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  • hardie karges 2:22 am on March 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Great Wall, Tiananmen   

    BEIJING RUNAROUND: BUSES & PLANES & SUBWAYS 

    035

    Tourist district of Beijing

    …flight leaves Bangkok at 1:20 in the morning, already doomed as far as I’m concerned… seat back doesn’t seem to want to recline backward… arrive in Shanghai at six in the a.m. with seven hours until my onward connection, but I have to change airports—not terminals—to do it.   Fun fun fun… exchange houses in China will fleece you right there at the airport, charging you fifty yuan to change your money, so I ask him for it back. I thought he said fifteen.

    I get to the other airport with plenty of time to spare, quick tour of Shanghai in the process, nothing to do now but free-base caffeine… my only goal is to find my Beijing hotel before dark using the subway system in a city I’ve never visited using a language I don’t really know written in characters that mean little or nothing, though the character for pot-stickers looks surprisingly accurate… too bad I don’t eat meat…

    018

    The other Tiananmen Square

    Shanghai’s is the airport of the future, symbolic of their field-of-dreams mentality, their edifice complex, the notion that the world is there (and theirs) to be developed, a mall in every village, an airport for every town. I’m not sure I like that vision; I’m pretty sure I don’t in fact. Nature may not always be right, but probably more often than humans. I don’t think I’ll ever lose my love of fields and streams, mountains and valley daydreams.

    …weather is bad, so the flight is an hour late leaving Shanghai, still I find my hotel before dark by the grace of God. Allahu akhbar. There’s a reason I book hotels close to subway stations… it’s a peach, $30 net with a couple bucks extra for the best breakfast I’ve had since Istanbul; hard-boiled eggs, salad fixin’s, and forty-two different kinds of tofu, a vegetarian’s dream in cheap hotel heaven… hotel doesn’t have Wi-Fi, but I guess a hard-wire connection will do. Steve Jobs wouldn’t like that, though, would he?

    Great Wall at Badaling

    Great Wall at Badaling

    …first day I walk so much that my feet are mush. Tiananmen Square and Sanlitun Village—the foreign quarter—will have to suffice. I’ll save the Forbidden City for another day. I can do that any half day. The Great Wall will take a little more planning… mostly waiting actually, for the bus. I blow off the tour companies and opt for the public bus, but that means the long lines familiar to Communism.

    Wall’s impressive, too, as much or more as any picture could attempt to do it justice. I even thought about walking it, but… naah. On the way back, though, I jump the bus line when I hear the guy yelling, “Spaces for two!” At least I think that’s what he said. Most Chinese travel in packs. They yell a lot, too. You’ve probably heard that they’re not really yelling, that’s just the tonality of the language. That’s pure BS; they’re yelling.

    …a little bit of old China—but not much—lives on in the back alleys of Beijing. Here you can find the best street food and the most interesting little shops.   They’re rapidly becoming upscale and fashionable, too, since the faster they disappear the more valuable the few remaining ones become. It reminds me most of maybe the old quarter in Hanoi, with which it must share a common ancestor, if Hanoi is not a direct copy itself. Fortunately that district is not far from where I’m staying, so it’s the best of both worlds for me. I like it. I’ll be back.

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 6:37 am on March 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Of interest to know that you are a vegetarian. Wondering how you get your protein? And you are such a pro at taking in all the sights and describing them to us ‘laymen.’ Very impressive, indeed. Keep healthy.

      • hardie karges 3:20 pm on March 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Was a better vegetarian then than now, though still prefer it. Never gave up dairy and eggs, though, major sources of protein, as well as soy products. Brown rice is my staple food, much more protein than the white versions. I haven’t heard of rice gluten causing problems, though not sure…

  • hardie karges 2:55 pm on March 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    #Kabul #Afghanistan: Jihad for Dummies, Spring Hopes Eternal 

    hardie karges:

    Happy Persian New Year 1394! I celebrated it last year in first-cousin fortress Kabul, behind enemy lines, me and Brian Williams, the biggest celebrations at the Serena Hotel, where foreign journalists and dignitaries felt safe until Talib and the Taliban bluffed their way past Checkpoint Charlie, killing several before it was all over while I slept soundly (gulp) in another neighborhood… What a difference a year can make!

    Originally posted on Hypertravel 2: the Electronic Dance Re-Mix:

    God & State in Kabul, Afghanistan God & State in Kabul, Afghanistan

    The queue for Safi Air flight #248 from Delhi to Kabul looks like something of a loya jirga in itself, businessmen and diplomats, village traders of lapis lazuli, scammers and schemers, all going back to the homeland for one reason or another, all with excess baggage—fridges toasters and microwaves, dreams hopes and expectations—all wearing long tunics baggy trousers and funny hats, all speaking strange tongues and whispering strange sighs, body odors wafting from overcoats whose histories likely date back to eras unspecified and improperly documented.

    Any one of these guys could be a Taliban terrorist, al-Qaeda conniver or Saudi Salafist, down on his luck up on his religion out of his rightful mind and into the only one that’s left, high-tailing it or in-boxing it or tweeting it or snap-chatting architectural blueprints for any one of 1000’s of memorials and buildings and airports freely…

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  • hardie karges 3:49 pm on March 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Mongolia, Tsetserleg, Ulan Bataar,   

    Freaking Mongolia, Man…. 

    006

    Tibetan Buddhism in Ulan Bataar, Mongolia…

    August 2012

    …plane landing at Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaan Bator; I look down at the dirt tracks swirling through the pastures surrounding the runway… beginner’s guide to chaos theory, the likely paths and the strange attractions, converging and re-converging according to some logic or design… map to the Mongolian persona if not history… they conquered half the known world of the time, even getting out of China’s grip in the end… with help from neighboring big brother Russia, who took a piece herself in the process; I believe the teeth-marks are still visible on the map… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 4:46 pm on March 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I love your closing line – you made my morning more than mundane – but glorious.

  • hardie karges 3:36 pm on March 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Holidays, Holi Days, Sad Farewells: #Rishikesh #Delhi #India 

    hardie karges:

    Exactly one year ago today: celebrating the most over-hyped Holi Day I’ve ever been witness to. I think I saw a total of 8 kids actually celebrating it.

    Originally posted on Hypertravel 2: the Electronic Dance Re-Mix:

    Holi Days in Delhi Holi Days in Delhi

    India is a mother, a matrix, mysterious and meandering, wise beyond her kitchen, beautiful despite her years, charming the pants off conquerors and traders and holy men and saints, opening doors only to close them behind you, stooping to fawn and pander with multiple options for ongoing investment, financial packaging and advantageous positions in the futures market…

    India is a monster, cruel and conniving, filthy and chaotic, devious and diabolic, two-faced and teeming with too many people, a misplaced anger and aggression mutated into a caste system for the classists and classes, a hierarchy for racists, upward mobility for the wealthy, and a religion guaranteed to keep it that way, laws for the lawless, feuds for the feudal, but no food for the hungry…

    The truth lies somewhere in between, of course, India defined by the resolution of her opposites, her non-attachment to outcomes, her negligence…

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  • hardie karges 3:15 pm on March 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Indian Deliverance: #Mathura #Uttar Pradesh #India 

    hardie karges:

    One year ago today…

    Originally posted on Hypertravel 2: the Electronic Dance Re-Mix:

    Getting redy for holi celebrations inMathura, India Getting redy for holi celebrations inMathura, India

    Delhi suburbs are z-z-z-l-e-e-p-y, (y-a-w-n-n-n), and you could almost convince yourself that life inside the cocoon could always be like this, z-z-zlow and laz-z-z-y, but all good things must come to an end, soooo… spike my veins with pure caffeine, catch the early morning bus to Uttar Pradesh, Mathura to be exact, got a rep as a hot place to party for Holi festival of lights, festival of colored powders, festival of partiers without borders, guard your private parts if you want to keep them that way….

    Bus takes on passengers from an undefined spot in an undefined lot, on the outskirts of town, ready to go whenever from wherever, transvestite comes on the bus posing as the ticket collector woulda had me fooled if he/she weren’t such the fool herself, with her fanny pack as decoy and her silly grin as the…

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  • hardie karges 5:35 pm on March 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: currency, dollar, Euro,   

    Strong US Dollar Makes Overseas Travel Cheap 

    Make whatever political hay of it you will, but the fact is that the US Dollar is the strongest that I can ever remember since prehistoric times: $1 USD = .95EUR, .68GBP, 121JPY, 1.28CAD, 1.31AUD, 15.48MXN, so pretty incredible, and a good time to travel in Europe and elsewhere! Get those passports now and avoid the summer rush!

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 6:29 pm on March 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Sorry – my travels are very limited these days.

  • hardie karges 7:28 pm on March 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Chengde, , Forbidden City, Wangfujing street   

    #CHENGDE #CHINA: PARADISE LOST IN AN EDIFICE COMPLEX 

    Chengde is finger-lickin' good

    Chengde is finger-lickin’ good

    August 2012

    China’s cities are so large and massive, and growing, that it’s sometimes frightening, and as hard as ever to travel independently… scarcely a word or destination written in Pinyin (Romanized Chinese)—much less English—in the typical Chinese bus or train station, nor counter help equipped to deal with it verbally… Hotel staff are a little better—but not much…

    …a travel-guide can come in handy, and that’s a tough admission to make for someone who typically eschews them. Here you can actually chew them… this is 2012… not 1984 nor the 1998-99 era when I was last here… malls may be pretty much up to international standards, but the typical “supermarket” lags way behind… rows of shelves and piles of provisions stacked haphazardly upon them… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 10:02 pm on March 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Your descriptive powers leave me hanging onto every word which you write.

  • hardie karges 3:33 pm on March 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    #Kovalam #Kerala #India: Beaches, Hostels, and Wise Cracks 

    hardie karges:

    What a difference a year can make! the sky will split, And the planets will shift, Balls of jade will drop and existence will stop

    Originally posted on Hypertravel 2: the Electronic Dance Re-Mix:

    Miracle Mile at Kovalam Beach, India Miracle Mile at Kovalam Beach, India

    Kovalam is the kind of place that Lonely Planet writers like to disparage as having sold out to commercial interests long ago, with their chock-a-block cafes and resto–bars and boutiques a la Cannes, while noting how Varkala up the road manages to maintain its wild and rustic more authentic nature. I beg to differ. For one thing: Kovalam ain’t that bad. For another thing: Varkala ain’t that good. These are basically your two beach options within an hour’s ride of the Keralan capital Trivandrum, aka Thiruvananthapuram (say that three times really fast and try to pull your tongue through the loop).

    -

    True, Kovalam is a fairly homogenized and pasteurized version of an Indian beach town, leaning toward European models and menus, with paved sidewalks and handrails to boot, all clean and neat and ready for biz. But it’s also an upgrade. Is that…

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  • hardie karges 4:18 pm on March 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    PYONGYANG DIPLOMACY: COMMUNIST DISNEYLAND IN AN UNCERTAIN STATE 

    015

    Arirang Spectacular

    September 2012

    North Korea is like the urban legend of the Japanese soldier still fighting WWII out on some lonely island in the remote Pacific.  In his mind, it’s all still very real for him.  When he starts shooting at us, then it’s real for us, too.  At first I didn’t know if they were even going to let me in the country, something about journalists not allowed in on tourist visas.  That’s the first time I’ve ever been accused of journalism.  Them’s fightin’ words.  Obviously they’ve never read my work.  Finally I convinced them I was just a blogger, so apparently that’s okay, heh heh.

    …the plot only thickens, of course, in direct proportion as the prices rise… can only enter the country on guided tours…guides! and lots of them.  Tourists NOT allowed to travel independently, rarely even allowed out of sight of the guides… assigned hotel is on an island…  I was pretty skeptical, frankly more interested in notching my 145th country on my bedpost than in getting all cozy with the commies… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 7:17 pm on March 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Excellent portrayal of a little-understood place. Noted that this post was in September 2012 –

      Esther

      • hardie karges 8:36 pm on March 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        The trip and original post was in Sept.2012 on a different blog, yes, this is a re-edited version with different pictures…

  • hardie karges 2:47 pm on March 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    #Kochi #Kerala #India: Third Time’s a Charm 

    hardie karges:

    TBT: what a difference a year makes!

    Originally posted on Hypertravel 2: the Electronic Dance Re-Mix:

    Old Town Kochi, India Old Town Kochi, India

    I wouldn’t even be here if I hadn’t been dissatisfied with my previous digs in Varkala and Alleppey, so I figured if I’m going to make a move, then I might as well head up the road. Actually that was my conundrum from the beginning, knowing that Kerala in general is interesting and diverse, so where exactly then do I start and stop? So I punted and caught the train to Trivandrum, figuring to find a nearby beach whereon to hang. I’ve been backtracking ever since, though still no more than a few hours from the big city.

    Kochi’s worth it, maybe not for the beach, though I don’t really know, but for the historic city itself, based around the old fort and port. This was an old stronghold for the Portuguese and an entrepot for many over the centuries, including ancient Christian sects and Jews…

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