Why We Travel

hongkongin:

An interesting piece about the merits of travel by Jonah Lehrer. Not only is this guy a great writer, connecting science to humanities and pop culture, but he is a Columbia grad, a Rhodes scholar, the author of two books, a regular contributor to a slew of top media giants, and only 25 years old. Inspiration. 

This, quite literally, explains exactly what happens, almost immediately upon landing in a strange country, a whole semester of I-don’t-know-where-I-am and I-don’t-know-wtf-is-going-to-happen lying ahead of you, ready to be marched through.

Viet-NomNom [Midseason Report, part 2]

Spending my second to last night in Vietnam was fun, thanks to a great new friend from San Fran and one from Norway and a ragtag crew of local Vietnamese duders. I’m pretty sure I went to my first gay bar, or at least it was a pretty gay bar, and then we proceeded to another nearby bar, which was more fun and more tailor-made for our orientations.

This new bar was called Apocalypse Now, which I believe is the name of a Vietnam War film, and it was very good - great looking crowd, lots of locals and partying travelers with a DJ who knew what he was doing.  Apparently, its a spot where a lot of local women are ‘on the clock’ for the night.  But hey - didn’t look too trashy, so who cares?

Cyrus, the programmer from San Fran/Virginia

Going to a decent bar with flip-flops, gym shorts, ratty UCLA t-shirt, two heavily wrapped knees, an obvious limp, and a Timmeh-crutch was, in my mind, a fantastic experiment, and it was.  But it was also fairly awkward in contrast with the real bargoers, in their going-out attire, dancing to the electrobeats of the future, glancing at you longer than you would normally get in a socially-charged situation. It didn’t help that I had to navigate a treacherous path with a metal leg substituting for my temporarily-disabled right one.  Disappointing that I couldn’t really join in on the fun.

And what a treacherous path it was.  For not long after we got there, a bar fight broke out.  I’ve never really been around one, but this one was pretty intense, because at least one person got a beer bottle smashed into his head.  The incident itself was pretty contained, because there were a bunch of security guards there to converge on the scene, but with a packed dance floor like that, its not the easiest thing to manage. It was a bit of an urgent chore for me to move away from it with the crowd, seeing as how I was a walking traffic accident statistic.

In the end, Vietnam wasn’t really for me.  Bearing in mind that my experience is skewed and does leave a somewhat bad taste in my mouth, I had a much more culturally engaging experience while maintaining the same budget when I visited the Philippines, and I don’t doubt bias plays a role in that. The people, who I was forewarned were very nice, was true, especially when compared to Hong Kong - but I found it almost tiresome, when they seemed overtly nice.  A couple of occasions, nice conversation would be struck up with me or a friend by a group of locals, only to find they were interested in us for a possible sale, or became more touchy than I want (many times, from other men). And there were a few examples of street violence that left me a bit queasy, one being the mini-bar brawl, and another on the last day, where I saw a scooterist angrily kick another scooterist to the right of him, and then kick him hard again, until they both pulled off the road, and the assailant began to wail punches on the confused-looking guy. I have no idea why he was doing this, but this was a far dangerous course of action in dealing with your road rage, compared to the general American yell, cuss, honk, maybe tailgate the guy or cut him off, and then be mad as you continue onto your destination method of dealing with road rage.  Remember the conditions - consider the nature of getting on a busy road with a motorized bike on a busy major city road with nothing but a thin helmet, then multiply the number of motorists by a lot, and then kicking one that hard, not to mention more than once? Just a purely reckless game to play.  I guess I’m bringing the social conventions resulting from my own background, but that’s the culture over there, so whattyagonnado?

But, in the mode of the ever-wise William Wu, I’ll spin-doctor this experience into something that was positive instead of negative: I took a trip to a country whose cuisine is one of my absolute favorites, and it didn’t disappoint in the regard.  Met some incredibly nice people, ex-pats and locals alike, who were helpful in a way only a semi-cripple in a third-world-ish country could expect.  Would especially like to shout-out the hotel staff (Viet Nghi Hotel, Bui Vien street) for putting up with my slowness and being extra-courteous for those few days.  Received some of the finest medical care available in Saigon, and though I didn’t get to shop much for souvenirs, I came back with couple of the most cherished and unique ones - a couple of Vietnamese-brand forearm crutches, compliments of UC student travel insurance. Even though I couldn’t see much of the city, I came back with a crazy story and some slowly-healing scar tissue - we have not yet heard anybody else on exchange here in HK with nearly as crazy of experiences as we have had on our trips. True buffoonery.

 

Comfort food. Notice the painkiller tablet at the bottom corner.

Especially interesting about this country was the tension you could still feel from when the Communist government took over the country. Forewarned that it was technically illegal to voice any dissent or critique of the government, visiting the War Remnants Museum truly demonstrated just how bitter the government was due to the Vietnam(-American) War.  Though any war museum will inevitably allow the violent truths about the conflict to be displayed, the language this facility used was extremely, extremely one-sided, using phrases like “it is a clear violation of international law for a nation to commence a war of aggression”.  And though it doesn’t shed light on the inequities performed by the Viet Cong side, it made made me stop and think more clearly about the effects of such a furious conflict on a poorer country like Vietnam. And though you may be able to argue with words, you can’t argue with the pictures they displayed. They had no problem showing some of the most gruesome images ever seen at a public institution. With similar conflicts still being fought in other parts of the world, its heartbreaking to think what is happening to common civilians in the midst of a battle of political ideals, and quite interesting to ponder about the gradual change the United States has undergone, from starting as a undeveloped semi-state with radical new ideas it wanted to implement in direct violation of a superior power (not unlike the origin of the Vietnam government today), and its evolution into that superior power now, raging wars in a sincere but conflicted manner in order to preserve the country’s best interests, which are very ambitious due to the size and the political influence it has gained for itself.  Pattern recognition…

 

Fantastic display of left-over American vehicles designed for battle.

Like the US, extremely proud they fended off a great power to establish their country.

With a better idea in mind of the nature of war and the role the United States plays throughout the world, I’m still proud to be a citizen of the United States.  A strong infrastructure, a mostly accountable legal system and (somewhat) accountable government system, and the general comfort and safety within its borders is a great thing to have, at least while it lasts. Which is why I am missing home a bit more than I ever before, so far into this semester.

Pho-reign Correspondence [Midseason Report, part 1]

Hey there,

Its been a while, which means I’ve been busy doing things other than writing.  But hope to get back in the game, with some new sights, sounds, and words, as we continue on to the next phase of this abroad thing of ours.

We are now in the thick of the “study” part of studying abroad.  At about the halfway point of the semester abroad, we are all currently facing an onslaught of midterms, projects, and class presentations.  Since I’ll be wasting even more time on the Internet than usual, this would be an appropriate time to do a little midterm examination of the whole experience so far.  And, since I’m fresh from a five day excursion to southern Vietnam, let’s begin there.

Vietnam for me, to be honest, kind of sucked.  To put it mildly.  But I should emphasize the “for me” part.  I’ve heard great things about this country - its people, sights, cuisine, etc. - and I did get to experience them to some degree, but it was all marred by this:

These are my legs, with two dirty wounds.  The right knee was far worse, and there exist many worse pictures of it, but I decided I would spare the horror of a dirty bloody zombie bite on my kneecap.  Will provide pics to those interested though. Not pictured: decent scrape on my left elbow, minor scrape on my left shoulder, minor cut on my right big toe (a perfect sized hole cut through the toe and sock of my right shoe), and a fatty purple bruise on my upper left thigh.

This happened on the first full day in Saigon.  We rented motor scooters in the morning, and had the plan to make a roughly three to four hour scooter drive down a few highways and make it to Mu Nei, a beach on the east coast of Vietnam that’s apparently a great vacation destination.  This was also the first time I had commandeered anything remotely resembling a motorcycle, and luckily I had enough mind to continually adjust and become comfortable as I rode the thing out of the city and onto the highway.

Those who have been to Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City, the less popular but official name) will be quick to say, “Hey! That is the WORST place to learn how to ride a motorized bike for the first time.”  And they would be right - the city especially felt like a death trap.  There are millions of scooters around, and plenty of cars among them.  It seemed, quite literally, that there were no traffic guidelines enforced at all. You weave, you make left turns into oncoming traffic, and you work your brakes like their directly connected to your autonomous nervous system, and just react, brake, react, honk, and continue.

About two hours or so outside the city, we were cruising down a comfortable highway alongside scooters, cars, buses and semis.  Felt way better the city, for me at least.  I wish the story was crazier than it was, but to the point -  a couple of buddies I was traveling with, who were ahead of me, somehow lost control on a particularly gravelly part of the road (there were many), and I was, by the slightest margin, involved in the mayhem.  And I definitely got the worst of the injuries.  And I now hate them (just kidding Eddie and Farbod).

The magnificent steeds

Imagine a huge roundabout filled to the brim with these things.

So I made it to a local clinic where not an utterance of English was spoken - we were lucky enough to have a German with three years of training in Mandarin who was able to converse with a Vietnamese lady in Mandarin (not particularly common? I believe) who was at that facility about the issues at hand.  Lots of iodine, sodium chloride, snippage of damaged or dirty tissue, and girly grimacing and yelping.  So I had to make my way back to Saigon, packed a bike into the back of a very helpful taxi van, and took a long drive back to the city, where I could find a real doctor to handle my problems.

After doing a bit of research, found a recommendation for a “foreigner” hospital, apparently on the higher end of medical facilities in Saigon and definitely more expensive, from what I’ve been told.  But in the end, I needed to communicate, and English is far more of a precious commodity in Vietnam than in Hong Kong.  There I finally made it, got cleaned, wrapped, more disinfecting solutions, more prodding, more girly whimpering, more waiting room purgatory, until I was finally able to leave at around 3:30 am.  The souvenirs I got from that night?  A few stitches (on the less than 20% of the wound that could be properly sutured), some painkillers, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and a couple of sweet Vietnamese Timmeh-crutches.

This situation was particularly sensitive as well, because my folks were not, and I don’t believe are yet, aware that I was in that country at all.  And if they were, they would be less-than-pleased that I rented a scooter.  And took it out of the city.  And rode a few hours outside of said city.  And attempted to gun 100 km/h at some points (and succeeded).  And nearly broke my knee.

My insurance reps are amazing and I’m so glad they have a global network and are extremely competent at their jobs.  I don’t think my folks will ever be aware, unless of course they read this - then, Hi Mom! She’s far incompetent at computer things, so I will be extremely confused or maybe a bit impressed if she gets this far into the Internet to read about my idiocies.

Anyway, what you didn’t see pictured, but what was the worst part of it at the time, was the bruising my knees got, especially in the right.  That’s what hurt the most at first, and made it hard to put pressure on it when I walked or bent it at all.  That really dampened the rest of the trip, because apart from participating in basic human transportation (walking), even getting into vehicles was a hassle and an uncomfortable nuisance.

So I couldn’t make it to the beach with the others, who ended up taking the much more sensible night bus to get there the next evening.  Having to make regular trips back to the hospital to continue to clean and redress the wound required a lot of time, effort, and a decent chunk of the expense budget.

The evening after the incident, another unfortunate occurrence was that my friend Matt began to feel ill and was coming down with some infection-like symptoms, most ostensibly a nasty swelling in the ankles.  He ended coming with me for my second appointment, and had to stay overnight and get treated himself.

Think Willy Wonka, when the girl eats the blueberry chewing gum.

I made it back the next morning to check on his cute little self, make sure he had enough good snackies and was alright in general (I even brought beer, but that may have sent his immune system into overdrive if he decided to enjoy some).  I stayed for the whole day until about 9 pm, which was fine because I was still rather immobile myself, and was able to correspond with both my insurance reps and the relevant personnel at the facility to sort out my situation.  Matt and I now have a decent volume of first-hand experience with the Vietnamese health care process, and travel insurance especially.

Me, pretending to be an in-patient.  Hospital beds are the pinnacle of comfort. 

 

Matt, also pretending to be an in-patient.  Dudes carrying around an IV stand with a hospital gown, priceless.

He had to spend another night in there, as there were no indications as to what was happening.  I made my way to the hotel and proceeded to spend a night on my own (friends at the beach, buddy at the medical ward) until the later part, at least.  I stayed near the hotel, which was fine because it was a vibrant little square where backpackers converge and bars and vendors are plenty.  The fact that I was on my own was not a bad thing at all, as well.  When something like a motorbike accident happens to you, or you come down with a semi-debilitating injury, people tend to attend to you a lot, for obvious reasons.  And while that’s appreciated, it gets annoying when you are magnetizing a lot of attention in the room, being asked constantly the state of things, etc., etc.  All good intentions, but it does get tiresome, especially for those who wish to be as independent as they can manage.  To spend some time in the company of myself, and later some great strangers who became friends, was fine with me.  Because one of my favorite things about removing myself from my home country is, beyond meeting a culture in its own country, you get to meet loads of cultures via their travelers.  And meeting fellow travelers is so easy - you already have a tremendous commonality, and the fact that one decides to travel, especially to a continent like this, indicates a lot about his or her passion for adventure, and open-mindedness to new thoughts and experiences.

Report: More Colleges Offering Dick-Around Abroad Programs

Quote:

"Taking time to go fuck around abroad has become essential to a well-rounded education," said New York University dean of student affairs Christina White. "We urge all our students to pick a program that’s right for them, whether it’s six weeks dicking around in the Spanish countryside, or six months sticking your thumb as far up your ass as you possibly can in Japan or South Korea."

Good find from Jessika Hung.

So Peter Seller stopped by… and then was gone.

In contrast to the volume of developments that occurred throughout the roughly five day visit, I will exercise brevity in the mode of Hemingway.

It was enjoyable.

Soothing gangbangers

dianale:

“Gangsta Luv” (Mayer Hawthorne G-Mix) - Snoop Dogg

I’ve always been sort of suspicious of Mayer Hawthorne, as one should be of a grown man in fashionable, black, thick-rimmed glasses (except Ira Glass because that man can do no wrong). I’ve seen his name show up on playlists, but it wasn’t until I heard this “g-mix” that I decided to give him a try. True to his Wikipedia-listed genre, he brings out the soul in this Snoop Dogg hit. His slow jamz have a classic sound to it, but also intriguingly new. Mayer Hawthorne and the County is currently on tour. Catch him at the Henry Fonda Music Box in Hollywood on November 12.

Snoop Dogg | Gangsta Luv (Mayer Hawthorne G-Mix)

10 plays

Waiting at the airport for Peter Seller, because I am such a good friend…

CFOs and Tennessee Hoes

Greeting Earthlings,

Here’s another favorite from the Philippines trip:

So we spent a full day cliff jumping, eating native cuisine, snorkeling, and drinking to our hearts’ content on Ariel’s Point, a beautiful rock about 15-20 minutes off of the coast of Boracay. On the boat ride back, everyone was in good spirits, and mingling, since pretty much of us were all western tourists.

But there was an older, more conservative Korean couple who joined us on the rock, and soaked in the scenery, more so than the extreme jumps and freely-flowing libations. And since everyone was in a good mood, my two friends from UCLA, Matthew and Dorian - who I met QUITE randomly on the beach the previous day - decided to use their semi-fluent Korean skills earned from six months spent in South Korea teaching English to little Asian kids.  Also, on the boat was a (quite loose) nice young lady who claimed to hail from Tennessee - and, as I found out, was far from sober when she finally took the highest cliff jump, after a long day of prodding from all of us more adventurous tourists.

And so they struck up conversation with the couple, and everyone laughed and had a good time.  I can’t imagine what they talked about, but perhaps it had something to do with eating little beagles and months-long fermented cabbage.

Later, after landing on the beach and prior to the debauched activities that ensued that evening, our friend Alvin, the son of the owner of the hotel as well as Ariel’s Point, informed us of an interesting fact about the nice Korean couple:

"Yeah, that was actually the CFO of Samsung Corporation."

Uhhhh……..

When you are having the time of your life, that is the part of the trip when you start missing home.

- ancient Taiwanese prophet

Pumpkin Bags

While we’re sharing hilarious formative year stories…

So when my group of older, male cousins were in their relative infancy, they engaged in a valiant internal competition in the order of Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.  So Peter, Chris and Ray were happily playing along to their hearts’ fullest content, and, more importantly, waiting for the prayer-related family gathering to commence outside their bedroom door.

But the others cried foul. “Ray,” they moaned. “You cannot possibly continue to use Chun-Li’s abilities in such a manner that is counter to the spirit of the game, and therefore is cheating.” So after much internal deliberation, Ray decided to quit using the ultimate move set of Chun-Li, and enter into a realm of what most would consider a more “fair” approach to playing Street Fighter.

However, frustration grew for the young learner. Without Chun-Li’s supreme gifts, he was next to powerless, and the competition ate him alive. This is where our story begins.

At this point in time, young Ray grew so emotionally distraught at his inability to play at the high, demanding level of the other two, that he had to release his aggression in another, more physically obvious way. And so he scanned the local scenery for something appropriate to grab and hurl upon its merry way. He found something that he believed would work.

It was, what they called the “pumpkin bag,” for reasons still much of a mystery to me, but it involved its Filipino origin and how it looked or was utilized. Anyway, the point is… he grabbed it, and he threw it to the wall in a fit of fantastic fury.

What he failed to realize, however, is that the pumpkin bag was not empty. In fact, it held in its sacred trove a baseball mitt, thankfully not an actual pumpkin, but surely carrying a mass of its own.

And the bag, with full mitt in tow, collided with the window.

As raindrops of crystal glass fell to the ground, a shocked group of young video gamers did not know what to do next. But seeing as how they could not have all this broken glass strewn about, with important guests in the immediate area, they had to notify the local authorities immediately, meaning Edwin, the father of young Ray and Chris.

As you can imagine, Edwin was less than pleased at the youngsters and their youthful exuberance. After an appropriate amount of scolding, finger-wagging, and printer paper taped to a murdered window, the boys were left to ruminate on their recently transpired transgression.

They told young Ray that he must not become emotional when tested in their ways, or he will never enter the Jedi Order. After many years of similar strife, he finally gained entrance into the Temple of Brotherhood, and that was the start of a golden era of smiles and freely-acquired women.

The point is, this has everything to do with my current adventure in Hong Kong.

On the topic of regret [lessons from life in HK]


1. I’d rather regret the things I did than those I did not.
2. “When you buy something cheap and bad, the best you’re going to feel about it is when you buy it. When you buy something expensive and good, the worst you’re going to feel about it is when you buy it.”

Credit to “Drew Indeed” for the choice quote..

Excerpt from Weezy’s wiki article, so awesome

Lil Wayne was thought to be releasing an EP entitled I Am Not a Human Being, but it was confirmed that would be an album. The album was released on September 27, 2010 which was his birthday.

He has announced several possible upcoming projects, including a collaboration album I Can’t Feel My Face with rapper Juelz Santana that has been in production for several years.[64][65] He has discussed a possible R&B album titled Luv Sawngz, for which he will heavily rely on a vocoder.[66] He has also talked with singer Lloyd about doing a collaboration album in the future.[67] On June 19, 2008, Lil Wayne and T-Pain formed a duo called T-Wayne[68] and planned to release an album.[69] On June 8, 2010, Drake confirmed that he and Wayne are planning to release a joint album in the future.[70] Lil Wayne and Baby will release a second Like Father, Like Son album.[71] Lil Wayne was named the most downloaded artist in the world on Peer-to-Peer networks for the week of September 4–10, 2010.[72]

A list I made about a month ago

Asia is cheap as fuck

soccer

Being sick the past few days

My blog/documentation method and plans

Exchange students and internationals

The school

The city

The locals

Booze and food

women

Fantasy football

The future

Facebook

Feel free to video chat or add me

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Successful Travel Journalism

Mensaa

nice man

12:05Me

yeah its fun to reflect, when not out in the moment

12:05Marc

its most appreciated long after the fact

12:06Me

yeah

but i am honestly trying to get thoughts on paper almost in real time

because i want to capture the energy and not lose anything to fading memory

12:07Marc

yah

thats the only way to do it

everything gets jumbled otherwise any way

and it feels too forced

12:07Me

i enjoyed the few posts i read from your blog

i couldnt find it when i looked for it again

but you had such a surprising volume of posts it was awesome

12:08Marc

yeah my strat was to jot down one thing from the day on my laptop

12:08Me

great approach

12:09Marc

then i’d do a big upload whenever i was feeling upto it

12:09Me

for me, since my mind is racing like all day

12:09Marc

which was usually on some long train ride or etc

12:09Me

i can probably at least one a day

too much potential energy to release

12:09Marc

http://mnsaa.blogspot.com/

the big thing for me was the batch uploads

if you’ve got the energy, and it isnt a chore - then you’re in business

12:10Me

didnt you have more traveling after this last post

12:11Marc

yeah

(lost my energy)

haha

after that was naples>pompeii>rome>florence>london>dublin

12:11Me

sweet

12:12Marc

but like anything, it’s the thought that counts

12:12Me

i really look forward to sharing stories with everyone who went international when i get back

12:12Marc

for sure

12:12Me

could you explain what the mensaa story is all about

or is that a private secret

12:12Marc

mensaa?

as in?

12:12Me

as in the organization you created at mesa

12:13Marc

oh

12:13Me

and whatever mnsaa means

12:13Marc

i wanted to put that i “started a club” on my college apps

thats the story

not much to it heh

12:13Me

so you picked “mensa”

and then added a vowel

12:13Marc

and added an A for irony

12:13Me

that’s what i would consider

a fantastic story

12:14Marc

it was a literature club

started to expand beyond the cannon offered by the general curriculum

12:14Me

of course

so, retroactively

could i consider myself at least an honorary club member

12:14Marc

sure

12:15Me

and you did indeed start the best club in the land

12:15Marc

our actual signed up roster was pushing 150

12:15Me

epic

12:15Marc

all in good fun

12:15Me

i did see some message boards and the website you had up

the fade life

i did not know literature was the focus of the group

12:16Marc

yeah

the site kept getting hacked by turks

literal turkish hackers

12:16Me

haha

so technically, the site is still in existence?

12:17Marc

nah, its being squatted on now

mensaa.com any way

12:17Me

so the original site architecture is still there, but you dont have control of the domain

or its floating in cyberspace anyway

12:18Marc

nah its all off the grid

i think me and marko have backups on old comps

but nothing worth recalling

12:18Me

haha nice

i did laugh at the comments of mitch mandell liking prepubescent little girls.

12:19Marc

well that is still true

12:19Me

indeed

nice

12:19Marc

some things never change

haha

12:19Me

i am glad i just got edified on true hollywood story of mensaa

that always was a great mystery to me, and hilarious

12:21Marc

haha

not a problem

you should know of the outlaw aspect though

somehow they found out that we were using club proceeds to fund our drinking

and they called yaron and i into the office to discuss the background of the club with the administration

yaron wasnt talking much, and the principal at the time kept pestering him so i let him answer a question on the logo

to which he replied that the star symbolized strife in the model of Che

and that the green base was inspired by a single blade of grass

12:26Me

wow

this story gets interesting

definitely the true hollywood story

12:26Marc

yeah but you have to imagine yaron stuttering

and staring at the ceiling

and sweating

while telling this

thats what makes it work

12:26Me

of course

i love the strife of Che

very literary

12:27Marc

indeed

12:27Me

can i post this entire conversation to my blog hahaha

12:28Marc

sure

12:28Me

but yeah man

now that i’m a traveler

i’m sharper, more understanding, funnier, more helpful

12:28Marc

got the bug?

12:28Me

so much personal growth

12:29Marc

the key is to stay in travel mode when you’re home

12:29Me

indeed

a monster is growing inside me…

12:29Marc

excellent

12:29Me

alright onto the next lecture

later bruh

good talk

12:29Marc

enjoy