Aug. 9, 2022

A TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 1:

GOING TO SOUTHEAST ASIA:

THIS MOMENT IS PART OF THE SECOND DAY OF 1992.

WALKING AND REALIZING THAT IT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO LIVE

IN THE MOMENT. IT IS THE PRESENT MOMENT THAT WE CAN BE CERTAIN OF.  

NOTHING ELSE IS AS CERTAIN AS THIS.  STILL I MAKE MY PLANS. FOCUSING

ON MY EXPERIENCES CLARIFY WHAT THE PRESENT MOMENT IS.

FOR ME,

TRAVELING IS A GREAT WAY TO DO THIS. OF COURSE, ONE DOES

NOT NEED

THE HOBBY OF TRAVELING TO EXPERIENCE AND UNDERSTAND EACH

MOMENT OF REALITY. WE CAN DO THIS WHILE EATING, WASHING DISHES, OR READING. 

IT IS JUST EASIER FOR ME WHEN I AM TRAVELING BECAUSE THERE

ARE TOO MANY MUNDANE ASPECTS OF DAILY LIFE HERE, IN ALBUQUERQUE, THAT I

TAKE FOR GRANTED. I

SPEND TOO MUCH TIME FRETTING ABOUT GOING TO WORK AGAIN, PAYING

THE BILLS AGAIN, SHOPPING FOR

HOUSEHOLD ITEMS AGAIN AND AGAIN. ALL THE WHILE I AM THINKING OF GOING SOMEWHERE ELSE. WHEN I AM TRAVELING, EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE IS CENTERED AROUND WHERE I AM AND

WHO I AM. LIFE IS CIRCLING AROUND US

ALL THE TIME AND WE NEVER KNOW WHAT WILL COME AT

US AT ANY GIVEN TIME. WHEN I AM PLANNING A TRIP,  100%

FOCUSED, I AM LIVING IN THE MOMENT BECAUSE TIME GOES BY

AT AN UNRECOGNIZABLE

PACE AND I HAVE NO IDEA

WHAT THE RESULT WILL BE. THE YEAR WAS 1992 AND I WAS

PLANNING A

TRIP TO SOUTHEAST ASIA.

THIS TRIP INCLUDED A STOP IN TRAVERSE CITY MICHIGAN TO

VISIT ABIGAIL AND HER PARENTS, HIBBING MINNESOTA SO I

COULD VISIT MY GRANDMA CICCHI (VIA DETROIT). THEN I WOULD

BE BROUGHT TO LAX AND AN EXCURSION UP TO SAN LOUIS OBISPO

TO VISIT MY SISTER. 

IN PREPARATION FOR THE TRIP, I WENT TO LOVELESS

HOSPITAL TO GET AN IMMUNO GLOBULON INJECTION. IT

COST $30 AND WILL LAST FOR THE ENTIRE JOURNEY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. I

ALSO PICKED UP A FEW MALARIA PILLS. 17 OF THOSE TABLETS COST $93!! THEY HAVE QUININE IN THEM. THAI, INDONESIAN, AND

ARABIC LANGUAGE BOOKS, BANGKOK TO BALI GUIDEBOOK, FLASHLIGHT, CLOTHS TO

WEAR AND DISCARD, CANVAS TO SLEEP ON, MOSQUITO REPELLANT, THE MALARIA PILLS, AND PASSPORT; I AM READY FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA. 

 CHICAGO O'HARE AIRPORT, LARGE, RUNWAYS TRAVERSING OVER CHICAGO HIGHWAYS AND TUNNELS. HUGE AND BEAUTIFUL WITH DIFFERENT STYLES

OF STRUCTURAL DECOR. REACHING TERMINAL F3, NOW READY TO FLY. 

IT IS 0030 DULUTH TIME. I AM SITTING AND WRITING IN A COUNTRY KITCHEN. I ORDERED HOT CHOCOLATE AND A MUSHROOM AND CHEESE OMELETE. THE BEECHCRAFT

PLANE THAT WE TOOK FROM CHICAGO TO DULUTH WAS SMALL. I

HAD TO BEND DOWN TO GET IN AND WALK TO MY SEAT. IT HAD PROPELLERS.

IT IS ALWAYS SCARY FOR ME TO FLY IN A PLANE WITH PROPELLERS. WE MADE

A STOP IN IRONWOOD MICHIGAN FIRST. AFTER WE ARRIVED AT THE DULUTH AIRPORT, I CHANGED MY CLOTHS, THREW AWAY THE OLD, WALKED OUT OF

THE AIRPORT, AND STARTED DOWN THE ROAD. A CAR RENTAL EMPLOYEE PICKED ME UP AND GAVE

ME A RIDE TO THE COUNTRY KITCHEN SO I WOULD NOT GET

SNOWED ON TOO MUCH. IT DID NOT FEEL TOO COLD EXCEPT ON MY FEET AND FACE WHERE THE WIND WAS BLOWING

ALL THE SNOW. THE OMELETE HAS ARRIVED. IT IS NICE AND WARM.

I AM WARMING UP QUICKLY. I MUST SIT HERE FOR AWHILE, WAITING FOR THE SNOW TO STOP.

THINKING ABOUT HITCHHIKING TO HIBBING IN THE MORNING. WE WILL SEE.





A TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 2:

A ROUNDABOUT ROUTE TOWARDS SOUTHEAST ASIA:

CRUNCHED CRACKERS YET 

SITTING IN A PLASTIC BAG. CRUNCHING DRIED LEAVES 

WALKING ON GRASS AND PAVEMENT. THE 19TH OF

NOVEMBER

WAS THE NEXT DAY. THAT DAY WAS THE DAY OF MY

DEPARTURE.

SAMPAI JUMPA LAGI.

I must live in the moment. Do not let the planning and the

waiting 

drag on, must remain calm of mind.  Must remain calm of mind

in 

all works of nature and man. Yet, it has occurred to me that the

distance of one period of time and another seems to be, quite

often,

an unnerving obstrosity, in waiting for the arrival of a certain

point

of time so that I may witness the result of my expectations. I

needlessly expend energy. I admit, against my better judgement, 

time is often thought of as a dread obstacle. We are just specks of 

dust and time is an eternity. As such, I must understand that any 

impatience or exitement felt by me is verily quite superfluous. 

IT WAS 2:30 PM DULUTH MINNESOTA TIME 20TH NOVEMBER.I

WAS

SITTING IN THE GREYHOUND BUS STATION. A DULUTH TRANSIT 

AUTHORITY BUS WOULD PICK ME UP AT 5:00 TO BRING ME TO 

VIRGINIA MN. I WENT TO THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SINCE I HAD A

LONG 

WAIT FOR THE BUS. I ALSO PRACTICED MY TAI CHI CHUAN. I HAVE

NOW PRACTICED MY TAI CHI IN DULUTH, DAMP CEMENT, SPRINKLING

RAIN WITH SNOW FALLING JUST WEST OF DULUTH AND ARRIVING

HERE SOON. I HAD MY GREEN DUFFLE BAG WITH ME. THERE WOULD 

BE A BUS TO TAKE ME FROM VIRGINIA MN TO HIBBING MN IN THE

MORNING. 

THE NEXT MORNING I WAS AT THE BUS STOP IN VIRGINIA. THERE 

WAS A MAN THERE WHO HAD BEEN THERE LONG BEFORE I HAD

ARRIVED. HE HAD A CHILDISH MENTALITY. HE SPOKE AS A CHILD 

AND WAS PLAYING CHILD GAMES. HE WAS DRINKING SODAS AND 

IT LOOKED LIKE HE WAS ON HIS THIRD SODA. HE ALSO HAD A FEW

BAGS OF CHIPS AND A CANDY BAR. BUS HAS ARRIVED.

IT WAS 10:00 AM HIBBING MN TIME  21ST NOVEMBER AND I WAS

SITTING AND WRITING THIS AT GRANDMA CICCHIS' HOUSE. AUTHOR 

POLUZARRI, AN OLD FRIEND OF MY GRANDMA WAS ALSO THERE.

AS A CHILD, I KNEW HIS SISTER WHO LIVED DIRECTLY ACROSS THE

STREET FROM GRANDMA IN THIS AREA OF HIBBING WHICH IS CALLED

BROOKLYN.  IT IS NAMED AFTER BROOKLYN, NEW YORK CITY BECAUSE

SO MANY ITALIANS SETTLED HERE FROM BROOKLYN TO WORK IN THE

OPEN PIT IRON ORE MINES NEAR VIRGINIA AND CHISOLM, JUST NORTH

OF HIBBING. WE ALSO LIVED ACROSS THE STREET FROM GRANDMA,

FOUR

HOUSES DOWN THE STREET. MANY OF THE HOUSES IN THIS AREA WERE

BUILT BY MY DAD AND GRANDPA. THEY COULD DO EVERYTHING . THEY

DID HAVE SOMEBODY ELSE DOING THE OUTER WALL FACADES THOUGH.

MY DADS' COUSIN, PETER TARAMELLI (HE TAUGHT ME HOW TO DRIVE

A CAR), WAS A STONE MASON WHO BUILT MANY BRICK WALLS AND

FIREPLACES

FOR HOMES AND BUSINESSES ON THE IRON RANGE. WHEN

I FIRST ARRIVED HERE, I SLEPT LONG AND DEEP. I MUST HAVE BEEN

EXHAUSTED. I WAS NOW RESTED AND READY TO LISTEN TO THE

CONVERSATIONS. VISITING GRANDMA CICCHI ALWAYS PROVIDED

OPPORTUNITIES TO HEAR INTERESTING STORIES. ARTHUR POLUZARRI

AND GRANDMA WERE TALKING ABOUT HOW THEY WERE ALWAYS

CUTTING WOOD AND DID NOT HAVE TELEVISION. "WE DID NOT EVEN

HAVE A RADIO FOR HEAVENS SAKE." MR. POLUZZARI TAUGHT SOCIAL

STUDIES IN HIGH SCHOOL FROM 1935 UNTIL 1955. HE WAS ALSO TALKING

ABOUT HOW THEIR YARDS HAD NO GRASS. THEIR YARDS HAD LOTS OF 

GARDENS WITH VEGETABLES GROWING. GRANDMAS' GARDEN WAS HALF

GRASS AND HALF GARDEN. SHE GREW GARLIC, LETTUCE, TOMATOES,

LONG  GREEN BEANS, CUCUMBERS, AND ONIONS.

I WAS AT THE DAYS INN OF HIBBING. MY DAD ARRIVED FROM LAS VEGAS

NV AT 8:15 AM. HE WAS IN A NICER HOTEL BUT I WAS IN A DOUBLE ROOM.

THE NEWS PAPER WAS SLIPPED HALF WAY UNDERNEATH THE DOOR.

THE FREE BREAKFAST THAT COMES WITH THE PRICE OF THE ROOM WAS

THE BASIC CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST WITH EGGS AND CEREAL, BREAD,

AND A TOASTER. WITH THESE SIMPLE HOTEL BREAKFASTS, I DRINK A LOT 

OF THE FRUIT JUICES BEFORE EATING EGGS OR CEREAL. MY DAD WAS 

TALKING ABOUT HOW HE SENDS GRANDMA $500 EVERY MONTH. SHE

SAID THAT SHE DOES NOT NEED HIM TO SEND HER THAT MONEY. WHEN

SHE PASSED AWAY, I RECEIVED ABOUT 20 CLASS EE SAVINGS BONDS,FOR

ME, RAYHEND AND RENO. I HAVE THE IDEA THAT SHE BOUGHT ALL THE BONDS

WITH MONEY DAD SENT HER. SHE TELLS DAD "YOU DO NOT HAVE  TO SEND

ME ALL THE MONEY."

HE SAID; " I DO NOT HAVE TO DO ANYTHING". HE LAUGHED AT THAT.

IT IS 6:30 PM DULUTH MN TIME, 27TH OF NOVEMBER. I AM SITTING AND

WRITING THIS WHILE WATCHING HBO IN A $36 A NIGHT MOTEL ROOM

ONE MILE FROM THE DULUTH AIRPORT.  THE NEXT MORNING AT 0730, I

WILL WALK TO THE AIRPORT TO MEET THE FLIGHT TO LAX. MY DAD GAVE 

ME $200, GRANDMA GAVE ME $50, GREAT AUNT EDDIE GAVE ME $10.  I 

PAID FOR THE MOTEL ROOM WITH SOME OF THE MONEY.  AT 8:30 TONIGHT,

THE MOTEL ROOM TELEVISION WILL BE SHOWING THE GOLDEN CHILD ON

THE HBO STATION. I DECIDED TO WATCH THAT MOVIE AND THEN I WOULD

CALL VANESSA. RIGHT NOW THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL IS SHOWING THE

MIGRATION OF BLUE WHALES AND GREY WHALES. THE WHALES WERE

MIGRATING FROM THE BERING SEA DOWN TO THE TROPICAL WATERS 

OF MEXICO. 

A TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE; CHAPTER 3:

FURTHER TOWARDS SOUTHEAST ASIA:

LAX VIA TARMAC OF DULUTH AIRPORT, LANDSCAPES OF TREES AND LAKES. CHICAGO SKYLINE, ROLLING AGRICULTURAL HILLS, MAJESTIC ROCKY MOUNTAINS, CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, A HUGE EXPANSE OF WHITE SNOW COVERING THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS AND THEN THE DESERT LANDS OF NEVADA AND SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, THE HILLS JUST EAST OF LOS ANGELES, AND ULTIMATELY, LAX. 

IT WAS 5:30 AM LOS ANGELES TIME AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LA CAMPUS. IT IS PEACFUL BEHIND THE PLANT PHYSIOLOGY BUILDING. I PRACTICED A PEACEFUL AND CHARMING  TAI CHI CHUAN AND TOOK A LONG REST. I WANTED TO STAY RIGHT THERE ON THE CAMPUS TAKING NAPS, SENDING OUT POST CARDS, CALLING VANESSA, DOING THE TAI CHI, FINDING PLACES TO EAT. I HAD NOT ARRANGED FOR A HOTEL ROOM SO I DECIDED THAT I MAY AS WELL SLEEP HERE WITH THE COMFORTABLE WEATHER, TREE COVER, AND THE CANVAS SPREAD THAT I HAD IN MY GREEN DUFFLE BAG. SO I LIVED ON THE UCLA CAMPUS FOR THREE DAYS UNTIL I HAD TO RETURN TO LAX FOR THE KOREAN AIRLINES FLIGHT TO ICN AIRPORT. 

SITTING AND WRITING THIS AT THE SUNSET THAI RESTAURANT AFTER WALKING DOWN SUNSET BOULEVARD FOR TWO HOURS. THE ROXY THEATRE, WHISKY A GO GO, TIFFANY THEATRE, GOOD THAI FOOD. NIEL YOUNG RECORDED A ROXY LIVE RECORDING. ALSO PERFORMING AT THE ROXY; BOB MARLEY, FRANK ZAPPA, VAN MORRISON, WARREN ZEVON, THE RAMONES, THE CRUSADERS, ETC. (I BETTER STOP BECAUSE THE LIST GOES ON AND ON). THE TIFFANY THEATRE WAS BOTH A PERFORMANCE THEATRE AND A MOVIE HOUSE OPENED IN 1966.HOWARD HESSMAN AND ROB REINER PERFORMED HERE IN THE COMMITTEE. IT BECAME A HUB FOR THE ROCKY HORRER PICTURE SHOW AT MIDNIGHTS ON THE WEEKEND AROUND 1977. I HESITATE TO MENTION MORE ABOUT THE WHISKY A GO GO BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYONE PERFORMED THERE; INCLUDING THE BYRDS, TAJ MAHAL, LED ZEPPELIN, PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC, THE DOORS, FLEETWOOD MAC... WAIT STOP, I BETTER NOT CONTINUE BECAUSE THE LIST IS EXTRAPHENOMENAL. IT WAS OPENED IN 1964.

WALKING DOWN WEST SUNSET BOULEVARD, SANTA MONICA, WEST HOLLYWOOD, ONE IS PROVIDED WITH VIEWS OF MULTIMILLION DOLLAR HOUSES; HOUSES OWNED BY ARAB PRINCES, MOVIE STARS, DOCTORS, LAWYERS, ARCHITECTS, AND THE OCCASSIONAL ANONYMOUS MOBSTER. 

THE UCLA CAMPUS PROVED TO BE A GREAT BASE OF OPERATIONS. I TOOK NAPS IN SEVERAL AREAS OF THE CAMPUS. I ALSO EXPLORED THE CAMPUS AND TOOK PHOTOS OF SOME OF THE MORE INTERESTING BUILDINGS. I WAS USING ONE TIME PROCESSING, THROW AWAY CAMERAS. I WAS STORING MY GREEN BAG IN A STORAGE LOCKER AT THE ENGINEERING BUILDING WHERE I SPENT A LOT OF TIME. I WAS ABLE TO STORE MY BAG THERE WHILE I WANDERED THE STREETS OF VARIOUS LOS ANGELES NEIGHBORHOODS. THERE WAS GOING TO BE A SHOW AT THE ROXY THEATER THE NEXT NIGHT BUT I DID NOT GO. 

IT WAS DURING THIS STAY WHEN I FIRST VISITED THE ISKCON TEMPLE NEAR VENICE BEACH. IT IS ALSO KNOWN AS NEW DVARAKA. THE TEMPLE WAS ESTABLISHED BY A. C. BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI PRABHUPAD IN 1970. THERE IS A BHAGAVAD GITA MUSEUM THERE. THE ORIGINAL DVARAKA WAS THE KINGDOM WHERE THE PANDAVAS RULED; THE FAMILY OF LORD KRISHNA. I WALKED A COUPLE OF MILES EVERY DAY AND TOOK THE BUS BETWEEN UCLA AND THE TEMPLE. 3764 WATSEKA AVENUE IS THE ADDRESS OF NEW DVARAKA ISKCON TEMPLE. AFTER MORNING DARSHAN AND GOOD MEAL OF PRASADAM AT THE TEMPLE RESTAURANT (GOVINDAS), I TOOK AN EXTENSIVE WALK UP ROBINSON AVENUE INTO BEVERLY HILLS, AND INTO WEST HOLLYWOOD,  SANTA MONICA, AND TO THE SUNSET STRIP, THEN INTO AREAS THAT LOOKED LIKE LITTLE THAILAND AND LITTLE ISREAL. WHEN I GOT TIRED, I RETURNED TO THE UCLA CAMPUS BUT I NOTICED A FIRST NATIONAL BANK BUILDING THAT HAD AN EMPTY FLOOR. IT WAS IDEAL FOR TAI CHI CHUAN SO I PRACTICED THERE WHERE THE FLOOR DID NOT HAVE ANY CARPET YET. I HAD NO FEAR OF THE STREETS OR BUILDINGS OF LOS ANGELES. 

IT WAS ABOUT 0700 LOS ANGELES TIME AND I JUST FINISHED MY TAI CHI CHUAN, THIS MORNING I PRACTICED THE TAI CHI ON SANTA MONICA BEACH. THIS WAS A WONDERFUL HALF HOUR EXPERIENCE. IT WAS A NEW EXPERIENCE BECAUSE I HAD NEVER PRACTICED ON THE BEACH BEFORE. THE SURFACE WITH DEEP, CLEAN SAND GRABBING MY FEET AND DOING HALF OF THE BALANCING WORK WAS EXHILARATING. THE WEATHER WAS PERFECT AND SPACE / TIME TOOK ON AN EXPANSIVE AND INEXPLICABLE CHARACTERISTIC. I ALSO WALKED FURTHER ALONG THE COAST TO VENICE BEACH WHICH WAS A HANG OUT PLACE FOR JIM MORRISON AND RAY MANZAREK OF THE DOORS. IT CAN EVEN BE SAID THAT THE IDEA OF THE DOORS WAS INITIATED THERE BECAUSE THEY MET THERE AND RAY MANZAREK DISCOVERED THE LYRICAL TALENT OF JIM MORRISON. THERE IS A HOSTEL IN THE AREA WITH $10 ROOMS WITH DORMITORY BEDDING AND $14 SEMI PRIVATE ROOMS. IF I EVER RETURN TO LA AS A BACKPACKER, I WOULD STAY THERE ALTHOUGH THE PRICES WILL PROBABLY RISE A BIT BY THE TIME I RETURN. 

A TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 4:

FIRST EXCURSION INTO SOUTHEAST ASIA :

IT WAS 0800 LOS ANGELES TIME AT LAX. I WAS FEELING SLEEPY BUT FLIGHT 75 WOULD BE LEAVING AT

0925  SO  I DID NOT HAVE A LONG WAIT. I HAD THE BOARDING PASSES READY TO GET ME ON THE PLANE AND INTO BANGKOK THAILAND. 

ONCE ON THE PLANE I DID RELAX AND SLEEP QUITE A LOT BUT I ALSO WATCHED MOVIES. BY THE TIME

WE GOT TO ICN, I WAS FEELING SLEEPY AGAIN AND I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TIME IT WAS. I REMEMBERED

THE WHITE LIGHTS OF TOKYO JAPAN WHICH COVERED A MASSIVE EXPANSE OF LAND AND THE AMBER

COLORED LIGHTS OF SEOUL

SOUTH KOREA WHICH WE LANDED INTO. WHILE WE WERE IN ICN AIRPORT, I WAS HOT AND SWEATY SO

IT WAS NOT GOOD NEWS THAT OUR FLIGHT WOULD HAVE AN HOUR DELAY. IT WAS NOT TOO BAD

THOUGH, BECAUSE I DOSED OFF. THE ROOM WE WERE IN WAS A LARGE, SQUARE ROOM WITH ABOUT 20 ROLLS OF FOLDING CHAIRS

AND NO CARPET. THERE WAS NOTHING INTERESTING TO KEEP US ENTERTAINED SO IT WAS EASY TO

DOSE OFF.  I SAT VERY CLOSE TO THE PODIUM TYPE DESK ( THE ONLY OTHER PIECE OF FURNITURE IN

THE ROOM BESIDES THE CHAIRS  NEXT TO THE JETWAY LOADING BRIDGE. ) I REMEMBER THE CALL TO BOARD THE

PLANE AND EVERYBODY JUST QUEUED UP AND WE ENTERED THE PLANE IN THE ORDER WE HAD STOOD

IN THE LINE. 

IT WAS 3:10 BANGKOK THAILAND TIME. I WAS SITTING AND WRITING THIS AT THE ISKCON TEMPLE OF SAI PATTAY OSTHO NEAR THE GENERAL POST OFFICE ON NEW ROAD. I HAD MET A KRISHNA DEVOTEE AT THE TAIPEI TAIWAN AIRPORT WHICH WAS A STOP OVER LOCATION BETWEEN SEOUL KOREA AND BANGKOK THAILAND. WE DECIDED

TO MEET IN THE BANGKOK AIRPORT AND SHARE A TAXI TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE ISKCON TEMPLE AND SEARCH FOR IT TOGETHER. WE PAID ABOUT $4.25 EACH FOR THE TAXI RIDE. THE DRIVER WAS

FRIENDLY AND EFFICIENT; QUICKLY GETTING US TO THE GENERAL POST OFFICE WHERE HE DROPPED US

OFF. WE FOUND THE TEMPLE BY ASKING PEOPLE IN THE STREET FOR "THE KRISHNA TEMPLE". IT TOOK ONLY ABOUT FIVE MINUTES TO FIND THE TEMPLE. I WAS THEN ABLE TO REST;

TO SLEEP. I DID NOT SLEEP A LOT.

I DID SLEEP ABOUT THREE HOURS. FEELING GOOD...

SO I AT LEAST GOT A GOOD NAP.

COLD WATER BUCKET BATH...CLEAN...

SHAVED... CLEAN CLOTHS.

WE WERE ONLY ABOUT FOUR STREETS AWAY FROM THE GENERAL POST OFFICE. I WENT OUT AND

QUICKLY FOUND SOME POST CARDS TO COMMUNICATE WITH MY DAD, VANESSA, GRANDMA, AND MY GREAT AUNT EDDIE.

IT WAS ALMOST 0700 BANGKOK THAILAND TIME AND I DID NOT WANT TO TAKE MUCH TIME AT THE

TEMPLE AFTER MORNING KIRTAN AND THE MEAL OF PRASADAM. I CALCULATED WHAT I COULD

CONTRIBUTE TO

THE TEMPLE AND THEN I WENT OUT INTO THE EXCITEMENT OF BANGKOK. THE NEXT TIME I RETURN TO BANGKOK, I WILL LOOK UP ISKCON AGAIN TO SEE IF IT HAS GROWN OR MOVED ON TO A LARGER SPACE WHICH I EXPECT THAT IT WILL. 

I RETURNED TO THE SMALL ISKCON TEMPLE AS IT GOT DARK OUTSIDE. I WAS HOT AND SWEATY SO I HAD TO TAKE

A BATH. THEN I COULD EAT SOME PRASADAM AND REST THE REMAINDER OF THE NIGHT. I SAT ALONE SO

I COULD WRITE ABOUT MY DAY IN BANGKOK. I WAS UP AND DOWN THE CHAO PRAYA AND I SPENT TIME

IN CHINATOWN. BANGKOK HAS ONE OF THE LARGEST CHINATOWNS IN THE WORLD. A LARGE

PERCENTAGE OF THE CHINESE IMMIGRANTS ARE OF THE TEOCHEW ETHNICITY. GUAN YU SHRINE IS WORTH VISITING

AS WELL AS SOME OF THE GREAT RESTAURANTS. 

AFTER WAKING UP, WE ALL ATTENDED ARATI AND KIRTAN. THESE TAKE ABOUT HALF AN HOUR HERE. IN LARGER TEMPLES, IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER. THERE ARE ONLY A FEW DEVOTEES IN THIS TEMPLE.

AFTER KIRTAN WE

HAD A BHAGAVAD GITA READING CLASS (ALSO ABOUT HALF AN HOUR)  AND THEN WE ATE BREAKFAST

PRASADAM. THEY WERE ASKING ME TO STAY AT THE TEMPLE FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS. OF COURSE, I COULD NOT STAY THAT LONG. I DECIDED TO STAY TWO MORE DAYS AS A COMPROMISE. I COULD NOT

STOP THINKING ABOUT A TRAIN RIDE FURTHER SOUTH. 

MY NEXT EXPLORATION IN BANGKOK BROUGHT ME UP THE CHAO PRAYA (MY FAVORITE WAY TO GET AROUND THE CITY). 

MY FIRST DESTINATION WAS THE SI SAO THEWES MARKET WHERE I HAD PREVIOUSLY PRACTICED MY

TAI CHI CHUAN. THIS MARKET IS IN THE DUSIT AREA OF BANGKOK. IT IS NEAR THE SUKITHAI PALACE

AND

THE DUSIT PALACE COMPLEX. THE MARKET IS A TYPICAL, LARGE MARKET WITH FRUIT AND VEGETABLE

STALLS AND MERCHANDISE SHOPS SURROUNDING THE CITY BLOCK. THE PRICES OF THE FRUITS AND

VEGETABLES ARE

CLEARLY DISPLAYED BUT THEY ARE ALL IN THAI BHAT. AFTER I LEFT THE MARKET, I WALKED DOWN TO WHERE

THE GRAND PALACE IS LOCATED. IT TOOK ME ABOUT 40 MINUTES WALKING DOWN SAMSEN ROAD, PAST

A CANAL,

A 7-11, AND A SECOND CANAL TO  PHRA SUMEN ROAD.  THEN THERE WAS A RIGHT TURN TOWARDS  SOI LUMPHU WHICH MERGES INTO PHRA ATHIT ROAD. BY THIS TIME I WAS WALKING ALONG THE CHAO

PRAYA RIVER. I PASSED PHRA SUMEN FORT, PHRA PINKLAO BRIDGE, NATIONAL MUSEUM BANGKOK,

AND SILPAKOM UNIVERSITY.  

THE GRAND PALACE IS MAGNAFÍQUE WITH SEVERAL BUILDINGS OF BEAUTIFUL, TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURE. I PAID THE ENTRANCE FEE WHICH MAY BE ABOUT $10 AT THE TIME. A LOT OF THIS

COMPLEX WAS ORIGINALLY BUILT AS THE RESIDENCE FOR THE ROYAL FAMILY OF THE KING OF SIAM

AROUND 1780. SINCE AROUND 1930, THIS COMPLEX HAS BEEN USED FOR OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT

BUSINESS WITH  THE ROYAL FAMILY RESIDING AT THE

DUSIT PALACE COMPLEX.

AFTER I LEFT THE GRAND PALACE, I STARTED WALKING DOWN SAMAN CHAI ROAD TOWARDS WAT PO.  BEFORE I REACHED WAT PO, I ENTERED A VERY LARGE FIELD BECAUSE I ESPIED A MOUNTAIN OF GIANT SPEAKERS. THERE WERE MANY PEOPLE IN THE FIELD, EITHER STANDING AROUND OR MOVING ABOUT. 

THIS FIELD IS SARANROM PALACE PARK AND IT IS ABOUT HALF WAY BETWEEN THE GRAND PALACE AND WAT PO. SOME PEOPLE WERE PLAYING WITH WHAT LOOKED LIKE A SOCCER BALL. THEY KICKED THE

BALL AS THEY WOULD

IN SOCCER AND THEY WOULD STRIKE IT WITH THEIR ELBOWS. THE CONTESTANTS FORMED A CIRCLE

WHILE THEY TRIED TO GET THE BALL INTO A NET THAT HANGS BETWEEN THREE HOOPS. IT WAS NICE RELAXING HERE

WATCHING THE GAME AND LISTENING TO THE LOUD MUSIC. AFTER ABOUT TWO HOURS I WALKED TO

WAT PO.

THE WAT PO COMPLEX IS MASSIVE WITH BEAUTIFUL, TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURE. IT HAS A THAI

MASSAGE SCHOOL, THE WORLD FAMOUS RECLINING BUDDHA, AND  MANY ARTWORKS. WAT PO IS ALSO CALLED THE

TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA. THE NAME WAT PO IS SHORT FOR WAT PHOTARAM. IT IS ONE OF

THE SIX "HIGHEST GRADE  OF FIRST CLASS ROYAL TEMPLES". THE ASHES OF KING RAMA I ARE INTERRED HERE BECAUSE HE HAD A LARGE PART OF THE COMPLEX BUILT SINCE 1788. AFTER ABOUT TWO HOURS AT WAT PO,

I RETURNED TO

THE ISKCON TEMPLE TO PLAN MY TRIP TO KANCHANABURI. IT MIGHT BE TIME FOR A BIKE RIDE.

A TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 8:

A SECOND GO AROUND IN BANGKOK BEFORE TRAVELING FURTHER SOUTH. 

I WALKED BANGKOK DOWN TO THE GROUND. NOT EVEN KRUNG THEP MAHANAKON

CAN SUBDUE ME. I WILL BE HEADING SOUTH TOWARDS MALAYSIA IN JUST TWO DAYS. THE ROOM I HAD AT FREDDIES GUEST HOUSE HAD A GOOD VIEW AND IT DID NOT HAVE ANY OF THE RESIDENT LIZARDS THAT ARE OFTEN SEEN IN MOTEL ROOMS. I THINK THEY ARE GECKOS. THE MOST WONDERFUL VIEW THAT I HAD SEEN OF BANGKOK WAS ON TOP OF THE GOLDEN MOUNT OF WAT SAKET. THE VIEW IS ENORMOUS. YOU CAN WALK ALL AROUND THE GOLDEN MOUNT. EVERY ROOF TOP IN BANGKOK CAN BE SEEN FOR MILES AROUND. THERE IS NO END TO THE VARIOUS SIZES, SHAPES, AND COLORS OF THE ROOFTOPS.

AFTER WAT SAKET, I WALKED TO LUMPINI PARK WHERE I PRACTICED MY TAI CHI CHUAN. LUMPINI PARK IS HUGE AND PEOPLE CAN EVEN RENT ROW BOATS AND ROW AROUND AN ISLAND IN THE LAKE. THERE ARE A COUPLE OF BRIDGES THAT PEOPLE CAN USE TO REACH THE ISLAND. OLDER PEOPLE CONGREGATE AT THE PARK. THERE ARE SEVERAL FOOD STALLS INSIDE THE PARK AND THERE IS A MARKET STREET JUST ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE ENTRANCE TO THE PARK. ONE MAN WAS JOGGING AROUNG THE PARK WITH A TIRE DRAGGING BEHIND HIM. HE TIED A ROPE AROUND HIS WAIST WITH THE TIRE TIED WITH THE OTHER END OF THE ROPE. I SAW ANOTHER MAN JOGGING WITH A VERY HIGH STEP AND HE LOOKED LIKE A DUCK WALKING UP HILL. EVERY TIME I DO MY TAI CHI CHUAN IN THIS PARK, A CAT COMES UP TO WATCH AND IT STAYS UNTIL I FINISH. 

THE GUIDEBOOK SAID THE POLICE PRESENCE IN THAILAND IS MINIMAL AND I FOUND THAT TO BE THE CASE. I DO SEE THEM NEAR "POLICE BOXES" AND DIRECTING TRAFFIC. THAT IS NEEDED OFTEN BECAUSE TRAFFIC CAN BE EXTREMELY HEAVY AND THERE ARE MANY INTERSECTIONS WITH NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS. TRAFFIC CAN LOOK LIKE A RIVER BREAKING THROUGH A DAM. 

TODAY I WAS EATING IN THE STREETS. I ATE WATERMELON, PAPAYA, COCONUT, CARVED UP PINEAPPLE, A SWEET BREAD, AND I FOUND OUT THAT THE COCONUT LIKE FRUIT THAT I HAD EATEN A FEW DAYS EARLIER WAS ACTUALLY A YOUNG COCONUT.IN CHINATOWN I BOUGHT A ROOTBEER AND A CAN OF WATERCRESS JUICE AT A MINIMART. I WOULD TIP 5 OR 10 BHAT IN RESTAURANTS ALTHOUGH IT IS NOT NECESSARY. THE STAFF MEMBERS DO NOT SEEM TO MIND A LITTLE EXTRA BEING LEFT FOR THEM ON THE TABLES. 5 OR 10 BHAT ARE ONLY A FEW CENTS ANYWAY. BUT THEN AGAIN, THE MEALS WERE COSTING ONLY TWO OR THREE DOLLARS. 

THERE IS A GOLDEN MOUNT THAT STANDS ON A ROCKY HILL. THERE ARE TOMBS ALL AROUND IT. THESE TOMBS ARE SIMILAR TO THE TOMBS IN KANCHI THAT I PHOTGRAPHED. I AM STILL WORRIED THAT THOSE PHOTOS MAY HAVE BEEN RUINED. WEALTH AND POVERTY EXIST RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER. ABJECT POVERTY IS NOT HIDDEN FROM VIEW. I ONCE SAW A MAN ON SILOM ROAD WHO HAD NO RIGHT HAND AND NO RIGHT FOOT BUT HE WAS STILL ABLE TO PLAY CARATELAS. HE TIED THE CARATELAS TO HIS WRISTS AND ANKLES. HE ALSO PLAYED THE HARMONICA. I BOUGHT SOME SWEETS AT A STREET STALL THERE AND I GAVE THE CHANGE TO THAT MAN. HE FOUND A VERY INOVATIVE WAY TO MAKE MONEY EVEN WITH HIS GREAT HANDICAP SO I MADE IT A POINT TO CONTRIBUTE A LITTLE TO HIS WELL BEING. I WAS ALWAYS WALKING BY CONSTRUCTION OF BUILDINGS THROUGHOUT BANGKOK. WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE OFTEN INVOLVED WITH THE CONSTRUCTION. IT IS A VERY EQUAL OPPORTUNITY IN THE BUILDING BUILDING BUSINESS HERE. THERE ARE ALSO A LOT OF PRETTY BOARDS WITH CHAIRS. I THOUGHT THEY WERE FOR PICNICS IN THE PARKS AND ON SIDEWALKS BUT EVENTUALLY I SAW MEN PLAYING CHESS ON THEM. THEY OFTEN USED BOTTLE CAPS FOR THE GAMES. I DO NOT KNOW IF IT IS POSSIBLE TO PLAY CHESS WITH BOTTLE CAPS THAT WOULD LOOK THE SAME AS ALL THE OTHER BOTTLE CAPS SO MAYBE THEY WERE PLAYING CHECKERS. MARBLE CHESS BOARDS ARE OFTEN DISPLAYED IN STORE WINDOWS. THAT WAS ALL I MANAGED FOR THIS VISIT TO BANGKOK. NEXT, THE TRIP TO HUA HIN.



A TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 9:

ARRIVAL INTO HUA HIN.

HUA HIN SEEMS TO BE RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE COMPARED TO PLACES LIKE PATTAYA OR PHUKET. THAI ROYAL FAMILIES HAD SUMMER PALACES HERE SO THIS IS KNOWN AS THE BEACH GETAWAY OF THE ROYALS. NIGHTLIFE SEEMS TO BE A LITTLE MORE LAID BACK HERE THAN IN BANGKOK AND OTHER TOURIST DESTINATIONS. MANY EX-PATS LIVE HERE. THERE ARE MODERN HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS HERE WHILE RETAINING ITS ECONOMICALLY VIABLE FISHING TRADE.

HUA HIN IS A VERY CHARMING PLACE AROUND THE SOFITEL HOTEL AND THE SUNEE GUESTHOUSE WHERE I STAYED. I DID NOT QUICKLY FIND THE GUESTHOUSE MENTIONED IN THE GUIDE BOOK I HAD SO I FOUND A SIGN THAT SAYED 100-200 BHAT FOR NIGHT. THERE WAS AN OLD LADY SITTING ON A COT IN FRONT OF THE GUESTHOUSE AND SHE MOTIONED TO THE SIGN, NODDING HER HEAD. THE PRICE WAS RIGHT AND I COULD NOT RESIST IMMEDIATE RELAXATION SO WHEN A YOUNG GIRL POINTED TO A COUPLE OF ROOMS, I CHOSE THE ROOM ON THE SECOND FLOOR. SUNEE GUESTHOUSE WAS VERY PLEASANT WHEN I STAYED THERE. IT TOOK THE BUS ONLY THREE HOURS TO ARRIVE INTO HUA HIN FROM BANGKOK. I FOUND AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE NEWS PAPER THAT IS CALLED "THE NATION" WITH WORLD NEWS. HUA HIN IS ON THE COAEST OF THE GULF OF THAILAND. IT HAS BEAUTIFUL GREEN WATER BUT IT IS SAID TO BE POLLUTED. THEREFORE, I DID NOT SWIM IN IT BUT I DID WALK DOWN HUA BEACH, OFTEN WADING IN THE SHALLOW WAVES. I WALKED AS FAR AS THE AREA WHERE THERE IS A HILL WITH A GOLD COLORED BUDDHA. IT IS A SMALL MOUNTAIN OR A LARGE HILL. THE BUDDHA IS RATHER LARGE BUT IT IS CALLED THE BUDDHA SHRINE PRACHUAP. I TOOK ONE PHOTO EVERY TIME I WOULD STOP TO RELAX. THE BUDDHA STATUE WAS LARGER IN EACH PHOTO. WALKING ALONG THE COAST SOUTH OF HUA HIN / PEOPLE PLAYING VOLLEYBALL / CHILDREN PLAYING SOCCER / FAST WALKING MAN / TWO JOGGERS / PEOPLE DIGGING INTO THE SAND / BARKING DOG / SAND TOWER CONSTRUCTION. THERE ARE MANY DOGS IN THE STREETS BUT THEY GENERALLY LOOK HEALTHIER AND CLEANER THAT THOSE IN MANY COUNTRIES LIKE MEXICO. THEY SEEM MORE DOCILE TOO. MAYBE THEY ARE BUDDHIST DOGS. I ATE AT A SEAFOOD RESTAURANT CALLED KHAN SEAFOOD. IT WAS A WONDERFUL PLATE OF FRESH CRABS ON A BED OF RICE WITH GREENS AND SAUCE. WITH PINEAPPLE JUICE, ONE BEER, AND BOTTLED WATER, THE COST WAS 156 BHAT WHICH WAS ABOUT $6.10 (AROI MAK). 

I WAS VERY HAPPY HERE SO I DID NOT MIND WHEN IT WAS TIME TO LEAVE AND IT TOOK LONGER THAT I EXPECTED BECAUSE THE GIRL WHO HAD SHOWN ME THE ROOMS, SLEPT IN AND DID NOT APPEAR UNTIL 0900. BEFORE GOING TO THE BUS STOP, I WENT TO THE POST OFFICE TO MAIL A POST CARD TO VANESSA. I FIRST FOUND AIR CONDITIONED BUSES TO KRABI BUT THESE WERE VIP BUSES THAT COST 500 BHAT TO GET THERE. I DID NOT LIKE THE PRICE SO I WENT OVER TO THE TRAIN STATION AND FOUND A TRAIN TO SURAT THANI THAT WOULD LEAVE FIVE HOURS EARLIER THAN THE BUS AND IT WOULD COST ONLY 150 BHAT. A SLEEPER CAR WOULD COST 300 BHAT. I WENT TO EAT SOMETHING AT 12:00 AND THEN WENT TO THE TRAIN STATION TO WAIT FOR THE DEPARTURE AT 1600. 

I DID SURVIVE THE TRAIN RIDE. NOW I KNOW HOW MUSLIMS PRAY ON A MOVING TRAIN. NOW I KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE TO TAKE A TWELVE HOUR TRAIN RIDE IN THIRD CLASS. AND I CAME TO KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE TO SLEEP IN A TEMPLE COMPLEX. I MET TWO PEOPLE ON THE TRAIN. ONE MAN TRIED TO MAKE HIMSELF TO BE A MONK AND INVITED ME TO HIS VILLAGE. I WAS CONSIDERING IT BUT HE REALLY DID NOT SEEM LIKE A REAL MONK AND THEN ANOTHER MAN SAT NEXT TO ME AND HE WAS WEARING A MONKS ROBE AND HE INVITED ME SPECIFICALLY TO A TEMPLE SO I ACCEPTED HIS INVITATION. WE GOT OFF THE TRAIN AT PHATTHALUNG AND CAUGHT A BEMO TO ARRIVE AT THE WAT WHERE HE STAYED. WE FIRST MET WITH THE HEAD MONK OF THE TEMPLE AND THEN WE FOUND OUR HUT WHERE WE WERE TO SLEEP. THERE ARE SEVERAL SMALL BUNGALOW TYPE HUTS LIKE THIS WHERE THE OTHER MONKS SLEPT. IN THIS HUT WERE A LOT OF RELIGIOUS PHOTOS, A TAPE PLAYER WITH LOTS OF TAPES, ROBES HANGING ON A CLOTHS LINE, ANTS ON THE WOOD PLANK FLOOR, MOSQUITOS BUZZING AROUND SINCE THERE WERE NO SCREENS ON THE OPEN WINDOWS, DRINKING GLASSES, AND A WATER PERCOLATOR FOR MAKING INSTANT COFFEE OR CHINESE TEA, 

THE TRAIN RIDE WAS INTERESTING AS LONG AS THE SUN WAS UP BUT WHEN THE SUN WAS DOWN, IT WAS JUST ONEROUS. I HAD TO RIDE THIRD CLASS BECAUSE I WAS TOLD THAT THEY HAD NO SECOND CLASS SEATS WHEN I ASKED FOR THEM. AT LEAST I REACHED SOUTHERN THAILAND ON THE RAPID TRAIN FOR ONLY 130 BHAT WHICH WAS ABOUT $5.50 AT THE TIME. I DOZED OFF FOR ABOUT TWO HOURS ON THE TRAIN. WHEN THE NEXT DAY BEGAN, WE WERE ON MOTORCYCLES THAT WE HIRED IN THE TOWN, PHATALUNG, HEADING TO THE TEMPLE AND I TOOK A SHOWER IMMEDIATLY AFTER ARRIVING. THE MONKS BROUGHT ME SOME FOOD THAT WAS MADE BY SOME OF THE VILLAGE HOUSEHOLDS. THE MONKS EAT IN THE EARLY MORNING AND THEN ANY GUESTS AT THE TEMPLE WILL EAT SOME. I ATE AS MUCH AS I COULD BECAUSE I DID NOT WANT TO INSULT ANY OF THE WOMEN WHO BROUGHT THE FOOD TO THE TEMPLE BY NOT TRYING THEIR DISH. THERE WAS EVEN SOME DESSERT. SOME OF THE BOWLS HAD MEAT AND I JUST ATE THE VEGETABLES FROM THOSE BOWLS. AFTER I ATE, THE HEAD MONK INVITED ME TO HIS PRIVATE HUT NEXT TO THE CEMETARY. AT ONE SIDE OF THE CEMETARY IS AN AREA WHERE BONES ARE STORED AND SMALL STUPAS MARK THE PLACES WITH THE BONES. THE HEAD MONK GAVE ME SOME TANGERINES AND WATERMELON TO EAT SO I ATE SOME AS ANOTHER DESSERT. I WAS THEN SHOWN AROUND THE TEMPLE COMPLEX AND THEN I WAS LED TO AN ENGLISH CLASS WITH STUDENTS OF AROUND 16 0R 17 YEARS OLD. I STOOD IN FRONT OF THE CLASS WITH THE HEAD MONK AND THE STUDENTS ASKED ME MANY QUESTIONS IN BROKEN ENGLISH AND I ANSWERED THEM SLOWLY TO MAKE SURE THEY COULD UNDERSTAND. 

THERE HAS BEEN A HUGE SPIDER HANGING FROM A TREE BRANCH JUST OUTSIDE THE WINDOW. IT IS UNUSUALLY BEAUTIFUL. I WAS SURROUNDED BY BUDDHIST TEXTS BEING RECITED, COWS, RICE FIELDS, COLORFUL MUSHROOMS GROWING WILD, AND MOSQUITOS. AT LEAST I HAD A MOSQUITO NET TO SLEEP UNDER THE SECOND NIGHT I WAS AT THE TEMPLE BECAUSE I SLEPT IN THE HEAD MONKS HUT. THERE WAS TO BE A CREMATION CEREMONY THE NEXT DAY BUT I INTENDED TO TRAVEL SOUTH INTO MALAYSIA. BEFORE I HEADED SOUTH TOWARDS MALAYSIA, I VISITED A CAVE TEMPLE WITH SEVERAL SHRINES. IT IS IN A MOUNTAIN THAT HAS A WALKWAY WHICH IS STEEP AND MAZE LIKE LEADING UP THE MOUNTAIN. FIGURES OF MONKS WHO HAVE LIVED AND DIED THERE ARE COMMON. ONE WALKWAY LEADS DOWN TO A POOL OF WATER. 


A TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 10:

I LOST SOME MONEY.

I AM ANGRY THAT I AM MISSING A COUPLE HUNDRED DOLLARS. I DO NOT KNOW IF IT WAS STOLEN OR IF I LOST IT. ALL I KNOW IS THAT I THINK I HAVE ABOUT $200 LESS THAN I SHOULD. I BACKTRACKED TO THE PLACES WHERE I HAD BEEN THE PREVIOUS DAY AND FOUND NOTHING. I DID NOT FEEL LIKE DOING ANYTHING ELSE IN HUA HIN SO I JUST RELAXED UNTIL IT WAS TIME TO GO FURTHER SOUTH TO HAT YAI. I WAS GOING TO ADD AN AI PARAGRAPH HERE ABOUT HAT YAI BUT WHEN I DID, IT COMPLETELY REPLACED WHAT I HAD ALREADY WRITTEN HERE. I DID NOT WANT THAT SO I REVERSED THAT ACTION. THE AI PARAGRAPH CALLED HAT YAI AS A BUSTLING CITY WITH GREAT TOURIST INFRASTRUCTURE. IT TOUTED ITS GOOD RESTAURANTS AND GOOD HOTELS. ANYWAY, I THOUGHT I WOULD ADD AN AI PARAGRAPH SINCE I DID NOT HAVE MUCH TO INCLUDE HERE ABOUT HAT YAI ON THIS BLOG.  BUT I CAN SAY THAT IT IS A GREAT PLACE FOR WALKING AROUND.

WHEN I GOT TO HAT YAI,  I FOUND A GUESTHOUSE CALLED CATHAY GUESTHOUSE. CATHAY GUESTHOUSE IS AT 93 NIPHAT UTHIT 2 ROAD AND IT IS GOOD AS A BACKPACKER HAVEN. I WAS OFFERED A GIRL FOR 1,200 BHAT WHICH WAS ABOUT $48 BUT I DECLINED THE OFFER. I DID TAKE A ROOM FOR 120 BHAT AND WAS QUITE PLEASED THAT IT WAS A DECENT ROOM THAT EVEN INCLUDED A SHOWER. I LIKED THE CHEAP ROOM. IT HAS AVERAGE REVIEWS BUT THE STAFF MEMBERS ARE FRIENDLY AND SOME EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH. IT HAS PLACES WHERE WASHED CLOTHS CAN BE HUNG  UNTIL DRY. AFTER I GOT SETTLED IN, I WENT TO THE BUS DEPOT TO BUY TICKETS  FOR A TOURIST CLASS RIDE SOUTH TO PENANG MALAYSIA. I PLANNED TO LEAVE THE NEXT MORNING. AFTER ALL, WHAT IS IN HAT YAI? LOL...  HAT YAI MEANS BIG MAHAT TREE (MAHAT YAI). THE BIG MAHAT TREE IS RELATED TO JACKFRUIT TREES. THERE IS A POST OFFICE SO I BOUGHT A POST CARD AND SENT IT TO VANESSA. I PAID 200 BHAT FOR THE RIDE TO PENANG WITH A SHARE TAXI WITH A/C. I SPENT THE AFTERNOON WALKING AROUND THE TOWN. I NOTICED THE  BARBERSHOP POLES. THERE  ARE A LOT. MOST ARE REVOLVING. AND THEY ARE OF SEVERAL COLORS AND DESIGNS. THERE IS A LARGE VARIETY OF BARBERSHOP POLES. THERE ARE SEVERAL MARKETS IN HAT YAI. IN FACT, IT IS A PARADISE FOR BARGIN HUNTERS BECAUSE IT IS A COMMERCIAL HUB CLOSE TO THE BORDER WITH MALAYSIA THAT HAS ITS GREENWAY NIGHT MARKET AND HATYAI STREET  STALLS. HAT YAI HAS A STRONG MALAY INFLUENCE DUE TO MALAYSIA BEING A MUSLIM COUNTRY 

WITH A SOURCE FROM ARABIC  AND TAMIL TRADERS.  ABOUT 405,000 PEOPLE LIVE HERE.   I THINK IT IS CITY NUMBER FIVE FOR ITS SIZE IN THAILAND. I THOUGHT THAT IT WAS A VERY SAFE PLACE TO EXPLORE BUT BOMBINGS ARE RELATIVLY COMMON HERE SO I GUESS VISITORS SHOULD BE WATCHFUL FOR STRANGE ACTIVITIES. STILL, I FOUND THE CITY TO BE SAFE.        HAT YAI IS 135 MILES (216 KILOMETERS)  FROM PENANG SO IT TAKES JUST OVER THREE HOURS TO ARRIVE THERE. ACTUALLY, IT COULD TAKE FOUR HOURS TO REACH PENANG IF YOU STOP AT THE GREAT RESTAURANT A FEW MILES INTO MALAYSIA. IT IS A BUFFET STYLE RESTAURANT WITH WONDERFUL MALAY FOODS.


 .


TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE; CHAPTER 11:

PENANG MALAYSIA AS THE GATEWAY  TO INDONESIA.

IT WAS A STRANGE SOUND AT FIRST, FAR AWAY AND FOREIGN. I WAS FULLY AWAKE WHEN I RECOGNIZED THE MELODY AS THE ADHAN WHICH I HAD NOT HEARD IN A LONG TIME. THE SONOROUS MUSLIM CALL TO PRAYER BECAME MORE FAMILIAR AS I WOKE. I THOUGHT OF PENANG AS THE STOP OVER PLACE TO RELAX BEFORE VENTURING INTO SUMATRA. I GREW TO LOVE IT THOUGH. I CONSIDERED THE TOWN AS PENANG AS WELL AS THE ISLAND (AS SINGAPORE WOULD BE) BUT THE TOWN IS ACTUALLY GEORGETOWN. THE AVERAGE HIGH TEMPERATURE IS ABOUT 90 AND THE AVERAGE LOW IS ABOUT 75 DEGREES. PERFECT WEATHER TO ME, PERFECT WEATHER FOR ME. GEORGETOWN IS MULTICULTURAL WITH DISTINCT CHINESE, MALAY,AND TAMIL NEIGHBORHOODS WHICH INCLUDE MANY BRITISH COLONIAL BUILDINGS. THE POPULATION IS AROUND 225,000 RESIDENTS. I WAS STILL UPSET ABOUT LOSING THE MONEY I HAD LOST SO I MADE A PLAN TO SPEND MOST OF MY TIME HERE IN PENANG AND ESPECIALLY IN VERY INEXPENSIVE SUMATRA. IN RETROSPECT, THIS TURNED OUT TO BE FOR THE BEST. THERE WAS A FERRY THAT I TOOK FROM BUTTERWORTH, ACROSS THE CHANNEL, TO THE PORT OF PENANG. TERMINAL FERI BUTTERWORTH WILL TAKE YOU TO PENGKALAN RAJA TUN UDA FERRY TERMINAL AT THE SOUTHEAST CORNER OF GEORGETOWN. DURING THESE FIRST YEARS OF TRAVEL, I NEVER BOOKED HOTELS AHEAD OF TIME SO, AS USUAL, I LOOKED AROUND FOR A PLACE TO STAY. I FOUND THE NEW CHINA HOTEL AND PAID 65 RINNGIT WHICH IS JUST SHY OF $3.00 A NIGHT.  AFTER ONE NIGHT AT NEW CHINA HOTEL, I MOVED TO WAN HAI HOTEL. I PAID AN EVEN 6 RINNGIT. THEY ARE AT 35 LOVE LANE. IT IS A BREAD AND BREAKFAST WITH A "GOOD" RATING OF 6.2 ON AGODA.COM, WHICH I WOULD AGREE WITH. I MOSTLY ATE MIE KARI WHICH ALWAYS HAD NOODLES IN A CURRY BROTH WITH EITHER TEMPE OR SEAFOOD ADDED. 

I MET A CHINESE / MALAY WOMAN WHO I THOUGHT MAY HAVE BEEN DISTURBED MENTALLY. SHE GAVE ME A CARD WITH AN IMAGE OF BUDDHA AND SHE ALSO GAVE ME A BUDDHA  PENDANT ON A CHEAP CHAIN. SHE SEEMED INTELLIGENT BUT SHE WAS CLAIMING TO BE TELEPATHIC. I WAS THINKING THAT I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO AVOID HER BECAUSE SHE WAS A LOT LIKE SHAKABUKU KING IN BOULDER COLORADO. HE WAS A HOMELESS MAN WHO ACTED LIKE A PROPHET OF  SORTS AND HE WOULD ALWAYS MANAGE TO FIND ME  WHEN I WAS OUT AND ABOUT TOWN. IF YOU MEET SHAKABUKU KING AND TELL HIM YOUR BIRTHDAY (YES, HE WILL ASK YOU FOR IT), THEN YOU MEET HIM 5 YEARS LATER, HE WILL REMEMBER YOU, HE WILL SAY HELLO,  AND THEN HE WILL SAY YOUR BIRTHDAY.  HE HAD A FREAKY ABILITY THAT I WITNESSED SEVERAL TIMES. I ONCE RETURNED TO BOULDER AFTER BEING AWAY FOR MORE THAN A YEAR AND HE REMEMBERED ME BY CALLING ME BY MY BIRTHDAY. HE COULD ALSO TALK FOR HOURS WHICH IS WHY I WANTED TO AVOID HIM AND WHY I WANTED TO ESCAPE FROM THIS WOMAN IN PENANG. I APPEASED HER BY TELLING HER THAT SHE WAS VERY INTERESTING AND THAT IT WOULD BE NICE TO TALK WITH HER AGAIN, "I HAVE TO GO TAKE PHOTOS BUT MY HOTEL IS IN THE AREA AND I WILL BE HERE FOR ONE WEEK."

I TOOK A BUS RIDE DOWN THE SOUTHEAST COAST OF PENANG ISLAND AFTER A LITTLE DIFFICULTY IN FINDING THE CORRECT BUS. IT IS PROBABLY BEST TO LEAVE EARLY IN THE MORNING TO SEARCH FOR THE CORRECT BUS. I PAID 1.20 MALAYSIAN RINGGIT TO TRAVEL DOWN TO BATU MAUNG. IT COST 1.75 TO RIDE THE BUS BACK UP TO THE KOMTOR BUILDING. I TOOK QUITE A FEW PHOTOS OF THE COUNTRYSIDE AND HAD A NICE CONVERSATION WITH THE BUS DRIVER. HE GAVE ME FIVE LIMES AND OFFERED TO ACT AS A GUIDE IF I WANTED TO BE SHOWN AROUND THE ISLAND. ONE OF THE LIMES WAS AS LARGE AS A CHICKEN EGG AND IT WAS SHAPED LIKE ONE. I HAD NEVER SEEN AN OVAL LIME BEFORE BUT I HAD ONE HERE.

THERE IS A VAISNAVA TEMPLE IN GEORGETOWN AND I DID STAY THERE A FEW DAYS. THEY HAVE BUDDHA AND QUAN YIN MURTIS IN THEIR ALTAR ROOM BESIDES SOME MURTIS USED BY ISKCON. I BELIEVE THIS TEMPLE IS AN OFF SHOOT OF ISKCON THAT SEEKS TO INCOPORATE VAISNAVA RELIGION WITH BUDDHISM. I WAS STILL AT THE WAN HAI HOTEL WHEN I FIRST VISITED THIS TEMPLE TO PARTICIPATE IN A RATHA YATRA FESTIVAL WHEN THE DEVOTEES AND LOCAL RESIDENTS DO PARIKRAM AROUND GEORGTOWN. THIS IS LIKE A PARADE WITH THE TEMPLE DIETIES CARRIED IN FRONT OF THE PROCESSION AND THE DEVOTEES DANCING AND CHANTING AROUND THE DIETIES. HUGE VATS OF DELICIOUS PRASADAM WERE BROUGHT BY THE DEVOTEES TO FEED EVERYBODY WHO ATTENDED THE RATHA YATRA. WAN HAI HOTEL IS VERY CLOSE TO THE TEMPLE WHICH IS ON JALAN PENANG.

I ALSO ATE AT A MUSLIM STREET CAFE FOR LUNCH. A LARGE MURTABAK AND CURRY SAUCE WITH POTATO AND A STARFRUIT JUICE COST ONLY THREE RINGGIT 50 SEN FOR EVETYTHING. THIS WAS DURING A TRIP TO A SNAKE TEMPLE. IT IS ACTUALLY THE TEMPLE OF THE AZURE CLOUDS. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL CHINESE TEMPLE THAT IS PROBABLY TAOIST. THE CENTRAL ALTAR HAS A BLUE SKY BEHIND IT, WHITE CLOUDS, INCENSE, AND GODDESS SURROUNDED BY SNAKES. THERE WERE FOUR SNAKES ON THE ALTAR. THERE ARE ALSO A FEW OTHER SNAKES IN THE TEMPLE BUT I DID NOT ENCOUNTER THEM. THESE SNAKES ARE CONSIDERED THE REINCARNATION OF BUDDHIST MONK MASTER QINGSHUI. THE TEMPLE OF THE AZURE CLOUDS, BUILT IN HONOR OF MASTER QINGSHUI, IN 1805,  IS ACTUALLY BETWEEN BAYAN BARU AND BAYAN LEPAS WHICH ARE ABOUT ONE HOUR SOUTH OF GEORGETOWN. THE TEMPLE COMPLEX HAS SEVERAL ROOMS WITH ALTARS, A GARDEN, TOILETS, FOOD STALLS, AND A GIFT SHOP OR TWO. I BOUGHT A STRAND OF BUDDHIST CHANTING BEADS WITH A RED TASSEL AND A CHOKER WITH AN ELEPHANT AMULET. THESE TWO ITEMS COST 25 RINGGIT WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN ABOUT NINE DOLLARS AT THE TIME. IT WAS AN ORDEAL TO FIND THE BUS WHEN I WANTED TO RETURN TO GEORGETOWN. IT TOOK ABOUT ONE HOUR OF WAITING FOR THE BUS. THERE IS A BUS STOP NEAR THE SNAKE TEMPLE AND I HAD TO GO THERE AND WAIT FOR BUS 66. 

I THINK PENANG IS AN IDEAL PLACE TO LIVE. FISHERMAN PIER WITH FOOD STALLS, PRETTY SEA SHELLS LYING ON THE BEACH. NEIGHBORHOODS STEEPED IN ANCIENT CULTURE, AND FOODS THAT I WILL ALWAYS CRAVE TO EAT AGAIN. THERE ARE SOME OPEN SEWER GUTTERS HERE AND THERE IN GEORGETOWN WITH AN OCCASIONAL LARGE RAT ENCOUNTERED BUT THEY CAN BE AVOIDED BY THOSE WHO CONSIDER THEM UNBEARABLE. SUCH DRAINS AND RATS ARE NOT REALLY UNBEARABLE THOUGH. JUST GET USED TO THEM. ANOTHER THING TO BE CAREFUL FOR ARE THE PURSE SNATCHERS. THEY WILL RIDE CLOSLY PAST A LADY, GRAB HER PURSE, AND TAKE OFF FASTER ON THE MOTORCYCLE. IF THE STREET IS TO YOUR LEFT, CARRY THE PURSE ON YOUR RIGHT. 

ONE MORNING I DRANK A BUAH-BUAH WHICH IS A FRUIT JUICE SODA. I LOVED IT. THEN I PRACTICED MY TAI CHI CHUAN IN A SMALL, CUTE PARK. A MAN CAME TO ME AND TRIED TO TALK WITH ME BEFORE I FINISHED. WHEN I FINISHED THE TAI CHI, HE WAS STILL THERE. IT TURNS OUT THAT HE WAS GAY, ABOUT 40 YEARS OLD, AND HE ASKED ME TO STAY AT HIS HOME ON BURMA STREET. HE TOLD ME THAT I HAVE A STRONG BODY. I TOLD HIM THAT I COULD NOT BECAUSE I AM NOT GAY AND THAT WAS THE END OF IT. 

I TOOK A BUS UP A HIGH PASS TO AYER ITAM. I WAS SURPRISED THAT THE WEAK LOOKING BUSES COULD MAKE IT THROUGH THE PASS. AYER ITAM IS WEST OF GREORGETOWN ABOUT SIX KILOMETERS WHICH IS ABOUT THREE AND A HALF MILES. PENANG HILL AND KEK LOK SI TEMPLE IS THERE. THE SCENERY IS GREAT AND IT INCLUDES FRUIT AND VEGETABLE FARMS. ITAM IS FROM HITAM WHICH MEANS BLACK.  I GUESS THE RIVER HERE HAS DARK, MURKY WATER. KEK LOK SI TEMPLE IS ONE OF THE LARGEST TEMPLES IN MALAYSIA. MANY OF THE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES FOUND AT THE MARKETS IN GEORGETOWN ARE GROWN AROUND HERE. PEPPER AND NUTMEG HAVE ALSO BEEN CULTIVATED HERE SINCE AROUND 1788. I ALSO SAW A LOT OF HOUSES ON STILTS. IT IS A  VILLAGE OF CHINESE FAMILIES. THE HOUSES WERE BUILT ON FETTIES AND EACH JETTIE HAS HOUSES BUILT BY SPECIFIC CLANS. TOURISTS CAN VISIT THE CLAN JETTIE CALLED CHEW JETTIE. THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER TEMPLES LIKE SHAN DIN DI MU NIANG NIANG AND BEOW HIANG LIM, AND SRI MAHA MARIAMMAN TEMPLES. THE LATTER TEMPLE HAS SHRINES FOR SHIVA, LAKSMI, GANESH, KRISNA, AND HANUMAN. EVERYBODY IS REPRESENTED THERE. THERE ARE MANY OTHER COOL THINGS HERE LIKE BATS CAVE TEMPLE, PENANG HILL BAT CAVE TRAIL, AND A FUNICULAR SERVICE. KEK LOK SI TEMPLE HAS A BEAUTIFULLY ORNAMENTED TOWER WITH  SEVEN LEVELS THAT YOU CAN CLIMB. IT HAS MURTIS OF BUDDHA WITH EVERY POSITION AND MUDRA YOU CAN IMAGINE. IT IS THE PAGODA OF 10,000 BUDDHAS. THERE IS A MURTI OF GUANYIN (KUAN YIN), THE GODDESS OF MERCY, AND IT IS VERY TALL; 120 FEET HIGH (ABOUT 37 METERS). THERE ARE SEVERAL PAGODAS HERE WITH MANY STALLS WHERE TOURIST ITEMS ARE SOLD. THERE IS ALSO A VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT ON THE GROUNDS. THERE IS A LIBERATION POND WITH SO MANY TURTLES THAT I WOULD NOT EVEN BEGIN TO COUNT THEM. I PAID 1.40 RINGGIT FOR THE BUS 81 RIDE UP THE MOUNTAIN  BUT I HAD TO WAIT FOR BUS 79 TO RETURN TO GEORGETOWN. THE BUS STOP IS LOCATED JUST TWO OR THREE BLOCKS FROM THE TEMPLE COMPLEX. IT IS IN FRONT OF A SHOP SO I BOUGHT AN IKAN BILIS WHICH COST 50 SEN. IKAN BILIS IS A SERVING OF DRIED ANCHOVIES WHICH SERVED AS A GOOD SNACK. WHEN I RETURNED TO GEORGETOWN, I ATE A FULL MEAL AT LOKE THYE KEE RESTAURANT WHICH IS ONE OF THE OLDEST RESTAURENTS ON PENANG ISLAND. THE MENU INCLUDES TRADIONAL MALAY DISHES THAT STEM FROM NONYA, CHINESE, MALAY, AND INDIAN TRADITONS. I PAID SEVEN RINGGIT FOR POSSIBLY THE MOST INTENSE FISH CURRY I HAVE EVER EATEN. THIS RESTAURANT IS AT THE INTERSECTION OF BURMA STREET AND PENANG ROAD. IT HAS A COOL BALCONY WHERE YOU CAN EAT, OVERLOOKING THE STREETS AND KOMPTOR WALK WITH KOMPTOR TOWER CAN ALSO BE SEEN FROM HERE. KOMPTOR WALK IS A LOCATION WITH SEVERAL RESTAURANTS. 

I HEARD LOUD POUNDING. I WENT TO SEE WHAT IT WAS. IT WAS AT A CONSTRUCTION SITE. THEY WERE USING MACHINES TO POUND DOWN ON REALLY LONG CEMENT TUBES THAT WERE PLACED IN HOLES. IN THIS CASE, I SAW THREE TUBE POUNDING MACHINES THAT DID NOT LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME. WERE THEY DIFFERENT MODELS? ONE OF THE TUBE POUNDING MACHINES MADE PUFFS OF BLACK SMOKE THAT POLLUTED THE AIR IN THE AREA LIKE A LARGE COAL BURNING TRAIN ENGINE. I SAT ON A HILL ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE CONSTRUCTION SITE AND WATCHED THE ACTIVITES. THE OTHER TWO POUNDING MACHINES DID NO AIR POLLUTING. THEY POUNDED THE TALL TUBES JUST LIKE A GIANT SLEDGE HAMMER. THE AIR POLLUTING POUNDING MACHINE HAD A CYLINDER THAT SLID DOWN THE TALL CEMENT TUBES EMITTING THE PUFFS OF BLACK SMOKE AND ON THE WAY BACK UP, THE CEMENT TUBE WAS POUNDED DOWN FURTHER.EACH OF THE POUNDING MACHINES HAD DIFFERENT STYLES OF HOLDING APPARATUSES WITH WHICH THEY KEPT THE TUBES IN PLACE. I WROTE EXTENSIVELY ABOUT THEM IN MY JOURNAL AND I WILL KEEP THAT PAGE IN MY JOURNAL IN CASE ANYBODY IS INTERESTED IN KNOWING EVERYTHING I WROTE. I DID NOT WANT TO INCLUDE EVERYTHING HERE BECAUSE I DO NOT WANT TO BORE ANYBODY WITH TECHNICAL DESCRIPTIONS. 

RATHER THAN GOING STRAIGHT TO INDONESIA, I DECIDED TO RETURN TO PHATHALUNG THAILAND. I WAS THINKING THAT I MAY HAVE LOST MY MONEY AT THE TEMPLE COMPLEX WHERE I STAYED. I HAD BEEN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA FOR ABOUT THREE WEEKS AND I HAD NOT SEEN ANY REAL RAIN. IT RAINED THE DAY I RETURNED TO PHATHALUNG. IT RAINED A LITTLE BETWEEN PENANG AND HAT YAI BUT, LUCKILY, THE HARD RAIN DID NOT START FALLING UNTIL WE WERE ON THE ROAD. WHEN YOU BOOK YOUR MINIBUS OR SHARE TAXI SERVICE (LIKE NEWASIA TOURS)TO HAT YAI, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO BOOK IT THROUGH YOUR GUESTHOUSE OR HOTEL YOU CAN TRUST THEM AND YOU WILL PAY A FAIR PRICE. I PAID ABOUT 18 RINGGIT FROM GEORGETOWN TO HAT YAI. YOU WILL ALSO GET MOST OF YOUR PAPERWORK DONE FOR YOU AS YOU CROSS THE INTERNATIONAL BORDER. USING SUCH TRANSPORT SERVICES WILL HELP YOU AVOID THE STUFF THAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE GUIDEBOOKS:

                    BORDER DELAYS, UNKNOWN CONSTRUCTION DELAYS,

                    WAITING PERIODS FOR BUSES OR TRAINS, LANGUAGE 

                     BARRIERS, MUGGY WEATHER WHEN WAITING FOR SOME

                      THINGS, SWEATY CLOTHS, PAYMENT HERE AND PAYMENT

                      THERE. 

NO,NO,NO. JUST PAY IN ONE PLACE AND LET THE PROFESSIONALS GET YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE GOING. I NORMALLY TRAVEL ON MY OWN BUT THIS TIME I LET THE PROFESSIONALS TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING. 








TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 12:

ANOTHER GO AROUND IN SOUTHERN THAILAND:

VILLAGES, RICE FIELDS COCONUT TREES, JACKFRUIT TREES, BROWN COWS, WHITE COWS, BIG BLACK COWS, BULLS, RUBBER TREES WITH SMALL BLACK BUCKETS ATTACHED TO THEM, HAT YAI, BACK TO PHATHALUNG, MOTORCYCLE TAXI TO WAT BAN SUAN. AT THE TEMPLE COMPLEX, I WAS ABLE TO GET A CLOSER LOOK AT SOME RUBBER TREES. THEY HAD WHITE SAP DRIPPING INTO THE SMALL BLACK BUCKETS. THEY DID NOT FIND ANY OF MY LOST MONEY HERE. I DECIDED TO HEAD BACK TO HAT YAI THE NEXT DAY. IN THE MEAN TIME, I SPOKE TO THE ENGLISH CLASS WHERE STUDENTS AROUND 16 OR 17 YEARS OLD WERE ASKING ME QUESTIONS IN WHAT ENGLISH THEY COULD SPEAK. WHEN IT WAS TIME FOR ME TO LEAVE, THE HEAD MONK ASKED ME IF I COULD RETURN SOMETIME IN THGE FUTURE AND BRING HIM A CANTEEN. I TOLD HIM THAT, YES, I WILL TRY TO RETURN AND BRING HIM A CANTEEN. THEN, ONE OF THE STUDENTS CAME UP TO US AND ASKED ME WHEN I WOULD BE RETURNING. I TOLD HER THAT I WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO RETURN UNTIL AFTER TWO MORE YEARS. AS I TOLD HER THIS, I WAS THINKING, WOW, MAYBE  I SHOULD RETURN HERE SOON BECAUSE SHE IS REALLY BEAUTIFUL (SHE WAS REALLY BEAUTIFUL). LATER, I THOUGHT ABOUT IT AND DECIDED, NO, SHE IS TOO YOUNG AND SHE WAS PROBABLY JUST ASKING BECAUSE I WAS VERY NICE TO HER AND HER CLASSMATES IN THE CLASS. 

BCK IN HAT YAI, I WALKED ACROSS THE RAILROAD TRACKS AND ENTERED A TEMPLE COMPLEX. THERE WERE SEVERAL RAKSHASAS LOCATED AROUND THE COMPLEX AND I ENJOYED VIEWING THEIR VARIOUS FORMS. I STARTED TO SWEAT AND SAT DOWN IN SOME SHADE TO EAT SOME SWEETS THAT I HAD BOUGHT EARLIER. NOT LONG AFTER, A MONK CAME AND WE STARTED TO TALK ABOUT WHERE I AM FROM. HE THEN BROUGHT ME SOME MORE SWEETS AND WE SPOKE WITH SOME CHILDREN WHO FOLLOWED HIM TO WHERE I WAS SITTING. THAT EVENING, I PAID 100 BHAT FOR A ROOM AT CATHAY GUESTHOUSE. SINCE I HAD STAYED THERE BEFORE, I KNEW THAT I COULD JUST NOD AT THE LADY WHO WORKS IN THE BACK AND SHE WILL VERY SOON ARRIVE AT YOUR ROOM TO PROVIDE A MASSAGE. SHE COULD GIVE A MASSAGE OR ARRANGE FOR ANOTHER GIRL TO ARRIVE FOR GIVING THE MASSAGE. I NODDED. PLUS NON POSSUM DICERE. 

LATER THAT EVENING, I BOUGHT THE TICKET BACK TO PENANG. I PAID 200 BHAT FOR THE TICKET. I PASSED BY THE POST OFFICE AND NOTICED THAT THERE WERE SEVERAL MERCEDES BENZ CARS PARKED ON THE STREET. I THINK THERE WERE ABOUT 12 OLDER MODEL MERCEDES BENZ CARS PARKED ALONG BOTH SIDES OF THE STREET. THEY WERE REALLY PRETTY AND MOST ENJOYABLE TO VIEW. THE NEXT MORNING I DID A NICE TAI CHI CHUAN BEFORE HOPPING ON THE MINIBUS TO PENANG. WE LEFT AT 0930

BACK AT WAN HAI HOTEL IN PENANG, I WAS SEARCHING FOR NAILS OR HOOKS TO HANG WASHED CLOTHS ON TO DRY. THERE WERE NONE. WHEN I WENT OUT, I HEARD SOME ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC AND FOLLOWED THE SOUND SO I COULD SEE WHAT WAS HAPPENING. IT WAS AT THE WAT KUAN YIN TENG COMPLEX. THEY WERE A CHINESE ROCK BAND PERFORMING. PEOPLE WERE AT THE TEMPLE PRAYING WITH THEIR INCENSE WHILE  THE FEMALE CHINESE ROCK BAND WERE ON A FAIRLY HIGH STAGE LIKE THE ONE WHERE I SAW THE CHINESE OPERA IN BANGKOK. AFTER THE ROCK BAND FINISHED THEIR PERFORMANCE, A THICK RED CURTAIN WITH TWO DRAGONS ON IT DROPPED, BLOCKING OUR VIEW OF THE STAGE.  AFTER AN ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE IN CHINESE, THE CURTAIN ROSE AND A TRADITIONAL CHINESE OPERA PLAY COMMENCED. HERE IS A GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE SCENE:

         THOUSANDS OF INCENSE STICKS BURNING WAVING SMOKY ALTARS                      

           GIANT RED INCENSE STICKS ONE CHILD CONDEMNED TO DEATH 

          EMPEROR CONDEMNING CHILD ONE SAVED CHILD SINGING HALF  

         SINGING CHILD RAISED IN WOODS TWO HOURS AND FORTY FIVE

         MINUTES ONE CHILD REUNITED WITH MOTHER AROMATIC SMOKE IN

          THE AIR EXAGERATED HAND GESTURES MARTIAL ARTS WAVING OF

          SLEEVES TWICE AS LONG AS A PERSONS ARMS FAKE PAPER MONEY

           BOUGHT AND BURNED LARGE PAPER BURNER SMOKE RISING UP

           FROM WITHIN MONSTROUS TAN INCENSE STICK  BURNING AROMA 

           EMPEROR EXECUTIONER FIGHTERS GHOST GENERAL OF ARMY 

           DISTRESSED MOTHER  LADIES WITH TOO MUCH MAKEUP CHILD 

            RAISED AS A FIGHTER IN THE WOODS WHITE FACES ROSY CHEEKS 

             RED LIPS ACCENTUATED MASQUERA ELABORATE SHINY COSTUMES       

             TASSELS HANGING FROM HEADDRESSES STAFFS AND SLEEVES LIKE

            FLAGS SCENIC BACKDROPS DROPPING OF CURTAIN RAISING OF

            CURTAIN DIFFERENT SCENE CHINESE MUSIC VERY LOUD SOMETIMES    

             COULD NOT HEAR WORDS SPOKEN LAUGHTER IN THE CROWD SMOKE 

             YET FILLING THE AIR TWO HOURS AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES.

I LINGERED THERE AT THE TEMPLE WAITING FOR A PROCESSION THAT WAS MOVING THROUGH THE STREETS OF GEORGETOWN AND I THOUGHT WOULD END THERE BUT IT DID NOT. AS THE PROCESSION WAS PASSING THE TEMPLE COMPLEX, I BOUGHT A PAIR OF BATIK SHORTS FROM RICHARD THE TAILOR. I PAID 18 RINGGIT. I THEN WALKED ALONG WITH THE PROCESSION TAKING PHOTOS OF THE DRAGONS AND LIONS. I CONTINUED WALKING ALONG WITH THE PROCESSION AS I SEARCHED FOR A PLACE TO EAT. I DECIDED TO RETURN TO LOKE THYE KEE RESTAURANT. THAT WAY I COULD SIT OUT ON THEIR BALCONY AND WATCH THE REMAINING OF THE PROCESSION PASS BY. THE PROCESSION LASTED ABOUT TWO HOURS AND I WAS EATING SWEET AND SOUR FISH WITH GOOD CHINESE TEA WHILE IT PASSED BY. I PAID 3.70 RINGGIT. THERE WERE AT LEAST THREE DRAGONS IN THE PROCESSION. THEY WERE HELD UP WITH POLES BY YOUNG MEN WHO WAVED THE DRAGONS UNDULATING AND CIRCULATING AROUND FOLLOWING A BRIGHT RED BALL. THE BALL WAS ALSO HELD UP AND TWIRLED ABOUT ON A POLE. THERE WERE MANY DIFFERENT COLORED LIONS WORN BY TWO MEN IN EACH LION OR SOMETIMES A LION WOULD BE MOUNTED ON A TRUCK. THE LIONS SHOOK, BLINKED, OPENED THEIR MOUTHS, FROLICKED, LAYED DOWN, AND JUMPED UP AND DOWN. SOME OF THE LIONS WERE ACCOMPANIED BY MALE AND FEMALE CLOWN LIKE FIGURES WHO HAD HUGE, SMILING FACE MASKS. THERE WERE ALSO HINDU PERFORMERS WITH A GIRL DANCING ON A FLOAT WITH MEN WITH PAPER MACHÉ HORSES AND BOYS BEATING TOGETHER STICKS AND PLAYING ORIENTAL CLARINET TYPE INSTRUMENTS ALONG WITH DRUMS. THERE WERE ALSO TWO BOYS DANCING WITH ANKLE BELLS RINGING AND PAGODA LIKE OBJECTS ON THEIR HEADS. MARCHING BANDS WERE VERY DISCIPLINED. LONG POLES WITH FLAGS AS LARGE AS A SAILBOAT SAIL WERE BEING BALANCED ON FOREHEADS, CHINS, OR THE SMALL OF THEIR BACKS. THESE FLAGS ALL HAD LOGOS OF SPECIFIC GROUPS. THERE WERE JUDGES AND I GUESS THEY WERE JUDGING THE LIONS, DRAGONS, MUSIC BANDS, AND POLE BALANCERS. THE JUDGES WERE WEARING GREEN OUTFITS AND WERE SITTING IN A STAND NEAR THE ENDING POINT OF THE PROCESSION. AT THIS POINT, THERE WERE STUMPS OF VARIOUS HEIGHTS AND THE LIONS JUMPED ONTO THESE STUMPS, JUMPING FROM STUMP TO STUMP. THE LIONS WOULD EVEN DANCE ON THE STUMPS WITH THE MAN IN FRONT SOMETIMES STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE MAN IN BACK SO THAT THE LION COULD STAND TALL, SHAKE, AND THREATEN THE CROWD. AFTERWARDS, I WENT TO A HINDU TEMPLE TO RELAX. ALL I WANTED TO TO DO WAS TO RELAX. TOMORROW WOULD BE A BIG DAY.

INSIDE TIP TOP RESTAURANT

FARIDAS' BROTHER BUILT A HOUSE IN THE HUTAGALUNG AREA OF NORTH SUMATRA WHERE A NEW VILLAGE IS BEING BUILT UP. HIS IS ONE OF THE FIRST HOUSES THERE. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT IS GIVING THE RESIDENTS OF LARGE CITIES SOME KIND OF INCENTIVES TO MOVE TO UNPOPULATED AREAS OF  SUMATRA AND OTHER ISLANDS WHERE LOTS OF LAND IS AVAILABLE FOR NEW SETTLEMENT. THERE STILL IS NO ELECTRICITY IN THIS VILLAGE BUT THE POLES ARE THERE WAITING TO BE HOOKED UP.

BOTH, THIS ABOVE PHOTO AND THE PHOTO TO THE RIGHT DEPICT TWO SCENES ALONG THE OLD MAIN HIGHWAY LEADING INTO MEDAN FROM THE SOUTH. THESE SCENES WILL BE SEEN ALONG JALAN SISINGAMANGARAJA THERE IS NOW A MAJOR TOLL HIGHWAY LEADING FROM MEDAN TO THE NEW AIRPORT BUT THAT HIGHWAY DID NOT EXIST DURING THE FIRST YEARS I VISITED SUMATRA.

TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 14:

SIGHTS AND EXPERIENCES AROUND SUMATRA.

I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE MORE DIFFICULT, LESS TOURISTY ASPECTS OF INDONESIAN TRAVEL AND THE MORE FOLKSY LIFE STYLE. IF YOU WILL SEE 50%  OF THE PEOPLE IN THAILAND SMILING AT YOU AND 20% OF THE PEOPLE IN MALAYSIA SMILING AT YOU, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE TWO COUNTRIES AND INDONESIA WILL BE MOST OBVIOUS BECAUSE YOU WILL SEE 90% OF THE PEOPLE SMILING AT YOU. THERE ARE ABOUT THREE MILLION BATAK PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN NORTH SUMATRA AND WEST SUMATRA. THE MANDAILING BATAK LIVE IN WEST SUMATRA WHICH INCLUDES BUKKITINGI. THE KARO BATAK LIVE IN THE EASTERN REGION OF NORTH SUMATRA WHICH INCLUDES BERASTAGI. THE SIMALUNGUN BATAK LIVE IN THE REGION OF PEMATANG SIANTAR.  THE PAKPAK BATAK ARE CLOSER TO ACEH IN THE DAIRI REGION AND CENTRAL TAPANULI. THE TOBA BATAK ARE THE LARGEST GROUP OF BATAK PEOPLES AND THEY NUMBER AROUND 4,100,000. THEY LIVE IN THE SIBOLGA REGION ALL THE WAY TO SAMOSIR ISLAND ON LAKE TOBA. THEIR ANCESTORS MIGRATED FROM THE FORMOSA AREA WHICH IS NOW CALLED TAIWAN. THEY WERE MIGRATING SOUTH AS THE SIAMESE WERE MIGRATING SOUTH FROM CENTRAL CHINA. THE GIRL I WAS TO MEET HERE, AND COURT, IS DAIRI AND TOBA BATAK. OF COURSE, THAT PART OF MY STORY WILL COME LATER.

TIP TOP RESTAURANT IS ONE OF THE OLDEST RESTAURANTS IN MEDAN INDONESIA. IT HAS SOME EXCELLENT DESSERTS BUT I FIND THE PORTIONS TO BE TOO SMALL. THEY ARE DELICIOUS THOUGH. 

LOOKING DOWN TOWARDS OTHER ROOFTOPS FROM THE GUESTROOM  KINDA FEELS NICE. THERE ARE A LOT OF INTERESTING THINGS TO SEE ON ROOFTOPS. HERE I CAN SEE CLOTHS DRYING ON A CLOTHSLINE. I CAN ALSO SEE A LADY WEARING ONE OF THOSE COOL ORIENTAL, POINTY STRAW HATS WHO WAS WATERING SOME RATHER LARGE PLANTS. OF COURSE, THERE ARE THE UBIQUITOUS CACKALING CHICKENS OVER THERE AND BEYOND THEM IS A LADY STROLLING AROUND HER SPACIOUS ROOF PROBABLY LOOKING AT THE PLANTS THAT LINE THE EDGE OF THE ROOF. SUMATRA INDONESIA SEEMS MORE FOLKSY THAN THAILAND OR MALAYSIA. I KEPT THINKING ABOUT THAT. GUITAR PLAYING AND SINGING IS EVERYWHERE. IT IS VERY NICE. THE SINGING IS SOFT AND THE GUITARS ARE ACOUSTIC RATHER THAN ELECTRIC. THERE ARE MONUMENTAL MAUSOLEUMS THROUGHOUT NORTH SUMATRA. SOME ARE THIN AND TALL. SOME ARE WIDE AND TALL. SOME ARE JUST WIDE. SOME HAVE PHOTOS OF THE FAMILY MEMBERS ENTERRED WITHIN AND SOME EVEN HAVE STATUES REPRESENTING THE FAMILY. SOME HAVE REPLICAS OF RUMAH ADAT ON THEM. SOME WILL HAVE COLORFUL HIGH RELIEF MASKS WITH BATAK STYLE ENGRAVINGS. 

THE BATAK PEOPLE LIKE PIGS. UGLY BLACK PIGS WITH LONG HAIR CAN BE SEEN THROUGHOUT BATAK COUNTRY. MANY BATAK HOUSEHOLDS OWN THEM AND THEY EAT THEM. BABI IS PIG AND DAGING BABI IS PIG MEAT. I AM AFRAID THAT I MAY HAVE BEEN AN IMPOSITION TO SOME HOUSEHOLDS IN SUMATRA BECAUSE I WOULD NOT EAT DOG MEAT OR PIG MEAT. I HAD TO AVOID DOG MEAT ONLY IN ONE HOUSEHOLD. I DID HAVE SOME OF THE GRAVY IT WAS COOKED IN WITH THE RICE. I HEARD THE DOG WHEN IT WAS SLAUGHTERED. I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT SOUND. I WILL ALSO REMEMBER, FOR ALL TIME, WHEN THEY CARRIED THE SKINNED DOG FROM THE BACK YARD THROUGH THE FRONT YARD AND THEN INTO THE HOUSE.  ITS TAIL WAS STILL ATTACHED AND IT WAS POINTING UP, STIFF AND POINTING TO THE SKY. I DID HAVE TO AVOID PIG MEAT SEVERAL TIMES. I COULD BE THANKFUL THAT INDONESIA IS AN ARCHIPELAGO SO FISH ABOUNDS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. DRY FISH (IKAN KERING) WAS OFTEN SERVED IN NORTH SUMATRA HOMES. ONE OF MY FAVORITE ALL TIME DISHES IS IKAN KERING PECAL. IT IS WONDERFUL; EXOTIC AND MOST FLAVORFUL. THE PIGS ARE GOOD FOR ONE THING THOUGH. THEY WALK AROUND THE YARDS AND ALONG THE STREETS EATING ANY EDIBLE TRASH THAT HAS BEEN THROWN DOWN BY PEOPLE. YES, TRASH IS OFTEN THROWN DOWN ALONG THE STREETS. AT LEAST THEY HAVE THE PIGS TO TAKE CARE OF THE ORGANIC TRASH IN THE STREETS AND YARDS. 

DURING ONE WALK, I SAW SOME GREEN FRUITS IN A TREE THAT I HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. THEY HAD A PRICKLY SKIN OR SHELL. I HIT TWO OF THEM OUT THE THE TREE. THIS WAS WHEN I WAS STILL AT MUARA SO I BROUGHT THEM TO THE HOUSE I WAS STAYING AT THERE AND RIKSONS' SISTER PREPARED THEM FOR US TO EAT. WE ALSO ATE SOME DRY FISH IN SAMBAL SAUCE MIXING IT WITH RICE. THE HEADS WERE STILL ON THE FISH. THIS IS A VERY COMMON DISH THROUGHOUT INDONESIA. THE VARIOUS REGIONS OF INDONESIA ALL HAVE TRADITIONAL VERSIONS OF SAMBAL SAUCE. I THINK TOMATOES, RED CHILIS, AND GARLIC ARE COMMON TO MOST SAMBAL SAUCES. 

THE KERBAU ARE KIND OF CUTE BUT UGLY TOO. THEY LOOK LIKE REAL BRUTES BUT ARE MOSTLY QUITE GENTLE. I OFTEN SEE BOYS LEADING KERBAU WITH ROPES. I ONCE SAW A GROUP OF MEN STANDING AND SITTING AROUND SOME FLOOR MATS. THEY HAD SLAUGHTERED ONE KERBAU AND WERE DIVIDING UP ITS BODY PARTS. I WAS TOLD THAT MANY VILLAGES WILL SLAUGHTER A WATER BUFFALO DURING THE NEW YEAR FESTIVITIES. I SAW A SEVERED KERBAU HEAD NEAR THE BALIGE MARKET PLACE. "KERBAU DIPORTANG KEPALANYA" MEANS "THE WATER BUFFALOS' HEAD WAS CUT OFF". 

STAYING UP LATE WAS THE PLAN.

LAST NIGHT OF THE YEAR.

PEOPLE COMING TO THE HOUSE.

CELEBRATION OF NEW YEAR.

WITH PRAYER AND SONG.

EXPRESSIONS OF TOGETHERNESS 

EXCLAMATIONS OF HOPE.

COOKIES AND PEANUTS. 

HAND SHAKING, SELAMAT TAHUN BARU.

COCONUT SWEETS AND KOPI SUSU.

THE CHILDREN CAME OUT.

SINGERS SINGING SONGS.

AROUND AND ABOUT.

FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE.

LARGE GROUP OF CHILDREN.

WITH BATAK FOLK SONGS.

SHAKING HANDS, "HORAS."

"SELAMAT PAGI. SELAMAT TAHUN BARU."

"SAYA BELUM KAWIN."

I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW MANY TIMES

I HAD TO SAY THAT.

A TRAVELER THROUGHOUT INDONESIA

WILL BE SURPRISED HOW OFTEN

THEY ARE ASKED:

"SUDAH MENIKAH OR KAWIN?"

IT IS VERY CUSTOMARY

FOR INDONESIANS TO ASK

ALL THE PEOPLE THEY MEET

"ARE YOU ALREADY MARRIED?

I DO NOT KNOW IF IT IS BECAUSE

OF ALL THE TIMES I WAS ASKED THAT

OR IF IT WAS BECAUSE OF THE 

BEAUTIFUL GIRLS I SAW EVERYWHERE,

SO I HAD A DREAM THAT I GOT MARRIED.

I MUST MAKE SURE I DO NOT GET BEWITCHED.

THEY BROUGHT ME WITH THEM TO THEIR CHURCH.

BY THE TIME THE SERVICE WAS OVER,

I HAD TO PRETEND TO MAKE A DONATION

THREE TIMES; THREE FAKE DONATIONS!!!

WHEN WE LEFT THE CHURCH,

A LOVELY GIRL BEGAN TO SPEAK TO ME.

SHE SPOKE FAIRLY GOOD ENGLISH.

WHILE SHE ASKED QUESTIONS OF ME,

SEVERAL CHILDREN AND ELDERLY LADIES

SURROUNDED US. 

SHE ASKED IF I WAS MARRIED

SHE ASKED ABOUT MY INTERESTS

IN TRAVELING THROUGH INDONESIA

SHE ASKED IF I WOULD VISIT HER HOME

SHE GAVE ME HER ADDRESS

SHE LIVED IN PORSEA 

SHE ASKED FOR MY ADDRESS IN AMERICA.



 




,



TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 13:

KOTA MEDAN, NORTH SUMATRA,

INDONESIA; WE HAVE ARRIVED.

26TH DECEMBER:

FROM PENANG TO SUMATRA VIA STRAIT OF MALACCA.

I BOUGHT TICKETS FOR A BOAT ACROSS THE STRAIT.

I THINK THE BOATS ARE CALLED HYDROFOILS.

THEY ARE FASTER THAN THE LARGER FERRIES.

BUT THE WATER WILL BE ROUGH ON THE SMALLER

FAST BOATS.

THE REGULAR FERRY RUNS DAILY TO BELAWAN HARBOR.

IT TAKES FOUR TO FIVE HOURS.

KPLFS FERRY SERVICE COST ME 96 RINGGIT.

THIS PRICE INCLUDES THE PORT TAX.

THERE WERE THREE OR FOUR FERRY SERVICES.

THEY WERE ALL NEXT TO EACH OTHER.

 ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE BIG CLOCK TOWER.

I CHOSE THE TRAVEL AGENCY THAT I WAS CLOSEST TO.

 TOURIST CENTER AND THE FERRY WAITING ROOM ALSO THERE.

ON THE FERRY, A HOSTESS BROUGHT SUGAR CANE JUICE.

SHE ALSO BROUGHT A PIECE OF CAKE.

AT BELAWAN HARBOR, IT TOOK ONE HOUR THROUGH CUSTOMS.

THERE WAS A BIG RICKETY BUS OUTSIDE THE EXIT FROM CUSTOMS.

I IGNORED THE TAXI TOUTS AND GOT ON THE BUS.

THE FIRST THING NOTICED WAS THE CROWD.

STANDING ROOM ONLY.

THEN, THE SMILEY HAPPY FACES.

AND HOW VERY LOQUACIOUS THEY ALL ARE.

A FEW OF THE WOMEN WERE SMOKING.

I DID NOT NOTICE THE LANDSCAPES WE PASSED BY.

I WAS WATCHING THE PEOPLE.

THE TRIP BETWEEN BELAWAN AND MEDAN WAS FAST. 

THE PEOPLE KEPT ME INTERTAINED.

THEN CAME THE CHAOS OF MEDAN.

THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE

ON THE SIDEWALKS AND THE STREETS.

I WAS APPROACHED SEVERAL TIMES

I WAS A BIT CONFUSED, LOOKING AROUND. 

I IGNORED EVERYBODY.

I JUST WANTED TO BUY SOME RUPIAH.

AFTER FINDING A MONEY CHANGER,

I EXCHANGED $200 USA FOR 360, 000 RUPIAH.

AFTERWARDS, I FOUND MYSELF AGAIN

WITHIN A CROWN OF TOO MANY PEOPLE.

THIS WAS CULTURE SHOCK.

I JUST STOPPED WALKING, LOOKING AROUND.

IT WAS OBVIOUS TO ANYONE WHO SAW ME

THAT I WAS LOST AS TO WHERE I SHOULD GO.

A TOUT CAME UP TO ME:

"WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO?"

"PARAPAT"

"FOLLOW ME, I WILL TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING."

I FOLLOWED. I KNEW HE WAS A TOUT.

I KNEW THAT I WOULD BE OVER CHARGED.

BUT I WAS TIRED.

AND MY MIND DREW A BLANK. 

WHO KNOWS HOW LONG I WOULD HAVE STOOD

THERE IN THE CROWDS.

I PAID FOR A TOO EXPENSIVE TICKET TO PARAPAT.

AFTER I WAS LED TO A TOUR OPERATOR OFFICE.

I GOT MY MONEY WORTH, THOUGH,

BECAUSE I MET A CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION MEMBER

WHO INVITED ME TO HIS VILLAGE FOR A VISIT.

THE BUS DRIVER SAID I PAID FOR PARAPAT ONLY.

RIKSAN, MY NEW FRIEND, TOLD HIM

THAT I PAID MORE THAN NECESSARY SO

I WAS ALLOWED TO TRAVEL ALL THE WAY

TO TARATUNG.

WE BOTH STAYED IN TARATUNG

UNTIL WE COULD CATCH A BEMO TO THE 

VILLAGE OF SIMUARA. 

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF ONE TRAFFIC LIGHT TOWNS?

WELL, SIMUARA IS A NO TRAFFIC LIGHT TOWN.

NOT EVEN A TOWN, A TINY VILLAGE.

MAYBE 30 HOMES THERE.

YOU COULD WALK THROUGH THE WHOLE TOWN IN 10 MINUTES.

COOKING WAS DONE WITH A FIRE PIT IN THE 

MIDDLE OF THE KITCHEN.

I WAS WITH A FAMILY OF RIKSON,

HIS MOM, AND HIS TWO ADULT SISTERS. 

A FEW CHICKENS AND A DOG OR TWO.

I STAYED WITH THEM FOR ABOUT ONE WEEK.

IT WAS CHRISTMAS WEEK SO I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY

TO DONATE 20,000 RUPIAH

TO A TRAVELING MINSTRAL GROUP

WHO WORKED THEIR WAY TO ALL THE HOMES OF SIMOEARA.

THEIR MUSIC WAS NOT THE CHRISTMAS MUSIC

I AM ACCOSTOMED TO.

IT WAS TRADITIONAL BATAK MUSIC AND THEIR

COSTUMES AND DANCING WAS ALSO OF THE BATAK CULTURE.

MANY PEOPLE LIVING HERE LACKED SOME NUTRITION.

I SAW SEVERAL PERSONS WITH PEELING AND FLACKING

SKIN ON THEIR FACES AND SHOULDERS. 

WE WENT TO THE MARKET ON MARKET DAY

IN TARATUNG, BACK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN.

I BOUGHT SOME VEGETABLES AND SOME FRUIT. 

NOT A LOT THOUGH. I BOUGHT NO MEAT. 

THEY DID HAVE CHICKEN AND DOG THOUGH. 

I HEARD THE DOG SQUEAL.

I SAW IT BROUGHT TO THE ENTRANCE OF THE HOUSE,

ON A TRAY, SKINNED, TAIL STIFF.

I ATE NO MEAT THAT DAY. 

WE ATE IN A ROOM WITH A WOOD BURNING PIT IN THE CENTER.

THE FOOD WAS COOKED IN LARGE KETTLES.

TWO LEVEL WOOD RACK ABOVE THE COOKING PIT.

MATS ON THE FLOOR ON ONE SIDE OF THE COOKING PIT.

WE SAT ON THEM TO EAT, FACING AWAY FROM THE COOKING PIT.

RICH RED RICE GROWN IN THE REGION.

CURRY WITH "CHICKEN" THAT DID NOT LOOK LIKE CHICKEN.

THEY TOLD ME IT WAS CHICKEN BUT I PASSED ON THE MEAT.

HOT WATER SERVED IN GLASSES AND IN BOWLS.

HOT WATER IN GLASSES FOR DRINKING.

HOT WATER IN BOWLS FOR WASHING HANDS.

NO POST OFFICE HERE.

NO DOCTOR AND NO SHOPS.

MUST GO DOWN TO TARATUNG WHERE THE MARKET IS.

WE SLEPT ON THE FLOOR, ON A MATTRESS

WE WERE FOUR MALES IN ONE ROOM.

THE FEMALES WERE IN ANOTHER ROOM.

WE WOKE UP TO CROWING ROOSTERS AND BARKING DOGS

RATHER THAN TO HONKING HORNS AND MOTORCYCLE SUSSERATION.

WE COULD WALK UP THE ROAD, FURTHER UP THE HILL,

BEYOND THE LAST HOMES,

TO VIEW A MOST AMAZING VIEW.

WE WERE ABLE TO OVERLOOK 

MANY GREEN HILLS, RICE PADDIES, LAKE TOBA.

WE WERE TAKING BATHS IN A NATURAL SPRING.

THE SPRING IS ABOUT TWO KILOMETERS FROM THE VILLAGE MOEARA.

WATER IS COLD BUT LOVELY;

IT HAS A SMALL WATERFALL, ABOUT THREE FEET HIGH.

EARLY MORNING MIST ON FERNS.

WE USED THE WATERFALL FOR RINSING.

WE WOULD SOMETIMES WALK OUT OF TOWN,

DOWN TOWARDS LAKE TOBA.

OLD COUNTRY ROAD AND ANCIENT RICE PADDY PATHS.

BATAK STYLE RUMAH ADAT, KERBAU LOUNGING IN RIVER.

IF WE WALKED ALL THE WAY DOWN TO LAKE TOBA, 

WE WOULD EAT AT A STREET CAFE THERE. 

THE VILLAGE THERE CALLED SI MUARA.

EATING FISH, RICE, SAYUR-SAYURAN.

WE WOULD STOP AT A WARUNG KOPI.

PROPRIETOR WITH A HOLE IN HIS OLD SPORTS JACKET.

TO RETURN TO THE VILLAGE,

WE WOULD HOP ON A RICKETY MINIBUS,

SOMETIMES SO FULL OF PEOPLE,

WE WOULD HAVE TO STAND ON THE SIDEBOARDS,

AT THE MINIBUS DOORS, 

HANGING ON TO THE BARS NEXT TO THE DOORS.

CLOTHS WASHING TIME:

RIKSONS' TWO SISTERS ELLY AND AUGUSTINE,

WASHED THE CLOTHS WE WERE WEARING 

WITH BUCKETS.

I WOULD HAVE TO WEAR MY SOUVENIR BATIK CLOTHS

THAT DAY AND THE NEXT 

FIRST DAY WASHING DAY

NEXT DAY FOR IRONING. 

I ENJOYED TALKING TO ELLY AND AUGUSTINE.

THEY WERE CUTE TRYING TO SPEAK IN ENGLISH. 

THEY COULD SAY "GOOD MORNING" JUST FINE.

THEY COULD NOT SPEAK MUCH ELSE.

I THINK I TAUGHT THEM TO SPEAK A LITTLE MORE.

THEY ALSO WANTED TO TAKE MANY PHOTOS.

THEY HAVE A WALL AROUND THE FRONT YARD.

WE WOULD SIT ON THE WALL, FACING THE HOUSE AND TALK.

AFTER SUCH TALKS, ONCE THE DAY GOT WARM,

I WOULD TAKE A COLD WATER BATH;

A NATURAL SPRING WATER BATH IN THE MISTS OF SUMATRA.

WE WENT TO A LOGGING VILLAGE.

RIKSON WORKED AS AN ENVIRONMENTALIST.

THERE WERE JOURNALISTS THERE

INTERVIEWING PEOPLE ABOUT THE POLLUTION.

THE ROAD CONDITIONS WERE ALSO AN ISSUE.

THE BIG LOGGING TRUCKS WERE TEARING THE ROADS TO SHREDS.

A GIRL WITH TOO MUCH FACIAL COSMETICS

WALKED PAST US CRYING. 

I JUST STOOD THERE AND WATCHED HER PASS US.

I DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO.

WE JUST LEFT HER TO HER GRIEF.

THIS WAS A WEEK OF RELAXING AND TRYING

NOT TO COURT THE SISTERS;

THE ELDEST SISTER EXPECTED IT

AND WHEN WE LEFT THE VILLAGE AND I FIRST SAW FARIDA,

RIKSON COULD SEE THAT I WAS ATTRACTED TO HER.

WHEN I TOLD RIKSON THAT I WOULD STAY

IN THE TOWN WHERE FARIDA LEFT THE VAN, HE ASKED

"WHAT ABOUT MY SISTER?"

"IT IS ALREADY TOO LATE."

I SAID AND THEN I LEFT THE VAN.

INDONESIAN COFFEE IS RICH.

THE GROUNDS MAY BE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CUP OR GLASS.

IT MAY ALSO BE VERY SWEET.

KOPI SUSU HAS MILK.

I DRINK THE COFFEE BUT PREFER THE TEA.

THE TEA HAS NO GROUNDS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CUP OR GLASS.

IT WILL ALSO BE VERY SWEET.

TARATUNG SEEMS TO BE A CHRISTIAN ENCLAVE.

THERE ARE MOSQUES BUT CHURCHES ABOUND.

BATAK PEOPLE LOVE TO SING AND PLAY GUITARS.

THEIR TRADITIONAL HOUSES ARE CALLED RUMAH ADAT.

THEY HAVE RED ROOFS OR THATCHED ROOFS. 

THE ROOFS ARE POINTED AT BOTH ENDS.

KIND OF LIKE SADDLES.
























MEDAN INDONESIA MESJID

IT WAS RAINY SEASON ON SUMATRA. IT IS VERY WARM AND HUMID DURING THE DAY AND WARM AND HUMID DURING THE NIGHT. GOING INTO THE MOUNTANOUS AREAS AROUND LAKE TOBA, WE FOUND THE WEATHER TO BE COOL AND HUMID. I WAS USING MY VICKS VAPORUB AROUND MY NOSE. MY SINUSES WERE ACTING UP QUITE A LOT AT THAT TIME. I WAS CONSTANTLY BLOWING MY NOSE. CHILDREN WOULD OFTEN SURROUND ME. THE GIRLS WOULD SMILE REALLY BIG WITHOUT HESITATION BUT THE BOYS WOULD SMILE A LITTLE AS THEY GOT USED TO ME AND THEN THEY WOULD SMILE MORE. THE BOYS WOULD TALK LOUDLY AND ASK MANY QUESTIONS. THE GIRLS WOULD JUST LISTEN. AUGUSTINE WROTE SOMETHING IN MY JOURNAL. HER HANDWRITING IS BEAUTIFUL. I WILL NOT THROW THIS JOURNAL PAGE AWAY. IT IS A SOUVENIR FROM HER:

                    "SELAMAT HARI NATAL 25-26 DECEMBER 1992

                     DAN TAHUN BARU 1993. HARI INI SAYA 

                     MENGATAKAN SANGAT BAHAGIA DAPAT 

                     BERTEMU DENGAN KAMU."

  THIS MEANS; HAPPY, PEACEFUL, CHRISTMAS DAY 25TH-26TH OF DECEMBER 1992 AND HAPPY NEW YEAR 1993. TODAY I AM SAYING VERY HAPPY TO MEET WITH YOU"

THE WORD "BAHAGIA" IS SEEN ON MANY SIGNS AROUND SUMATRA. IT IS TO BE HAPPY. HORAS IS EVEN MORE COMMON THROUGHOUT NORTH AND WEST SUMATRA. HORAS IS HELLO, GREETINGS, WELCOME. BOTH WORDS CARRY DEEP CULTURAL CONNOTATIONS.

ONE EVENING, RIKSONS' SISTERS MADE A COCONUT SWEET. ELLY GRATED SOME "MEAT" OF SOME COCONUTS AND AGUSTINA FRIED IT IN A LARGE WOK WITH SUGAR. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT ELSE THEY ADDED TO IT BUT IT IS A WONDERFUL SWEET. THEY COOKED FAR INTO THE NIGHT BECAUSE THEIR FAMILY HOSTED THE WHOLE VILLAGE FOR NEW YEARS FESTIVITIES. ALTHOUGH THEY COOKED SO LATE, THEY STILL WOKE UP VERY EARLY (PAGI PAGI)TO COMPLETE THE PREPARATIONS. THEY ALWAYS WOKE UP EARLY. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO RIKSONS' FATHER AND I DID NOT ASK. IT IS JUST THE TWO DAUGHTERS AND THE SON WHO IS THE YOUNGEST. AND RIKSON MAY BE THE OLDEST OF THE SIBLINGS BUT HE DOES NOT LIVE IN THE HOUSE BECAUSE HE WORKS AND GOES TO SCHOOL IN JAKARTA. 

THREE OR FOUR GIRLS WILL BE AT THE CORNER DITCH WASHING CLOTHS OR DISHES EVERY DAY. OTHER GIRLS WILL BE SEEN AT THE DITCH CLOSER TO WHERE THEY LIVE. ME, WAKING UP EARLY EVERY DAY TO MAKE SURE I GET SOMETHING WRITTEN WITHOUT FAIL. IT IS EASY TO WAKE UP EARLY WITH ALL THE NOISE; THE PIGS ARE GRUNTING, DOGS ARE BARKING, THE ROOSTERS CROW, A NOISY CAT (KUCHING YANG REBUT) THAT MEOWS LOUDER THAN ANY PINCHE CAT I HAVE EVER HEARD. IT IS ANNOYING AND FUNNY AT THE SAME TIME HOW LOUD THAT CAT CAN MEOW. WALKMAN SOMETIMES PLAYING SOFT ROCK AND ROLL LIKE ERIC CLAPTON OR PHIL COLLINS. CASSETTE TAPES SOMETIMES PLAYING MUSIC LIKE THE COMMODORS OR GENISIS AND SOMETIMES INDONESIAN MUSIC TOO.

THE CHILDREN START TO COME OUT EARLY TOO. THEY LIKE ME A LOT. OF COURSE, THE BALLOONS AND CANDY I BRING TO THEM HELP A LOT WITH MY RELATIONS WITH THEM. I TOLD THE FAMILY THAT I LIKE POTATOES A LOT SO I WILL BUY SOME. THEY HAD POTATOES AND THEY COOKED POTATOES WITH THE SKIN STILL ON THEM. WHEN I WAS EATING A POTATOE, THEY WERE SURPRISED THAT I EAT THE SKIN. RICE IS MUCH PREFERRED OVER POTATOES HERE. AND EATING POTATOES AS WELL AS THE SKIN IS UNHEARD OF. POTATOES ARE NORMALLY USED AS ONE INGREDIENT AMONG OTHER INGREDIENTS IN CURRY DISHES. ELLY LIKES POTATOES WITHOUT THE SKIN AND AUGUSTINA DOES NOT LIKE POTATOES AT ALL.  I BOUGHT TWO LARGE GOLDFISH (IKAN MAS), CARROTS, FRUIT, AND COOKIES FOR THE HOUSEHOLD. THEY MAY COOK SOME PORK ALSO. I WILL EAT GOLDFISH AND VEGETABLES. WE PAID 2,000 RUPIAH EACH TO GO DOWN TO BALIGE MARKET. WE ALSO WENT TO A RUMAH MAKAN BESIDES THE MARKET. THE GIRL WHO WAS WORKING THERE GAVE US FREE COFFEE. SHE WAS PROBABLY 17 OR 18 YEARS OLD. SHE KEPT ASKING ME QUESTIONS. SHE GAVE ME HER ADDRESS AND TOLD ME THAT I COULD VISIT HER. I DID NOT FOLLOW THROUGH THOUGH.

LAST DAY OF THE YEAR.

THIS NIGHT A BATAK MUSICAL TROUP VISITED THE VILLAGE. IT CONSISTED OF A DRUMMER, A GUITAR PLAYER, AND TWO LADS DRESSED IN HUMBLE BUT COLORED OUTFITS THAT REMINDED ME OF GYPSYS. THE MUSIC WAS SIMPLE BUT IT HAD A HOPPING RYTHYM. THE TWO BOYS FACED EACH OTHER AND DID A DANCE. THEY MADE HAND MOVEMENTS IN FRONT OF THEIR CHESTS WHILE THEY SAMPERED TOWARDS EACH OTHER, TRADING PLACES CONTINUALLY UNTIL THE MUSIC STOPPED. THE HOUSEHOLDERS MAY GIVE THEM MONEY AT THIS TIME OR THEY MAY GIVE THEM WORDS OF WISDOM. THE DRUMMER THEN SHOUTED "HORAS". THE TROUP WOULD GO ON TO THE NEXT HOUSE. I THINK I GAVE THEM 20,000 RUPIAH. 

WE VISITED A TOWN CALLED PARANGINAN. IT WAS MUCH LIKE ALL THE OTHER SMALL VILLAGES AROUND LAKE TOBA. THERE WAS ONE INTERESTING DIFFERENCE THERE. THEY HAD A GOOD VOLLEYBALL NET SET UP IN A LARGE YARD. THERE WAS A GAME IN PROCESS. VOLLEYBALL IS CALLED BOLAFOLEE THERE. PARANGINAN IS ACTUALLY A NICE, COZY VILLAGE. PEOPLE ARE POOR IN THESE VILLAGES BUT THERE WAS NOT ONE HOME THAT WE VISITED WHERE WE WERE NOT GIVEN SNACKS AND TEA OR COFFEE. WE WERE ALSO OFFERED DINNER A FEW TIMES. PEOPLE ARE GREAT. IN COUNTRIES LIKE THIS, THE PEOPLE LOVE VISITORS AND GIVE EXTENSIVE HOSPITALTY. 

YOUNG GIRLS AT THE WATER DITCH WASHING CLOTHS, DISHES, POTS AND PANS.

GIRLS WITH HUGE POTS BALANCED ON THEIR HEADS WITH THE HELP OF A CLOTH.

CHILDREN WITH LOADS OF WOOD BALANCED ON THEIR SHOULDERS.

BAGS BALANCED ON HEADS WITHOUT THE HELP OF FOLDED CLOTHS.

BAGS BALANCE QUITE NICELY WITHOUT ANY CLOTH.



TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 15:

FROM TARATUNG TO PADANG SIDEMPUAN.

THE BEMO BROUGHT US DOWN THE MOUNTAIN FROM 

THE VILLAGE TO TOWN. RIKSON FOUND THE RIGHT SHARE TAXI THAT WOULD TAKE US TO JAKARTA FROM TARATUNG. AS WE WERE WAITING FOR THE CUE TO BOARD, WE MET A YOUNG LADY NAMED FARIDA. RIKSON WAS TALKING TO HER WHEN WE WERE TOLD TO BOARD THE VAN. WE ALL SAT TOGETHER; FARIDA BETWEEN RIKSON AND MYSELF. 

WE PAID THE SHARE TAXI COST WHICH WAS 6,000 RUPIAH TO JAKARTA. I HAD TO CONSULT THE ENGLISH / INDONESIAN DICTIONARY AS I SPOKE WITH FARIDA BUT WE DID PRETTY GOOD WITH COMMUNICATION. COCONUT TREES, RUBBER TREES, OIL PALM TREES, DURIAN TREES, SALAK TREES, BANANA TREES, THE AROMA OF RUBBER PROCESSING FACTORIES (VERY DISTINCTIVE AND UNFORGETTABLE), AROMA FROM THE HUMID, VERDENT FORESTS WE PASSED BY, NARROW, TWISTING ROAD WITH POTHOLES AND ROCKS, MOUNTAINS WITH CLOUDS HIDING THEIR TOPS, FISH TO EAT WITH THEIR HEADS STILL ATTACHED, FISH HEADS WITH NO FISH ATTACHED, AND THE ALL PERVASIVE BOILED WATER BOTH FOR DRINKING AND FOR THE WASHING OF HANDS.  AFTER OUR LUNCH STOP, WE ALL SAT TOGETHER AGAIN; ME THEN FARIDA THEN RIKSON. 

BY THE TIME WE ARRIVED INTO PADANG SIDEMPUAN, FARIDA HAD GIVEN ME HER ADDRESS. WHEN WE GOT TO THE BUS DISEMBARKING / LOADING AREA (NO PHYSICAL STATION BUILDING AS IS OFTEN THE CASE IN SUMATRA), FARIDA GOT OUT OF THE VAN AND WALKED OVER TO A GROUP OF OTHER YOUNG PEOPLE AND STARTED TALKING TO THEM. I WATCHED HER FOR A FEW MINUTES AND THEN I NOTICED THAT SHE LOOKED OVER AT THE VAN SO I KNEW SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT HAVING MET ME. 

"I AM GETTING OUT HERE"

"WHAT ABOUT MY SISTER?"

"IT IS ALREADY TOO LATE."

I GOT OUT AND STARTED TO SEEK OUT A HOTEL.

AFTER I FOUND A RATHER LARGE, WHITE HOTEL WITH A LARGE AREA WHICH WAS EMPTY OF FURNITURE ON THE SECOND FLOOR, I BOOKED A ROOM THERE AND PRACTICED TAI CHI CHUAN IN THE LARGE, EMPTY AREA WITH A BARE CEMENT FLOOR.

AFTER I SETTLED INTO THE ROOM AT THE MINANJAU HOTEL, I WENT OUT TO EXPLORE. I FOUND MYSELF IN AN AREA CALLED GURUN TUA. THERE WAS A ENGLISH SCHOOL THERE AND I SPOKE WITH THE STUDENTS IN ONE OF THE CLASSROOMS. I JUST HAD TO ANSWER QUESTIONS IN ENGLISH. AFTERWARDS, I HAD A MOST INTERESTING EATING EXPERIENCE. ONE ENGAGES IN SOME INTENSE TASTE, SIGHT, TOUCH, AND SMELL WHEN ONE EATS DURIAN. MUCH AS WITH THE AROMA OF RUBBER PROCESSING FACTORIES, THE AROMA OF DURIAN IS EXTREMELY UNIQUE AND UNBEARABLE TO MANY PEOPLE. I LOVE BOTH. I LOVE HOW UNIQUE BOTH AROMAS ARE AND DURIAN IS DELICIOUS TO EAT, AT LEAST FOR ME. I DID HAVE TO GET USED TO THE STRANGE, MUSHY TEXTURE BUT I BECAME A TRUE FAN OF DURIAN SOON ENOUGH. THE OWNER OF HOTEL I AM STAYING IN IS THE FATHER OF A FRIEND I MET HERE. THIS FRIEND IS SOON MOVING TO YOGYAKARTA FOR A FEW YEARS TO STUDY. I PAID 5,000 RUPIAH EACH NIGHT FOR A VERY QUIET ROOM WHERE I COULD JUST BARELY HEAR THE MUSLIM CALL TO PRAYER EACH MORNING. IN PADANG SIDEMPUAN, I ATE A LOT OF GADO-GADO, MUTABAK SAYUR, AND RUJAK WITH FRUITS. I DID NOT EAT ANY SAPI (BEEF) NOR BABI (PIG) BUT I DID OCCASIONALLY EAT SOME IKAN (FISH). THAT IS PRETTY MUCH MY DIET ANYWAY. PIG MEAT IS NOT COMMONLY FOUND IN THE RESTAURANTS OF PADANG SIDEMPUAN BECAUSE IT HAS A MAJORITY MUSLIM POPULATION.KAMBING (GOAT) IS VERY COMMON THOUGH. IN THE RESTAURANTS, THERE OFTEN WILL BE SMALL PLATES OR SMALL BOWLS OF FRUIT OR SNACKS. IF YOU WANT TO PAY FOR ONLY THE MENU ITEM YOU ORDER, THEN DO NOT EAT ANY OF THOSE SNACKS ALREADY ON THE TABLE. I ALWAYS MADE SURE I KNEW WHAT THINGS COST BEFORE I PAID FOR THEM. THAT WAY I COULD BE ASSURED I WAS NOT PAYING TOO MUCH. I WOULD SOMETIMES BE TEMPTED TO EAT SOME OF THE SNACKS ON THE TABLE WHICH COULD ADD  1,000 RUPIAH COST TO THE MENU ITEMS ORDERED. I WOULD OFTEN TELL SELLERS OF PRODUCTS THAT I COULD NOT PAY THE PRICE THEY WERE ASKING ME TO PAY BECAUSE I HAD SO MANY RUPIAH IN MY POCKET LESS THAN WHAT THEY WERE ASKING. THAT WAY I WAS ASSURED THE PRICES I PAID WERE A BIT CLOSER TO THE PRICES THAT THE LOCALS PAID. 

          MY SINGER / MUSICIAN FRIEND HAD SOME MONEY TAKEN FROM HIM.

          A GIRL HE KNOWS TOOK 10,000 RUPIAH FROM HIM, NOT MUCH BUT HE WAS NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT.

          WE TOOK AN INTERESTING WALK DOWN SOME BACK ALLEY TYPE WALKWAYS.

          HOUSES THAT WERE CLOSELY ARRANGED NEXT TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD MESJID.

          WE FOUND THE GIRL, MY FRIEND WAS TALKING TO HER BUT SHE THEN RAN OFF.

          WE ENTERED A BECAK WITH A SECOND GIRL, PAID THE BECAK DRIVER, AND WERE BROUGHT ELSEWHERE.

          WE NEVER FOUND HER AGAIN THAT DAY.

          "HELLO MR." WAS WHAT PEOPLE SAID TO ME ALL THE TIME.

          IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO AVOID TALKING TO PEOPLE IN THESE TOWNS, OFTEN INVITED TO HOMES.

          I WAS ONCE OFFERED HELP IN MOVING TO A DIFFERENT HOTEL AND BEING BROUGHT TO A WATERFALL.

          SOMEONE ELSE WANTS TO BRING ME TO THEIR HOME TO SHOW ME THEIR GARDEN OF VARIOUS PLANTS.         

          I JUST RETURNED TO THE HOTEL MINANJAU, PRACTICED TAI CHI CHUAN, AND WENT TO SLEEP.

MY MUSLIM FRIEND BROUGHT ME TO HIS FAMILYS' SALAK ORCHARD. I GUESS IT WOULD BE CONSIDERED AN ORCHARD; SAWA SALAK. WE TRAVELED UP A MOUNTAINOUS ROAD ON A MOTORCYCLE. THEY ALSO HAD SUGARCANE PLANTS. I GUESS IT COULD BE REGARDED AS A GARDEN OF SUGARCANE. THE PLANTS WERE GROWING IN BUNCHES. THE STALKS ARE STRONG AND THEY HAVE CUTE FUZZY TOPS THAT HAD SORT OF A SILVER COLOR. THE SALAK TREES ARE VERY UNIQUE. I THOUGHT OF A CROSS BETWEEN A CACTUS AND A PALM TREE WHEN I LOOKED AT THEM. SALAK FRUIT IS ALSO KNOWN AS SNAKESKIN FRUIT BECAUSE ITS SKIN IS BROWN, HARD, AND ROUGH. IT IS EASY TO PEEL THOUGH BECAUSE THE SKIN IS THIN. THE EDIBLE PART IS WHITE WITH STREAKS  OF PINK SOMETIMES. SALAK IS VERY DELICIOUS BUT I HAVE HAD MANY WITH BROWN, BRUISED SPOTS ON THEM. THE FRUIT GROWS IN BUNCHES, BELOW THE PALMS, AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TREE. 

DURING ALL OF THESE EXCURSIONS WITH MY CHRISTIAN FRIEND AND MY MUSLIM FRIEND, I WAS VISITING FARIDA EVERY EVENING. I SHOWED A BECAK DRIVER THE ADDRESS SHE WROTE DOWN AND HE BROUGHT ME TO THE HOUSE. FARIDA WAS LIVING IN THE HOUSE OF A FAMILY MEMBER WHO ALSO HAD SEVERAL OTHER YOUNG PEOPLE LIVING THERE. FARIDA WAS LIVING THERE IN PADANG SIDEMPUAN BECAUSE SHE HAD A JOB AS A SECRETARY AT AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. I ASSUME THAT HER HOUSE MATES ALSO WERE THERE BECAUSE OF JOBS. I AM GUESSING ABOUT THAT THOUGH. I NEVER ASKED MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT OTHERS. I WAS TOO BUSY ANSWERING QUESTIONS. ONE DAY THEY HAD SOME GUESTS OVER THE HOUSE WHEN I ARRIVED. THEY WANTED TO SEE ME PRACTICE MY TAI CHI CHUAN:

          "THERE IS NOT ENOUGH ROOM HERE."

          "WE WILL MOVE THIS TABLE."

AND THEY MOVED THE TABLE.  I DID THE TAI CHI AND I NOTICED THE GUESTS WATCHING ME CLOSELY. SEVERAL WEEKS LATER, AFTER FARIDA AND I HAD BEEN GOING PLACES TOGETHER AND GROWING CLOSER, SHE TOLD ME A SECRET. SHE TOLD ME THAT ONE OF THE GUESTS AT THE HOUSE WHEN I DID THE TAI CHI CHUAN, WAS ACTUALLY A MAN WHO LIKED HER AND WHO HAD TAKEN HER OUT A FEW TIMES. I FELT BAD ABOUT THAT AND I STILL DO. I DID NOT TELL HER THOUGH. ANOTHER DAY, WE WERE SITTING AND TALKING ABOUT THINGS WHEN I WAS TOLD THAT I MUST BE SERIOUS ABOUT GETTING MARRIED TO FARIDA. THAT CAUGHT ME OFF GUARD BECAUSE I NEVER MENTIONED MARRIAGE. I TOLD EVERYBODY THAT I DO LIKE HER AND I AM THINKING ABOUT IT. THEY THEN TOLD ME THAT A BOY VISITS A GIRL EVERY DAY WHEN HE IS COURTING HER. TWO OR THREE DAYS LATER I TOLD FARIDA AND HER HOUSE MATES THAT I WOULD BE GOING TO BUKITINGGI FOR ONE WEEK. I WANTED TO GIVE FARIDA A LITTLE ROOM AND I WANTED TO THINK ABOUT VISITING HER EVERY DAY OR NOT AFTER RETURNING FROM BUKITINGGI. I TOLD THEM THAT I WOULD BRING SOME SOUVENIRS. THE LAST DAY, BEFORE I TRAVELED SOUTH TO BUKITTINGI, FARIDA AND SOME OF HER HOUSE MATES BROUGHT ME TO A FAMILY AGRICULTURAL PLOT. WE BROUGHT COCONUT JUICE TO DRINK AND THERE WERE JACKFRUIT TREES THERE SO WE WERE ABLE TO PICK SOME JACKFRUITS OFF OF THE TREES AND EAT IT RIGHT AWAY. 


          

          





                                                                                                      BUKITTINGGI

AFTER I ARRIVED INTO BUKITTINGI, I FELT THAT I HAD ACCOMPLISHED A PILGRIMAGE. IT WAS A ROUGH, TYPICAL SUMATRA BUS RIDE. I PAID 7,000 RUPIAH FOR THE RIDE FROM PADANGSIDEMPUAN TO BUKITTINGI. IT TOOK US ABOUT NINE HOURS ON A NARROW, CURVEY ROAD THROUGH MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN. AS SOON AS I REACHED BUKITTINGI, I BOUGHT A KOPI SUSU WHICH IS COFFEE WITH MILK. SOON AFTER THAT, I FOUND AN ES PAPAYA WHICH IS CHILLED PAPAYA JUICE. I THEN MADE MY WAY OVER TO THE KANTOR POS (POST OFFICE) TO SEND OUT A COUPLE OF POST CARDS (POSTAGE COSTING 200 RUPIAH EACH) AND FINALLY TO THE YURIKA HOTEL WHICH IS FAIRLY CLOSE TO THE POST OFFICE. AT THIS HOTEL, I WAS SOMEWHAT REMOVED FROM THE NOISY A YANI AREA WHERE THE CLOCK TOWER IS LOCATED. I MET TWO BOYS WHO WANTED TO ACCOMPANY ME DOWN INTO SIANOK CANYON THE NEXT DAY. THEY ALSO INVITED ME TO THEIR HOMES. THEY SAY THAT THEY DO NOT KNOW EACH OTHER. THEY MADE THE PROPOSITION THAT WE ALL THREE WOULD SPEND THE DAY TOGETHER. "WE SHALL SEE." 

THERE ARE SOME INTERESTING FOUNTAINS HERE. ONE HAS RED AND GREEN FLASHING LIGHTS ON IT  AND IT SHOOTS WATER QUITE HIGH INTO THE SKY. ANOTHER FOUNTAIN HAS DEMONIC FACES CARVED INTO A HUGE STONE WITH A MAN HIGH ON THE TOP WITH HIS ARMS REACHING UP TO THE SKY. I NOTICED THAT ALL SHADOWS LIE SOUTH OF THE OBJECTS AND PEOPLE THAT CAST THEM. WE ARE A BIT SOUTH OF THE EQUATOR HERE. I DID MEET THE TWO BOYS WHO I KNEW WANTED ME TO BUY THEM SOME SNACKS AND MAYBE GET A DOLLAR BILL FROM USA. I HAD FUN WITH THEM BY MAKING THEM WALK WITH ME THROUGH SIANOK CANYON AND THEN UP THE STEEP STEPS THAT LEAD UP TO KOTA GADANG WHICH IS KNOWN FOR ITS FINE SILVER  WORKS. I DID NOT BUY THE BOYS ANYTHING AT ALL DURING THIS EXCURSION. WE WALKED A BIT INTO THE FOREST AND I NOTICED BAMBOO STALKS WERE CUT DOWN TO STUMPS. I FELT SAD BECAUSE MANY OF THESE BAMBOO STALKS WERE IMPRESSIVELY TALL. WE WERE ASSURED, THOUGH, THAT BAMBOO GROWS RAPIDLY AND IS SOON REPLENISHED. POLES AND FENCES ARE MADE FROM THE BAMBOO STALKS. I ALSO SAW SOME OF THE TUNNELS THAT THE JAPANESE DUG INTO THE CLIFFS ON THE BUKITTINGI SIDE OF THE CANYON. I DID NOT GO INTO THE CAVES THOUGH. THE JAPANESE DID SOME ATROCIOUS THINGS DURING WORLD WORLD II. 

EATING FOUR LARGE PIECES OF DEEP FRIED YAM. 

WITH PEANUTS.

COSTING ONLY TWO HUNDRED FIFTY RUPIAH. 

A LARGE PLATE OF GADO GADO.

ONE GLASS OF HOT TEA AND JUS POKAT.

ALL FOR AROUND ONE DOLLAR.

TIGA BALAI LOSMAN HAS ROOMS FOR 3,500 RUPIAH.

MY ROOM, 5,000 RUPIAH, WAS QUIETER.

IT WAS FURTHER FROM THE NOISY STREET.

OUT AND ABOUT.

LOOKING FOR POST CARDS.

NOT SO EASY TO FIND HERE.

WE FOUND SOME DO DAK JAU.

SIMILAR TO TIGER BALM.

BOUGHT FROM A STREET VENDER.

A MEDICINE SELLER MUCH LIKE IN OLD WEST USA.

MUCH LIKE SNAKE OIL MEDICINE SHOWS

HAMLINS' WIZARD OIL TRAVELING SHOW.

EMULATED IN BUKITTINGI.

DISHES WITH LEECHES AND DIAGRAMS CHALKED ONTO PAVEMENTS.

BURNING NEWSPAPER ON DIAGRAMS.

TRANCE LIKE MOVEMENTS.

JUST DOWN THE STREET.

MEDICINE VENDER WITH POSTERS AND MAGAZINE PHOTOS.

TWO ROLLS OF POSTERS, PHOTOS, CLIPPINGS.

SPREAD ALL AROUND HIM. 

WOODEN PHALLIC OBJECT PLACED IN FRONT OF HIM.

I WOULD ALWAYS LEAVE BEFORE THE MAIN SALES PITCH STARTED.

I DID BUY SOME LEGITIMATE DO DAK JAU BUT I DID NOT WANT TO BE ASKED FOR ANY MORE MONEY. I WAS TIRED OF BEING ASKED FOR MONEY BY SO MANY PEOPLE. THEY THOUGHT I WAS RICH BUT I AM FAR FROM IT. YOUNG BOYS AND GIRLS WALKING HOME FROM SCHOOL ASKED ME FOR MONEY. "POOR STUDENTS" WOULD ASK ME TO GO PLACES WITH THEM WHICH WAS NICE BUT I WOULD BE EXPECTED TO FEED THEM AND PAY FOR THEIR TRANSPORTATION FARES. ONE ELDERLY LADY TOLD ME SHE LIVES ALONE, "FEEDING TWO GRAND CHILDREN WHO HAVE NO MOTHER OR FATHER." SHE SOBBED OSTENTATIOUSLY AFTER SHE REMOVED HER GLASSES. 

I PRACTICED AN EXCELLENT TAI CHI CHUAN YESTERDAY, ONE OF THE BEST EVER.  THE FUNNY THING IS THAT I HAVE TO GO BACK TO PADANG SIDEMPUAN SOON AFTER FINDING SUCH AN EXCELLENT PLACE TO PRACTICE HERE IN BUKITTINGI. ANYWAY, THE HOTEL IN PADANG SIDEMPUAN HAS THAT LARGE AND EMPTY ROOM FOR TAI CHI PRACTICE. THE ELDERLY LADY WHO TOOK HER GLASSES OFF TO CRY ABOUT TAKING CARE OF TWO GRAND CHILDREN ALL BY HERSELF WAS EXPECTING ME TO VISIT HER HOME. SHE WANTED ME TO BUY HER A NEW SHIRT SO SHE COULD GO TO THE MESJID TO PRAY.  I DECIDED NOT TO GO BECAUSE I DID BUY 200- RUPIAH WORTH OF FRUIT FROM HER. I THOUGHT THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH BECAUSE I DID GIVE HER SOME BUSINESS. I HAVE TO LEAVE SOON. I WILL MISS THE HORSE DRAWN BUGGIES AND CARTS. SOME OF THE BUGGIES ARE FOR TRANSPORTATION. THE HORSES ARE DECKED OUT IN COLORFUL DECORATIONS. THEY ARE A QUIET REPLACEMENT FOR THE NOISY BEMOS AND MOTORCYCLE RICKSHAWS WHICH UNFORTUNATELY STILL EXIST HERE TOO. 




 



TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 16:

AND THEN I WAS BACK IN PADANG SIDEMPUAN.

THE BUS THAT I TRAVELED IN FROM PADANG SIDEMPUAN TO BUKITTINGI HAD TO BE FUELED UP WITH A SIPHON HOSE. THE BUS I TRAVELED ON FROM BUKITTINGI BACK TO PADANG SIDEMPUAN HAD TO BE PUSH STARTED AND THE SEATS WOULD COME APART ONCE IN AWHILE AND THERE WERE ANTS CRAWLING AROUND SOME OF THE SEATS. WELL, THESE WERE THE CONDITIONS OF SUMATRA BUSES WHEN I ARRIVED INTO INDONESIA FOR THE FIRST TIME. 

THE FIRST DAY I RETURNED TO PADANG SIDEMPUAN, I SLEPT OUTSIDE IN A FIELD AMONG SOME TALL BUSHES. I DECIDED THAT I DID NOT WANT TO PAY FOR A ROOM SINCE THE DAY WAS ALMOST ENDED. I SAVED A FEW THOUSAND RUPIAH THAT WAY. AFTER ACCOMPLISHING MY PILGRIMAGE TO BUKITTINGI, I FOUND MYSELF BACK IN THE SAME 5,000 RUPIAH ROOM AS BEFORE AND I PAID 12,000 RUPIAH FOR TWO NIGHTS.  

I HAVE BEEN IN SUMATRA FOR THREE WEEKS NOW. LOTS OF PEOPLE EVERY PLACE. VERY LOUD PEOPLE. THEY LOVE MUSIC. THEY LOVE SINGING. THEY ARE THE MOST FRIENDLY. MUSLIM COMMUNITIES WITH HOUSES SET CLOSE TOGETHER WITH EACH OTHER. THATCH ROOFED, SMALL HOMES. MUSLIM GIRLS WITH ROUND FACES ENCLOSED WITH HIJAB. BIG SMILING FACES; "HELLO MISTER" ABOUND. HALF OF MY MONEY HAS BEEN SPENT. 10,000 RUPIAH A DAY ON AVERAGE SHOULD SEE ME THROUGH FOR ANOTHER THREE WEEKS. TAI CHI CHUAN PRACTICE ON THE THIRD FLOOR OF HOTEL MINENJAOU. A LARGE, TILED ROOM FOR TAI CHI CHUAN. NASI GORENG WITH FRIED EGG ON TOP, KOPI SUSU, A GREEN COLORED DESSERT, (GREEN EGGS AND HAM; JUST KIDDING), BOTTLES FILLED WITH WATER AND ONE FISH IN EACH. THESE ARE FOR SALE. THE SUN HOVERS STRAIGHT ABOVE. SO DOES THE MOON. I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO TELL THE TIME ACCORDING TO THE SUNS' LOCATION IN THE SKY. LIVING ON THE EQUATOR MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO TELL THE TIME AND TO WALK. SUN BURNING ON MY FEET WITH THE CLIMATE DRY WITHOUT THE RAIN. SOME DAYS ARE SO HUMID THAT IT WEIGHS ME DOWN. WE LOST ELECTRICITY FOR A FEW MINUTES. NEWS THAT SOME ROADS WILL BE WIDENED AROUND TOWN. MANY ROADS LACK SHOULDERS AND SIDEWALKS. A NEW SIDEWALK IS ALWAYS NICE. A WEDDING PARTY TONIGHT. MANY PEOPLE IN FRONT OF A HOUSE ON JALAN WILLIAM ISKANDAR. THE STREET IS ALMOST BLOCKED OFF BY THE PEOPLE. MANY TIMES ASKED TO FOLLOW SOMEBODY TO THE VILLAGE WHERE THEY ARE FROM. MANY TIMES ASKED TO SPEAK IN AN ENGLISH CLASS. I AM MORE OF A LONER. I DO NOT LIKE TO DRAW ATTENTION TO MYSELF. IN SUMATRA, ATTENTION IS UNAVOIDABLE. 

PADANG SIDEMPUAN HAD A FEW RESTAURANTS THAT I REALLY LIKED EATING AT. "BUFFET ANDA" HAD A LRGE CHOICE OF BEVERAGES AND THAT IS IMPORTANT FOR ME. I LOVE DRINKING VARIOUS JUICES AND SHAKES. "TAMAN DO RE ME" IS LOCATED AT A PARK LIKE SETTING AS A CANTINA TYPE RESTAURANT WITH A NICE STAGE FOR MUSICAL PERFORMANCES. THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE LIST WAS EXCELLENT. MY FIRST DATE WITH FARIDA WAS HERE. SHE HAD THE BEJAK DRIVER DRIVE US THERE. SHE KNEW THE MANAGER AND HE CAME TO OUR TABLE AND SAT DOWN WITH US FOR A FEW MINUTES. "RUMAH SELERA" HAD A GREAT IKAN BAKAR AND INDONESIAN STYLE VEGETABLES THAT I REALLY LIKED. IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL RESTAURANT WHERE YOU CAN SIT ON THE FLOOR IN ONE AREA. I DO NOT REMEMBER IF IT WAS A JAPANESE STYLE AREA OR A TURKISH STYLE AREA. 500 RUPIAH TO 4,000 RUPIAH WAS THE PRICE RANGE FROM THE DRINKS TO THE MEALS. ON THE STREETS, PISANG GORENG AND BAKSO ARE VERY COMMON. 

I TOOK AN EARLY MORNING STROLL AROUND THE HOTEL. IT HAD RAINED REALLY HARD FOR AT LEAST ONE HOUR. I ENCOUNTERED FOUR LARGE, GREEN/GREY LIZARDS AND THE LARGEST MOTH I HAD EVER SEEN. THE LARGE MOTH WAS BLACK AND GREY WITH A WHITE STRIPE. ITS WING SPAN WAS LIKE FOUR INCHES. AND THE MOTH ITSELF WAS ABOUT TWO AND A HALF INCHES LONG. I ENJOYED WALKING AROUND THE HOTEL I LIKED IT THERE, IT WAS COMFORTABLE. THERE ARE NOT ANY DISTRACTIONS AND NOBODY EXPECTING ANY MONEY JUST BECAUSE I HAD THEM SHOW ME WHERE THE CLOSEST PISANG GORENG STAND WAS.  I OFTEN CAME ACROSS A FIRE PIT OR A PORTABLE STOVE WITH A LARGE WOK ON IT. THEY WOULD BE SET UP NEXT TO THE SIDEWALKS. PISANG GORENG OR PEANUTS WERE USUALLY BEING COOK AT THOSE PLACES. THE TOWN IS QUIET IN THE EARLY MORNING. NO GROUPS OF PEOPLE TALKING AND LAUGHING AND NO LOUD VEHICLES BESIDES AN OCCASIONAL BEJAK PASSING BY. AND THEN, AROUND 0430, THE QURAN RECITATION AND CALL TO PRAYER WILL BE HEARD. WHENEVER I RETURN TO SOUTHEAST ASIA, I AM REMINDED  HOW MUCH I ENJOY HEARING THE MUEZZIN. IT IS THE RAINY SEASON. IT RAINS A LOT IN THE EVENINGS AND MORNINGS. 

THE WEATHER IS EITHER WET OR VERY HUMID. CLOTHS TAKE A LONG TIME TO DRY. PEOPLE HANG THEIR CLOTHS UNDER MATAHARI (THE SUN) BUT I HAVE MINE ON HOOKS IN THE HOTEL ROOM WHICH  MEANS THAT I AM CONTENDING WITH A CONSTANTLY DAMP TOWEL. 

I PRACTICED AN EXCELLENT TAI CHI CHUAN TODAY. THE AIR WAS HUMID BUT NOT TOO HOT. I WAS ON A TILE FLOOR. NOBODY WAS WATCHING. MY MIND WAS CONCENTRATED ON THE MOVEMENTS AND THE ENERGY.

I SPOKE IN THREE ENGLISH CLASSES TODAY. THE STUDENTS ARE SHY BUT THERE ARE ALWAYS A FEW STUDENTS WHO WILL SPEAK UP. THEY LIKE TO ASK ABOUT WHERE I LIVE. SOME WILL ASK ME FOR MY ADDRESS AND THE YOUNGER CHILDREN WILL ASK FOR MY AUTOGRAPH. I SIGNED ABOUT TWENTY NOTEBOOKS. 

IT IS AN EXITING SCENE WALKING UP JALAN MERDEKA. THEY ARE TEARING EVERYTHING UP ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ROAD NORTH OF THE BUSINESS DISTRICT. THEY ARE WIDENING THE ROAD. PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE AREA CAN BE SEEN ALONG THE ROAD CHOPPING DOWN WALLS AND CUTTING OFF TREE TRUNKS AND ROOTS. EVEN A PORTION OF A GRAVEYARD IS BEING DUG UP. 

MIE GORENG, PISANG GORENG, NASI GORENG WITH FRIED EGG ON TOP, GADO-GADO, PECAL, RUJAK, ALL THE FRUIT AND VEGETABLE JUICES LIKE JUS POKAT AND JUS SIRSAK OR JUS TIMUN;  I WAS IN HEAVEN. I WAS ALWAYS SURPRISED TO SEE PEOPLE IN POVERTY WITHOUT SUFFICIENT FOOD BECAUSE INDONESIA ABOUNDS IN CHICKEN, EGGS, GOATS, VEGETABLES, AND FRUITS. INDONESIA ESPECIALLY ABOUNDS IN SEAFOOD. SO WHY THE FOOD SHORTAGE IN SO MANY COMMUNITIES? IT ALWAYS MADE ME ANGRY THAT I COULD NOT DO MUCH MORE THAN BUY A FEW OBJECTS FROM STREET VENDORS OF FROM CHILDREN SELLING GUM. 

I WAS SPENDING TIME WITH THE HEADMASTER OF AN ENGLISH SCHOOL. HE BROUGHT ME TO HIS HOUSE AND FEED ME AND BROUGHT ME TO VARIOUS CLASSES TO SPEAK WITH THE STUDENTS. THE HEADMASTER IS A VERY BUSY MAN. HE HEADS SEVERAL BRANCHES OF THE ENGLISH SCHOOL IN VARIOUS PARTS OF PADANG SIDEMPUAN. I LEARNED SOME ARABIC MYSELF BECAUSE MOST STUDENTS WERE MUSLIM AND THEY MADE SURE I LEARNED SOME OF THE ARABIC SCRIPT AND SOME VOCABULARY. MUSLIM STUDENTS ALL LEARN THE ARABIC SCRIPT WHEN THEY ARE VERY YOUNG SO THEY COULD RECITE THE QURAN.  

I PACKED MY BAG TO LEAVE THE HOTEL MINENJAOU TO TRAVEL WITH MY FRIEND SEFRIAN TO HIS HOME. BEFORE LEAVING, I WENT TO THE POST OFFICE TO SEND A LETTER TO VANESSA. THEN I DID MY TAI CHI CHUAN. I THEN MET WITH SEFRIAN AND WE WENT TO THE BUS STOP TO BOARD THE BUS TO SIPRIOK. THIS TOWN IS ABOUT FIFTY KILOMETERS (31 MILES) NORTHEAST OF PADANG SIDEMPUAN. SIPRIOK IS A SMALL MUSLIM TOWN WHERE BEAD WORKS ARE CREATED. PRETTY BEAD WORKS ARE SOLD FOR VERY LITTLE. THE PRIBUMI SCHOOL HERE IS SMALLER WITH FEWER STUDENTS THAN THE ONES IN PADANG SIDEMPUAN. THE TYPING CLASS STUDENTS WERE LEARNING TO TYPE WITH MACHINES THAT ARE OLDER THAN THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE. 

THE GIRLS WHO LIVE IN THE HOUSE WHERE WE WERE STAYING WERE REAL SWEETHEARTS. THEY WERE COOKING IN A KITCHEN THAT WAS NOT WELL LIGHTED. ALTHOUGH THE KITCHEN WAS A LITTLE DARK, THE COOKING SPACE WAS SUFFICIENT. THERE WAS A WAIST HIGH COOKING SPACE WITH LOTS OF ROOM. THERE WAS ALSO MORE THAN ONE FIRE PIT FOR COOKING. THEY MADE A WONDERFUL, SPICY, FRUIT AND VEGETABLE SALAD THAT INCLUDED CUCUMBERS, PINEAPPLE, RED CHILI, JICAMA (OR SOMETHING LIKE JICAMA), AND GINGER. THIS WAS THEIR VERSION OF RUJAK. IT WAS SPICY. IT ALMOST MADE ME CRY. 

THE NEXT DAY, I TRIED AN ES CAMPUR. CAMPUR MEANS TO MIX OR MIXED. THE ES CAMPUR DRINKS COME IN VARIOUS VERSIONS,OF  SEVERAL DIFFERENT COLORS. IT IS ALSO SERVED IN A BOWL AS A DESSERT. IT IS AN ICY AND SWEET DRINK OR DESSERT WHICH IS LIKE A PIECE OF HEAVEN, HERE IN THE SUMATRAN HEAT AND HUMIDITY. COCONUT MILK IS VERY COMMONLY USED IN ES CAMPUR. GRASS JELLY IS A CONSTANT INGREDIENT AND THIS INGREDIENT IS A MAJOR REASON THAT ES CAMPUR COMES IN SO MANY VARIOUS COLORS. GRASS JELLY COMES IN MANY BRIGHT COLORS AS WELL AS DARK GREEN AND BROWN. FRUITS ARE ALSO OFTEN INCLUDED. 

I WAS BURPING A LOT THAT DAY. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT GAVE ME SO MUCH GAS. I DECIDED TO EAT LESS MIE GORENG AND NASI GORENG. I ALSO DECIDED TO TAKE SOME MEDICINAL MIXTURE OF SANJIVANI, GUDUCHI, AND VIDANGA  WHICH I HAD ACQUIRED FROM DR. VASANT LADS' OFFICE IN ALBUQUERQUE. DR. LAD IS AN AYURVEDIC DOCTOR. WARDS OFF TOXINS AND BACTERIAL INFECTIONS. GUDUCHI IS CONSIDERED TO BE AN AMRITA MEDICINE WHICH MEANS IMMORTAL. IT IS SUPPOSED TO BOLSTER IMMUNITY AND SUPPORT A LONG LIFE. VIDANGA IS ALSO KNOWN AS WHITE FLOWERED EMBELIA. IT FIGHTS AGAINST "DIGESTIVE FIRE". IT ALSO RIDS TOXINS FROM THE BLOOD. 

THE RIDE TO SIPRIOK WAS WET BECAUSE OF RAIN. WE ALSO MADE A WET TRIP TO GUNUN TUA. NOT MUCH CAME OUT OF THE RIDE TO GUNUN TUA BUT I WAS NOT CONCERNED BECAUSE I PAID NOTHING FOF THESE EXCURSIONS. I WAS SPEAKING IN THE ENGLISH CLASSES SO THE BUS RIDES, FOOD, AND LIVING SPACES WERE ALL SUPPLIED TO ME. I JUST FOLLOWED ALONG TO THE VARIOUS PRIBUMI ABDI SCHOOLS AND SPOKE TO THE STUDENTS IN THE CLASSES. IN GUNUN TUA, THE CLASS HAD ALREADY FINISHED BY THE TIME WE ARRIVED. WE STAYED IN TOWN SO WE COULD ATTEND A LATER CLASS WITH OLDER STUDENTS. I DO NOT REALLY LIKE SPEAKING WITH THE OLDER STUDENTS BECAUSE THEY ARE MORE DEMANDING. THEY EVEN ASKED ME TO MAKE A DRAWING. I DREW A RHINOCEROS BECAUSE IT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE ANIMALS (NOT BECAUSE I REALLY LIKE SALVADOR DALI BECAUSE I DID NOT KNOW HIS WORKS BACK THEN). 

WE WALKED UP A LARGE HILL THAT HAS THE GARUHA UNIVERSITY ON TOP OF IT. THE UNIVERSITY OVERLOOKS PADANG SIDEMPUAN. WE WERE FIVE MALES AND ONE FEMALE. THE FEMALE WAS ABOUT 16 YEARS OLD. SHE WAS REALLY CUTE WITH HER HIJAB SURROUNDING HER PERFECTLY ROUND FACE. SHE HAD A CAMERA AND SHE TOOK A FEW PHOTOS OF US AS A GROUP. THE BOYS WANTED TO RACE ME UP THE HILL. THEY WERE THE HARE AND I WAS THE TURTLE. THEY WERE JOGGING PRETTY FAST UP THE HILL AND I WAS JUST TROTTING AT AN EASY PACE. THEY WERE WELL AHEAD OF ME BUT I KEPT GOING AT A STEADY PACE. THEY EVENTUALLY GOT WORN OUT AND I GRADUALLY PASSED EACH ONE OF THEM. I WON THE RACE. BACK IN TOWN, I WAS INVITED TO VISIT SEVERAL HOUSES AND AT EACH HOUSE, THERE WOULD BE YOUNG BOYS AND GIRLS WANTING TO CONVERSE WITH ME; QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS. I ALSO HAD A DATE IN A NICE RESTAURANT WITH FARIDA AND A FEW OF HER ROOM MATES. I HAD A GOAT MEAT MEAL. SOME PIECES OF THE MEAT WERE TOUGH AND I DID NOT WANT TO SWALLOW THEM SO I HAD TO REMOVE THEM FROM MY MOUTH AND PUT THEM IN A NAPKIN. I DID THAT AS INCONSPICUOUSLY AS POSSIBLE. A GIRL FROM ONE OF THE CLASSES I SPOKE IN WAS THERE. SHE LIKED ME. I DO NOT KNOW WHO TOLD HER THAT I WOULD BE AT THE RESTAURANT BUT  SHE DID KNOW. SHE WAS WATCHING ME EAT AND HER FRIEND WAS MORE REASONABLE, TELLING THE GIRL THAT SHE SHOULD JUST FORGET ABOUT ME. I JUST HOPE THAT FARIDA AND THE GIRL DID NOT NOTICE ME REMOVING THE TOUGHER PIECES OF GOAT MEAT THAT I DID NOT WANT TO SWALLOW. 

MANY HOMES AND BUSINESSES HAVE BIRDS. THE BIRDS ARE OF MULTIFARIOUS SIZES AND COLORS. THE BIRD CAGES ARE ALSO MULTIFARIOUS. SOME ARE METAL, SOME WOOD, AND SOME ARE MADE OF BAMBOO. SOME ARE SQUARE, SOME ROUND, AND SOME ARE PAGODA SHAPED. SOME HOUSES HAVE SEVERAL BIRD CAGES HANGING ALL ALONG THE EDGE OR EVE OF THE ROOFS. THERE WAS ONE RESTAURANT WITH BIRD CAGES ALL ALONG ONE OF ITS WALLS. THERE ARE A LOT OF GREY, FAT BIRDS THAT CAN BE SEEN EVERYWHERE. ARE THEY TURTLE DOVES? I DO NOT KNOW. THERE ARE ALSO BIRDS WITH SMALL WHITE FEATHERS ON THEIR CHINS, LOOKING LIKE BEARDS. I ALSO SAW LOTS OF SHEEP. THEY SEEMED SMALLER THAN THE SHEEP IN THE USA. ITS WOOL SEEMED TO LAY FLAT TOWARDS THE GROUND. SOMETIMES THEY WERE WHITE AND SOMETIMES THEY WERE TAN. 

ONE OF MY MUSLIM FRIENDS BROUGHT ME TO A HOUSE THAT HAD VERY LITTLE FURNITURE. IT WAS MOSTLY FLOOR WITH RUGS. AT THE FAR END OF THE HOME WAS AN OLDER MAN OF AT LEAST 60 YEARS OLD. HE WAS TEACHING A YOUNG BOY HOW TO READ THE QURAN. THIS TEACHER HAD SEVERAL STUDENTS WHO WOULD ARRIVE AT HIS HOME IN THE EVENINGS TO LEARN QURAN READING AND RECITATION. HE BROUGHT ME TO ANOTHER HOUSE WITH A YOUNG GIRL WHO WAS MEETING SOME FRIENDS TO LEARN QURAN RECITATION. WHEN I FIRST ARRIVED, SHE HAD NO HIJAB ON HER HEAD BUT SHE PUT ONE ON RIGHT AWAY WHEN SHE SAW ME. NELFEZAR, (MY MUSLIM FRIENDS' NAME THAT I AM NOT SURE HOW TO SPELL), TOLD THE GIRL THAT I AM MUSLIM AND SHE TOOK OFF HER HIJAB. I JUST HAD TO MAKE SURE NOT TO STARE HER IN HER EYES BECAUSE THAT COULD BE THOUGHT OF AS AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR. WE LATER WENT TO AN OLD, ONE ROOM CEMENT MOSQUE SO WE COULD DO SALAT IN PRIVACY. IT WAS COMPLETLY EMPTY EXCEPT FOR THE RUGS ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF THE QIBLA. THE PRAYER RUGS WERE OLD AND I WAS THINKING THAT I COULD TAKE ONE AS A SOUVENIR BECAUSE OF THEIR AGE. I DID NOT TAKE ONE BUT I THINK IT WOULD HAVE BEEN JUST FINE IF I REPLACED THE RUG I WERE TO TAKE WITH A NEW ONE. BUT WHAT WOULD BE THE PURPOSE OF THAT? I WOULD JUST BUY A NEW ONE FOR MYSELF. 

VISITING SO MANY HOMES AND MEETING SO MANY PEOPLE, IT WAS EASY TO REMEMBER TO TAKE SHOES OFF AS SOON AS I ENTER A HOME. IT WAS EASY TO REMEMBER TO REACH FOR FOOD WITH MY RIGHT HAND EVEN IF THE FOOD IS TO THE FAR LEFT SIDE OF THE TABLE. IT WAS EASY TO REMEMBER TO GIVE MONEY TO OTHERS WITH YOU RIGHT HAND EVEN THOUGH MONEY IS RATHER DIRTY. 

I DID THE TIGHTEST TAI CHI CHUAN THAT I HAVE EVER DONE THIS MORNING. THE BEDROOM THAT I WILL BE USING FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS IS VERY SMALL. I DID GET THROUGH THE PRACTICE EACH DAY THOUGH. I ALSO PRAYED THE SALAT PRAYERS EACH DAY WITH MY MUSLIM FRIENDS. WHEN EVER I SAW THE GIRLS PRAY, I WONDERED HOW THE HIJABS STAY IN PLACE DURING THE MOVEMENTS THROUGH EACH RAK'AT (OR RAK'AH). UPON CLOSER INSPECTION, I NOTICED SOME TINY PINS THAT HELD THE HIJABS IN PLACE. WE PRAYED FIVE TIMES EACH DAY. WE ALWAYS HAD TO WAKE UP VERY EARLY TO PRAY THE FAJR SALAT. FAJR SALAT HAS ONLY 2 RAK'AH. MAGHRIB SALAT HAS 3 RAK'AH AND THE OTHER 3 SALAT HAVE 4 RAK'AH. 

THERE ARE MATS SPREAD OUT ON THE ROADS IN MANY PLACES. THE MATS HAVE VARIOUS TYPES PF PRODUCE SPREAD ON THEM. CHILIS, RICE, AND BEANS ARE OFTEN SPREAD ON THE MATS TO DRY.

HOMES OFTEN HAVE MOSQUITO REPELLANT COILS. THEY ARE GREEN AND THE SMOKE THAT COMES FROM THEM CAN BE VERY OVER-POWERING. I DID LIKE THEIR AROMA THOUGH. THEY LAST THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT. 

INDONESIANS ARE VERY POLITE ALTHOUGH I WAS OFTEN ANNOYED BY THE FACT THAT THEY APPROACHED ME SO MUCH TO TALK. I AM BASICALLY A LONER SO THAT WAS DIFFICULT TO GET ACCUSTOMED TO. MEN HOLDING HANDS WITH MEN AND WOMEN HOLDING HANDS WITH WOMEN IS A COMMON SIGHT. THEY ARE NOT GAY. HOLDING HANDS WITH FRIENDS OF THE SAME GENDER JUST SHOWS THAT THEY ARE CLOSE FRIENDS. 

WHEN PASSING CLOSE TO ANOTHER PERSON, PEOPLE WILL SAY "PERMISI" OR THEY WILL BEND A LITTLE FORWARD AND HOLD THEIR RIGHT HAND IN FRONT WITH THE PALM OPEN AS THEY PASS. WHEN SAYING HELLO TO OTHERS, THE PALM OF THE RIGHT HAND WILL BE PLACED OVER THEIR HEART. 

I WAS BROUGHT TO A PLACE JUST OUTSIDE OF GUNAN TUA. IT WAS A POST CARD BEAUTIFUL PLACE. THERE ARE PASTURES WITH SHEEP, A WOODEN MOSQUE, LADIES CARRYING LONG POLES OF WOOD, THE MANY CHILDREN WALKING HOME FROM SCHOOL WEARING UNIFORM UNIFORMS, TEENAGERS PLAYING GUITARS AND SINGING FOLKSY OR POP SONGS. THE SHEEP WERE A NICE CHANGE OF PACE FROM ALL THE GOATS THAT ARE TYPICALLY SEEN EVERYWHERE IN THIS COUNTRY. BOTH THE SHEEP AND GOATS ARE A HUGE IMPROVEMENT OVER THE UGLY PIGS THAT CAN BE SEEN IN THE VILLAGES AROUND LAKE TOBA. 

THE LARGER, MODERN HOMES DO NOT USE FIRE PITS. THEY HAVE REGULAR STOVES SIMILAR TO WHAT WE BUY IN THE USA.JAKARTA HAS IKEA STORES. ACE HARDWARE HAS MORE THAT 100 STORES THROUGHOUT INDONESIA. MEDAN HAS MODENA APPLIANCE STORE. I THINK IT IS CALLED MODENA HOME CENTER. BOSCH ALSO HAS STORES IN JAKARTA. OTHER HOUSES, LIKE THE ONE THAT FARIDA WAS LIVING IN DURING HER PADANG SIDEMPUAN EMPLOYMENT AT A SCHOOL, HAVE BURNERS LIKE COLEMAN STOVES. SOME OF THE PROPANE STOVES ARE RATHER LARGE. THERE WERE THREE SUCH GAS STOVES IN THIS HOUSE WHICH IS A GOVERNMENT HOUSE. FARIDAS' UNCLE WAS LIVING HERE FOR FREE WITH HIS WIFE AND SONS. THEY WERE WORKING FOR THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT. THE CEILING HAD SOME HOLES IN IT BUT THE HOUSE WAS LARGE AND FAIRLY COMFORTABLE. THE ELECTRICITY WENT OUT OCCASIONALLY. THAT WOULD HAPPEN ONCE OR TWICE A DAY. IT REMINDED ME OF INDIA WHERE ELECTRICITY WAS VERY OFTEN GOING OUT. 

I WAS TAKEN TO A SALAK GARDEN. I HAD NEVER BEEN TO THIS GARDEN BEFORE. WE WERE RELAXING IN THE HOUSE OF THE GARDENS' OWNER. A TRADITIONAL TYPE OF PARADE PASSED BY. IF I UNDERSTOOD CORRECTLY, IT WAS A PROCESSION IN HONOR OF A BABYS' BIRTH. AT THE FRONT OF THE PROCESSION WAS SOMEONE WHO CARRIED A LARGE, YELLOW UMBRELLA. THERE WAS AN ELDERLY PERSON WALKING UNDER THE UMBRELLA. ANOTHER PERSON WAS BEATING A DRUM AND SOMEONE ELSE WAS READING FROM A BOOK. THERE WAS SOME FURNITURE PLACED IN FRONT OF A HOUSE. THE PROCESSION HEADED TO THAT PLACE AS A GROUP OF OLDER PEOPLE GATHERED AROUND THE FURNITURE AND WATCHED THE APPROACH OF THE PROCESSION. YOUNGER PEOPLE WHO WERE TALKING TO ME TOLD ME THAT THEY DO NOT LIKE THIS TRADITION BECAUSE THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND IT AND THAT IT IS A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. 

WE WENT TO A MUSLIM GATHERING WHERE THE ROOM WAS FULL OF YOUNG MEN SITTING ALONG TWO WALLS AND UNMARRIED WOMEN WERE SITTING ALONG THE OTHER TWO WALLS. WE WERE ALL SERVED PLENTY OF TEA AND BUBUR. THIS BUBUR WAS A SWEET GREEN PEA PORRIDGE. WE WERE TAKING TURNS WITH EXPLANATIONS ABOUT HOW WE EXPERIENCED ISLAM IN OUR LIVES. I JUST TOLD EVERYONE WHO I WAS AND HOW I BECAME INVOLVED WITH ISLAM. WE ALL HAD TO START OUT WITH ASALAAM'ALAIKUM. WE ENDED OUR STORIES IN THE SAME WAY. AFTERWARDS, WE ALL HAD TO SHAKE EVERYONES HAND SAYING ASALAAM'ALAIKUM. THEN I RECEIVED A NICE ISLAMIC WORK CALLED TAKAHLLY DAN DO'A BERMAKNA. 

WHEN SCHOOL BELLS RING, THE CHILDREN WEARING THEIR SCHOOL UNIFORMS WOULD GATHER TOGETHER INTO STRAIGHT LINES. THE LAST EXAMPLE OF THIS PRACTICE HAD CHILDREN WEARING WHITE TOPS AND RED SHORTS OR SKIRTS. IN ONE CLASS I ATTENDED, I SAW ALL THE CHILDREN STAND UP AS SOON AS THE TEACHER ENTERED. WHEN THE TEACHER STOOD IN FRONT OF THEM, ONE CHILD MADE A PROCLAMATION AND ALL THE OTHER CHILDREN MADE A RESPONSE. AT THAT TIME, ALL THE CHILDREN SIT DOWN AND CLASS BEGINS. 

TOURNULI, PARLILITAN, PAKKAT WERE OUR NEXT DESTINATIONS. THE REASON FOR THIS TRIP?

                      "WE ARE GOING TO MY HOME TOWN (IBU KOTA)BECAUSE I GOT PERMISSION FROM MY 

                        PARENTS TO BRING YOU TO OUR HOME TO INTRODUCE YOU TO MY FAMILY"

                        "WOW, OK. WHEN WILL WE GO THERE"?

                          WE WILL GO TOMORROW."

I WAS TRYING TO SOUND CONFIDENT ABOUT THIS TRIP BUT I WAS QUITE NERVOUS ABOUT IT.

WE SET OUT THE NEXT DAY ON A BEMO. THE TRIP TOOK A LOT LONGER THAN I EXPECTED. THE ROAD IS A DIFFICULT ONE. IT IS NARROW. THE ROAD HAS LOTS OF POT HOLES. THE ROAD IS WASHED OUT IN PLACES. THE ROAD HAD A COUPLE OF MAKE SHIFT BRIDGES THAT HAD TO BE ADJUSTED BEFORE WE CROSSED THEM. THE BEMO WAS NOT A FAST FORM OF TRANSPORT ALTHOUGH THE DRIVER COULD DRIVE AT SCARY SPEEDS. THE ROAD WAS JUST TOO SHABBY AND NARROW, CAUSING VEHICLES TO MOVE OVER TO THE EDGE SO THEY COULD SLOWLY PASS EACH OTHER. THE SCENERY WAS INCREDIBLE THOUGH. SIBORUNGBORUNG TO PARLILITAN IS ALL AGRICULTURE, RUSTIC VILLAGES, AND JUNGLE. WE WERE ALWAYS SURROUNDED BY MOUNTAINS AND RIVER VALLEYS. WHEN I FIRST MET FARIDAS' MOM, SHE WAS CALLING TO SOME CHICKENS AND CHICKS SO SHE COULD FEED THEM. SHE USED A LOUD ROLLING RRRRR SOUND TO CALL THEM. THEIR HOUSE WAS BUILT ON THE SIDE OF A HILL SO THAT THE TOP FLOOR WAS JUST SHY OF STREET LEVEL (ABOUT TWO FEET LOWER THAN THE STREET) AND THE LOWER FLOOR WAS AT THE LEVEL OF THE HILLS BOTTOM. THAT IS WHERE THE WC AND MANDI WERE LOCATED. THE CHICKEN COOP WAS ABOUT TEN YARDS TO THE LEFT OF THE BOTTOM ENTRANCE TO THE HOUSE. INSIDE THE HOUSE, THERE WAS A ROLL UP CARPET THAT CAN BE REMOVED ANY TIME THE FLOOR WAS TO BE CLEANED. THE HOUSE WAS RATHER LARGE WITH THREE BEDROOMS AND A SPACIOUS LIVING ROOM. THE KITCHEN WAS QUITE LARGE TOO. THERE IS AN APARTMENT ATTACHED TO THE HOUSE WHERE OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS LIVE. AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS LOCATED ABOUT 10 MINUTES WALKING FURTHER UP THE ROAD AND FARIDAS' FATHER IS HEAD MASTER THERE.

I DO NOT REMEMBER IF IT WAS GRANDPA AND GRANDMA OR IF WAS AN AUNT AND UNCLE WHO LIVE IN THE APARTMENT. MY SOJOURN IN THEIR HOUSE LASTED  A COUPLE OF WEEKS. I DECIDED TO JUST STAY THERE TO WAIT OUT MY RETURN TO THE USA. BY THE TIME I LEFT, WE HAD DECIDED THAT WE WOULD WRITE FOR TEN MONTHS AND THEN COME TO A CONCLUSION ABOUT MARRIAGE. 

         


TRAVEL GUIDE OF LIFE CHAPTER 17

MAKING MY WAY BACK HOME.

FARIDA DECIDED TO TRAVEL WITH ME AS FAR AS  PARAPAT. 

PARAPAT IS AS CLOSE TO A TOURIST TOWN THAT NORTH SUMATRA CAN MUSTER. NORTH SUMATRA HAS BERASTAGI AND PARAPAT. BERASTAGI IS BASICALLY A BASE OF OPERATIONS FOR THOSE WHO LOVE CLIMBING VOLCANOS. PARAPAT IS A BIT MORE TOURISTY WITH MORE LARGE HOTELS AND IT IS MOSTLY A BASE OF OPERATIONS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO VISIT SAMOSIR ISLAND. WE FOUND A MOTEL AND I PAID FOR ONE SINGLE ROOM AND A DOUBLE ROOM. THEY HAD ONLY ONE MORE SINGLE ROOM THAT WAS VACANT. I COULD HAVE BOOKED JUST THE DOUBLE ROOM BECAUSE WE ENDED UP SLEEPING TOGETHER ANYWAY. THAT WAS NOT VIABLE THOUGH BECAUSE WE WERE NOT MARRIED. WE SLEPT TOGETHER BUT FARIDA WAS A VIRGIN AND SHE RETURNED HOME A VIRGIN. WE JUST CUDDLED. IT HAPPENED SO FAST; OUR COURTSHIP AND PLAN TO GET MARRIED. WE EVEN PLANNED OUT A MINIMUM AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT I MUST BRING WITH ME FOR THE WEDDING. I WAS ALSO TO SEND MONEY TO FARIDA EVERY MONTH. SIX MILLION RUPIAH WOULD BE THE AMOUNT I GIVE DIRECTLY TO FARIDAS' FATHER FOR WEDDING PREPARATIONS. I FIGURED THAT I WOULD NEED FOUR THOUSAND USA DOLLARS TO PULL OFF THIS WEDDING BECAUSE I WOULD NEED MONEY FOR PLANE TICKET, FARIDAS' PASSPORT, AND HONEY MOON, IT WAS CERTAINLY TIME TO RETURN HOME AND MAKE SOME MONEY AS WELL AS FILL OUT CERTAIN PAPERWORK FOR A FOLLOW HUSBAND (IKUT SWAMI) VISA.

I SAW FARIDA OFF THE NEXT MORNING. AT THE CHECKOUT DESK, THERE WERE TWO YOUNG MEN HOVERING AROUND US AS I BID FARIDA ADIEU. I KISSED HER HAND, AND ALTHOUGH SHE HESITATED FOR HALF A SECOND, SHE LET ME. SHE RETURNED TO PADANG SIDEMPUAN AND I RETURNED TO MEDAN. I PAID ABOUT 3,500 RUPIAH AND BOARDED THE BUS RIGHT AFTER FARIDAS' BUS LEFT BECAUSE OUR BUS WAS DUE TO LEAVE IN JUST FIVE MINUTES. WE ARRIVED INTO MEDAN AROUND 1730. I STAYED IN A DORMITORY ROOM AT THE TAPIAH NABARU. I PAID 2,750 RUPIAH FOR EACH OF THE TWO NIGHTS I SLEPT THERE. THERE WERE A COUPLE OF GUESTS IN THE DORM ROOM WHO REMINDED ME OF THAT ACTOR WHO STARRED IN RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC. MEL GIBSON? NO  DARN, I CAN T REMEMBER HIS NAME. ROBERT REDFORD? NO. WRITERS BLOCK. DARN, WHAT IS HIS NAME? HARRISON FORD? MAYBE. ANYWAY, MAYBE THEY WERE AUSTRALIAN ANTHROPOLOGISTS. AFTER I CLAIMED MY BED AND RELAXED A LITTLE, I WENT FOR A WALK IN THE CHINESE QUARTER OF MEDAN. THEN I PRACTICED MY TAI CHI CHUAN. I WALKED ALMOST EVERYWHERE I WENT. I DID RIDE IN A BEJAK ONCE AND I ALSO TOOK A TAXI ONE TIME. I SUSPECT THAT THE BEJACK DRIVERS KNOW WHAT TAXI TRIPS COST SO THEY CAN ASK FOR THE SAME FAIR THAT A TAXI METER RUNS TO. I DO NOT KNOW IF THEY DO THAT BUT I ALWAYS NEGOTIATE THE PRICE DOWN A LITTLE BIT JUST IN CASE. I PAY ONLY A LITTLE BIT LESS THAN THE FIRST ASKING PRICE BECAUSE THEY DO WORK HARD ALL DAY. I WALK MORE SLOWLY IN MEDAN THAN IN PADANG SIDEMPUAN BECAUSE IT IS HOTTER AND MORE MUGGY THERE.

SO, AFTER TWO DAYS OF EXPLORING MEDAN, I TOOK MYSELF BACK TO BELAWAN HARBOR.  I FOUND THE LANGKAWI EXPRESS OFFICE AND PAID AROUND $40 FOR THE RETURN TRIP TO PENANG. I ALSO BOUGHT A FEW SMALL SOUVENIRS FOR 2,500 RUPIAH. 

AFTER ARRIVING INTO PENANG, I WENT STRAIGHT TO WAN YAI HOTEL AND THEY TOLD ME THAT THERE WERE NO  VACANCIES. AFTER WALKING FURTHER ALONG TEBUH CHULIA AND BEING TOLD THE SAME THING BY SEVERAL HOTELS, I STARTED TO LOOK FOR A GOOD PLACE TO SLEEP OUTSIDE. COMING ACROSS THE NEW CHINA HOTEL, I DECIDED TO CHECK IT OUT AND THEY DID HAVE A DORMITORY BED. I TOOK IT. I FELT MORE COMFORTABLE IN THIS HOTEL THAN I HAD SOME SIX WEEKS BEFORE. I FOUND NO DIFFERENCE IN THE HOTEL. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THIS FEELING WAS DUE TO THE FACT THAT SUMATRA IS MUCH MORE RUSTIC THAN PENANG?

I SPENT A LITTLE MONEY THE DAY AFTER MY ARRIVAL IN PENANG. I WAS AT THE POST OFFICE FOR AN HOUR. I SENT A LETTER TO VANESSA. THEN I SENT SOME POST CARDS TO THE FRIENDS IN SUMATRA WHO GAVE ME THEIR ADDRESSES. I SENT ONLY ONE OR TWO POST CARDS TO EVERYBODY EXCEPT FOR FARIDA AND HER FAMILY SINCE SHE WOULD BE MY FIANCE. I BOUGHT SOME GOOD FOOD TO EAT AND I ALSO BOUGHT SOME BATIK STYLE SHORTS. I BOUGHT SOME PANTS FOR MYSELF AND THE SHORTS WERE FOR VANESSA. I REALIZED THAT FARIDA WOULD BE WRITING  HER LETTERS IN HER LANGUAGE SO I DECIDED TO BUY A LARGE, COMPLETE DWIBAHASA INGGERIS-MELAYU DICTIONARY. THAT WAY, I COULD ANSWER HER LETTERS IN HER LANGUAGE. IN THE EVENING, I WENT TO THE HINDU  TEMPLE FOR SOME PRASADAM. WE ARRIVED IN TIME FOR THE ARTI. THE PUJARI TOOK A LARGE FLAME HOLDER AND, WHILE TWO LARGE BELLS WERE BEING RUNG WITH LARGE ROPES, HE WENT ALL AROUND THE TWO ALTAR AREAS OFFERING THE FLAME TO ALL THE DIETIES WHICH INCLUDED HANUMAN, GANUPATI, TWO SHIVA LINGAMS, AND RADHA-GOVINDA TAKING CENTER STAGE. THERE WAS ALSO A LECTURE AND CHANTING. I DO NOT REMEMBER IF I ATE EVERYTHING THAT WAS OFFERED BUT I DO REMEMBER EATING A STUFFED ROTI THAT HAD SOME POTATOES OR YAMS IN IT.  I ALSO REMEMBER EATING SOME GREAT HALVA THERE. I DID NOT HAVE ANY WATER TO DRINK BUT I DID HAVE PLENTY OF PINEAPPLE PIECES TO SUCK ON. 

RELAXING IN THE DORM ROOM, I WAS WATCHING A STRANGE MAN AT THE OTHER END OF THE ROOM. THERE ARE ABOUT TEN BEDS IN THIS DORM ROOM. I WAS SWEATING BECAUSE I HAD JUST RETURNED FROM A WALK IN HUMID WEATHER SO I TOOK A SHOWER. THEN I RETURNED TO THE BED. THE MAN WAS STILL AT HIS BED; THE LAST BED IN THE ROW, NEXT TO THE WALL. I WAS WONDERING HOW LONG HE HAS BEEN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. I WAS WONDERING HOW MUCH LONGER HE WOULD BE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. HE SEEMED TO BE AUSTRALIAN OR NORTHERN EUROPEAN. HE WAS UNDENIABLY AN ODD CHARACTER. HE HAD TWO ROWS OF JESUS CHRIST SALVATION STATEMENTS TAPED TO THE WALL NEXT TO HIS BED. HE CERTAINLY HAS BEEN THERE FOR A GOOD AMOUNT OF TIME. HE ACTUALLY SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN LIVING THERE. HE WOULD STAND IN FRONT OF HIS STATEMENTS ON THE WALL AND SOMETIMES HE WOULD READ THEM. ONE TIME, HE TOOK ALL THE STATEMENTS DOWN ONLY TO REPLACE TWO OF THEM. HE STOOD IN FRONT OF THOSE TWO STATEMENTS FOR ANOTHER TWO HOURS. SOME STATEMENTS SPOKE OF JESUS CHRIST AS LORD AND THE OTHER STATEMENTS SPOKE OF SALVATION. FOR HOURS HE WOULD TAKE TURNS TAKING STATEMENTS DOWN THEN PUTTING OTHER STATEMENTS BACK ON THE WALL. HE ONLY LEFT TO EAT AND TO WATCH TV IN THE TELEVISION ROOM. AS FOR EATING, I WENT TO LUNCH AT YASMEEN MUSLIM RESTORAN WHERE I ATE SEVERAL TIMES SINCE MY FIRST VISIT TO PENANG. I REALLY LIKED EATING THERE. THIS DAY I ATE MUTABAK SAYUR WHICH IS HUGE AND COMES WITH SOME WONDERFUL CURRY GRAVY.  I DRANK A CUP OF MILO. IT IS SIMILAR TO HOT CHOCOLATE BUT MADE WITH MALTED POWDER. I PAID 1 RINGIT 80 SEN FOR THE MUTABAK SAYUR AND 80 SEN FOR THE MILO. FOR SUCH A SMALL AMOUNT OF MONEY, ANYBODY CAN GET VERY MUCH SATISFIED. 

I WENT OUT TO FIND THE TEMPLE WITH THE RECLINING BUDDHA. I HAD DIFFICULTY FINDING IT. BY THE TIME I FOUND IT, THE ENTRANCE WAS CLOSED. I WENT BACK THE NEXT DAY. THAT DAY THOUGH, I DID GET INTO THE DHAMMIKARAMA BURMESE TEMPLE WHICH IS ACROSS THE STREET. IT IS VERY BEAUTIFUL AND I WALKED THE GROUNDS FOR ABOUT 15 MINUTES. THEY HAVE TWO SODA MACHINES THAT SELL CUPS OF SODA FOR 50 OR 60 SEN. I BOUGHT ONE TO DONATE TO THE TEMPLE. THERE IS A SMALL SHRINE TO IŚVARA ON THE GROUNDS. THERE IS A PORTRAIT OF SHIVA ON ITS BACK WALL. THIS TEMPLE IS THE OLDEST BUDDHIST TEMPLE IN PENANG STATE. THE BUDDHA STANDS TALL AND IS VERY BEAUTIFUL WITH WHITE FACE, HANDS, AND FEET SURROUNDED BY GOLD. DID I SAY IT IS VERY BEAUTIFUL? BECAUSE IT IS.

BACK IN THE DORM ROOM, THE "CRAZY" MAN WAS DISPLAYING RAGES OF SIN WHICH ARE DEATH STATEMENTS. THE STATEMENTS WERE SPREAD OUT ON THE FLOOR. HE ALSO HAD ABOUT 25 PAGES OF SUCH STATEMENTS ON A TABLE WHERE HE STOOD FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME METICULOUSLY STUDYING THEM. I KNEW THAT THEY WERE ALL REPEATS ON THE SAME THEME BECAUSE HE READ MANY OF THEM OUT LOUD. 

AT WAT CHAYAMANKALARAM (A THERAVADA BUDDHIST TEMPLE), ANYBODY CAN RELAX WALKING AROUND THE EXTENSIVE GROUNDS OR JUST SITTING. THERE WERE A LOT OF ASIAN TOURISTS THERE. I SAT ON A CEMENT POND THAT HAD POI FISH AND TURTLES. THERE WERE SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZED TURTLES. THE POND HAD AN AROMA OF FISH AND MOSS AND I MOVED ON BECAUSE I GOT TIRED OF IT. THE ENTRANCE TO THE RECLINING BUDDHA HAS THREE DOORS. THE RECLINING BUDDHA IS 108 FEET LONG. 108 IS THE SAME NUMBER OF BEADS ON A STRAND OF PRAYER BEADS.  STATUES THAT SHOW SIDDHARTHA MEDITATING HAVE 108 TOPKNOTS ON HIS HEAD THERE ARE 108 PASSIONS THAT HUMAN BEINGS SUFFER AND MUST OVERCOME. EACH OF THE THREE DOORS ARE FLANKED BY DRAGONS THAT ARE 45 FEET LONG. TWO DRAGONS ARE GREEN AND GOLD AND THEY HAVE GREEN BALLS IN THEIR MOUTHS. TWO OTHER DRAGONS HAVE BIRDS THAT SEEM TO BE LIVING IN THEIR MOUTHS. THERE IS A SMALL PAGODA IN FRONT OF THE MIDDLE DOOR AND IT HAS RAKSHASAS FLANKING IT.   THEY ARE ABOUT 20 FEET HIGH. THEY HAVE INTRICATE ENGRAVINGS AND ARE OF DIFFERENT STYLES. ONE RAKSHASA HAS A RED FACE AND THE OTHER ONE HAS A GREEN FACE. THE RECLINING BUDDHA IS IN A COLUMBARIUM SO THERE ARE URNS WITH CREMATION ASHES THERE. THIS RECLINING BUDDHA IS ONE OF THE LONGEST IN THE WORLD. 


NIAGARA HOTDL PARAPAT

NIAGARA HOTEL ROOM BALCONY OVERLOOKING DANAU TOBA.

EATING AT RESTORAN YASMEEN AGAIN.

MAILING OUT LETTERS, ONE TO FARIDA AND ONE TO ANDIS, HER YOUNGER SISTER. 

GOING TO THE TAOIST TEMPLE ON THE WAY TO LEONG SAN TONG KHOO KHANGSI HOKKIEN CULTURE.

ENJOYING THE INTRICACY OF THE DECORATED GOLD AND BLACK ALTAR AREA.

ARRIVING INTO THE LEONG SAN TONG KHOO KHANGSI CLAN HOUSE COURTYARD .

CHECKING OUT THE LOVELY AND SUPERBLY CARVED PAGODAS IN THE COURTYARD.

ADMIRING A BEAUTIFUL TAOIST SCROLL IN THE SMALLER, SOUTH SIDE BUILDING.

HANGING ON A WALL IN THE LOBBY POSSIBLY SERVING AS AN ALTAR AREA.

WALKING AROUND THE VERY INTERESTING STREETS OF GEORGETOWN CHINA TOWN.

FINDING NO SIGNS OF HINDUISM NOR OF ISLAM.

ENCOUNTERING ONLY CHINESE SHOPS WITH CHINESE SIGNS.

PASSING HOMES WITH SMALL, RED ALTARS ON COLUMNS NEXT TO DOORS AND STEPS.

VISITING THE HINDU AREA WHERE STANDS THE MARIAMMAN TEMPLE, TAMIL CULTURE.

SITTING AT THE BAY; FISHERMANS' WHARF AREA CLOSE TO KARPAL SINGH DRIVE.

WATCHING SMALL AND LARGE VESSELS HEADING UP TOWARDS THE NORTH CHANNEL.

HEARING THE CEMENT POLE POUNDERS AT ALL TIMES OF THE DAY.

SEEING THE LARGE HOTELS STRETCHING LONG ON THE GEORGETOWN COASTAL ROAD. 

TASTING THE FOODS AND JUICES SOLD BY THE FEW VENDORS SEEN THROUGHOUT TOWN.

STROLLING UP THE ROAD LEADING TOWARDS BATU FERRINGI. 

RETURNING TO THE HOTEL.

SLEEPING.















CEILING FANS TURNING AT A MEDIUM SPEED, MOSQUITO NET WHITE BLEACHED CLEAN HANGING OVER BED, GUITAR PLAYING, SOFT SONG FROM ANOTHER BUNK,BEARDED IRISH CHAP RESTLESS BECAUSE A TRAIN LEAVES BUTTERWORTH AT 1045 AND HE DOES NOT KNOW IF HE SHOULD BE ON IT AND IT IS ALREADY 0900 OR MAYBE HE SHOULD JUST WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT DAY TO GO TO SINGAPORE. 

THE NEXT DAY, EARLY MORNING ARATI AND WORSHIP PROGRAM. I BELIEVE THAT SWAMI KIRTANANDA BHAKTIPAD STARTED THIS ASHRAM AS AN OFFSHOOT OF ISKCON. IT IS PART OF HIS INTER FAITH PROGRAM WHICH REPLACED ALL THE PROGRAM PRAYERS AND CHANTS WITH ENGLISH. I DID NOT LIKE THAT. THE SANSKRIT IS MUCH MORE AUTHENTIC AND THE ENGLISH SOUNDS LESS MATURE. THE WOMEN ARE ALSO TAKING SANNYASA WHICH IS CERTAINLY NOT TRADITIONAL BUT I FIND THAT TO BE ACCEPTABLE PROGRESS. THE TRUTH AND ACCEPTANCE BETWEEN ALL RELIGIONS IS ALSO AN EMPHASIZED  PART OF THE TEACHING HERE. THERE ARE BUDDHIST AND HINDU DEITIES HERE. THEY HAVE A VERY NICE QUAN YIN MURTI ON A STAND NEXT TO THE WALL ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROOM (AT LEAST THAT IS WHERE SHE WAS WHEN I STAYED THERE). WOMEN ARE ALSO GIVING CLASS NOW. THAT WAS NEVER THE CASE IN THE TRADITIONAL ISKCON TEMPLES BUT IF THEY CAN TAKE SANNYASA, THEN THEY SURE WILL BE  GIVING CLASS TOO. 

TWO CATS AND ONE DOG RESIDE HERE AT SWAMI KIRTANANDA BHAKTIPADS' MAHA MANTRA MEDITATION CENTER. THE CATS EVEN LOUNGE ABOUT IN THE TEMPLE MEDITATION ROOM AND IN THE DINING ROOM. THAT IS SOMETHING ELSE THAT IS NEVER SEEN IN TRADITIONAL ISKCON CENTERS. 

ONE MORNING WE WENT TO THEIR MOUNTAIN RETREAT. THERE ARE A FEW DURIAN AND PAPAYA TREES ON THEIR MOUNTAIN PROPERTY. I THINK THERE WAS ONLY ONE BUILDING THAT WAS FINISHED AND THEY WERE STILL BUILDING TWO OTHERS. THE BUILDING THAT WAS FINISHED (OR CLOSE TO IT) WILL BE THE MENS ASHRAM CONNECTED TO SWAMI BHAKTIPADS' QUARTERS WHICH WILL BE HIS PRIVATE TWO ROOMS INCLUDING A BAK MANDI. THIS RETREAT IS LOCATED ABOUT 30 MINUTES SOUTHWEST OF PENANG. THERE IS A LOT OF PROMISE FOR THIS RETREAT BECAUSE THERE ARE NATURAL SPRINGS WHERE POOLS OR FOUNTAINS CAN BE CREATED. 

"HALLIELULLA" IS RECITED ALONG WITH "HARE KRISHNA"

AN EMPHASIS ON THE EVOLUTION OF THE VAISNAVA FAITH IS EVIDENT HERE. SCRIPTURES OF OTHER FAITHS ARE REFERRED TO IN LECTURES QUITE OFTEN. THERE ARE ALSO INSTANCES OF COMPROMISE BETWEEN THE LITERAL ACTUALITY AND THE FIGURATIVE SYMBOLOGY OF STORIES FROM THE SCRIPTURES. ONE EXAMPLE IS HOW THEY LECTURE ABOUT THE BATTLE OF KURUKSHETRA WHEN KRISHNA AND ARJUNA WERE LEADING THE FIGHT AGAINST THE KAURAVA ARMY. THERE ARE A FEW SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT CONCERNING THIS BATTLE AND THE WAY THE BATTLE IS TREATED HERE, THE BELIEF THAT IT NEVER LITERALLY HAPPENED AND IT IS ONLY SYMBOLICAL, MORAL MYTHOLOGY CAN BE INCORPORATED IN WITH THE BELIEF THAT IT TRUELY DID HAPPEN AS DESCRIBED IN THE MAHABARAT. THE IDEA THAT THE BATTLE ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE IS DEEMPHASIZED AND THE ALLEGORICAL ASPECTS OF THE STORY ARE TAUGHT. IT DESCRIBES THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE LIGHT AND DARK ASPECTS OF LIFE. IT IS A UNIVERSAL STRUGGLE BETWEEN HUMAN EMOTIONS AND THE DUTY HUMANS MUST FULFILL. THE LITERAL BELIEF HOLDS KURUKSHETRA TO BE THE FIELD WHERE THE PANDAVA ARMY  FOUGHT THE KAURAVA ARMY. THE FIGURATIVE BELIEF HOLDS KURUKSHETRA TO BE THE UNIVERSE WHERE THE DUALITIES OF ALL HUMAN EXISTENCE PLAY OUT. 

CAT STROLLS ACROSS ASHRAM TEMPLE ROOM FLOOR WITH A GECKO IN ITS MOUTH. 

CAT FOLLOWED BY KITTEN.

TAIL AND FOOT OF GECKO STICKING OUT OF CATS' MOUTH.

SRILA PRABUPADAS' DISCIPLE SAID THE WORLD IS A DREAM.

A DREAM AS COMPARED TO THE ETERNAL SPIRITUAL REALM. 

HAD A DREAM LAST NIGHT. 

I GOT SEPARATED FROM FARIDA.

SHE WAS IN ONE TRAIN CAR.

AS I WAS IN THE OTHER. 

THE TRAIN CARS DISCONNECTED AND I COULD NOT LOOK FOR FARIDA BECAUSE MY TRAIN CAR ENTERED A TUNNEL AND IT WAS A DEEP DARK TUNNEL BROWN SHARP EDGED STONES ON ALL SIDES FALLING FAR DOWN DOWN AND FAR DOWN.

WOKE UP. FOUND FARIDA.

"THE NAMES OF GOD AND GOD ARE NON DIFFERENT. CHANTING THE NAMES OF GOD IS THE MOST ACCESSIBLE AND EFFICIENT MEANS OF MEDITATION IN THIS AGE OF KALI. THE PROPER WAY OF CHANTING IS TO ABIDE IN THE NAMES RATHER THAN CHANTING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. JUST ABIDE IN THE NAMES OF GOD. SOME NAMES OF GOD ARE ESPECIALLY INTIMATE. KRISNA, RAMA, AND GOVINDA ARE SUCH NAMES.