Airport reflections

Some days I feel old. Especially in airports. My ass is planted in a plastic formed seat in the small regional airport of Udon Thani, north eastern Thailand. 35 WiFi networks and none of them public.

Why?

Because fuck you. That’s why.

Time on the road can jade you just a bit. Cranky ass old people are a fixture of modern day life. As I sit here and embrace my inner cantankerous bastard, some glorious truths shine their benevolent rays of goodness light upon me…and I soften a bit.

Let me explain.

Am I a bit sore/tired? Sure. Why is that?

Well it happens to be because I averaged around 10 miles per day hiking all over the lower regions of Laos. The small yet charming south East Asian country being #72! and having evaded me (barely) this time last year. Now, this entire shot was just a bit over two weeks, and as it’s winding down, I’m absolutely elated. I’m grown man giddy. I have so much to write about, so many memories and sordid tales. Pictures, conversations, connections…the real shit that gets the blood flowing.

I know for many of us, we get lost in the worlds dumpster fires. Blind tribalism, shit strap politics, and overall doom and gloom.

I left that shit behind. I had no choice. This year certainly had its share of suck. Big epic balls of suck. But I’m still here, and I’m still standing. Pushing forward and stoked on what’s ahead. If it’s toxic, let it be. Don’t carry it around with you. Shits heavier than lead. Instead I’ve focused on making a difference, making my dent, and never giving in to the quiet desperation that seems so prevalent. Wrapped around all of this goodness is a fluffy, warm, slightly crispy pressed tortilla of stupendous optimism. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a feel fucking good burrito. The power of unbridled optimism feels weird at first, but then a euphoria settles in. It’s like a savage orgasm, only for your personality.

So my ass might be numb. I might be a bit sunburned. I may have believed my death imminent in the back of a tuk tuk today, I may feel a bit battered from vans, planes, boats, border crossings, and all the rest…I have longer pieces to finish and some logistics to sort…in short, I might feel a bit old in this airport…But I also feel the power of hope, and the concept that if I were to get creamed by a fruit truck next week, or my plane were to go down, I couldn’t be angry. I’ve been fortunate enough to jam on my dreams for over a decade now. I’ve pushed my self, my goals, and my ambitions farther than I ever thought possible. I’ve had a chance to love the fuck out of so many people. I’ve counted on and been saved by those same folks more than I should admit.

Seeing the world, sharing glimpses with you, and blasting ignorance in the pills every semester in my classrooms. Thank you for coming along, and helping me along the way.

More soon.

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Back to Bangkok, Time to Rock

When you roll the travel dice, and tempt the divine powers that be, you can never really tell what’s going to happen. I’ve relied on fate mixed with a bit of intuition, thrown down with a dash of inspiration to steer my wayward ass on countless occasions. This time around, I was coming out of a savage yet rewarding semester. I had taken on more classes than ever, and drowning in bluebooks, prepping like a madman and holding it all together along with the backdrop of an incredible year of change had left me optimistic, yet a touch depleted. More on that shit possibly later.

I waited until the last possible second.

“I need to get the fuck out of here”

“Tickets look kind of pricey”

“Well shit”

I could have stayed home, tended to a few things, prepped for next semester, etc…but lo and behold, after scanning possible routes for a few weeks, in the midst of finals, days before departure what falls into my lap?!

A scuzzy bargain basement fare to Bangkok Thailand. Don’t go and read the reviews. Stop being scared. Stop wasting all of your fucks thinking about what could go wrong. Embrace what could go right, tap into the stunning ass power of ridiculous optimism instead. Kick fear in the dick, and let hope reign supreme. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Boom. Do it. Don’t look back.

For two months worth of most people’s cable bill, I was out of here. 15 ass numbing hours to Shanghai , then five more to Bangkok, this adventure was underway. I had finally finished grading in the wee hours the night before with my trusted buddy Frank, courtesy of some amazing friends. (Reason #16578 not to be a twat, friends make the world go ’round)

Frank always offers stellar moral as well as academic support

Thus I was able to grab a bit of shut eye. My flight from China landed at 2:00 AM after 25 hours, and 10,000 Miles. All grades submitted, everything graded. 2018, mostly survived. My cab driver despite lack of English kicked on the jams, and him, I and Neil Young rocked into the city.

Late night eats and into my hotel. I’ve been loving the simple things as of late, and so many aspects of Thai culture resonate with that. From outlook, all the way to flavor profiles.

This is my third time to the land of a thousand smiles, and this journey is just getting started.

Ready to get lost with me??

Leave some love, or don’t.

Sunday Funday…with Elephants!

Once upon a time (2017) I spent Christmas in Sri Lanka. post here

Quite often, spending the holidays abroad (especially Christmas day) can be a lull in the otherwise grand adventure. I find that hitting a non predominately Christian country, and planning an epic excursion can quickly combat the holiday blues. This trek to Sri Lanka was completely unexpected, so an elephant sanctuary seemed totally appropriate.

I talked a bit about the sanctuary in the previous post,  but wanted to expand on that and include more pictures. The Pinnawala elephant orphanage hits hard right in the feels.

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Pinnawala  is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants. They have the largest number for this type of orphanage anywhere in the world. This isn’t a situation where you ride them, bathe them, or they are forced to perform tricks. I’ve been to those type of places, and they can be a quite a bummer. These are wild animals, rescued and rehabilitated, so you can observe them, but that’s about it.  Pinnwala was founded in 1975 for baby elephants orphaned in the wild. They currently have 85-90 elephants on site.

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The site sits around 2 hours outside of the capital city of Colombo. When arriving by mid day, one is treated by watching the elephants’s daily trek to the river. (my favorite part)

Christmas with the family can be awesome, but it can also be an exercise in drama filled frustration. Good news about elephants…no such thing!

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Who doesn’t want/need a day with these amazing animals?!

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I will eventually write longer pieces about traveling over the holidays, this is just an excuse to share elephants and spread some joy at the end of the weekend.

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There is something about a day spent on a river full of frolicking rescued elephants, snapping a few pics, sipping lime juice smoothies and enjoying bright warm weather… best Christmas present in recent memory.

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I’ve found that

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”

 

Happy Sunday!

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An island like no other… dispatches from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is on my mind. Travel they say, is the act of leaving the familiar behind. Few things about Sri Lanka proved familiar. In my end analysis, Colombo especially, proved a nut I was unable to crack.

Now having returned and neck deep in the glowing heart of Bangkok, I’ve been unraveling my experience on the island for an afternoon.

Sri Lanka for me was mostly unknown. I had a hazy framework of colonial rule, beaches, and curry. Not a bad trifecta as far as travel destinations go. My last minute run to the island started off a bit rocky, and continued to haunt me a bit throughout the week. I was often left feeling that there was something I was missing. Despite my best efforts, I was seemingly “stuck in the lobby” on a regular basis.

As I was boarding the Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur, (after making it rain at the airport Popeyes) the gate agent, upon looking at my ticket and passport asked “where is your visa”?

I went cold for a bit. I was (mostly) sure I didn’t need a visa for Sri Lanka. She asked again giving me that face that suggests I ate too much paste as a kid.

“Visa”??

I explained that we didn’t need one? And eventually was allowed to board. The entire flight of 3 hours and 20 minutes I had visions of being denied entry and awarded the “idiot American of the month” trophy.

Not to worry however. Sri Lanka thinks it loves tourists, and thus the visa, is available on arrival, for 40$ USD, they take major credit cards (didn’t ask about diners club) and the line takes 2 minutes.

From this point, you are recognized as an easy access, no fee ATM. There is no going back. You are a walking community coin purse. Takes a bit getting used to.

Making my way to the taxi stand, after waiting in a 20 minute line for a cash machine, the “official airport taxi” uniform guy prints me a receipt for 2800 Sri Lankan Rupees for the trip to my downtown hotel. Now I’m used to paying the “tourist tax”. It’s part of traveling. Prices for you are going to be higher than they are for locals.

Get over it.

Getting schemed bums me out though. The 2800 was already high. My taxi pulls up in a car that looks more hand crafted from old pizza boxes and bondo than metal. My driver is no joke the villain from Disney’s Aladdin…in his old man jail disguise. He’s also sporting a T-shirt that reads “Friday is my second favorite F word”

We never get over 60km an hour, and it’s 90 outside. (Sorry Michigan, we can defrost together soon) The driver keeps looking back and grinning just like he wants me to grab him cave treasure when he asks if I want him to take the “high way”…because it’s 300 rupees extra.

Now I know, it’s 2$ USD. But I’ve been in country now for 30 minutes. We can “no take high way, hour extra” which I wasn’t game for.

These types of situations were often repeated, along with constant attention from the Tuk Tuk mafia, and other enterprising locals hoping to “help you out”. Side note: I hate being called “boss” and “big man” when people pitch me anything. I seem to elicit these two titles in South Asia a bit too often.

Now this is not to say that Colombo, and Sri Lanka doesn’t have an amazing side. It most assuredly does. I had some shockingly awesome moments and walked away with a quite distinct impression that this place is on the edge of a cliff. If you want to go, go NOW. Because this place, the island I spent a week on will not be recognizable in 10 years tops.

It took me a bit to realize what made Colombo so much different than my previous spots on this run. It’s barely developed. The money is just now starting to pour in, mostly from China, and it will completely change this place. The skyline is already filling in with new high rises and construction projects. The Hilton is finished, the new Grand Hyatt is nearing completion. The planned new China harbor project will be 15 billion USD in scope, and remodel Colombo into the “gem of Asia”.

(A gem most likely free of locals)

This just in. Sri Lanka does not feel like Asia whatsoever. There are similar qualities between Tokyo, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Hong Kong.

Colombo is something totally different. This place has the fringes of globalization, there is KFC, Pizza Hut, and a few hotel chains, but at heart, there is still an authentic culture residing.

In my week here, I was simply unable to unravel it. I thought giving up on Colombo and venturing to the ancient capital of Ceylon might do it, wandering through tea plantations and visiting my second temple focused on a tooth of the Buddha might clear the separation. Give me my eureka moment…while I had a tremendous experience in the mountains, and especially with the elephants…I was still left wanting.

My pictures from the capital, as well as the highlands evoke mystery to me. I met and partied with locals, as well as other visitors, I tried internet resources…all to no ultimate avail.

But in the end that’s okay. By my final days there, I just wanted to experience this place that I could practically feel eroding under my feet. Sri Lanka is indeed an island like no other. Perhaps I’ve been immersed in commercialization and raw globalist influence for so long, encountering something outside of it strikes me dumbfounded. I was immediately reminded of Cuba. My drive to get there and see something so different before it fell to the resort life, and non stop development. Perhaps I should have spent more time in the mountains…but isn’t that always the case?

For now, Sri Lanka will remain a riddle. A rapidly disappearing riddle. From 2000 year old Buddhist temples, to shop keepers burning their trash on the sidewalk. From a culture of Spicy curry, to an endless row of cheap questionable gas station style hamburger stands. Off the beaten path to reset the radar. If you feel the need to get lost, this is your place. But pack shipping containers of patience and an open mind. Also be sure to book that ticket yesterday.

Being back in Thailand feels strange, such a total transition. By the time I landed in Bangkok, after realizing monks in Sri Lanka receive automatic priority boarding…I felt like I had been gone for months. My days on the island bled together into a seamless warm haze.

Do we need more elephants here? Maybe have a elephant post? I’m thinking so.

Also follow me on Instagram for more updates kweaverton

Always dig your feedback and comments!

Thank you!

Christmas in Sri Lanka

I’m exhausted. Drowsy and curry drunk. It’s the day after my fourth Christmas in a row abroad, and I am ready to sleep in tomorrow. I’ve trekked to the island of Sri Lanka. How that cane to pass I’ll detail a bit below. I’ve had a day tracking elephants. Before that I was dragging my tired ass into the central highlands through old tea factories and mountains, to the ancient capital of Ceylon. Driving here is for the iron nerved sociopath, and I’m beginning to think being a passenger is an even more desperate and depraved sport. This first scrambled bit is going to be short, as my thoughts are still turbulent on this savage place. My chutzpah is running low, but I will say this…

I was all set, enjoying the fuck out of Kuala Lumpur, basking in the unexpected goodness of new friends, cold beer, and eclectic dishes when I hit a snag.

Now I travel with a rather open itinerary as I’ve mentioned before, and sometimes this leads to all around, stars aligning glory. Other times it’s more of a mallet to the dong. I had asked the FaceBook world which path at this travel fork in the road I should take. Should I relax and beach it in Thailand, or should I get twisted and roll through the jungles of Laos? The votes were more or less even, with a bit more weight given to the jungle. But.. wait for it…I waited too long. Flights to Laos had tripled in a few hours rolling back from a fog enshrined Buddha.

Now I’m left to scramble. Let’s scan the skies and look for dozens of possible combinations across a slew of browser tabs. A few hours of logistics and where am I headed?

Motherfuckin’ Sri Lanka!

Mountains AND beaches, exotic flavor, and country #68! Compromise can be awesome.

Sitting next to the Indian Ocean on the Bay of Bengal makes for some epic scenery. Columbo as a city can be a bit like a sugar addled toddler. This place will keep your hands full. The savage nature has been amazing thus far, and so has the incredible warmth of many of the people.

The key factor for many, when it comes to enjoying Sri Lanka is getting out of the capital city of Colombo as soon as possible.

Which, that’s cool, but then you may be overlooking a gem of a city. I’m just not sure how to categorize Colombo just yet.

One thing I certainly did come here for…relaxation and elephants!

I’ve been enamored with the sunsets from the roof top pool and some stunning interactions with local mammals. I’m still organizing my thoughts on this crazy place, so this is just an introduction.

This is indeed, an island like no other…

Stay tuned for the next installment dropping shortly.

As always, I dig comments and email!

Random awesome invite to…Malaysia?!

This comes to me as a proper ode to serendipity. One of those moments of “buy the ticket, take the ride”…and never refuse an invitation. (At least a genuine one). Coming out of my Angkor stupor, I was surprised and warmed by an invite from the high king of prawn himself (see the Singapore prawn battle post) to join him and his lovely wife in Kuala Lumpur on this trek. I don’t travel with much of an itinerary, for exactly reasons like this.

a few days in KL? Why not?!

So off to this mega city I went.

Meeting with a local completely changes the nature of an excursion. You see elements of neighborhoods and cities that simply won’t happen from a hotel/hostel. Thank the gods my gracious hosts and I share a deep seated love of street food. The plastic table, chili sauce, Asian love variety especially. We quickly bonded over cold tiger beer and fish parts.

Kuala Lumpur is quite the eclectic mix of new and old wave migration. This city shows this at every layer, from the people on the bus to the wide range of ethnic eateries seemingly everywhere.

This city loves to SHOP, and to EAT. Malls may be dying in the states, but are booming here in the Malaysian capital.

Not one for malls, of course this left me with the option closest to my heart…the food! Kuala Lumpur, despite being a Muslim City, has divided the fun into “eating street” and “drinking street”.

Bring on the pork!!

Easy Peasy.

I came to KL with next to no expectation, on a friendly invite. What I encountered…an incredible swirl of culture, and food. Americans especially would benefit tremendously from stepping out of that comfort zone and hitting South East Asia.

A non stop mix of everything awesome. A night of absolute gastronomic debauchery. It proved quite a change to go on auto pilot for a bit. Friends here knew where to go and how to get there. I was able to relax and enjoy. From roof top beers to a sultry mix of flavors on the streets below.

KL is seemingly constantly building, rising, expanding. You can feel this vibe, or pulse through the entire place. The traffic can be brutal. Once you exhaust yourself of meat sticks and cold beer (blasphemy I know) the time has come to retreat to the highlands that ring the city. The cable cars will take you to what is now the worlds largest hotel at 5000 + rooms. The malls and shopping centers are optional, as the cooler temps and the view are what makes this a necessity.

Something about temples and rain forest in the mist…just adds that exact eastern exotic feel you’ve been looking for. Spend a day here, and enjoy.

I would never thought to cone here, or that this really existed had it not been for friends. The unexpected can be the absolute best. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this entire excursion was built with the help of friends. From Grand Rapids, to Chicago, now Kuala Lumpur and beyond. This inspires a humble smile, as none of us can go it alone. Get up, get out there, remember to check your ego at the door, don’t be an asshole and enjoy. You will marvel every single day at how amazing this world and it’s people can be.

Or crush another bag of chips from the couch and talk shit on Facebook. Your call.

I thought for sure I was headed to Laos after this…but as with all things, this has changed. I hope you’re ready for the next jump after this altogether awesome stop in Kuala Lumpur! We are in for a surprise.

Drop a comment or feel free to hit me up

Thegypsyprofessor@gmail.com

Climbing that goddamn mountain.

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

I’m reminded of these words as I have continued to dwell on the ruins of Angkor. this trek is a week old as of today, and yet it feels as if I’ve been gone for at least a month. A brief stop in Bangkok, but with a delayed sense of anxiety, a rushed kind of mental fidget. Eye on the prize, time for Cambodia!

As a brief side note, I never intended for this writing project to be any kind of guide. I know those are super popular now, and there are some exhaustive ones already out there for damn near everywhere. These are written by people far exceeding my humble talents and budget. I’m more here to share my reactions and observations…out loud as it were.

Back to the temples! Climbing these stairs and exploring the walls of this civilization, I was struck again and again by the theme of time. How it felt that I’d been gone for weeks already, how the year 2017 is rapidly drawing to a close, etc. Then to the passing of time witnessed by these mighty walls and stone based efforts.

Time. Goes. On.

You find yourself here after the cost, and the planning, the logistics and the energy…and despite the Chinese tour groups (deserving of their own post) best efforts at maintaining ridiculously high levels of inane obnoxiousness…it’s eerily quiet. Finding your own corner to observe this massive tree separating a thousand year old wall and burying its stones under root it’s the passage of time and transition that hits you square in the frontal lobe.

All of us, we are born, we grow, mature (hopefully) and then we die. One of the twin pillars of guaranteed factors in this life. Death, and taxes. I believe that travel changes you, leaves it’s mark on you, by thumping you in the forehead and saying

“Hey stupid! Life! It’s happening right fucking now! Right here!”

It forces us to answer that call. You begin to question why you’re working a job you hate, in order to buy shit you don’t need. For me Angkor drove this home again, again, and again. There is the cycle. Do with it what you can.

Life is simply too damn short to be unhappy. That’s what I saw etched into these stones. Grab those dreams with both fucking hands and don’t let go.

Don’t live a life of quiet desperation. It doesn’t take dodging tourists in an abandoned temple 10,000 miles away to realize that there exists a bigger picture in play.

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”

Thank you.