Wanderlust satiated. Homefront…for a bit at least.

There is something about South East Asia. The exotic nature (both literally, and figuratively) of these places have long enchanted the western mind. The flights are brutal, parts of ones ass go numb that you didn’t realize existed. There is, however, an inherent sense of accomplishment after the grand return. When I returned from Sarawak, and Bako national park, burned and salt blasted, I felt like an exhausted, yet intensely proud “million bucks”.  Climbing a mountain, located within a rain forest in one of the more remote places on the planet, meeting with a group of good people from various countries, and taking  the view from the top…surreal magic.

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and suddenly, its all worth it.

Getting back to Singapore the next day was a drastic shift on every level. Still exotic, but in a vastly different way. I wanted to hit a few hawker markets and make the most of my remaining time in one of my new favorite cities.  I have a friend who lived in Singapore for a few years, and insisted that I make my way to what I will call “satay” street, and also to the Lau pa sat festival market, to stall number 7, and to seek out the mighty prawn debauchery that would ensue. Let me just say here and now; I survived (mostly) my pepper crab battle… Now the prawns came at me in force, in multiple numbers and their later reinforcements brought garlic, butter, and their heavier brethren, the king prawn. My imminent seafood drunk lasted near 24 hours.

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They come by the plate, and on sticks! A mighty combination.

IMG_7506 His close ally, the octopus came to join, also on sticks.

 

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all the butter garlic goodness.

This is always the pain of traveling solo. You have no reinforcements of your own. The table was soon littered with the vanquished exoskeletons of my enemies, and I lived to fight another food stall, another day.

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Victory!

Stumbling back to the wee hotel, in  haze of proper food drunk satisfaction, I counted my brief return visit to the merlion city to be great success.

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Meat sticks. Hot like fire.

My next day venture came complete with a day trip via ferry to Batam, Indonesia… which made for country # 66! Although there isnt much to Batam, and Indonesia will require quite a bit more exploration.

As I was boarding the long series of flights home, I was bummed for a bit. For a brief moment all of the things I had waiting for me on my return suddenly loomed large. I was tired. The geriatric vacationer next to me was all kinds of twitchy, and didnt fit into his seat, despite his seat-belt extender. After telling me the same details about his cruise from Hongkong 4 times I was less than thrilled about the next 11 hours.  My mind turned to the mountain of grading, the office work, the various en devours and projects I have undertaken this year…I felt overwhelmed and a touch defeated.

And then, all of a sudden it was quiet.  I realized that I was answering student emails from 40,000 ft up, sitting in a dream liner, sipping a ginger ale,  returning from climbing a mountain and running down my dreams almost harder than I know how.

…and it felt fuckin great.

I was excited to get back, see friends and family, and keep working on the projects, making needed progress.  Knock out these exams, get grades submitted and look forward to what lies ahead.

Now I acknowledge privilege.  I truly do. But for so many people, if you want to make it happen, there is one key factor that decides that.

 

YOU

 

Dreams don’t work, unless you do.

 

Find a reason to go, or be okay with your excuses not to.

 

Hope you enjoyed this savage run.

Drop me a line with any questions/feedback.

Thank you!

To the wilds of Borneo

Remember the “wild man of Borneo”? The kind of urban legend muttered in casual jokes? He must have been best buds with “Nanook of the North” and other such sordid characters. (Or maybe just two really old movies)

This image evokes a certain connotation of Conrad esque jungle. Deep, brutal and unforgiving. Think of Predator. (The film) when Jesse Ventura’s character remarks “you lose it out here, you’re in a world of hurt”. Borneo has long fascinated my imagination. Headhunters, cannibals, etc…how could I not want to go here?!

I loved Singapore. As in I enjoyed the shit out of exploring the cultural whirlwind incased in modernity that is the premier “Asian tiger”. I could not have switched it up more than leaving for Sarawak aboard a dirt cheap Air Asia flight for the long weekend. (Which by the way, SIN is by far my new favorite airport the world over. Changi deserves its own post)

I arrived in Sarawak a bit late, and made my way into the city, having little expectation for this bustling city of Malaysian Borneo. Things are CHEAP here compared to Singapore. My 25 minute uber ride from the airport was 6$ US. Kuching is busy, but reserved and a bit understated. I started my trek, umbrella in hand the next morning. Stumbling across the layers of weekend life typical to this city.

Making my way to the riverfront I noticed a few key things. First and foremost, people notice me. I’m broad shouldered, tall (ish) and glow in the dark white. Everywhere I went people notice me. They will smile eventually, and say “hello”, sometimes nodding, or waving. So far I have yet to encounter another American here, which is tremendously rare these days. My Uber driver let me know I was his first American passenger, before informing me that our last presidential election was “big disaster”. Which at this point has become a conversation starter for me all over the world.

Thanks Obama.

Sarawak hints of the wild elements close by. The mountains in the distance and the heat. I have finally in my years of reading and traveling come to fully understand the concept of the term “wet season”. Often times thought of as “rainy season”…which has little to do with it. It rains sure, in short bursts a few times a day, but that’s nothing. The true nature of this beast is in the title. “Wet”. Everything is wet. All the fucking time. For these months, it never truly dries out. The street is wet, the buildings are wet, YOU are wet. Your shirt is stuck to your body every moment you are outside sucking in wet heavy air. “Slay your ass hot” is an understatement. Hailing from the midwestern US, we can’t know this kind of heat without being literally submerged in it.

As counterbalance to being soaked, and then frozen by blessed AC, the people here are insanely friendly. Kuching may be a stopping point for the wilds of Sarawak, but don’t overlook this wee spot on the river. The markets are cool, the people inviting, and the authenticity is high.

What about the food? Oh baby. There are hawker cafes around everywhere, and the best part is, you have no true idea what you are getting, because it’s whatever they have that day. Like a Michelin Star tasting menu, but from a plastic table. See that chili sauce in that bowl? Treat it with respect. These good size dishes are around a dollar and blast anything from a value menu to Hell. McDonald’s and such here come in at roughly 5x the price of a local dish. Kiss my sweet ass Ronald.

There it is, in all it’s uncontested barbecued glory. Kolo mee! Bow before greatness.

Of course the nature is what draws most (including me here) time for a run through the jungle and see what we can see. Thought we might need an update. The next two days will be dedicated to orangutans and Bako National park. Get stoked on it!!

Drop me a comment with reactions or questions.

Thanksgiving 10k

I finally hit my proverbial stride here in Singapore on my second day. Exploring the river and the marina is fun, and engaging. On a bright day the heat drains you quick, so prepare for that as you build your day. Today included a renewed run to the hawker markets and China town. The first order of business was breakfast and a post office. I ended up with great success on both counts.

I have a game I play. Everywhere I go I send a few post cards. (my mom loves them) I always send one to myself. I’ve taken to asking people in cafes, restaurants, shit, at bus stops etc, if they will write a brief message in the native tongue. I make sure to insist they don’t tell me what it says, then try to find someone to translate once I arrive back in the mitten. Today’s first and foremost excursion/adventure was to find a post office. It’s akin to an international scavenger hunt. Some places, super easy…other places, might as well try to find a carrier pigeon to bring it over.

After success with the stamps it was time to see what China town had to offer.

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As evidence of the swirl of culture here, all of the countries languages are represented on proper signage. Exploring China town is a blast, from the street scenes to the large temples and the formerly seedy red light turned gentrified hipster haven district.

I had a promise to fulfill, as I had joked about, upon finding that there existed a Buddhist temple with one of the Buddha’s teeth as a holy relic I vowed to hit the donation box if my flight over wasn’t hellacious.

Well, Buddha tooth showed up, and I survived in tact with an empty row one leg, and an exit row the next.

Thus the dollars flowed.

So today begins thanksgiving, a holiday I haven’t been home for now 4 years running. I dig turkey and family and all that, but one must satiate the wanderlust. I’m in the search for authenticity here, no bollocks or bullshit. I knew I was plotting for an epic feast of some kind… I just wasn’t sure exactly what, or where.

China town is fucking ideal for this. Layers of options from the expected to the extreme.

Enter the pepper crab. I end up locked in a death struggle with one of Singapore’s best known dishes. Little did I know this kraken of the deep is served mostly whole.

2.2 Lbs of clawed glory…I attacked him with hands, fork, and chopsticks. I made quite the mess while doing do.

I did everything I could, but in the end, the crab won. Call it a TK0. I can’t forget one of my favorite shots of the day, my turkey day lunch buddy:

I absolutley love China town, the hawker centers and getting lost there today before the rain. I hope everyone has an awesome holiday. Happy thanksgiving everyone!

I leave for Borneo tomorrow, so stay tuned!more to come!

Welcome to the lion city

Okay, I mostly survived the long haul trek from Chicago. Remember from the last post I asked “what happens when you grab an error fare to Singapore for $326”? Well first, no advanced seat assignment. Just had to roll the dice in the name of adventure.

Ended up lucky on both legs by some kind of miracle. Empty row on the way over to Tokyo , and exit row goodness to Singapore. 26 hours of travel time.

I arrived in Singapore last night around 1 am. Cleared customs with the quickness and grabbed an Uber to my hotel. Only in Asia do rooms come this size. I love boutique hotels, and I knew it was 100sqft before I booked it, it’s clean, with a great location…good WiFi and quiet.

Grabbed some quick shut eye and ventured out into the city this morning. Singapore is the ultimate culinary mashup. The flavor profiles that collide here prove the super strains of the gastro world. Everyday you are faced with the pressing question of stomach real estate vs desire and adventure. The hawker centers here are famous the world over, and for good reason. Today was a chance to wander the lion city, and nibble its edges.

A nibble (or two) was had, and the appetite for more is there!

But…

This jet lag is catching up with me, I have so much to post. I hope everyone keeps up with the positive feedback, adventures from the food stalls tomorrow!

Let the adventure begin!

What happens when you grab a $327.00 error fare to Singapore?

We are about to find out!

On the road today to Chicago, made it with enough time to taste a bit of the Windy City. A few drinks in buck town and a chilled walk for sustenance.

Chicago’s neighborhoods deserve their own posts, and we will get there all in good time. For this evenings gastronomic debauchery I ventured for pulpo/camarones tostadas, (octupus and shrimp for the gringos) with some beastly al pastor.

I am now set for a proper sleep before the 26 hour onslaught tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me! Asia here we come!

The Wild man of…

Bako-National-Park-Malaysia-(Borneo)

 

This weekend here in Michigan proved rather cold. A bit of rain, overcast skies, and plunging evening temperatures. This was absolutely perfect, as I had work to do. The most important kind.

 

Plotting.

 

What kind of plotting? The adventure kind of course! The decision was looming about where to build this sites initial episode from. After weighing the feedback and thinking over this weekend, It looks as if first up will be Singapore, followed by Borneo! I’m super stoked on hitting  the big city, and then escaping to Boko natural park, and exploring the Orangutan sanctuaries. orangutan-in-borneo

Most of the votes and feedback wanted far flung, I hope Borneo accomplishes that! I will be adding more details over this next week before departure.  So be sure to check back. As always I welcome your comments and feed back, drop some words here, or email me Thegypsyprofessor@gmail.com

Happy Sunday Funday!

 

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