Thursday, September 28, 2017

Finally

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The waiting has ended. I finally got my visa to Japan.  It was two months ago when I started planning for the trip and preparing all of the requirements for visa application. Now I that I have a visa I can finalize our travel itinerary.   I’ve already calculated trip expenses; read books and travel guides on Japan; watched countless YouTube videos on what’s it like to stay there; booked our flights and accommodations; studied the best modes of transportation to move around the country, looked up all pertinent bus and train routes, fares, and timetables; and selected the places we could explore.

So what else needs to be done? I need to concentrate on mastering basic Nihongo and, of course, plan my travel wardrobe and pack.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The palliative of the primitive hut

Monday, September 25, 2017

“The palliative of the primitive hut. The place where you are stripped back to essentials, to which you return—even if it happens not to be where you came from—to decontaminate and absolve yourself of the striving. The place where you disrobe, molt it all, the uniforms you’ve worn and the costumes you’ve gotten into, where you shed your batteredness and your resentment, your appeasement of the world and your defiance of the world, your manipulation of the world and its manhandling of you.” (Philip Roth, I Married a Communist, 1998)

Friday, September 22, 2017

In Salento, Colombia

Friday, September 22, 2017

It felt surreal—staying at a 150-year old converted stable in a 200-acre ranch surrounded by rolling verdant hills and infinite quiet.  At this ranch in a small village in Salento in Colombia’s Eje Cafetero, we spent several days without aim, simply relishing the stillness of the place and the luster of each moment. 

We stayed at this hostel in Boquia, Salento, Colombia.
We wandered around the ranch, visited the horses, and took endless siestas in the hammocks by the pool. We walked through mud, dodged piles of animal manure, jumped over ditches, and hurdled fences to reach what we thought was a river but looked more like a creek. When we wanted to go to Salento’s town center, the hostel manager suggested that we take the shortcut.  So we did. The shorter route turned out to be a 20-minute climb up an incredibly steep hill with increasingly dense vegetation—an unexpected adventure that left us gasping and exhilarated.  

Giant wax palms are strewn about verdant hills and valleys in Valley de Cocora. 
One morning, we took a shared jeep from the town square to the famous Valle de Cocora, home to the Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm tree that grows to over 60 meters tall.  We were driving for half an hour when, through the dusty windscreen of the vehicle, the hills came into view.  The first sight of those trees framed by misty green hills and valleys lifted my spirits. The driver dropped us off near the trailhead where we began our hike to the valley.  As we walked along the dirt path, a landscape so beautiful and sublime as to stamp itself forever in our memories unfolded before our eyes. And I felt right then that I am doing exactly what I should be doing in life at that very moment.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The quietness of her into the quietness of him

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"They had always fitted together like pieces of an unsolved (and perhaps unsolvable) puzzle – the smoke of her into the solidness of him, the solitariness of her into the gathering of him, the strangeness of her into the straightforwardness of him, the insouciance of her into the restraint of him. The quietness of her into the quietness of him.

And then of course there were the other parts – the ones that wouldn’t fit."

~ Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Ancient Town of Hoi An

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hoi An Ancient Town in Vietnam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the balcony of the hotel, I watched the sleepy Ancient Town of Hoi An transform into a grand bazaar as the sun dims to a sorrowful red. The lanterns that adorn the place, droopy and faded during the day, come to life at night, enlivened by the throng of tourists taking photographs of the brightly lit town. Like a cheerless dress in need of spangles and pailletes, the sluggish Thu Bon River is embellished with floating candles and sparkling boats.  Foreign travelers and locals alike quickly occupy the plastic tools and tables set up for alfresco dining along the river banks. A few hours before midnight, the tourists return to their buses and the pedestrian-only streets are drained of people. Storekeepers and street hawkers pack up their wares, and the historic town of Hoi An reverts to its former self.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Crumpling time up in your hands

Sunday, September 10, 2017

When you’re young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You’re your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too – leave them behind. You don’t yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.

Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you’ve been.

~ Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin, 2000

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

One Rainy Day in Luang Prabang

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It rained all day, a languorous drizzle that invited sleep. Abandoning our plan to ride a kayak down the river, we remained at the inn and allowed the unhurried pace of Luang Prabang cast a spell over us.

Crossing the bridge over Nam Khan River in Luang Prabang, Laos
Over an hour-long breakfast of homemade jam, baguettes, tropical fruits, Lao omelette, and endless cups of coffee, we had fun recalling the various experiences we’ve had in the past week: that rain-soaked morning we went temple hopping; crossing that shaky bamboo bridge over Nam Khan River to have a taste of the best sindad (Lao barbecue) in town; the magnificence of the multitiered Kuang Si Falls cascading into turquoise pools amid a tropical rain forest; that roadside stand with the friendly cook where we get our dinner every single night; being lulled to sleep by the trumpet of elephants. On our first day in this ancient town, D, puzzled, asked me, “Why did we come here? Why did you choose this place? There’s nothing to see.” After a week in town, he got his answer. You go to Luang Prabang for its atmosphere, not its attractions.

The inn's library
We retreated into the seclusion of the inn’s library where a shelf full of battered paperbacks, 20-year old National Geographic magazines, and travel guides all over the world beckoned. I felt a jolt of pure joy when I saw Elena Ferrante’s first Neapolitan novel My Brilliant Friend sandwiched between Frank Herbert’s Dune and William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns. I picked it up and curled up in one of the rattan chairs, with D beside me already engrossed in his book. We sat there for hours, absorbed in our books, unconcerned with the pesky insects that tried our patience, the relentless heat, and the ambient noise of the ceiling fan.

I saw dark, menacing clouds looming over the mountains, but they are powerless in concealing the beauty of the tropical jungle that surrounded us.
 
muffled solitude © 2007-2017. Design by Pocket | Distributed by Blogger Blog Templates