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  • hardie karges 12:13 pm on October 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China, , Luang Namtha, Phongsaly, , Udom Xai, Vietnam   

    Phongsaly, Laos: at the end of a long lonely road… 

    20181006_061252It may or may not be the ‘end of the earth’, but it definitely qualifies as the outback of Southeast Asia, for whatever that’s worth, probably not much, so long as China keeps encroaching, as it surely will, not so long ago Vietnam probably the greater transgressor, with its oversized population, locked into such a narrow sliver of prime southeast Asian coastline, and punctuated by rivers, this the only country in the world, that I know of, that is self-defined by its water, i.e. ‘nuoc Vietnam‘, Viet-water, as opposed to Thai-land, Ire-land, Green-land, or Switzer-land, for example (if you’re familiar with Vietnamese fish-sauce, nuoc mam, then you might recognize that same word nuoc)…

    But that’s Vietnam, and this is Laos, though you might not know it at the crossroads town of Udom Xai, a town of literally no more than a few tens of thousands, but with buses heading to all the four corners, i.e. China, Vietnam, and Thailand, every neighboring state except Burma, aka Myanmar, and locals can even go from Phongsaly to Luang Namtha, one part of Laos to another, via China, would that this option were only open to foreigners, and you might have a resuscitation of the backpacker market in this region… (More …)

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  • hardie karges 12:12 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alipay, China, , Jinghong, Mengla, Sipsongpanna,   

    Indie Travel Update: Surviving China 

    20180804_204240China must be single-handedly keeping the Lonely Planet franchise in business, you know: they of the 5-pound, 50-dollar, 500-page ‘survival’ guides, most of which is largely obsolete, simply the idea that ‘survival’ is an issue in most of the world, unless you’re talking about survival of traditional cultures, languages and tribal peoples in a world increasingly homogenous, and frankly, pretty friggin’ boring. The only thing in danger of survival are reasons for travel itself…

    Except for China. This is the one country where you can actually use a little help from your friends, they of the world’s only non-alphabetic language, which makes Greek look like a weekend at the beach. Hey, I learned the Greek alphabet, but not the language, of course, in four days of reading road signs in Athens (and we thought all of our vocabulary came from Latin, haha. Tell that to the Russians)… (More …)

     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 2:03 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Oh, my. Too deep for me. How in the world do you survive?

    • hardie karges 2:11 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hibiscus for high blood pressure, meditation for stress, haha. I persevere…

  • hardie karges 2:03 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China, , ,   

    Yangshuo, China: Paradise Lost, Innocence Regained… 

    20180712_074435But you can’t swim in that river again…though you can try…and you should…but it won’t be there, not like you remember it, anyway. Everybody’s gone elsewhere, just like they always do, and those that stay behind are not necessarily the ones you want to see, anyway. Everything changes, all the time, by habit, and tradition, if not by design. The little things that endeared you to the place are the first things to go, being that they were so hard to define anyway, more phantoms of consciousness than features of existence, the mind easing itself into submission…

    It’s not often that I get to re-visit a place I used to go, used to know some twenty years ago, or even ten, but it’s usually interesting when I do. Sometimes things seem little changed. Other times the changes seem drastic, especially in America, which is known more for its changes than its pro-active response to them, more often than not seeming more like blind flailings than direct failings… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 6:24 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      How you come up with such descriptive writing is phenomenal!!

      Esther

      • hardie karges 10:41 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Esther. I’m having trouble sharing this one to FB, so wasn’t sure you’d see it…

    • Daniella Romano 5:19 am on October 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Your writing is beautiful. Really captures the place. Crazy that you visited twenty years ago, it must’ve changed so much, but I’m glad that you got to experience it again!

    • hardie karges 5:27 am on October 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Please stay tuned for more…

  • hardie karges 11:29 am on July 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Canton, China, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, Pearl River, Zhuhai   

    Pearl River, the Delta, and Canton (China, not Mississippi)… 

    20180701_114935Hong Kong the Air-Conditioned Nightmare…

    July in Hong Kong is hot sticky syrup languid lethargic sweaty crowded cramped colic putrid protuberant, bodies stacked on moldy mattresses on elevated platforms the underneath of which has never been cleaned, inhabiting warrens and rookeries in nameless mansions of the homeless, countless cribs of the incredulous, trite testimony to the temptations of time-keepers, dubious debts to the denizens of doubtfulness, humans reduced to automatons sucking electricity for sustenance, the breakfast of champions, until…

    Chill! A cold blast from the refrigerators of a million industrial units, humming in unison, the Christmas carols, reindeer and New Year anthems that herald the arrival of winter, blast out of the open doors of thousands of shops and studios and multi-level department stores full of the trappings of satisfaction and convenience, gifts and clothes with ribbons and bows gift-wrapped for that special occasion, sure to be repaid in kind if not kindred, a place in the sun in the ‘burbs with a three-car garage, consumeristic gleanings no subtle barrage… (More …)

     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 3:38 pm on July 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      How do you do it?…Coming up with words?

      • hardie karges 12:19 am on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Sometimes I just free-associate, let them come together as they will, hoping that whatever is lost in strict logic will be compensated for with enhanced feeling, while still communicating, which is the ultimate objective, of course. Communicating feeling is always the challenge, of course, something for which strict linguistic equations, i.e. sentences, seem ill-equipped. Have you ever read the French poet Rimbaud and particularly his poem “Vowels” (‘Voyelles’)? That’s an inspiration, explaining his idea of synesthesia in language. Mostly, though, I try to emulate what a good painter or a good guitarist does, painting with words, and bending the strings of language–on a good day. Sometimes it works, often not so much. My poem ‘Consonants’ didn’t do quite as well as Rimbaud’s, hahaha…

  • hardie karges 1:08 pm on June 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Agoda, , China, Emeishan, Google, Leshan, ,   

    Little Trouble in Big China: still not ready for prime time… 

    20180622_094150There are so many things that can go wrong for an indie traveler in China, that I’ve been rather amazed that it’s been going so smoothly, if arduous and time-consuming, the process of booking rooms, and travel, and then actually ending up exactly as planned, with little or no language support…

    The only time I really sweated was the time I was on the bullet-train from Langzhong to Xi’an and then all of a sudden so many people got off in Guangyuan, and then the trip number changed on the overhead display, that I seriously wondered whether I was headed off the map into the wilds of Qinghai province—but no, we arrived in Xi’an on schedule, whew, still no major snafus… (More …)

     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 12:16 am on July 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      It’s a really tough life! I’m glad you are about to retire, right?

    • hardie karges 12:28 am on July 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, right, haha…

    • tom de canada 10:45 pm on July 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hey man china has changed in 20 yrs. Blew my mind! I met a few people in yangshuo staying in aptmts up a hill to the left when you hit the river in the old town. But theres a few cheap hostels near each other going
      right at river off main walking zone then right again ablock or 2 later up a small alleyway. Have great vi3ws and good views at rooftop bar. Lotsa european rock climbers were there who found it on booking.com.
      Its a very pretty an touristy rebuilt original old town. Very busy cause of pruximity to vietnam. If ya get the neew train there be sure to follow everyone else to the bus that takes you to town 10 kilometers aaway! Lol
      Take care and good luck hardie! Tom

      • hardie karges 11:02 pm on July 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        HSR train goes to Xingping, right? When I saw that I booked a couple nights there. If I like it I may stay there instead of Yangshuo, especially if it’s changed too much. We’ll see, thx for comments…

    • Norbert 10:56 am on July 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      “China is a happy place…” Sounds credible here, but try to explain that to those exotically grinning Western fans of Tibetan separatism (read “Free Tibet!”) and their favorite mascot, the Dalai Lama (also grinning), or to fans of other mascots such as the multimillionaire/entrepreneur/art professor, Ai Wei Wei….. In one word, there is not enough China-bashing in your report !!

  • hardie karges 10:34 am on June 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , China, Ramadan, , ,   

    Lunch in China, Continued—Part II, Xi’an at Ramadan… 

    20180610_144744.jpg“Couple in the next room, bound to win a prize, they’ve been going at it all night long”–Paul Simon

    Except that here it’s downstairs on the street right below my window, and what they’re going at is mindless and noisy chatter, Meavis and Muttonhead yakking and yukking it up until the dawn comes, about what I don’t know, holding court over a kebab stall as if this is their meaning in life, I stuffing wet tissue in my ears with limited effect, tempted to open the window and yell, but ultimately holding back, it making little difference to my quantity of sleep anyway…

    Mornings in Xi’an are a riotous confusion of boiled eggs, corn on the cob and steamed buns, with filling and without, spicy meat most typical of the infrastructure involved, but you never know for sure until you actually bite in. It’s hot here in June, so best to get an early start if you want to get serious about walking 3mi/5km to the Big Goose Pagoda or whatever it is your tourist jones are hankering for… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 2:02 pm on June 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , China, , Langzhong, , ,   

    Breakfast in China: Life behind the Great Firewall… 

    20180607_092124.jpgSo what’s the attraction with China, anyway? Chinese tourists in other countries don’t have a very good reputation, e.g. in Thailand, where they are often characterized as loud, boorish, rude, crude and obnoxious, so what’s the deal? Oh, I get it; they’re just like us. They’re the new ugly Americans! Just like we were Chomsky’s ‘New Mandarins’ half a century ago, the old mandarins have returned as the new mandarins, and we have returned to our rightful place as the white barbarians…

    The simple fact is that they no longer need us—if they ever did—and they probably like it that way: just like Americans! To Hell with the rest of the world!! And maybe that’s the attraction, if there is one, that this is a place not homogenized for mass consumption, reduced—or elevated—to the world’s common denominators of English language, French kisses and what else? Chinese fast food, of course. But seriously, though, much is lacking in the way of offerings to foreign travelers, especially if they speak no Chinese… (More …)

     
    • Richard 3:38 pm on June 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Good to see you were able to jump over the wall for a moment. Was missing your regular Sunday sermonettes…

    • Esther Fabbricante 5:51 pm on June 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Wow is all I can say. You are a genius.

      Esther

    • tom de canada 6:01 am on June 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Nice deetails of china. I wish you well my friend. Im still at home finishingf work on the ole car. Needed a cam shaft. Big job for one hand. May heaad to india in fall?

      • hardie karges 8:36 am on June 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Just been thinking about you, man, and about what brass cojones you have, to be riding around China on a motorcycle. It’s difficult enuf for me on buses and trains, can’t get up to speed in mandarin fast enuf. But you missed the high-speed trains, wow! Like doing China by subway! I got a 10-year visa for the asking, also available for Americans in India, don’t know about Canadians. Good luck with that, I may have another stint in that area myself…

  • hardie karges 1:52 pm on May 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , China, Doi Mae Salong, Kuomintang, , Santikhiri, ,   

    Doi Mae Salong (Santikhiri): Thailand’s Best-Kept Secret… 

    IMG_2407For most people, travel is a special activity that you do maybe once or twice a year, with elaborate preparations and financial considerations, nail-biting calculations and apprehensions of misappropriations. But most of all: it’s exciting! It’s fun! You’re enthusiastic! But for some others of us, who travel so much that it’s more ‘normal’ than ‘ab’, sometimes we just can’t get it up for the journey, especially if we’ve already ‘been there done that’ and there are no screaming kids to disappoint…

    So I did something a week or two ago that I’ve never done before in forty some-odd (all together now: “some very odd”) years of travel—just canceled; called it off; yanked it; scrubbed; pulled the plug; I feel so liberated now that I don’t have to do all that travel—aaahhh!!! I can relax now. And that’s about the size of it. When you’re tired like the end of a trip, before the trip’s even started, then: do the math, take a bath, put the baby to sleep… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 1:33 pm on January 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Biman Bangladesh, China, Dhaka   

    HARDIE’S HYPER-AWARD: for worst airline (and airport) of 2016 goes to… 

    peking-waiting-14915662_10211567525522998_1568822102406527730_n

    PEK gives new meaning to the term ‘layover”

    …Air China, of course, and Beijing, for bad service above and beyond the call of duty, a total lack of concern for passenger comfort, and incompetence bordering on malpractice. For that honor, they not only had to totally change my return flight LAX-PEK-BKK, and do it not only with no prior notification, BUT NO NOTIFICATION AT ALL!

    I caught it in plenty of time, though, worry-wart that I am. But if that wasn’t bad enough, the real problem was that the two flights didn’t even connect, the initial leg due to arrive in Beijing after the connecting flight has already left! Well, they must’ve been anxious to correct that little spot of bother, right? Yeah, right… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 11:46 pm on January 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China, Gem Show, , ,   

    The Chinese Are Coming! It’s Hypertravel, Baby; Hostel, that is… 

    IMG_0416But they’re not manning warships and they’re not carrying guns. They’re doing business, of course, and cooking up a storm. You can do that at most hostels, at no extra charge, eat food just like Mama makes and maybe bring Mama along, too. All the ‘Air BnB’s in the world are no substitute for a good hostel, and VRBO’s don’t even count. Those aren’t ‘sharing economies’. Those are vanity economies, in which a group of uber-rich teenagers decide to rent a house for a rave, when most have never even signed a lease in their life, and many of us sellers are looking for a new lease on life. Caveat venditor…

    Hostels are the true sharing economy par excellence ab origine. You hang out with others, eat with others, and even sleep in the same room with others, if so inclined. And when those people come from all over the world, then you’ve got something pretty special. Unfortunately the USA has no hostel culture, of course, and little experience with them, not provided for in building codes and left to dangle and die for no certain reason. Some people seem to think they just aren’t American, I guess… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 12:14 am on January 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I have reserved an AirBnB in Franklin, TN for May 4-9, for my family to help celebrate my 91st birthday. They are taking me to the Grand Ole Opry on May 6. There will be 11 of us.

      Esther

    • hardie karges 12:43 am on January 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like fun, Esther; Happy 91!

    • Norbert 7:20 pm on January 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Good luck for the future, Hardie! I had visited a number of Buddhist temples in Kyoto, about 10 years ago. Some of the rituals there strangely reminded me of what I remember from Catholic churches, like how the monks ceremoniously entered the place (of course, without the presence of a Christian-style altar).
      Besides, I have had some good to very good experiences with AirBnB, even a few interesting interactions with hosts. I think although cooperation with others and group consensus are very good ideas, putting individuals together in one place is not enough to get there. They also need to have the right mind-set and mentality. Alas, many of today’s (mostly Western) individuals are too much self-centered and focused on self-promotion, even in situations when they have nothing to gain from appearing “competitive” or “see how unique, interesting and important I am?” (like when in a hostel). This “market-conform” behavior has become a “second nature” to them, difficult or impossible to chase away. I guess the underlying problem is that the spreading of capitalism, especially in Europe and North America, was particularly easy under conditions of simultaneous conquest, colonialism and post-colonialism, which facilitated the development and incrustation of an “individual robber baron” mentality first among the big and small robbers themselves, then among those who objectively and/or subjectively benefited from their robbing activities, as the conquered and colonized were being marginalized or exterminated. Nowadays the world has become so small and crowded that unrestrained “help yourself and grab what you can” behavior is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain unless more and more violence (= “all against all”) is applied, again; and even “at home”, which exposes the uncivilized character of this approach more clearly than ever. An approach that may not even be close to functional, as evidenced by the Russian crash landing of the 1990ies. To some extent, China, where a party officially called “Communist” is still in power, seems to have skipped this ultimately illusory, individualistic phase of development, or, at least, dampened its excesses. On a much smaller scale, also Cuba is trying to get a soft landing, which was at least my impression during my 2000 visit there. We’ll see if this is the last word of history…. (well, of course there is no last word in history).
      How about opening a hostel in La Habana, in a “collectivist” country? C U there…. (Just kidding)

      • hardie karges 7:22 pm on January 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thx, Norbert, things getting crazy here now, full house in a couple days… (I agree with most of what you say, BTW)… 🙂

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