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  • hardie karges 8:39 am on September 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , world travel   

    BHUTAN: No Problem in Little Tibet… 

    IMG_0591…once you pony up, that is, and then you’ll be handled and kept, with your own driver and guide, even if there’s only one in your group. You gotta’ hand it to Bhutan, for successfully marketing its brand. After all, how many countries can charge every tourist $250 a day, with the only airline charging overpriced flights, declaring Gross National Happiness the goal of life, and fill those same flights from full to overflowing, even if only turbo-prop baby Fokkers from Nepal? Druk Air flies you back in time…

    In the latter half of the last century the previously self-sufficient Himalayan kingdoms saw the writing on the wall: the world is changing, and they need to change with it. Tibet was lost to China forever for no greater crime than simply being there and being itself. Sikkim gave herself over to India, for lack of a better plan. And Nepal opened the door to every Harry, Dick and Tom with a stiffie and a spare dollar for a bottle of Boone’s Farm… (More …)

  • hardie karges 2:00 pm on July 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , world travel   

    Life in a Thai Forest Temple: part 1, Mae Chan 

    IMG_0712Mention Thai Buddhist temples to someone, and the image they probably get is that of the gaudy gilded red and orange structures that dot the landscape (t)here, with maybe a mention or two of the corruption and sleaze that dogs the state-supported religion, and which could give the Vatican a run for its money as a source of occasional shame to mix in with the more typical reverence that rivals that of the monarchy as a foundation of Thai culture here…

    But there is another side of Thai Buddhism that is much more impressive to many of our Western tastes, and which rivals Tibetan Buddhism, if not yet Zen, in the number and popularity of its Western adherents, and that is the Thai Forest tradition. Barely a hundred years old, it is the exact opposite of the Dhammakaya flying saucer-like temple that has gotten so many Facebook shares lately, with its million-minion meditation sit-ins and its current run-in with the Thai government over allegations of money laundering… (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 4:49 pm on July 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      My reply did not go through. What can I say? Your description is very enlightening – and my great nephew has taken up Buddhism.


    • davekingsbury 8:42 pm on July 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I look forward to more updates from the Temple. Your commentary straddles the traditions in an interesting and accessible way.

  • hardie karges 10:27 pm on April 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Lake Atitlan, , , world travel   

    Time Travel 1977 Panajachel, Guatemala: Life Sweet, Whiskey Sour… 

    Continued from previous…

    If the drive from Guat City into the highlands is exhilarating, then the drive down to Lake Atitlan is nothing but spectacular.  Imagine a mile-high lake ringed by three volcanoes and a dozen Indian villages with some of the most colorfully dressed people you could ever imagine.  It’s easy to fall in love with beauty like that, and many people have already.  Hippiedom is alive and well here in 1977, so that’s why they made me cut my hair.

    These are some hard-core hippies, sleeping on the beach and playing songs for tips in restaurants.  The restaurants are good, too, with real live vegetables on offer, which is something almost unheard of in Mexico, where food is meat and beans and corn and rice, and vitamins are something to be extracted from fruit, especially jugos y licuados, aka ‘vitaminicos’ and zumos in other versions of the vernacular.  It’s cheap, too, dollar a meal, much less than pre-devaluation Mexico a hundred miles away, a devaluation still weeks away.  (More …)

    • Philip Melnick 8:23 am on December 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Hardie…I owned Roger’s Pub (Risian) from January 1979 to 1981. I leased it from Rudy, a Guatemalan guy who was married to a woman from Quebec. (Her father was a famous Canadian country music singer). The minute I first walked into the pub in 1977 I wanted to run the place. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. We used to greet the tourists coming into Panajachel and tell them the other bars had live music, but we had live bartenders!

  • hardie karges 3:58 pm on February 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , world travel   

    Motorcycles swarm the roads like flies on… 

    IMG_0197…sand, through the hourglass, they sifting ahead to the front of the queue at every red light.  They occupy no lane of their own, nor could they if they wanted to.  Women ride sidesaddle lady-like on the back to keep their virtue intact, or at least the illusion of such.  Motorcycles go both directions on the road’s shoulder with impunity and full moral authority.  Southeast Asia is a motorcycle culture.

    You should see the old quarter of Hanoi, which has no traffic lights.  Every intersection is a scramble of motorbikes and people that has to be seen to be believed.  Only then will you realize how they won the war.  They simply out-endured us, as they do everything.  In Bali, when the traffic backs up, motorbikes simply take to the sidewalks without a moment’s hesitation.  A motorbike is still a status symbol in Cambodia.  Laos doesn’t have much of anything, but is slowly catching up.

  • hardie karges 7:53 pm on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , world travel   

    Ensalada lengua, tom yam bahasa… 


    Grand bizarre in Istanbul…

    If there’s anything more annoying than gringos speaking incorrect Spanish, it’s—wait for it—Spanish-speakers speaking incorrect Spanish, for the presumed benefit of non-Spanish speakers, creating a mindless muck of incomprehensibility that is more annoying than anything else, as if I would never know what country was being talked about unless the Spanish-speaker said ‘Your-a-guey’ instead of ‘Oo-roo-guai’, which is the correct way, for Uruguay, or ‘Pair-a-guey’ instead of ‘Pah-rah-guai’, as actually happened once, from a Spanish-as-a-second-language speaker before she knew that I could speak Spanish, too.

    Actually I’m not sure if she ever acknowledged that I could speak Spanish as good or better than she, even though she had actually lived there a long time, and I never really did. That’s all too often the problem, of course, dueling with dual languages for supremacy and the upper hand at whatever dignity might be at stake. And it’s justified, too, in that anybody should have the right and encouragement to speak the language of whatever country he happens to be in.

    Thailand is the worst, though, only grudgingly relenting to speak the native tongue with a farang unless he can physically pass as a brown-eyed black-haired Asian or similar half-breed luuk kreung, insisting almost to the death that any English they speak will be better than any Thai you can speak. The books tell them that. The problem with such a mish-mash of languages is that when you can’t understand something, then you don’t even know what language it is you can’t understand! One must persevere…

    • Esther Fabbricante 12:00 am on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting. I don’t pretend to speak Spanish at all, even though it was a minor in college.


    • hardie karges 12:03 am on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      That’s the other side of the conundrum, of course, that studying and speaking are entirely different, takes a combination of the two…

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

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

    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!

    แสง สี เสียง: Light, Color and Sound

    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…

    View original post 588 more words

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

    Freaking Mongolia, Man…. 


    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 7:01 pm on July 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , world travel   

    Lost in #Asia, Lost in #Babel 

    Sign in Asian hostel, maybe something lost in translation, not sure: “possible to keep your languages at front desk”. No, we don’t want them out in public, that’s for sure…

  • hardie karges 2:37 pm on June 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , world travel   

    #RoiEt #Thailand: A Lake Sits in it, Collecting Tears… and Rainwater 

    Roi Et's Lake: Like a Rohrschach Test

    Roi Et’s Lake Phlan Chai: Like a Rohrschach Test

    Not so many cities have a lake sitting smack dab in the center of them, literally, so to find one, in my one-time sometime adopted ‘home’ is something special. The odd thing is that I knew none of that when I landed in Roi Et, itself somewhere smack in the center of Thailand’s vast little-traveled northeast ‘Isaan’ region. I’m here simply because it’s here, and I’m on a quest to see everything. I’ve seen the name on the map many times, but never stopped, maybe never even been through it, not sure. As for the surprise lake, well… you don’t expect me to read guide-books now, do you? Yeah, right…

    The place is a revelation. Not only is this a pleasant, attractive mid-sized Thai city in the heart of Thailand’s poorest most desolate region, but there are other surprises in store, too, like vegetarian restaurants—Thai food, of course—but more than I usually see, all without even trying. There’s even one in the produce market, which also doubles as a ‘night bazaar’, common in Thailand by now, thanks to Chiang Mai, but this is a new twist. Okay, so there’s always some joker wants to be Johnny Friggin’ English to come along and spoil my fantasy, but that comes with the turf. Welcome to Thailand…

    (More …)

  • hardie karges 12:58 pm on June 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Farang, , , , , , world travel   

    #Kanchanaburi #Thailand: Reflections, Wrap-ups, End Games and Swan Songs 

    Author Hardie Karges reflected in mirrors

    Author Hardie Karges reflected in mirrors

    For the last month, after abruptly cutting a tour of Laos short, I’ve been “looking for Thailand,” so to speak, just as others before me have gone “looking for America,” making my (probably) last tour (maybe, that is), seeing if there’s anything I forgot, seeing if there’s anything I missed, seeing if there’s anything I should come back for, and eventually writing it all up—my ‘swan song’ so to speak, for a country I spent about a decade of my life in, depending on how you count.

    This is after more than six months of continuous travel, mostly elsewhere, no more than a week in any one place—a sort of ‘personal best’ for me in forty years of travel—and including seven countries (five of them new to me), but more time in India than any other one, and including such popular destinations as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    If the past month started slowly with a (literal) whistle-stop tour on the train down to south Thailand, then it has certainly picked up steam in the last 12 days, with 12 cities, 12 hotels (none over $20/nt, all with WiFi, none with reservations), all five regions of Thailand, and some 3000km/1800mi (all by land, most by 3rd class train).

    Bridge over the River 'Kwai'

    Bridge over the River ‘Kwai’

    And in case you’re wondering, none of those places was Phuket, or Koh Samui, or Krabi, or any other tourist destination, just the opposite, in fact, places like Nakorn Sri Thammarat, Aranyaprathet, Roi Et, Khon Kaen, Phitsanulok, Phichit, and Lopburi. I look for places where I can be a person, not a Farang (Western foreigner). In fact (drum roll here, please): I saw only maybe a dozen other tourists the whole time, not bad, and no beaches, bitches, or booze, the things most people come to Thailand for, UNTIL…

    The last two stops, Bangkok and Kanchanaburi were the undoing of my little purist fantasy, full of tourists and ex-pats, too, back with a vengeance on their part and no small measure of repressed revenge on my own, the spreading colonization of the Kingdom beyond all reason, writing on the wall for years now, but I forgot to wear my glasses, so I know now that my time here is drawing short…

    In Bangkok it’s to be expected, of course, major world city with people from all over, but… Kanchanaburi? Sleepy little Kanchanaburi? Sure, there’s the River Kwai (sp), of course, but does that necessarily imply a cliched ‘entertainment’ strip with all that entails? It looks to be about half-and-half old fart expats and young backpackers, so plenty of blame to go around IMHO…

    Mixed messages at a Farang Bar

    Mixed messages at a Farang Bar

    I mean: I’m glad the local economy is good enough to support a Carabao concert at one of the local clubs, but there won’t be any Farangs there, just locals. And there’s a historic district in town, with appropriate documentation for antique houses, and a floating local entertainment district on pontoon ferries, but most foreigners will never see it from the bar stools in their own private little enclave.

    This bi-polarization of a city—and country—into locals and foreigners is not at all what I look for and no longer what I need from this Kingdom or any other. I need inclusion, not separation; information, not ignorance. What worked for me twenty years ago no longer works for me now. I’ve changed, and Thailand hasn’t, or only for the worse, I’m afraid. It’s time to move on, boo hoo. I’ll miss the coconut ice cream.

    I didn’t plan this final tour to coincide with my 60th birthday, but that’s the way it worked out, a time for new beginnings and end games. I think I’ve just graduated Thai school; that is: my graduate studies in Thai school. The new gap year is 60. I’ll expound on these themes later, my little swan song. This trip is almost over, just a quick stop over in Istanbul and a little side trip to Sarajevo. Huh? What? This is hypertravel, baby.

    • Esther Fabbricante 6:16 pm on June 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! Brandon will never be the same when you get home. Horns and whistles!

    • Traveling Ted 8:07 pm on June 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Only 7 countries in 6 months? You are slipping. Going to have to rebrand as semi-spasmic travel if you keep this loafing pace up 🙂

    • hardie karges 2:05 am on June 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      hahaha= 555

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