Past to Postmodern with Sam

Taipei, Taiwan

November 2, 2018

By some twist of historical fate, the repository of thousands of artifacts and relics from the world’s longest contiguous civilization – 5,000 years as the Chinese proudly claimed – could be found in Taiwan. For this reason, I received marching orders from my sister via Facebook to visit the National Palace Museum in Taipei. “All the cultural heritage of China under one roof,” was her pitch, echoed by my Taiwanese friend, Sam, who offered to take me there.

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TTT with Sam (Wu Tai Yuan) @ National Palace Museum, Taipei

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The Gold Standard

Yangon, Myanmar

June 1, 2018

The words of Rudyard Kipling could not ring any truer: “My own sojourn in Rangoon was countable by hours, so I may be forgiven when I pranced with impatience at the bottom of the staircase….” Given less than 48 hours in the city, I only had this day to visit the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda, and I could not find my Myanmar friend, Justin, at our appointed meeting place at the foot of the southern staircase. I did prance, scooting from the guarded gate to a few flights up the stairs.

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Bagan Temple Run

Bagan, Myanmar

May 30 – 31, 2018

It certainly wasn’t “only just Bagan,” a pun I sang to the tune of the Carpenters’ We’ve Only Just Begun. “Only” and “just” didn’t apply to Bagan, the historic heart of Myanmar. The numbers alone were staggering: Old Bagan had a long history going back more than 1,000 years and spanned an area of 104 square kilometers dotted by 2,217 extant Buddhist temples from the 11th century to the 15th century. Whew, taking those figures in was overwhelming enough, how much more doing a temple run in this vast, arid valley?

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Rain and Shine

New Taipei City, Taiwan

November 1, 2018

It rained on our parade. Early November was well within typhoon season in Taiwan; Frances, J9, and I learned the wet way. Nevertheless, no inclement weather could dampen our spirit. Armed with a sunny disposition and a warm smile, our driver-cum-guide Kevin Xie (or Hsieh) drove away the rainy day blues on top of his other duties AND the fact that he could speak English well, an uncommon skill among the Taiwanese.

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Good 2Go

Manila and Cebu City, the Philippines

December 30 – 31, 2018

Sailing used to be the cheaper alternative to flying. But in the advent of LCCs, it mostly cost less – and for less travel time – to take a plane than a ship. One December day, though, we decided to welcome the new year in Cebu. The holiday rush shot flight fares through the roof; that was a given. What was not was going by boat, which basically meant going by 2Go, the country’s largest passenger ferry fleet.

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Wearing Tradition in Myanmar

Mandalay / Bagan / Yangon, Myanmar

May 28 – June 2, 2018

I was ready for my close-up. My friend Jo summoned me out to the courtyard at Ananta Bagan for my facial sesh with the hotel staff who came bearing a whetstone dish called kyauk pyin on which she proceeded to grind the bark off a chunk of wood. The resulting powder mixed with a bit of water produced a yellow paste – Myanmar make-up called thanaka – which she applied on my cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead with quick finger strokes.

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Sensō and Sensibility

Tokyo, Japan

January 28 and February 2, 2017

I was looking up at a dragon staring down at me. That was how it was standing directly under the giant chochin, that iconic Japanese lantern, hanging under Kaminarimon, the entrance gate to Sensō-ji. The stream of tourists washing into temple grounds was oblivious to the intricate carving on the wooden, hidden dragon above them. I timed a gap in the human flow to take a groufie with my girlfriends before another wave of people nudged us to move forward.

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Under the Chochin’s Dragon @ Senso-ji, Asakusa, Tokyo

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The Taipei Trio

Taipei, Taiwan

October 31 – November 2, 2018

Friendship didn’t always have to be linear. Frances, J9, and I had not been in the same room for 18 years after losing touch during pre-soc med era. A chance meeting and a surprise phone call a few months prior reconnected us, which called for a special reunion – at the airport! It was the first time we were together again since 2001. I suggested we travel to a neighboring country we all had not visited. Consensus leaned in favor of Taiwan, a perfect venue for our get-together: near, affordable, and largely unfamiliar to all of us.

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Valley to Mountaintop @ Benguet

La Trinidad, Benguet, the Philippines

July 4, 2018

Strawberry fields were not forever, contrary to Lennon’s lyrics. And no, it was something to get hung about. Ki and I took a jeepney from Baguio to the town of La Trinidad for its famous strawberry farms. I had woken up that morning with decadent dreams of sinking my teeth into the luscious fruit and slurping the tangy juice. Alas, we found the bowl-shaped valley striated with rows of plastic sheets used for mulching. Warm and wet July, it turned out, was off season for strawberries. Fresa fail.

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How Lakawon Won Us Over

Lakawon Island, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

November 30 – December 1, 2017

Regret put a damper on our trip to Lakawon Island from the get-go. Guimaras Strait made a winnowing basket out of our small boat. As billowing waves thrashed and tossed our asses off our seats, Ki scowled at every splash drenching our backs and bags. Wetness was the least of my worries; I feared for our lives. A recent celebrity death – Franco Hernandez’s – from drowning in similar circumstances was still fresh in my mind.

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Brush with the Burman

Mandalay and Bagan, Myanmar

May 28 – 31, 2018

I learned the word Burman from Rudyard Kipling. In his letters and stories, he used the word to refer to the people of Myanmar, then named Burma by the British Empire. Whether it was a blanket term for all tribes in Burma or meant specifically for the Burmese tribe, I didn’t know. What I did know was that he regarded the Burman fondly, a sentiment that I shared when I visited their country. In the words of Kipling himself, “Personally I love the Burman with the blind favouritism born of first impression.”

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Motorcycle Diary @ Siquijor

Siquijor / Lazi / Maria / Enrique Villanueva / San Juan, Siquijor, the Philippines

March 27 – 29, 2018

So near yet so far. Such was Siquijor from Ki’s hometown in Negros. During his walks along Dumaguete’s famous seafront boulevard, he wondered about the faint strip of land on the horizon. Somehow, it took decades for that curiosity to make the quantum leap to urgency. And it took a leap of faith for me to board a glorified banca run by GL Shipping Lines. The short distance between Dumaguete and Siquijor stretched to the longest hour in choppy seas.

Maayong Buntag Siquijor! @ Oceanview Farm & Cottages, Maria, Siquijor

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Master and Servant

Victorias / Manapla, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

November 30, 2017

Lay theologian C.S. Lewis once pondered, “What are we to make of Jesus Christ?” In as many ways as history would allow, so it seemed. In two sugarcane plantations north of my hometown, there were a couple of chapels that represented two contrasting images of the Christ in their artworks.

The Angry Christ Chapel (top) and Chapel of Cartwheels (bottom) @ Victorias and Manapla, respectively

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My Chinese Character

Yangshuo County, Guilin, China

September 4 and 6, 2017

Was it the Dalai Lama who said “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck”? Our last morning at our remote Yangshuo hotel, Riverside Retreat, was supposed to be a quick check-out. Nature foiled our plans. Rain started pouring in sheets at breakfast. As travel surprises went, our detention at the hotel turned out to be a stroke of serendipity.

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The Guilin Gang: Quinn, Koller, Binu, and TTT @ Riverside Retreat, Yangshuo County

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Memories of Macau

Macau, China

February 1, 2018

“Everything is a memory. Everyone becomes a memory,” I waxed nostalgic on Facebook. Even a place could become a memory. My first visit to Macau in the early 80s was marked with colonial nostalgia. Stone and clay were a stark contrast to the steel and glass of Hong Kong even then. Macau had since moved on 35 years later. Skyscrapers had broken out of its skyline, but it had done a better job at memory preservation than its sister city.

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TTT @ Cathedral Square (Largo da Sé), Macau

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