayer for the long-term traveler: Let me always remember that this world rewards my attention handsomely. Beware the whirlpool of meaninglessness that lurks when I lose sight of the horizon, when the world’s endless mosaic before me seems daunting and impossibly demanding. There is a hazard to travel over the long term: that it become a chronicling or mere tracking of the “galvanic twitches of the eternal pointless present,” as Wallace Stegner memorably puts it. Too many people and sights that become interesting in the same way, too little agency to act beyond my prescribed role as a stranger in these contexts. But I have faith that, as I keep learning about my surroundings and keep my eyes open to new kinds of surprises, this experience can be endlessly engaging. (more…)

Read Full Post »

India and Bangladesh, like all countries that live off mass transit, deliver a particularly distilled essence at the focal points of their comings and goings. In India’s case, this is at the train stations, where humanity in all its colors descends into one crossroads. In Bangladesh, where rivers are everywhere, flowing through every town, the passenger launch docks in each city are the inflection points of human life, the arenas where nature’s tendency toward entropy becomes manifest.

Here, on these narrow floating strips, surrounded by the cartoonishly over-sized trappings of maritime equipment, the industrial work of moving human beings meets the frenetic diversity of life in this place. (more…)

Read Full Post »

In Chittagong, we decided to do things a little differently and take a bit of a leap of faith. As we are leaving the Buddhist temple in the city, a young man approaches us and introduces himself as Sanjoy, a student who rents a small room in the temple complex as he pursues his studies in English Literature. His home is in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a Buddhist and tribal area where we want to visit. He says he works as an occasional tour guide for the region.

Although we usually are hesitant to use guides, there is an immediate positive connection with Sanjoy; his sincerity is palpable when he says he felt close to us as we were sitting in the meditation hall. We have lunch and plan with him, he helps us get permits, and a few days later we are on our way to his stunning, hilly home town of Banderban. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Tell me about Bangladesh: How is it different from India? This is the question that everyone from home asks me. In our first destination, Sylhet, we find that the lungi is deeply in style, and this combined with the pervasive stares makes us feel like we are transported back to Tamil Nadu. A new development, however, is that whenever we stop to do anything on the street, a crowd of 10 or 20 men gathers within moments to watch. Look, the foreigners are trying to buy water at the store. Look, the foreigners are arguing with a baby-taxi driver. Look, the foreigners are drinking tea, are visiting a tailor, are admiring a shop full of saris and lungis.

These crowds are unnerving for sure, but deeply benign. A disagreement over price can be easily resolved when people from the crowd intervene on behalf of fairness. A language barrier in rickshaw directions can be overcome when the crowd member with the best English steps forward to interpret. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »