On the Rigors of Travel

(KUALA Lumpur) I didn't get a decent shot the last time I was here either. Meh.

(KUALA Lumpur) I didn’t get a decent shot the last time I was here either. Meh.

It’s 38 degrees Celsius here and my new Chuck Taylors hurt.

Plus I barely got any sleep the previous night and spent about seven hours straight on conveyances of various kinds (i.e., taxis, trams, planes, trains, etc.).

Most importantly, I’m not as young as I used to be.

All of which translated to an uncharacteristic gratitude when our tour guide brought us back to the hotel earlier than planned.

Gad. I’ve got some major travel mojo to recover.



On the Pause before the Plunge

(ROLLER Coaster) Erm, I thought screaming MEANT that you were enjoying the ride. (Image sourced from www.pravsworld.com.)

(ROLLER Coaster) Erm, I thought screaming MEANT that you were enjoying the ride. (Image sourced from http://www.pravsworld.com.)

I’m not a fan of roller coasters, but I know that the best ones make an art of suspense. There’s that long, ever-so-tortuous climb to the peakdrawn out for maximum effect more than anything elsefollowed by an even more agonizing pause, before the plunge whose only saving grace is the fact that it actually ends more quickly than one anticipates.

Right now, I feel like I’m moments away from my own agonizing pause, after literally more than a year of tortuous climbing.

For once, I regret that the plunge ahead will be brief. I know that the next three weeks will fly right by in a headlong rush of novel sights and sounds, fresh epiphanies and experiences.

So this is me, stretching my arms straight up to the heavens, grinning toothily at the camera that’s designed to capture the roller coaster rider’s expression of either stark terror or utter exhilaration.

I’ll see you all at the end of the ride.


On the Eagerness to Fly

Yes, mummy loves you sweetie, but she really needs her life back.

Yes, mummy loves you sweetie, but she really needs her life back.

After all the straining and striving, the huffing and puffing, the soldiering and trudging, I’ve finally arrived at the point where I can say:

Enough. I’ve done enough. I’ve worked hard enough, prepared well enough, compensated far enough. And finally, it’s time to just get up and go.

Yes, I’ve still got one more day to go and a few loose ends left to tie up. But really.

I’m good.

I’m ready.

Let’s go.

Let’s do this.

Let’s cut the apron strings and…fly.

On the Quirks of Commuting

It was called the 839 San Isidro Express.

It was old and rickety, with cracked leather seats and pink tinted windows. Decals of saints and Jesus fraternizing with the children lined its metal walls and somewhere in the secret recesses of its overhead bins wafted the faint yet cloying smell of drying fish.

This was our Rocinante for the day.

This was our Rocinante for the day.

Passage on board the 839 San Isidro Express from San Rafael to Puerto Princesa cost P60.00 per passenger. Abbey and I had canvassed the rates of various airport transfers and had found the following: P6,400.00 (from an online agency); P2,500.00 (from a local company); and P2,000.00 (from our resort). Because I refused (on principle) to pay such exorbitant fees for a simple, one-way transfer, Abbey and I ended up in a waiting shed on the North National Highway where, we were told, we could “commute” to the airport at a fraction of the prices quoted.

We were also warned that the waiting could stretch indefinitely. (“At what time should we start waiting if our flight is at 8:30 pm?” is what I asked one of the resort staff. “You should start waiting at 12:00 nn Ma’am.” I stopped asking questions after that. “Let’s just leave at 4:30 pm,” I told Abbey blithely.)

Thirty minutes after we’d left the resort, I started worrying. Few buses and vans rattled past, and none of them seemed remotely interested in carrying passengers. I’ll wait fifteen minutes more, I told myself. If we don’t get a ride by then, I’m returning to the resort and ordering a transfer.

This is where we waited. Along with a dog. And several chickens.

This is where we waited. Along with a dog. And several chickens.

Five minutes before my deadline expired, Abbey spotted a clanking and rattling dust cloud on the horizon and I waved an arm tentatively. Several yards after it had passed us by, the 839 San Isidro Express screeched to a halt.

We barely made it to our seats before the driver stepped on the accelerator and we lurched merrily on our way.

If there was a countryside, Abbey and I barely saw it (though the window next to her was large enough to cause her concern; “I could fall out of that hole,” she told me worriedly, and spent the next 70 minutes gripping the iron bar in front with white-knuckled hands). The driver hurtled towards the provincial capital with a jovial indifference to safety, mortality…and, well, gravity. We careened through hairpin turns, jolted over humps, floated over bridges and honked at everything that remotely looked like it could slow us down.

My theory is the windows double as emergency exits.

My theory is the windows doubled as emergency exits.

And so, Abbey and I bounced and slid on our cracked leather seats, while the little boy next to mea young local who couldn’t have been more than eight years of agesat quietly and stoically, apparently welded to his seat through the sheer force of his solemnity.

“I have to say,” I told Abbey through clenched teeth, “this is the most excitement we’ve had since we got here.” She shot me a look that said, “If you like the excitement so much, why don’t you sit next to the window?”

About 70 hair-raising minutes later, we clattered to a halt at the San Jose Terminal and exited the bus with admirably steady legs.

“How much from here to the airport?” I asked the tricycle driver who’d accosted us. “P120.00 Ma’am,” he replied. “That’s the same as our bus fare!” Abbey hissed into my ear.

Apparently, there was no beating the value of the 839 San Isidro Express.

Commuting. Definitely more fun in the Philippines.

On the Gravity of Furniture


It’s relatively quiet here.

Just ahead are the waters of the Sulu Sea.

Just behind are the mountains of San Rafael.

So yes, I’m caught between rocks and what I suppose one could consider a hard place.

There are few other people around. Most guests leave the resort to tour the surrounding areas. I can hardly be bothered to leave my chair of choice.

(Not even to take a picture of where I am. Right now, I’m in an arm chair. Earlier today, I alternated between a chaise lounge and a rocking chair. Perhaps this is what aging is all about: moving around in furniture bound circles while gazing out towards distant horizons.)

As comfortable as my current chair is though, its attractions are vastly being overwhelmed by the lure of bed.

If this is aging, it ain’t that bad.

Happy sigh.

On the Move towards Stillness

Photo taken by Lakwatserong Tatay.

Photo taken by Lakwatserong Tatay.

We took a cab, then a plane, then a tricycle, and then a van.

All told, it took about six hours for us to get to where we had to go. The traveling itself was smooth and uneventful. The bumps we encountered were constituted by rude children, overindulgent parents, obsequious touts and lunatic drivers.

(I almost never suffer from motion sickness, but today’s rides had me squeezing my eyes shut in futile attempts to control my nausea.)

But anyway, we made it, and the welcome buko shake with mango bits  made up nicely enough for all the indignities endured (far more than the cowrie shell necklaces they draped around our necks).

So far, it’s exactly what we wanted: quiet, peaceful and far from the madding crowd.

Funny how we have to move so much just to find a place that’s still.


On the Eccentricities of Memory

(TIBET, Shigatse) As Nietzsche said, "When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." (Photo taken by the author.)

(TIBET, Shigatse) As Nietzsche said, “When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” (Photo taken by the author.)

This blog was originally designed to be a travelogue. (Readers can gather as much from its name.) My intention in creating it was to preserve the insights and reflections provoked by travelingwith the occasional piece about life back home thrown in.

Unfortunately, I discovered that it’s exceedingly hard to write about my travels retrospectively. Besides the fact that my memory excels at retaining only the most useless things (like the meaning of the word “ambergris”) while ejecting sections of my personal history wholesale, it’s almost impossible for me to distinguish between (let alone separate) my past and present perspectives.

Which simply means that anything I write now about my travels then would be a chronicle of today’s revelations rather than a record of yesterday’s epiphanies.

In short, travel writing (for me at least) has to be contemporaneous with the journeying. Otherwise, everything devolves into a factual (but dry and meaningless) recitation of facts and histories, landmarks and itineraries.

All that I can wrest from the photographs now are emotions and impressions—most of which have proven to be surprisingly durable (never mind if somewhat vague and colored all over with the patina of nostalgia).

Which is how I discovered that the fossil record of my travels reveals nothing more (and nothing less) than the evolution of my psychic life.

Funny how the journey outward is just another way back in.