Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Entry 13: Japan, China, Thailand

Our two month Japan tour ended with two final weeks rest in Tokyo. Reiko and I took some ceremonial photos, me fitted with a formal kimono and she with her grandma’s hand-painted silk kimono which I’m told is more valuable than 100 Mac Ipad’s.

btw: I would never consider even owning 1 Ipad, what man would buy an electronic device named after a female hygiene product, but then again Macs are marketed for gays and girls anyway.

Sony and I flew back to Beijing for a week and then took a train with our friend Gao, hailing out of Yunnan to the NE corner of China where the city of Haerbin is famed for its frigid weather and ice festival. The entry fee was outrageously expensive, even by American standards but we paid the piper to see all the all the snow and ice sculptures. Like everything else in modern China, what it lacks in style it makes up in size.

Whereas artists with their own designs create individualized pieces in the Quebec City ice festival, a single-minded, mass army of low paid workers and consequently with little love created the Harbin designs, which although dauntingly massive, all had identical snow hair styles and ice block construction technique.

The ice castles were 10 stories high with and ever-changing array of colored lights embedded in the ice.
We spent 5 days walking around in the sunny, but impressively cold weather, bundled in every stitch of clothing we had collected including Mongolian horse-ridding dells. It’s hard for me to believe, but we also skied China, two resorts, runs are, short, intermediate and flat at best and empty since everyone is a beginner, but super enthusiastic, it was great!

If I end up getting an engineering job in Mongolia, I already have the approval of two non-profits that would like to fund a tow rope that would introduce horse riders to skiing that otherwise would not have a chance.

After flying from Harbin back to Beijing, we spent our last week walking around and eating the awesome food at fancy restaurants our friends kept treating us to every night. We decided to team with some of our Chinese friends to start a new business which is to introduce Chinese to American properties and provide tours of America. Reiko and I are now building the website.
A 4.5 hour flight from Beijing and we were in Bangkok, Thailand. Since traveling here the first time in 1998, I’ve felt that all my trips must begin and end in Thailand. We spent our first two weeks in Bangkok in a retched hive of scum and villainy, otherwise known as Khao San Road.

On Khao Sarn we took in as many $5/hr massages and $0.80/phad thai dishes as humanly possible before heading north to Sukothai, Thailand’s older capital.

With a rented motorbike we toured Buddhist temples for a few days before making our way to Chiang Rai

where we based our motorbike touring of the countryside full of ethnic “hill tribes”

which are actually refugees from Burma and China living in Thailand as quasi-citizens and to watch the Steelers lose the Superbowl. With minimal gear, one pack loaded on Sony’s back (most of our travel gear in storage at a couch surfer’s house in Bangkok) we motor biked to the most remote villages Thailand has to offer that are still accessible by dirt road. I drove successfully, most of the time with Sony toppled by the heavy backpack to the ground twice. No breaks, just skinned knees and minor bike damage

and we kept on across valleys and over hills past houses made of bamboo with grass roofs, villages of only Chinese-speaking immigrants, meticulous cared for tea plantations forming neat rows on the steep hillsides,

Chinese New Years festivals, multi-tribal festivals each tribe displaying their unique form of dress, red and black Hmong, Ahka hats covered in silver, marble-sized balls and Lisu with Tibetan-styled head wraps, some dancing a blessing song in front of Chinese households in exchange for a money offering.

In the more remote areas of our bike ride near the Burma-Thai border we slept in our “high-tech” hammocks with built-in mosquito net and rain cover, the cover not needed as everyday has been hot and sunny since we came to Thailand.

Highlights in the Chiang Rai area include two hot springs, one artesian with super-heated groundwater shooting 20 feet in the air,

seeing beautiful, tribal, ring-necked Burmese girls, not in their human tourist zoo exhibit, but at the hospital while my multiple skin infections were being diagnosed, apparently I’m allergic to all the oil the massage girls have been smothering me in daily and the white temple, seeming as if it were plucked off the playa at Burning Man, it’s modern, weird, beautiful and amazing.

A statue of the alien from the predator movie greets you upon entering the temple grounds,

decapitated heads with Spanish moss growing out their mouths adore trees,

the temple displays hand-painted murals of Buddha’s with super heroes flying about, the NYC twin towers burning, traditional Thai guardian deities and like other Thai temples covered in splendid glass shards, sparkling brilliantly. What is prettier than a multi-colored glass building as a tribute to your inner nature? Why do our testaments to achievement and god have to be so costly? Is a child no less intrigued by glass than a diamond? The Thais have it right, glass is a cheap and non-destructive material,

whereas the rest of the world chooses highly destructive forms of expression, such as the biggest/tallest or grotesque such as the Chinese expo where the light display alone could easily power a large third world city.
I am now writing from a Loas river boat traveling downstream on the Mekong River for the next two days to some hipster tourist town, previously a retreat for French Colonialists, looking to escape the hell’s they created for themselves in Europe. I’ve never took an addictive drug, aside from refined sugar and caffeine, but I imagine Thailand “withdraw” to be worse. The only reprise is to not seeing the ubiquitous Euro-troll showcasing their Thai-prostitute of the day everywhere they go. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against an old man buying some young skin, but do they have to bring it out of the bedroom and fl
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aunt it in front of the world’s last beautiful culture at large? Thai’s pretend not to care, but how couldn’t the groups of young boys, ladyless on a Saturday night not be bothered? The fear of $500 minimum fine, imprisonment and deportation of a foreigner for just walking with a Laos girl is enough to keep, even the most Asian-pussy hungry sex tourist limp.

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