Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hobbitual Expansion..

I always get a certain frisson (I have no idea what it means?) when I search for something and can't find it on facebook. Here for the world... "Hobbitual Expansion" as a term that refers to a director blowing so much air into a plot, novel, or story, that it expands beyond its capacity to hold meaning..

Friday, December 06, 2013

I crap ornaments and piss tinsel

Oh yeah... Xmas is coming to the land of tomorrow, and with December reached I simply can't be cranky about how many lights are up, and how ubiquitous the xmas songs are...

I believe, tomorrow night, I will go out and take pictures of the neonstrous awesomeness of this city as Santa Day gets closer.^^

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I have a pain in my Sydney...

Monday July 29th, from KL to Melbourne Int. (Some evil portents are seen!)

You ask how far the farthest star is
To go by bus or to go by car?
Is the way too far? you couldn't say
You won't get there anyway
He says it takes a private plane

Tuesday was a travel day.. just off to the airport by shuttle-car and a nearly 8 hour flight to Melbourne, where we were waiting to travel to Sydney, because a professor at Dongguk was supposed to be in Sydney. We had jiggered our schedule so that even though we landed in Melbourne we would immediately go to Sydney. That professor then bailed on Australia, leaving us with slightly odd travel plans.

In Melbourne, because we arrived at 11:30 pm, we’d taken a hotel that was close to the airport.  At the airport, my bank card was declined by the ATM. I was a bit concerned, because sometimes Korean bank/credit cards don’t travel as well as they should. When I asked a man at an exchange kiosk, however, he laughed and said, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just that VISA isn’t working on our machines.”
So, like, half the credit cards in the world, and the only ones I have? Yep!

Then I went to the bathroom and saw what I took to be a poor marketing approach:

Er... really?  "Minimum Size?"

We got to the hotel just as the restaurant closed, discovered no mini-bar, water, or food of any kind, and headed down to the reception to discuss options. I said I wanted to exchange some money and find a store, and the nice woman there said there was a 7-11 about 15 minutes down the road.

We walked down there, Yvonne gibbering all the way about how dark it was, and when we finally found it, to my dismay they did not sell beer (this was my first introduction to the BS, “London circa 1970” alcohol rules in Australia).  Fortunately, however, my VISA card did work here, so we had some scratch.

A quick walk back and we micro-waved the entirely artificial potato and mash concoction that Yvonne had purchased, and while she took a shower I tried the Internet.

Which, was pay by the minute, and also had to be set up by the women at the desk, and since they were already asleep (probably had a champagne room set up for personal use after work!) it couldn’t be done.

Still, there was one epic feature to the Internet plan that made me think that the Australian Internet Scheme was not a plan so cunning that it would make a weasel stand up and salute (oh, c’mon, if you don’t recognize that reference… uh.. likely you have a life?).

You could buy 15 minutes for $2AUD or and hour for $10AUD. I was tired, out of sorts, and sober, but even I could do the math on that one. I wanted to march down to the front-desk, plop down my ten and when they started to ring it up, say… oh…. Wait.. and pull out the $2 coin and say.. nah.. 15 minutes… And then do that until the first hour was over.

Alas, my plan for a ridiculous and petty revenge could not be put into effect as the staff were in the Champagne Room.

I went to sleep hissing, and planning to take revenge on Australia as a whole.

Tuesday July 30 Travel to Geelong

In the morning it was back to the airport to catch a bus to something like a City Center and then a train to Geelong.

This took longer than expected.

Then, there was one of those moments that makes no sense to me. Yvonne and I got our train tickets, and they were for the un-reserved first two cars of the train. We sat opposite each other in a four-seat cluster of two facing benches. The train continued to fill up, and never quite did, with a sprinkling of seats throughout the car.

Just as the train was about to pull out of the station, our train car titled downwards behind me, and a fellow who might have been Mr. Creosote, lumbered in.

Now, it’s a reasonable assumption that as jelly-filled fat fuck (a phrase for which I will always be grateful to my Brother-in-Law for bringing to my attention^^) myself, I  might at any time be the chubbiest fellow in any particular overseas train car, and it’s possible that this was the case here.

Which is why it is bizarre, completely beyond bizarre actually, that Rotundo The Wonder Beast immediately slumped down beside me.

By which I actually mean, half on me.

The dude had enough spare ham on his thigh to feed an entire Saudi Arabian (non-Muslim, I guess) village. And that massive ham was now spread across the lower half of my body.

I looked across the aisle to Yvonne who was trying, about 50% successfully, to stifle an enormous grin.

My guess is that Elephant Man chose the seat he did because it was closest to the entrance, and trust me that’s a lesson learned.

His Expansiveness also talked continuously on his cellphone (example witticism - “that dude is a douchebag!”) and had managed to lose his ticket in the 30 meters from the station to the train. I presume he lost the ticket into some fold of his own flesh, from which he would later pick it, rancid and moldy, and then surreptitiously eat it. Or, since the dude was big enough to have gravity along the lines of a Black Hole, the poor flighty ticket had been sucked into his gravitational field, and instantly destroyed.

That was all good, because it gave him an excuse to get up, pat himself in a process that disconnected his shirt from its tuck-in and revealed his underwear, and then WWF fashion, drop 300 pounds of right leg onto me again.

Geelong was nice enough. Pretty in that clapboard (that might not be the word I’m looking for…. Gingerbread? Artificial?) way that much of Australia is, and we wandered about it, mainly trying to adapt to Australian accents.

We quickly hit the three bookstores on the map and then, while I shopped for drugs and alcohol, Yvonne went back to the best one.

Then, rain threatening, we headed back to the hotel.

As we had to wake early, rocket-scientist, international planner, and my wife, Yvonne?  She came up with a plan… We would go to bed at 9 and this would give us a restful 6.5 hours of sleep.

Which never works with me. If I go to sleep that early I always wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep.

Combine that with the “night before Xmas” feeling of being about to go to a new place and I slept about 15 minutes all that night.

Wednesday July 31 – to Sydney

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

On Tuesday we woke early (like 3:30 AM) and got a ride to the airport from a particularly garrulous lorry-driver who really, REALLY liked sports. The transport company insisted on picking us up at 4:00 for a 6:10 flight. When we got there we were the only non-employees in the airport, and the flight had already been delayed. So.. a lot of waiting.

Then a quick flight (slowed slightly by a delay through which we circled over Canberra, so now I’m going to claim I’ve ‘visited’ the place) to Sydney and an equally quick ride (The multipass deal in Sydney is just brilliant) on the public transport to Double Bay, at which we arrived about 5 hours before our scheduled check-in with our airbnb host. So, we hung around on the beach, dodged some rain, and eventually settled in at a coffee shop for a slow cup of coffee. At the coffee shop I was introduced to an evil truth about Sydney – it is VERY wireless unfriendly. I could see the router of the coffee shop, but when Yvonne went to ask for a password, the man mumbled something from between his beak of a nose and landslide of a chin (a very Australian look) about “downloads” and claimed there was no Internet available.  Oh well.  Many places don’t have wireless at all, and those that do are tightly locked down and you stand a reasonable chance of being denied access if you have the temerity to ask. Nonetheless, it was remarkable to see that someone, some dastardly bastard, had created a network with the exact same name as the coffee shop!  Will the temerity of these internet imposters never cease?

Then it was back to the beach to watch the ferries to roll in and out.

After stalling til about noon, Yvonne was getting super-antsy, so we picked up the keys (among three other sets under the gnomes in front of the building!) and dropped off our luggage, quickly went shopping for some food, and then headed downtown to check out a bookstore.

This short trip revealed to me that Sydney is a REALLY beautiful town, and I can only blame my mother for not having taken me there as a youth, so I would have known.

Lots of brick buildings and intricate ironworks, in some ways it reminds me of New Orleans, and every so often a lovely park, or a stunning view of the harbor.  We ended up in Hyde Park, watching old men (including a really irascible and mouthy old asian dude) playing chess on one of those on-ground, laid-out chessboards.

After a bus trip back, we finally met our host, and whiled away the evening over a bottle of red wine and a series of his amusingly escalating (in proportion to wine consumed) jibes at Australians and their culture.

At just about midnight, exhausted from lack of sleep, we turned in.

Thursday Aug 1

It’s just another story of love that’s turned into a tragedy
What am I supposed to do, you want a toast from the man who’s lost
The man who was double-crossed?
From cover to cover?
Baby, you and me were just book lovers.

As always, the first full day is bookstores. We spent considerable time on busses and found about three of them, all pretty cool. On the way back, and partly because I needed to find a bathroom (really, bookstores WITHOUT bathrooms? Sydney, what are you thinking?) we headed into Sydney University and found a young lad playing simultaneous chess with about 10 challengers.

They Seem to Like their Chess, some, in Sydney

I headed off to find the bathroom, slowly listening to Yvonne’s voice dissapear into the background, muttering things to onlookers like “That’s a Yahtzee! That’s gotta be a Yahtzee” and “well, he certainly trumped the wicket on that play. Fair dinkum down the old dijideroo on that one, I do say!”
I fear her efforts to fit in did not work out.

Then, off to two more bookstores and the shocking realization that Sydney is not a first-world city – it does not have nearly comprehensive nor in any way speedy, Internet. It’s an AOL world here, and it’s one of the things I really disliked about an otherwise beautiful city.

Then it was out to the Circular Quay for a trip to Double Bay. Returning home our landlord(?) warned us that he would be in late the following evening, as his company was having a 휘식 (work drink-along) to reward salesmen for good performance.  The original bar tab was set at $400 comprehensively, but as a performance bonus some good salesmen (electricity contracts) would get an extra $40 bar tab each. 

Our host warned us not to expect him in early.

Friday Aug 2

There was no one all around
There was no one there but me
I was staring out a window
I was standing by the sea
The waves kept on repeating
Each one crashing to the shore
And my footprints nowhere leading
As they disappeared once more

We managed to get up before 11 – I’m not sure what kind of laziness assails us on vacation, but it is a profound one. We hung out for a while then headed out.

There was one more bookstore to hit, and it was about three blocks from Bondi Beach, which is also the start of a brief (3 KM) beach walk, so we grabbed a bus there. After a water and coffee (I’m sure it’s obvious which of us had which), we went to the bookstore and then down to the beach.
As a California guy I’m pretty proud of our beaches, but Australian beaches crush US beaches into the sand (pretty appropriate, I think).

We sat on the beach for an hour or two and then headed out on the coastal walk there. It is very short, just over three kilometers, but manages to include three beaches, two of which have “seafront” swimming pools, both of which were being pummelled by the surf.

At the second one Yvonne (pace Jennifer!) made the mistake of turning her back to the sea, and while I was filming excellent shots of the waves pounding the beach?

 Yvonne was busy getting drenched:

After getting drenched, while taking this picture of me -

she decided to get filthy, and so she stepped into a mud-pit that grabbed her left leg just about to the knee. So then it was off to the beach, where she removed her sock and shoe, rolled up her pants, and tried to clean the sock and shoe. Which wouldn’t work, because she stood facing the sea bending over to dunk her dirty clothes, but as soon as a wave came in, she quickly ran away from it. After this happened a few times I became cross, and when the next wave came I pushed her into the sea.

Awesome!  Everything clean.

A buss ride brought us to Harbour, where we walked around amongst other tourists, by the Maritime Museum, a boat show, and several other things that didn’t interest me in the least, and then we finally found the ferry stop. So we took the ferry to Circular, then another to Double Bay. This was the only time we actually crossed under the bridge (and by the alarmingly lunatic gate to Luna park) on our way past the Opera House, and it was grand.

We went home, certain that we would go to sleep and hear our host crash in, knocking various things to the ground as he entered.

Instead the innkeeper came in at about 10:45, retreated to his room where he apparently undressed to his shorts and t-shirt and then opened the door and asked how he looked.

I said, "ok," and ran for the safety of our bedroom.

About 5 minutes later, as we lay in bed, we heard him rush to the bathroom and be briefly but noisily sick.

We laughed in a sympathetic way (well, maybe not Yvonne?) and went to bed our badselves…

Saturday Aug 3

Hey Mr. Bartender, won’t you give some wine?
I gotta get outta town meet my lady on time.
Put 5 gallons in my petrol tank
You know we just about made it but my breath sure stank.

The Internet in the pad is broken, which has required me to entertain myself in unusual ways. So it is that at 7:30 in the evening I am sitting on the back lawn of the lodging, with the sea, less than twenty metres away, pounding at the sand in its ongoing battle to reduce it. Every now and then a ferry boat comes in, or a a pleasure boat docks for the evening. But, primarily, it is me and the sound of tide thumping against the land.

Oh, well, that and a couple of beers and the noble sounds of Mott the Hoople thrashing from the iPhone (all you youngsters should look that stuff up).

Today, we awoke reasonably early and attendant to the fact that our host was likely living in world of regret, we trod lightly and exited early. We made some breakfast, packed some lunch, and headed to the ferry to catch a boat to Circular Quay.  Then we spent about 4 hours walking from hither to thither, and yon beyond. This included the Sydney Opera House, which is as cool as pictures suggest.

Next death march was through the adjacent Botanical Gardens (with a stop at the Governor’s House), which were absolutely brilliant. While I continue to have some kind of reaction to the looks of the Australian people, the city of Sydney is nothing other than drop-dead gorgeous.  Next it was out to MacQuarrie’s Bench  - or some equally unbelievable name which describes a brilliant folly of empire – a governor wasting money on a road and a bench carved into rock on the beach. And why?  So his wife could go out there conveniently and have a place to sit.

Empires are AWESOME!

And as I type those words it all makes sense – he wanted the ball-and-chain out of the house and had the particular means to accomplish it, even if it meant wasting municipal funds. The guy built a road and stone chair with British Imperail money, just to get his wife out of the damned house.
Now THAT allows a British fellow a means by which to maintain his stiff upper lip!

Then a walk back to the NSW Art Museum which is free and pretty vast. The museum has its share of modern ‘art’ nonsense. I don’t think I will ever be impressed by a ‘painting’ that is 9 square meters of a single color on rough canvas, even if the notes are relentlessly inventive in imploring us to see its “roughness, varied strokes, and alterations in depth.”  Honestly, that sounds like the description of a gay porno, and ever since the Internet has become ubiquitous, I won’t pay for that, either.

Tuckered, we headed back to Hyde Park and watched a bit more chess on the “walk-on” chess board. On the way there a friendly guy in a park saw me looking for my map and asked where we were going. He agreed with our assessment that it was on the other side of the church we were looking at, but added that if we walked to the stairs of the nearby carpark we could go to its lowest level and take an automated walkway to Hyde Park. He was correct, it was excellent, and the moron that I am, I filmed most of it.

Then it was back to Double Bay, a short trip to the store, one pint at the pub, and a return to home to eat some pizza and be very quiet as our landlord (judging by what was in the sink) had risen only to make some pasta, and was back asleep in his room.

Then, out to this backyard. A bit brisk, but in clear Australian air, and drop-dead scenic.

And, beer.

And Mott the Hoople.

Sunday August 4th

I come from London town
I'm just an ordinary guy
Fridays I go painting in the Louvre
I'm bound to be proposing on a Saturday night
There he goes again
I'll be lazing on a Sunday lazing on a Sunday
Lazing on a Sunday afternoon

A cup of coffee and a quick bite at a local café – not the one that denied us internet access on our first day, but one that, true to Sydney’s lame form, simply did not have internet access at all.
Then, Yvonne style, it was off to look for even more bookstores and we kind of lucked out.
The Ampersand café lied to me that it shut its internet down on weekends, but I tried the password and it worked. Duplicitous Aussie weasels! At the same time, the attached bookstore was awesome  - several floors with overstuffed chairs and couches to sit on, food could be served in the bookstore, and a wide range of books though, predictably for this trip, nothing that served me. Across the street and down was the BerkouW bookstore, which was also pretty cool, and we wasted a few more minutes there, before walking downtown to the Australian Naitonal Museum, which had some cool things in it, the coolest of which were unrelated to the main goals of the museum. The first was a wildlife photography contest winners exhibition. There were many pictures of cute, cute animals, several instances of nature red in tooth and claw, and every one with some little bromide about the responsibility mankind has to nature. I was so overwhelmed by this message, that when we finally did leave the museum I went up to the first obese pigeon I could find and tried to punt the bugger into next week.   The other exhibit was a Charles Addams exhibit. I’m guessing this means he was born in Australia, but couldn’t be bothered to look beyond the cartoons themselves, some of which were as funny as I remembered, and the remainder had to do with the Adams Family, which I suspect was his largest paycheck.

When we returned home our publican had returned to the land of the living and we had an excellent conversation while he was cooking his curry (for the second night straight we were on take-and-bake pizza as we had brought two home the previous night, suspecting our landlord would be in no condition to cook, not that he would still be locked in his bedroom).

Monday August 5th

We grabbed a ferry to the Circular Quay and headed to the Museum of Sydney. This was kind of cool, with a history of the city, some decent stuff on the Aboriginal experience (a phrase that pretty much means “Aboriginal genocide”), and an exhaustive exploration of the development of the Sydney Opera House.

Then a short walk to the Sydney Barracks, which we toured the outside of before Yvonne decided to go inside. At $10 it didn’t really interest me as much as a glass of wine at the adjoining café, so Yvonne went in and I sat down for a glass of wine. Which, I was quickly informed I couldn’t have unless I ordered something to eat (Did I mention that, for a nation of laddish drunks, Australia has some very bizarre licensing codes?). I had coffee instead. Then, as the sun dropped behind the buildings of Sydney, I waited in the courtyard for Yvonne. Because I was not inside the museum, Yvonne found it very interesting and consequently refused to leave. I sat in the sandy, now dark, courtyard contemplating the rise and fall of empires, the inexorable passage of glaciers, and the eventual heat-death of the universe.

Here is where All Time Ends...

Inside, Yvonne minutely examined various scraps of cloth, and shards of broken pottery indistinguishable from the contents of the rubbish bin behind our rental.

Galaxies exploded into life, then imploded and disappeared.  Life forms evolved, took their days in the sun then faded into oblivion.

Some time later, Yvonne emerged from the barracks.

Then, because Yvonne wanted to see more of the bay, it was off to the Circular Quay to catch the big ferry to Manly. Manly is one of those pre-fab surfer towns (some old and cool architecture notwithstanding) which attempts to hover precariously between tattooed cool and naked merchandising, with the latter having the upper hand. The beaches were vastly inferior to those of Bondi, Coogee, etc, as they weren’t very dramatic. The main entertainments of the town came from the fact that everything was the “Manly this” and “Manly that” which sometimes made for amusing place names, such as the “Manly Olympian” and “Manly public Toilets.”  This is a joke I’m sure the residents of Manly found amusing for the first 13 minutes of their "Manly" (LOL! It NEVER gets old!) lives, and then found tedious beyond belief.

Yvonne insisted on staying until darkness fell, and when we got on the back of the ferry, which unaccountably turned out to be the front of the ferry (it doesn’t turn around.. apparently having five gears in reverse as well as forward). Consequently we were whipped by the frigid gales which blew over the harbor, or at least until we were nearly crushed by the horde of alarmed photographers who had rushed to the ‘front’ of the ferry, only to discover that it was now the back of the thing.

That realisation occasioned a mad rush to where we sat at the end (front? Back?) of the front/back of the ferry, and I was quite surprised we didn’t have a Marx Brothers moment where the entire ship listed towards the bow, prior to all of us being dumped into the water and drowning. As we approached the middle of the harbour, the photographers began snapping away in earnest, nearly a third of them with their flash-units fully engaged, despite the fact that the nearest object they could be photographing, unless it was my charming and photogenic bald spot, was 500 meters away.

Once home, I defrosted in a bath of beer, applied internally, and we went to sleep relatively early for the trip to Alice Springs.


We have plenty of extra photos of all this. But most of you refuse to come over to our house.

We'll have the slide-projector cued up, just in case.

But we're prepared to never have to use it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Malaysia Ends, MalAustralia Ensues

Day 7 26th - Into the Jungle /  Day 8 Saturday July 27th /  Day 9 Sunday July 28th?
I'm tryinna keep a date
with my little girl that was back in the states
I?m standing in the jungle
I?m afraid of it all?

On our last day we had a choice between Penang Hill and the National Forest at the end of the island. We opted for the latter, which required hopping a bus and riding out past Batu Ferringetti (however it's spelled), and near the end there was some confusion (I had some trouble with the guy's accent) about where to get off, which the bus driver finally ended by telling us we were"at the end of the world."  This we understood, and decamped. Outside the park there was a line of touts, each trying to sell a boat service to somewhere, and we decided to arrange it so that we could "trek" first, and then get picked up by a boat to return.

The "trek" actually turned out to be such a thing.. a walk through some densely overgrown jungle, scrambling up muddy bits, down roped bits, and across tangles of roots. The most exciting thing we saw as a gigantic, as in four-foot long, lizard, which I took an absolutely impenetrable picture of.

It's in there, and it's TERRIFYING!

After a bit more slogging we got to the beach. There was a little inlet we had to cross which turned out to be much deeper than it looked. It was a good thing I had shifted my iPhone to my backpack or it would have been drowned. The beach was named "Monkey Beach" and true to its name had a monkey, just the one, who was dispiritedly tearing old potato-chip bags apart and licking at the salt within.

Then there was the beach.

It was clearly off-season, so there was nothing to do but suck down a coke, watch the waves crash, and stare longingly at each boat that came ashore, hoping it was finally ours.
Finally, ours did come, and we were away across the water, which was nice and refreshing? Here is Yvonne enjoying the moment (Note the noble mien!).

Then, after a slogging and sweaty walk towards the tourist area of town, we stopped for a bite and were "befriended" by two cats who wanted our food. One of them was quite amusing -  it would swat with its claws if you were brave enough to try and touch it, but oh could it meow piteously if it thought you had food.

The next morning, we got up and got ready to catch the bus to the airport, but Yvonne made a command decision, so instead we got the hotel service, which left us at the airport about three hours early.

and there we waited. Generally speaking, a boring day.

The next day is no less boring, as I stayed in the hotel room working on blog posts and Yvonne meandered into town, this time managing to avoid gambling houses or friends in Itaewon (you?d have to be a mad reader of this irregular blog to understand those references, but so what? Reading is fundamental)

The big move is tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Malaysia Day Six.... the long walk to nowhere

Day six and seven were just different versions of wandering about. On day six we tried to catch the last of the spots that Google has listed for used bookstores, which required us to travel back down towards the Clan Jettys and just come across what we come across. That included a couple of inscrutable temples, which are shown just below.

The "bookstores" on the other hand, were all actually book publishers picked up by Google's lazy search algorithm. 


No incense
Yvonne, as always missing no opportunity to piss of the locals, made sport of several representations of grand men.

Of course we ended up back to the Red Garden Food Paradise and I made the mistake I make in every country (and will make again in Melbourne) of trying to eat Korean food overseas. With the exception of a few places in California, this never ends well, and this time was not different as the kimbap arrived limp, covered in a thick layer of grease that is clear even in my non-photograpic quality photograph, and full of chewy tastelessness. Yvonne had one piece, sneered, and returned to contemplating the various duck dishes offered at the place.

Tomorrow would mark our last full day in Penang, and we felt a bit like the jungle
At least, my stomach did, after that kimbap.

Malaysia: Day Five

Day Five Wednesday 24 -  

Was supposed to be a trek up Penang Hill, but we decided to head to the beach. The beaches here are not as cool as those in Langkawi, which is not that far away by ferry, as we seem to have discovered by all the offers in shop windows to purchase tickets to Langkawi. We caught the 101 bus in Georgetown, which took about 45 minutes to get us to Batu Ferringhi. We got there at noon and pretty much everything was buttoned up. The beach is narrow and the tide was almost all the way up it, so the only way to use it was to stay at one of the few open shops which faced the beach. We went back to the main street and had a rice lunch, stopped at a store for drinks, and then headed back onto the beach.

I took of my shoes, immediately stubbed my toe, and headed into the water which was awesomely warm. I was considering making fun of Yvonne for staying all dressed and shoed up, but for some reason didn’t. Which was good, because when I got out of the water the sunlight revealed I had torn the tip of my big-toe-skin off. LOL… hadn’t noticed the bleeding til I was back out of the water.
Yvonne heroically trekked back to the store for a bandaid, and we caught the bus back downtown..

And my walking for the day was over.

I thought!

As it turned out, Yvonne had bought tickets to Gurney Plaza, because she knew there were some bookstores there. So, then, with bloody toe tightly encased in a bandaid, sock and shoe, I had to follow Yvonne from pillar to post as we looked for bookstores. First stop MPH, which was just a boring regular old bookstore in an upscale mall.

The next stop was more fun, as I figured out from the Google map that the bookstore must have been in one of the old fashioned, many-storied interior malls across the street from the Penang Adventist Hospital. We rolled up the stairs and around each floor, but no bookstore. I spotted a little corridor rolling off to the back, which led us to another little internal mall, and lo and behold, the bookstore was there on the 4th floor. If I hadn’t been dizzy from blood-loss, I would have celebrated. It’s an interesting place, with a group of older men playing some kind of dominoes/card game next to me, and two kids playing some kind of card game. Lots of fantasy type posters, books, and games. Get your nerd fix here!

Then, a stagger back to the food court and the hotel.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Malaysia or Korea as tourist destination?

LOL.. why Malaysia is a better tourist destination than Korea?
1) Not one Malaysian has asked me about Malaysian disputes with Indonesia
2) Not one Malaysian has asked me if I "know" any indigenous food
3) When I order something spicy they give it to me without asking "If I can eat spicy food?"
4) They don't care where I come from, if I'm married, or if my wife is Malaysian>
5) AWESOME beaches.?

Malaysia Day Four

On the Pier

In the Family Quay

House on the Quay

Toilet for Tourists
Tuesday morning was for exploring.. which for Yvonne, means finding bookstores. The internet connection continued to be chancy, but we finally got a good Google map of where the bookstores were. By luck, our hotel was less than five minutes walk away from a cluster of bookstores, and we checked out about four of them.

Seoul taxi drivers are well known for their devil-may-care attitude about things that include speed limits, lane markings, zebra-crossings, and the law of physics that demands that two objects cannot simultaneously inhabit the same space. In Penang, however, Seoul taxi drivers would seem like little old ladies – tremulous, careful, and ridiculously conservative. Scooters, cars and buses ricochet around the city, and walking the streets becomes something like living inside of a pinball machine, and you’re the money ball.

In Little India I had some kind of delicious street-food – a kind of potato and corn tart with a lot of some kind of red spice. This would later come back to haunt me.

Then it was a walk down to the quays, which were quaint and antiquated, not too mention thoroughly commercialized. My favorite thing, I think, was the “bathroom” for tourists.. a rectangular hole in a slab of concrete, a hole that opened directly to the bay below, and beneath which swam hordes of little fishies, all looking to get “lucky” when someone had to use the bathroom. I think that tells you all you need to know about how horrible it is to be a fish, and if I ever am to be reincarnated on the wheel of life, I know have a pretty good idea of where I’ll end up.^^

Then, as we walked to Fort Cornwall, we noticed the “hop and stop” free bus for tourists and with that devil-may-care attitude that makes us popular among test pilots, extreme adventurers, bareback gays, and heterosexual priests, we hopped onboard.  The bus runs from the ferry to the tallest building in Georgetown, in a tight loop that is occasionally the same roads, and the bus, mercifully, is air-conditioned.

We ran the loop until it passed Fort Cornwall again, where we decamped. The fort wasn’t all that, but at 2 Ringgit it didn’t have to be, and it did allow me to take this picture of Yvonne, nobly defending the Empire against the wogs what begins at Calais.

Defender of Empire
And, then imprisoned for her imperial excesses:

Jailhouse Rock

Somewhere along the sweaty way Yvonne left her sweater (Yes Virginia, 32 degrees and Yvonne wore a sweater) behind, and I gallantly stayed put under the shade of some trees while she had to go back and retrieve it.

Then a walk to the hotel, where we luxuriated in the Air-con for a bit, before heading out for a late afternoon bit of Indian food. Yvonne headed off to do some shopping at the bookstores, while I headed back to the hotel to face Buttocalypse from my morning’s food. The less said, the better.^^

When Yvonne returned we headed back to the Red Food Court, had some light snacks, and chilled.
Back to the hotel, watched some ridiculous TV (ridiculous, but after three years of not having a TV I find most anything on it intriguing) and another night of air-conditioned slumber.

“It’s just the same thing, the same way, every day: Stupefaction!”

Malaysia Day Three

Day Three was supposed to only be a transit day, but it turned into a little more than that.

Our plan didn’t leave KL until 8, so we had a lot of waste-time to fill up.

At checkout at noon we left our bags at the front of the hotel and went across the freeway to “KLIA Airport Town,” Which was three dusty rows of businesses backed by housing. It was primarily restaurants, a couple of stores, and the odd automobile related business. It took us about 15 minutes to canvas the whole thing, and we were back to the Hotel, and off to KLIA. We stayed at KLIA for an hour or two, had lunch, and I struggled with the internet connectivity, which was incredibly crappy. 

Then it was a bus to LCCT where I huddled in the Starbucks (again, crappy internet) while Yvonne shopped for an hour in the bookstore. Then it was off to the McDonalds, where we could sit outside with just a bag of fries, and wait. Finally, into the waiting room, where the LCCT internet was crappy UNTIL I tried to hook the iPhone up to it and then use the iPhone as an anchor. The minute I did this, however, it knocked some kind of sense into the wireless router, and the laptop worked. Twice the laptop went offline and couldn’t re-connect, but the minute I fired up the iPhone, the same miracle occurred.

 I have no idea why. 

The trip to Penang was about 40 minutes and we were picked up from the airport. Because it was still before 10:00, we decided to go out and check out the neighborhood. Turns out, we’re in party central. We walked past one place that was.. well.. the loudest in the world, but I can’t get the sound clip to work.^^

 I tried to get killed at an intersection when I looked at the street light and it was counting down from 30 seconds. I interpreted this to mean that I had 30 seconds to cross the street, and started across, only to have a small car whiz by right in front of me. Self-righteously I flipped the car off, only to hear Yvonne yell, “Charlie, what are you doing?” I said I was crossing the street and Yvonne then told me that wasn’t a good thing to do when the cross traffic had a green light. Ooops… the red (Yeah.. RED!) numbers were counting down UNTIL the light turned green and I was an idiot.

I survived, however, and we continued to walk around and look for a place to have a quick seat/bite. Finally, we settled on the Red Garden, which is hard to explain, so here is a movie of it in which you can see what it contains..

 And here is what is sounds like in full fury And when it is fully rocking

 I had beer, Yvonne had a Pepsi, and we split a few pieces of salmon sushi. Just before midnight, we headed across the street to the motel, and passed out in untidy heaps.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Malaysian Art and Birds....

First order of business… On day two we saw this street-sign:

What is it? Answer revealed below!

Day two was spent lolling in the hotel room for a bit… we had noodles and super-strong black coffee from the in-room coffee-maker and headed off to downtown. A bit pricey at 70 Ringgit each way for the two of us, but the fastest way to get into town. We landed at KL Sentral and one short hop on the Komuter Expres and we were at Kuala Lumpur Station, which has a really cool decayed Victorian vibe. I guess it used to be the main train station, but it has been surpassed by KL Sentral and KL City Center.

We walked over to the National Mosque, taking a bizarre route through a rundown car park with no cars in it and a tired-looking man slumped in chair watching for the onslaught of cars that was obviously never to come. We took this route as Yvonne completely refused to believe the signs that directed us to go to the front door of the Mosque. Instead, we approached to the side and Yvonne noticed that you had to take your shoes off well before you entered. For some reason this gave Y the heebie-jeebies and she started keening (Hi Katie!) in that high-pitched voice she has when she gets nervous about how we "shouldn’t go near the place." As she continued keening, butterflies dropped, stunned from the air, tropical plants wilted, and paint began flaking from the minarets. Fortunately, a security guard waved us towards the front, which was where tourists enter.

Unfortunately, we arrived at a time that the mosque was closed to tourists, so we wandered about the outside, snapped photos, and sweated like crazy.

Mosque Exterior (All we really got to see^^)

A few questions revealed that the National Islamic Art Museum was right around the corner.. so we headed off there and it was rather awesome.  For about 20 Ringgit for the two of us, it was one of the best deals we’ve had in Malaysia.  The Museum has three floors and it collects Islamic art from all over the world. This was super cool, because you got a chance to see how different countries had internalized Islam and turned it into art.  Persia (we think?) had all kinds of cool calligraphy, including some calligraphy written into leaves.


Also cool, but not pictured, what China did, which was to used it’s traditional brush-calligraphy and draw what, from far away, looks like traditional Chinese art, but upon closer inspection is made up of calligraphed passages from the Quran and Islamic scholars. Looked totally cool.

And two random snaps I took from behind protective glass:

A Pistol Grip, Actually


Afterwards, we headed to the Butterfly Museum, but missed it totally, and  ended up super-sweaty in front of the Bird Museum, the so-called “largest free-flight aviary” in the world. From the outside you couldn’t see any birds, and when we got to the front we saw the most dispirited looking topiary in, perhaps, the history of topiary.

That's Supposed to be a Bird!

Confidence not much built, we sat down for a bottle of water, and Yvonne wanted to go in so badly that she offered to pay (butterflies flew again, tropical plant sprang back to full height, and flaked paint returned to minarets!).  So, since she wanted in so badly, I got a couple of tickets, and in we went.
At first it was motley profusion of peacocks, doves, pheasants, storks, and a few other birds.  Section 1 was pretty much just that, wherever you walked, though they were remarkably unafraid of humans, so you could walk directly up to them.

Of course there was the splendor of the ostrich who posed:

Looks Edible!

Around section 2 things began to perk up, and as we walked through we saw a cool variety of birds in a cool variety of settings, including some in cages.  By the end of our walk, I was pretty sure it had been worth it, and if we had my godson and god-daughter with us, it would have been completely awesome.

There's Always One Idiot Trying to Break Back IN!

Final thrill, and a great example of vendors adapting to the modern world, for 10 Ringgit you could get two birds perched on you, and then a friend could take a picture of your bird covered self with your own camera. They were rolling people in every 45 seconds or so,  which would mean a rather nice hourly wage.^^

Yvonne, Uncertain or Happy?

Then it was back towards downtown, where we took a very short break for a drink behind the Petronas Towers, an awesome plaza with dancing fountains and a variety of cafes facing out to it.

Finally, dinner with Chocoballnoona and her best friend. As it is Ramadan, we set this up for 7pm, and waited a bit for it to be “safe” to eat. I passed along some books I had brought, and they were saints and paid for dinner. Yvonne and the two women chuckled regularly at jokes I didn’t get^^ and a great time was had by all.

Then, back about an hour to the hotel, and sweet, sweet bed.

Today, we are in transit to Penang.

Oh, yeah, this is what the sign meant:

Shelter From the Storm

Sunday, July 21, 2013

To Malaysia!

The first step of our plan for world domination is successful. We have reached Malaysia. 

The trip was relatively uneventful, if you are me. If you are Yvonne it was the most dangerous ride at the carnie on bad acid. When we hit turbulence that wouldn’t even rock the gin in my gin and tonic, she drew her coat up over her lip because she was, “trying not to scream.”  I’ve seen tougher 2 year olds.
The night before, of course, she played her traditional game when we have to take a plane-trip – the let us not sleep or prepare game, for it is always better to wake up exhausted, with things left to do (or undone, to be fair), and haul ass to the airport.

Yvonne Hides in Jackets

Selfie and Yvonne hides in Jacket

Which was remarkably crowded. We spent about 40 minutes in line at Asia Air and then longer than usual through security and customs. But we got there about 20 minutes before boarding, which is good enough, and we were in a row of three seats with one seat empty, which is always good.  Air Asia has attempted to monetize pretty much everything imaginable and I was amused to see, later as I thumbed through their “air catalog” that if there are two empty seats next to you, for only 20 Ringgit (a local currency based on mussel-shells, and the overseas funds that Malaysians accrue by selling their less attractive children into slavery), on is allowed to ‘buy’ those seats. LOL… I wonder how they enforce that one.

I slept on and off for the first three hours of the flight as I was tir… did I mention that at some point in the night I woke up and Yvonne was applying hot compresses to me? Because in summer in Korea that’s what a fellow needs? I thought it might have been a fever dream, yet there, in the morning, was a large yellow bowl full of water and a compress. It would take three psychiatrists, a forensic scientist and three sticks of dynamite to figure out what switch flips in Yvonne’s brain on the night before we travel, but that switch, it is a dire one.

I got through Korean customs without getting my all-important “blank” passport page stamped. It turns out that if we are to go to Jakarta I have to have one blank page in my passport (and it can’t, for some obscure reason, be any of the last four pages in the passport). As it happens, my career as a world famous expert on Korean literature, in concert with my unspoken job of international playboy, means that I only do have that one page. So at each stop here I will have to stop the nice person at the immigration desk and ask them to NOT stamp page 24 of my passport.

One down, two to go.

Except of course we got to Kuala Lumpur and discovered we had misplaced a decimal when converting IDR to dollars, so won't be going to Jakarta at all. Instead, we are booked for Penang, which looks old school and lovely, and is MUCH cheaper.

Tomorrow we meet an old friend in Kuala Lumpur. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Homoerotic, or just plain weird

Really, Korea?
At first I had the semi-reassuring thought that it was, at least, each person's finger.


Men's Formal Wear/Casual
Price destruction hot deal
Friday to Thursday
Event Park

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ed's Post of all Posts!

Okay. Hi, everyone! We have been in Korea for 1 full week now.  The picture is Kale and Charlie (Kale's godfather).  We haven't sold the child or anything...if you want to know.  We were at a open cafe near Seoul Tower. I have not been able to arrange the pictures so that the more recent goes to the bottom. So, please go down to the bottom and come along on our journey through pictures.

Off to see Charlie, the god father!

Yulie waiting at a small cafe for a subway train. Being under the age, Kale and Yulie ride for free.

This is a series of pics of Kale, watching Disney Jr channel broadcasting in Korean, instead of English. He said, rather appropriately, "I don't understand a thing they say." His Korean, however, has shown much improvement in the last week. Most importantly, he wants to learn Korean now.

Can't live without her milk bottle. On our trip to Jae's parents' place, we forgot to pack this bottle.  Yulie was often cranky to say the least. She is now happily rejoined with her comfort zone.

We are returning from Jae's parents' place to my parents' place. This is in a subway train. The series of pictures portrays all of her moods about life and travel in general :)

Yep. They are sleeping again at another restaurant.

The traditional Korean house in the pictures so far is the residence of Jae's paternal uncle. On one side of the house, I found this green bicycle with cut bamboo behind it. I thought they went well together.

Yulie and Kale wanting to get off the porch to play with house dogs.

More of traditional Korean architecture.

Traditional Korean houses. This is the view from the raised wooden porch / corridor, seen on the picture above.

Some authentic Korean food.

When Kale woke up, Yulie went out like a candle. Kale was  nice enough to lend his leg for her sister for almost an hour. We insisted on taking turns, but Kale was proud to be of service. We were proud of him, too.

Yep. Sleeping. The Jet-lag is a difficult thing to shake off.

Jae posing for the picture. Kale is off to the dream land.

Kale in the same train. He remembered, though faintly, his last train rides 2 years ago.

We are moving by train, off to Jae's parents' place in Gwangju.  This was Yulie's first train ride. The whole ride took about 4 hours.

Jae and I ate well and soon fell into food coma, while the kids are in sleep coma. As we ate, they slept through the whole meal. As in traditional Korean restaurant, the place had semi-private rooms where everyone sits on the floor. This suit us fine because our kids could sleep safely on the flat floor instead of slumping on chairs.

The tofu, pork and kimchi combination go well with rice-based alcoholic beverage.

Some of the local foods we had. The square ones are tofu in different colors. To the right is steamed pork. Behind is slightly stir-fried Kimchi. 

Here's my father, Yulie and Kale. They should not be standing on the offering stone, not especially with their shoes on. Still, my dad wasn't bothered by it. He was just too excited to have them over in Korea, at his house and reporting at the ancestral graves.

Hi, Yulie. The black stone next to her is a tombstone. We came here because we need to "report" to deceased ancesters that we are visiting Korea.

Kale at my family ancestor graves. Kale has the pose of Kim Jung Eun of North Korea. :)

Flying past Japan now. One hour and 40 minutes to go.

The meal in front of Jae is actually for Kale.

Sleeping, Kale missed his meal before arrival. The last two hours of flight a series of turbulences.  Kale had no idea.

Here, she is catching up on what in-flight movies she missed in her slumber.

We are flying over Japan. Two more hours to go. Running a bit short on patience and sleep.  Kale is fast asleep at this point, while Yulie is slowly waking up--rested, but hungry.

Here's Yulie, watching an in-flight movie. She soon fell asleep and remained sleeping for 9 hours straight. Jae and I were more than thankful.

Kale is bored senseless. We told him not to use Mom's Kindle or his Samsung Tablet because we didn't want the battery to drain before the airplane ride. Being a good boy as he is, he followed his instruction well, but the boredom was just too much. You can see Jae in the center.

Yulie is seated in her seat in the airplane. This was the first time she rode one. I wasn't sure how she would react when the plane takes off. Despite my uncertainty, however, she was great. She even said things like, "Are you ready to blast off?" I guess watching Netflix movies could be educational :)

Here we are, ready to leave. This is SF International Airport. I would like to thank Jae's colleague who let us use her stroller. This light collapsible stroller has served us quite well throughout the journey so far.