Tuesday, September 29, 2009


When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Moving south, Canada recap

Just a few days before my move south o' the border and I'm feeling that pre-move stress, as well as avoiding the whole packing thing till the very last minute. I'll be breakin' it down again to two pieces of luggage, a pretty monster-sized upright and a backpack.

For the most part paring my possessions down for a long-distance move isn't difficult for me, except for one category--books. If I had my way I would bring along a whole library and have nothing else in the house but shelves and shelves of them, along with a cozy reading nook by the fireplace with Turkish carpets, gigantic pillows and a nargile. Instead I'll be narrowing it down to a handful of volumes so that I don't receive cold stares from the passengers behind me and the airline desk staff while I shuffle my books around and into my carry-on in an effort to bring my luggage back under the weight limit.

Returned from Canada earlier this week. So here are some photo highlights from the trip:

View from atop Whistler

Tinikling (national dance of the Philippines) at the musical "Celebrating the Harvest"

Tugboats at a Fraser River dock

B.C. Parliament building in Victoria

Harrison Lake

Queen Elizabeth Park

Friday, September 4, 2009

PNE Vancouver

I'm up in B.C. with my mom for a few weeks visiting with aunties and cousins. Yesterday we headed to the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition), an annual fair held in late summer in Vancouver's Hastings Park. The fair runs the gamut from farm animal exhibits to concerts and dance programs to modern art. And then there are the endless stalls of greasy dietary disasters which no fair would be complete without. Everyone needs a bag of mini donuts and souvlaki to keep their energy up for Playland, or so they have something colorful to puke up after taking a whirl on the Spinner.

I skipped the Spinner (along with the rest of Playland) and instead partook of the SuperDog Show, farm animal exhibition, art shows, fake Mexican food, a dance program featuring local youths, and some of the Hastings gardens.

My top 5 picks at PNE:

1. Beaver Cabinet

2. Container Exhibit: Eggshell head and masks

3. Dressy Drawers

4. Container Exhibit: Hub Art

5. The Italian Gardens

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Color me happy: A summer morn in the Santa Ana riverbed

This morning I threw myself out of bed at an ungodly hour in order to catch some morning light at the Santa Ana riverbed, one of my haunting grounds when I was a kid. Unfortunately, it was quite overcast at sunrise, so instead of being down there for an hour, I spent close to three hours waiting for the clouds to break.

Almost wading through the soft sand, sitting on a rock watching the clouds change shape and scaring a whitetail rabbit out of hiding multiple times ... back then, my best friend and I once built a life-size sand sculpture of a naked man right by the north embankment, my brother and I traversed the defunct, rickety railroad bridge, an el nino year brought us enough water for topsy-turvy tubing rides.

Nowadays a monstrous power plant built nearby has spoiled the once quiet ambiance of the riverbed and a sprawling grocery warehouse obstructs some of the view of the mountains to the north. But despite the city's misguided attempts at urbanization around the river so much beauty still lies within these banks.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cleansing in Cali

California. It's been a couple of weeks since I flew in from Malaysia, and the first order of biz -- cleansing. Any decent nutritional habits I have tend to go out the door when I'm traveling. What kind of trip would it be if I weren't trying all manner of tasty cuisine along the way?

And not just my GI tract needed a good cleansing. This is a transition period when I'm weighing what I want to put my energies into next, where I want to live and with whom I would like to surround myself. For these decisions, I wanted my mind to be in the clearest state possible, so 10 days ago I embarked on the Master Cleanse, a liquid fast//detox developed in the '40s in which one consumes only lemonade (from freshly squeezed lemons) with pure maple syrup and cayenne each day, along with doing a saltwater flush.

I skipped the recommended three-day ease-in period and went straight into the liquid fast on day 1. Surprisingly the lemon/maple/cayenne mixture was quite tasty, especially since I enjoy spicy things. The cayenne provides a nice kick to the drink.

For the first two days my energy levels dropped significantly, I felt like a slug. I realized how automatic it is to go in and grab a snack during the day and how much mealtime is part of daily ritual. So the first few days were spent retraining my mind out of that auto response and replacing mealtimes with other activities.

On days 3 and 4 I began to feel much better, with my energy levels building. It became easier to be around food without wanting any. The making of the lemonade in the morning had become part of my daily ritual. However, drinking the liter of saltwater for the bowel flush didn't become any easier. I would try to guzzle it all in one go, but it usually took three or four. Yick! I'm cringing at the mere thought.

Being on the cleanse also meant turning down several invites from friends for lunch or dinner. Yet this also meant that I was able to focus inward, meditate, find clarity without distractions.

By the weekend and day 7, I thought I had this in the bag, but I awoke that morning with a nasty headache, which hung around till noon. My energy levels dropped once again and I felt light-headed when I went out to exercise that evening.

Days 8 and 9 saw a peak in energy and clarity. And today, the tenth and final day of the cleanse, I feel great, and not just because I won't have to drink anymore saltwater. Other perks that have come along with the cleanse: my allergies have hardly bothered me at all, I've experienced much better sleep and wake up feeling rested, and I've lost almost seven pounds.

Now that I've reached the end, feeling light, clear and energized, I'm thinking that this is something I would like to integrate into my life on a regular basis.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fear and loathing on the road to Bang

A bead of sweat emerged on my right temple and trickled down my cheek, with several more to follow. Next to me on the bus sat an elderly man with a bird's nest of white hair, large, square, plastic glasses and a crisp, white sports shirt. He smelled of a not unpleasing mixture of coffee grounds and Old Spice.

"Long ride ahead of you, going to Bangkok, right?" he said, grinning.

"Indeed, I am. You, too?" I asked. He nodded.

In fact I was unsure as to how long the ride would really be, having heard or read everything from 12 to 17 hours.

I learned from my seat mate that he spent most of his time between Costa Rica and Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, but this time had decided to detour and check out the Cambodian coastal town of Sihanoukville, where I'd spent the last week.

Moments before the monsoon rains hit. Sihanoukville, Cambodia

"So, what did you think of the place?" I asked.

"Well, I don't know if this will make sense ... it had a very low energy, ya know, compared to Chiang Mai. Up there the people are so different, high energy," he said, adding: "I guess after having a million of your teachers, doctors, your educated, killed off, that does something to you. I think it's affected the gene pool. It will take some more time to recover, I suppose."

The bus grew hotter, idling in the sun with the AC blowing weakly from the vents above. We weren't sure what we were waiting for and no one had bothered to ask. Finally, after another half hour had passed and the conversation had shifted from Buddhist meditation to goats on bush taxis, a young French couple rushed onto the bus and plopped down in the front seats. They were both sweating and looked frazzled. Minutes later the driver appeared and we finally hit the road.

Five hours later, after a lunch stop in the border town of Koh Kong, we arrived at the the border post in the same town and were promptly dumped off. The Cambodian immigration line, though slow, moved steadily. From there it was a short walk to the Thai immigration office, which processed everyone much quicker than its Khmer counterpart.

On the Thai side there were a series of minivans with their drivers recruiting people to their respective vehicles. Other men had brought our luggage over on large pushcarts. We soon realized that we would not be able to leave until our van was full -- 10 people. Luckily, our driver was zealous in his recruitment tactics. We ended up with the late French couple, a Dutch couple, a Frenchman with a blond toddler in tow, my seatmate from the first bus and two Khmer girls.

The driver's helper came to check everyone's tickets, at which point the Dutch and French couples claimed to have given their full tickets to the boy on the first bus. The ticket checker stated that they could not take anyone without a ticket. So both couples began sifting frantically through the contents of their pockets and packs. After a few minutes the Dutch exclaimed in triumph, producing their tickets from a backpack, whereas the French looked on dejectedly, not able to find theirs. The French couple told ticket man that they had their receipt and stickers for Bangkok, but no tickets; however, the man was adamant about having the tickets and declared that he would need 200baht from them so he could cross back through the border checkpoint and call the ticket office. The French lamented having no baht on them, but the Dutchman quickly came to the rescue and produced 200 baht, to the profuse thanks of the couple. All the other minivans were long gone by this time, and the French couple seemed to sink a little lower in their seats, embarrassed at being the ones to make us late for a second time that day.

The AC was again inadequate, with the Dutch couple and I suffering in the very back. At regular intervals the Dutchman would doff his baseball cap and stick his balding head directly beneath the vents. The Frenchman, meanwhile, seemed to miss the fact that his child was suffering in a thick, long-sleeved jersey.

After zenning it thru this ride for another few hours, we made it to Trat, where at a gas station a lone, white super-minivan was awaiting us. This wonder had high ceilings, twice the space and a freezing AC.

For this final leg of four and a half hours, we all stretched out in cool comfort, thinking that the rest of the trip would be smooth sailing into Bangkok. After being on the road for about an hour we reached a police checkpoint. Most vehicles were waved through quickly, but when we made it to the front of the line a cop gestured for us to pull over. He first asked for the driver's documents, then told him to get out of the van and come with him. No one in the van said a word, but the big UH OH in everyone's minds was almost tangible. We looked on helplessly as they took him to a table and began questioning him.

A little later another officer opened the van's sliding door and peered in, rather menacingly, at all of us. He then ordered the two Khmer girls out and slammed the door shut after they had climbed down. We watched as he questioned them while studying their passports closely. At this point all manner of scenarios were running through my mind and everyone was gazing at each other quizzically.

After another half hour had passed our driver returned to the van. It was hard to tell if he was crying or just sweating profusely, perhaps both. He certainly looked dejected, but he got in without saying anything. The van was eerily silent, not even the toddler was babbling as if he understood the mood. We pulled out of the checkpoint and continued on our way as if nothing had happened.

Around 60 songs later the lights and skyscrapers of Bangkok came into view, with the Frenchman stretching giraffe-like toward the windows to take it all in. After a mere 12.5 hours we had made it to the Bang.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The little temple

Rewind to July 7-13, when I was in Siem Reap to visit the Angkor temples. There is, of course, the most well-known temple complex, Angkor Wat, which is the most extensive. But there are actually over 1,000 different temple ruins of various sizes at the site.

One of my favorites was a smaller temple called Banteay Srey, which lies about 37km from Angkor Wat. The morning light brings out the range of pink, red and yellow tones in the stone and when the temple first came into view it reminded me of something straight out of a fairytale.