The Baijiu Bard

…tales from the Far East

Long Awaited Update 2: Journey to Thailand May 29, 2011

Filed under: Asiatic Ramblings — citizenfrost @ 8:32 pm

 Chang Saen comes into sight through the shimmery haze, golden Buddha statues 30 feet high, towering spires peaking out from the jungles, smiling Thai faces everywhere… Thailand: a totally new land to explore, to experience. We take our first tentative steps in this strange new place, getting our entry permits just up from the dock a bit. As we step from the air-conditioned, official looking port authority building we realize that we have really no idea what to do once we got to Chang Saen – more laughter at our situation, “who cares! We’re in friggen Thailand!”

 

After a few cursory direction inquiries we decide to head toward the large intersection and just hitch hike, as there are no more buses running today. It takes only a minute before we’ve flagged down a passing truck, the ever-smiling Thai faces looking out from within gladly offer a ride to 5km outside of Chiang Rai, an hour’s ride. Perfect. We pile in the back of the pick-up, laughing all the while, totally enamoured by the surreality of it all. We arrive without a hitch – har har har – 5km from the city as promised, not 30 seconds pass before we are in the back of another truck, the driver from our previous hitch informs the driver where we need to go as she spoke very good English. More laughter, more adventures into the unknown.

 

Where Chang Saen was small and quaint, Chiang Rai was large and obtrusive, packed to the brim with sun burnt farang and Thai locals alike, each trying to acquire some version of real life and selling some fake version of real life in their own respects. We are assaulted on all sides by sweltering heat, bustling bodies, and the neon lights of an explosive night life. Which pales in comparison to Chang Mai’s own mass insanity – our next destination, which we head to with all speed. Hitching another ride outta town, in the back of another pick up truck with three other occupants… and a psychotic speed-demon for a driver. Terrifying? Yes. Life-affirming? You bet. Got to Chang Mai in 4 hours? You better believe it. I saw my life flash before my eyes more than once. But we survived the roller-coaster ride of exhilaration tinged with the sharpness of fear and glossed in adventure. Hell. Yes. I’ll have another, please.

 

Long Awaited Update 1: Journey To Thailand May 21, 2011

Filed under: Asiatic Ramblings — citizenfrost @ 9:04 pm

 

I have been slacking in keeping up with my blog posts, much has happened and I have been greatly consumed with the Art Studio. I will begin by filling in the blanks. A few weeks after going to the temple I lost my bank card and as a result was unable to return to the temple, with only a month left on my visa I decided to focus on my art, spending long hours painting. I managed to attain access to my online banking and had at long last a route to my money, just in time to head to Thailand for a visa run. We booked passage on the SS River Polluter, a large cargo ship which makes a tri-daily run down and back up the Mekong. But it would be days before we were actually on the river – our bus broke down, five times, we were seven hours late and missed boat, losing a day in Jinghong, where I actually ate Donkey Stew, surprisingly very tender and delicious. This was farthest south I had been to date, the tropics began making themselves evident, monkeys and palm trees – actual palm trees! You’d be surprised by how excited I was to see proper palm trees in the real world.

We arrived the next day at the port after a 4 hour bus ride to Guan Lei, a no frills village with few things to keep the bored traveller entertained. Which shouldn’t be a problem for us as we were to leave that day at three. Which turned into five, which turned into seven the next morning, which turned into twelve pm, which actually was four pm – a full day and a half spent stuck in port, on a manky old cargo boat watching the workers slave away in the sun. Whatever, we were on the freaking Mekong river in the actual Golden Triangle waiting to make that most lucrative of river journeys! Not to mention the cheap local beer might have helped stave off the boredom.

Finally, the boat took flight and we ditched our chinese ties and headed deep into the South East Asian jungle. Heading for Thailand, with Laos on one side and Myanmar on the other, it would be another day before we would make port in Chang Saen a small northern Thai city. The changes in the landscape became more apparent, smallish up and down moutains revealing themselves around every bend, giant slabs of stone spearing upward out the river itself, narrowly avoided by the skillful hands of the boatmen. As the sun began to set on that first day on the river boat, the sky took on a firey pink hue, lit ablaze by the hazy atmosphere, the river became a torrent of crimson as it reflected the Vulcanic sky above. The air was cool on the boat as we made a fair clip down the ancient trade route that was and still is the Mekong. We laughed and drank heartily, enjoying the time given us to just watch the jungle pass by. Fantastic.

 

Powerful Moments

Filed under: Asiatic Ramblings — citizenfrost @ 3:04 pm

Life is filled with powerful moments, some appreciated, some missed, some remembered, some forgetten. I am possessed now by such a moment – sitting on a stone path in a forest of gnarled, twisted trees, the distant sounds of the abandoned urban work intermingling with the sounds of the mountain. A cacaphony of birds calls, bugs buzzing, chirping squirrels, a thousand rivulets leaping and bounding noisely around me; an arching bridge to my left gracefully suspended above a zen-pond, catching the countless steams of snow-melt water, trickling down a stone faced waterfall, disappearing into the woods below. Perched on a slight rise behind me rests an ancient pagoda, fully-loaded with all the appropriate Daoist accoutrement, a moment of jealousy spurred by the thought that this pagoda has access to this glorious view for ages unknown while I have but a moment to take it all in, and if I spent an entire lifetime seeking to appreciate this I would surely come up short.

My eyes drift close as the sun’s warm embrace takes hold, the lullaby of the buzzing bees sends me into dream land.

And I dream green dreams,
of green rocks,
submerged in a green pond,
filled with green fish.

 

Kung Fu: The Legend Is Born March 3, 2011

Filed under: Asiatic Ramblings — citizenfrost @ 7:08 pm

My travels have, at long last, taken me to far-off Old Dali, Waterfall City: on one side you have Lake Erhai, big, blue, and shining, on the other you have a great wooded mountain with Shinto-buddhist temples nestled amongst the hills and valleys of the rising slopes. A city which calls unerringly to artists, musicians, writers, poets, warriors, transient hippies, enlightened souls, and smiling rogues alike. A city like no other. It is here that we are called, a clarion cry blasting forth through our beings until we finally come to rest in this most holy of places. I have come here without so much as knowing that it was meant to be so, my soul has yearned for this place, silently urging me onward towards destiny. I gladly answer the call.

In the short time I have spent here, I have met such people here, nobles borne say true – gunslingers and sorcerers, god kings and philosophers. I have found a community, welcoming arms spread wide, beaconing me. The Dali Hump – a corner of pure paradise, Eden found: the hostel turned home, the strangers turned friends, the friends turned family. Managing the Art Studio, painting, writing, creating, manifesting. With the ending of each week I bid farewell to those I quickly come to love and welcome those unsure of this strange Bohemian Kingdom, as was done for me by others who have realized the full power contained herein; where minstrels and painters play or paint for room and board, like the days of yore we have found our way back by hoof and foot. Glorious is the power of rebirth!

I now begin my studies of Shaolin Fist Kung Fu, demanding of my body, my mind. Beginning each day as the cresting sun breaks across the land like a great golden deluge, we run – we run and we sweat and we focus, stretching both the limits of our physical bodies and the limits of what we thought possible. Utterly surprised to find such a miraculous location, the temple is a nod to days gone by. This is a testing of the self: as the caterpillar, once trapped within his trans-formative prison, reborn unto the world anew – through pain and trial, struggling to become a glorious creature of the blue sky-world. Leaving behind all which he has known, leaving behind the mundane world of feeble belly crawling across unfeeling earth and rock – Icarus born unto the sky, reaching forth toward the golden kingdom on high. Welcome to my butterfly’s existence. No more trapped within the confines of my self imposed prison, welcoming the warming touch of the sun’s golden rays, soaring mightily toward the future.

There could have been no better place for me to continue my “post-secondary” studies, Wu Wei Si: founded by a young Shaolin monk some 20 years past, bringing to the far south the discipline and training he received from those far-off fabled temple grounds. He is a man given to a great smiling disposition, laughing and welcoming all those who wish to glimpse the work he has wrought, feeding those who have the inclination to stay a while. His student, my teacher, HappyCloud as his name translates, is a man of unwavering strength and resolve, given to bouts of raucous laughter, rallying the younger monks and softly urging the weak-bodies foreigners into finding the limits they so furiously built for themselves were merely skin deep. His skill is unquestionable, his strength intimidating – especially for a man of only 5′ 8” – impressive doesn’t begin to describe it. He is like a young Quai Chang Kane, for those that know the reference, wise and patient yet possessed of a steel-hard demeanour. He is one bad ass mofo. The students, young, uncaring, highly skilled, like real world Lostboys: ChungLong, only 13 and mastered all 20 katas – I myself having only finished my first kata and now onto the second – teaches the other boys the various arts of weapon play: spear, sword, hooked swords, whip and more are all within his realm of knowledge – also the unofficial liaison to the foreigners as his command of English is astounding. The two twelve year olds, who are more interested in play than strict mastery of Kung Fu, instead of matching teddy-bear costumes they wear the orange of those dedicated to a monks life. Lee, the 22 year old whose only been practising nor for 6 months but looks as if he’d practised his whole life, the Rufio to ChunLong’s Peter Pan. And if they are Pan and Rufio then surely I am John, curious and intelligent, decked out in all his gentlemanly livery – top-hat and spectacles and sleeping shirt abound – eagerly swabbing his face in their pseudo-tribalistic warpaint ready to do battle with pirates at a moments notice.

Bloody brilliant.

 

Putting the Rad into Radcliffe February 10, 2011

Filed under: Asiatic Ramblings — citizenfrost @ 7:01 pm

Summer – thats right, it’s summer in Yunnan – isn’t the same without your glorious sunshine companions; friends who are more than friends, past life family/lovers/enemies/allies, I miss my soulkin… Those people who are intrinsic to your life, that without them, it’s all merely empty experience. Ever has it been the way for the questing knight-errant: longing for things of home, familiar hunting grounds, old haunts. But for the him, there is a higher call, one he must heed at the behest of all others; he must venture into the world to do great deeds, slay terrible beasts, gain strength and glory and honour; to prove his worth and to show his mettle, that he is worthy of his noble heritage. Ever does the questing knight-in-shining have an eye to his distant homeland horizon, dreaming of his fated return to familiar lands. But in this wide world of super speed consumerism/productivity the easy going village life of old isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still there if only you look a little deeper: nothing more than a tucked away corner in a fast-paced moneycentric city.

Ever have my footsteps brought me back, no matter how long the road, how arduous the journey, Radcliffe remains and will ever be the final waypoint in the journey. It is not defined by spacial or temporal placement in the universe, for it is the truth of our existences that resides within our souls, for good or ill, we are bound. Time and space are an illusion, all that exists is now. I’m already by your side, sharing a laugh and remincing about the good times, close your eyes and when they open I’ll be in front of you once more. Live mightily and freely, let not your mind be bound by circumstance or society, exalt ye in existence.

 

Habitual, Poetical, not-quite Political February 9, 2011

Filed under: Asiatic Ramblings — citizenfrost @ 11:42 pm

Like a child, born unto the world, I stumbled into sunlight…

My face was warmed as if for the first time, the smell of summer blown upon a pleasant breeze roused the bamboo garden before me. Kunming. The capital city of Yunnan province. No wonder there are so many people round these parts of the world, its bloody beautiful. Paradise. Surely Eden found upon earth. I meant to leave for Dali today but once I arrived at 7am with naught but a t-shirt and a backpack, I opted to take a slower pace sooo I ‘ll have a couple of nights of rest before I make the last push to the Temple.

Maybe I’ll rent a bike tomorrow…

I spend the day walking the streets and gardens and markets and alleyways of Kunming, in a constant state of pure bliss. “It’s February!” I keep saying to myself as I laugh at the first butterfly I see of the year, at the rice paddies green with the years first crop, at the blooming cherry blossoms beginning to dot the trees along the waterway. I am utterly blown away and find myself laughing at the sunshine through the leaves more often than not, taking in the glorious warmth.

Damn I love being Calgarian: only from coming from a city where the winters are a perpetual icy darkness dotted by tiny glorious bits of warmth can you truly appreciate the summer sun shining so brilliantly in February. I soak it in – more so than the average passerby that’s for sure. I am stuck at a crossroads of being able to take advantage of these hours I have to write and desperately wanting to frolic in the warmth of the evening with all the intriguing people in this most excellent Hostel. Which I forgot to mention before, Cloudland: a four story building in the shape of an ‘L’ with an enclosed garden giving the whole place a very Babylonian-hanging-gardens feel to it. I could spend my whole life in this place without ever needing to leave.

Brilliant.

 

The Not-So-Forbidden City and Other Adventures

Filed under: Asiatic Ramblings — citizenfrost @ 6:28 pm

I have taken my first tentative steps as the backpacking writer-traveller – a journey into the unknown: a blade’s edge romance of the psychotic and the utterly breathtaking, and in the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” words to live by, and thus I shall. Where will this path take me, what adventures and treasures await me along the way? Only future-Kyle truly knows, but that bad-ass time-traveller’s tale is for another day.

The dawn is glorious, childe, will you rise to meet it? The trees whisper truths if you care to listen…

“A man’s life is already written, he must move through it as destiny will.”

Leo Hostel.
The perfect traveller’s hideaway. Tucked away in a nearly miss able but totally unmistakable corner a mere stones throw from the Forbidden City – though I dare not throw a stone anywhere even resembling the Forbidden City lest I wish an early demise. I rendezvous with the Dynamic Duo: Deev’s McFly, Devo, Lucky number Slevon, The Dandy Bohemian, who we name Astro, and White Flower Stomp herself, Bonzi Brandy B, Brado, Bai Lan Dee, The Nuveau-Zen Bohemian, who we name Clover. I am in Beijing for but a day and a night so we take advantage of the time we have together, friends found from far away are well cherished: we sup, we laugh, we sing. Glory.

We find ourselves making our way on a fast-forward tour of the things that are wicked in Beijing, namely The Forbidden City. Which I must say is truly impressive, a testament to the iron-strong will of the Chinese, standing for thousands – if not MILLIONS – of years. I make my way around the 9999-room palace belonging to the Son of Heaven, though now open to the public as a major tourist attraction, I am compelled to remain outside. I am not the Chinese Emperor, nor am I one of his euniches, concubines, or consorts and unless given explicit permission to do so, I’ll not idly step into the Son of Heaven’s house – I’ve spent a thousand life times NOT entering the Forbidden City upon pain of death, one more lifetime won’t hurt. Straight up.

But that doesn’t stop me from taking pictures!

40 hour train ride interlude: in a severely cramped bunk, in a car with annoyingly loud teenagers, all trying to get the attention of the neat looking foreigner with the pony-tail – that is not to disclude anyone else on the train straining to catch my eye. For the introspective writer it can prove… distracting. And by distracting I mean that I pretty much have to prove my manhood/awesomeness all day long. Which is fine by me, but in such cramped quarters it wears on you after a while. By the end of the train ride I had made 100 plastic friends and 1 truly good friend, Uncle Wong, he’s the man. Too much Baijiu for this Bard though can bring about some intense head aches, but at least I’ve still got my face and that’s worth a lot in China, and a good friend is priceless – headaches and all.