Friday, October 06, 2006

Photos Before Blogging Was Big

Blogging is a relatively recent phenomena, and it may not last long (who has extra time to read all this stuff?), and lots of photos were taken before blogs alowed us to post so many to the web. Sure they are in Yahoo photo albumns and such ( but blogs are just a little bit better at reliving the experience. So here I'll post some of the best photos from my pre-blog time - I lived in ruralish China for 2 years (2002-2004) then I travelled around Asia for another year. Some of these photos found their way into email travelogues (a clumsy method) and others have never been shown - does anyone care though? In order to post photos you seem to have to tell a story - my village was Wuqing (aka Yancun), about halfway between Beijing and Tianjin (both huge cities of +10 million, each about an hour away). It seemed that no one spoke English there, even though everyone had 8 years of English in school; just no oral English practice. Learning even a Chinese word a day would make you competent after as year or two, but life is much harder than that - Mandarin is the hardest thing that you will ever have to learn.

But what an experience! China at the point where it became a global entity, when donkeys were banished from the streets and capitalism was everywhere. I never saw evidence of Communism, and people thrived by selling everything that they could. There were small problems because the competition was warped (what if everyone sold the same thing...) but it will work itself out. Americans think that Chinese factories are geared toward exports, but actually they struggle to keep up with local demand; 1.3 billion people require lots of stuff.

Prices/wages are certainly low there, but so is the cost of living - I never saw people in need, and they appear happier than we are; people value family most, and that's what is most important to them. Individualism is not a priority - traveling alone internationally, like I did, is their worst nighmare.

From there I went on the road for a year - traveling slowly from Bali to Kathmandu was my goal. Bali is not all I would have wanted it to be (the recent terrorist bombing there was on their mind too much), but it was a glorious place; perfect rice field terraces and a fanstastic culture more than made up for everything. Art is a way of life, and the living couldn't be easier. Two months was all they would let me stay, but I could have stayed in the Gili Islands (off the island of Lombok) forever - where all the cats have crooked tails. There they forgot to discover motorized vehicles, and hallucinogenic mushrooms are are way of life. I had bronchitis but could still dive on reefs and chase sea turtles - and there is just enough beer and email to survive.

Onwards to Singapore (one of the most beautiful places I know - despite all the regulations) and then I ambled slowly up the length of Malaysia. Tioman Island had the best giant clams I have ever seen, and huge dragons enough to satisfy me for a lifetime. Maybe the best place I have ever visited was the Perhentian Islands, off Kota Bahru - someone forgot to put them in the guidebooks so few visit there. You move about via boat taxis and the social scene couldn't be better. Don't go there!

Of course Thailand is one of my favorite places - I can't tell you how much time I spent there, mostly because I was kicked out of China every few weeks to get a new visa. Bangkok was my favorite city long before I got there - modern, overwhelming, primitive, colorful, exciting and more. It has great buses, a subway, river taxis, perfect street life, the best markets, and an occasional emerald buddha. Life is easy there, and the country is small enough so that you can be in the mountainous north one day (Chaing Mai) and the tropical south (Phang Na and Phuket) the next - via long overnight trains.

From Bangkok I lept to Kathmandu - and that is a subject of a previous blog posting...


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