Monday, January 29, 2007

Miss Saigon

My brother’s recent trip to Ho Chi Minh City got me into dusting off my photographs from my trip there last year and put them here. Enjoy!

Lunch Vietnamese style, rice paper noodles with beef in piping hot soup.

Roadside vendor, from noodles to fruits to cakes.

Dilapitated fishermens shed by the beach at Phu Quoc island.

Beautiful firery sunset at Phu Quoc island.

Everything can be sold in a basket on a bicycle: fruits, potatoes, brooms.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Wedding Dinner

Chinese wedding reception is normally quite a drag. As the concept of time does not apply on these occasions, everyone is fashionably late. There are too much pomp and pageantry like food presentation (Just serve the god damn food, I’m bloody hungry!) and video presentation. God forbid there might be karaoke! Some guest who has a couple too many and decides to do the drunken rendition of some sappy love songs. Oh what a torture that is. Finally the saving grace, the nine-course meal for which everyone is there for (yeah I know, aside from celebrating the couple’s holy union), turns out to be the last straw to seal the failure of the evening ceremony.

Sometime in last December I went home to attend wedding reception. It was the wedding banquet of a secondary school close friend, SH. (Damn, another one got away!) I braced myself for the worst as I headed into the restaurant.

The guests filed in slowly and of course, late. By the time everyone was seated, we were already half an hour behind schedule. Then the happy couple made their grand entrance. The deafening music score of the Japanese cartoon Doremon cued them in. That was romantic! The first course was finally served and the chatty chatter earlier was now replace with clanking of cutleries as well as the sound of the guests gorging and chewing rather violently. It must be said here indeed the food was decent, it was very good in fact. Yummy. The worst was about to come. Yes, someone actually climbed up the stage and started the drunk belching. Later so did the groom, professing his undying love to SH through a gooey number.

But at the end of the evening, I found myself actually enjoyed it. I even did not mind the karaoke! There was an underlying sense of simplicity, warmth and intimacy throughout the reception. It was very welcoming and homey. Everyone was please to be there and everyone was there to celebrate the nuptials with joy and love.

First when they greeted me at the entrance, we actually got to catch up on what’s new in our lives and walk down memory lane a bit. We had a laugh there and then. SH looked gleaming and natural and comfortable. No crazy big hair, no inches thick of make up and not bogged down by an elaborate gown.

As funny and irrelevant as they walked in accompanied by a cartoon tune, to me the happiness and joy of that moment was overwhelming. SH and the husband simply walked in holding hands with gleaming smiles. They are happy that they were in this together. And together we were happy for them, as they have found each other.

Highlight of the evening perhaps was when the newlyweds and the parents went from table to table receiving toast from the guests. At each table they shared endearing stories of SH when she was a baby or a toddler. Then, the father of the bride proudly introduced the son-in-law to everyone. Hand shakes and hugs, followed by raising the glasses and the rowdy calls of yum seng (cheers in Chinese) and jolly laughter.

Last but not least, the food was scrumptious. We cleaned up every single dish served. It was really tasty. Yummy.

An evening of celebration of love, with good company, warm ambience, intimate setting, delightful feast, endless laughter and free flowing booze. How could anyone not have a ball?

Congratulations again my friend. All the best.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My Belated Merry Christmas

There is something incredible about receiving a belated Christmas present from afar in the mail. It comes when you least expected it, such a delightful surprise! You are instantly overcome with this indescribable and incomprehensible joy. Well, it’s like Christmas morning again. You are excited to rip apart the wrappings to see what you got, and even more anxious to find out whom sent this late gift. It makes your day and all day you will have this idiotic grin on your face that simply cannot be wiped off.

Then there is this romantic notion of receiving a care package in the mail. There is someone out there cares for you very dearly and thinks about you during the festive season. Like holding a cup of hot chocolates with both hands in a snowy winter day, such wonderful feelings warm you up gently. Slowly it turns you mushy and sappy inside, like the mush mellows in the hot chocolates.

I was a super huge mushy and sappy cornball with a big fat idiotic grin last week.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Home Alone

My brother and the wife came back from Ho Chi Minh City yesterday afternoon. With that, ends my home alone days, no more walking around the house naked.

I have been dreaming about getting my own place and living it large alone. Naturally I was pretty excited about having the whole place to myself. It’d be a taste of solitude life. It’d be great (and liberating).

But as excited as I was, I had nothing particular planned for it. No big bash, no wild nights, just a few quiet days.

It was indeed uneventful, nothing out of the ordinary, except that I drove to my brother's car work and came back to a dark empty house by myself at night. Everything was normal like any other nights. I made dinner, I watched TV, I surfed the net, I read a little and I went to bed alone. It was pretty sad really: a thirty something, single and ready to mingle guy, who has a place to mingle, has no plan but spending his nights alone. What’s more pathetic, it was the same sort of solitary confinement routine on Friday and Saturday nights! (I feel like killing myself as I’m putting these into words.)

Then I realized that I did not utter a single word in the past few nights. Well there was simply no one to talk to. I was holding up pretty good for the past few nights being silent, but I’m not sure if I’m cut out for it for the long haul. (Well I should have at least called someone to yak through the night.)

On the weekend I did a bit of cleaning in the house. That turned out to be quite a workout itself. I sweat buckets and easily burned off my seafood pasta with cream sauce dinner the night before. I was so beat I skipped my weekend swim even.

Another thing about cleaning the house, the amount of dirt from one sweeping of the place is amazingly huge. My brother is a clean freak and he just cleaned, no he polished the place last weekend. I could account for the hair, but where the heck were those dirt and dust coming from? The rate of accumulation is fast beyond believe.

So that’s the sneak preview of living solo in my bachelor pad a couple years down the road. I did enjoy the peaceful solitude (and walking around the house au naturel) but I think I should start looking for a roommate now, hopefully a smoking hot nudist chic.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shitty Business

We have heard umpteenth times from the Western travelers in Asia whining and bitching about how tough and strenuous it is to shit squatting down and how backwards such toilets are. “Haven’t they heard or seen a toilet seat?” “What’s up with the squatting toilet?” “These squatting toilets are the worst thing you encounter in my journey.” “I just don’t understand how they crap squatting!”

Yes you don’t. And you never try to understand either.

Just that something is different doesn’t make it wrong. Just that something you don’t normally do or you’re not good at (read: suck at), doesn’t make that any less good. Squatting in fact is an imminent part of the Eastern culture and lifestyle. The Vietnamese squat down by the road side or shop front eating their meals. The Indians squat by the river doing their washings. The Chinese squat around everywhere with friends smoking, yakking and spitting. And yes, Asians squat down to shit! There you go. Asians are simply so used to and so comfortable or so damn good at squatting.

While taking a crap on the porcelain is comfortable and easy but Asians like doing their business squatting down. So what? You have a problem with that, too bad. Maybe you are just weak. And since you come to our turf, the one who should be adaptable and embracing the difference is you, not us.

So give the whining and bitching a rest now, squat down and shit.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Taking the Plunge

There we were in Bali. Nope, we were not hitting the beach or riding the waves or visiting temples. We were off for some adrenaline fix. We were going bungy jumping.

Truth be told I was not totally down with the idea. In fact I’ve been dreading this the whole day. It was not the plunging off a 45m platform that I was afraid off, it was the height that’s going to kill me. I’m afraid of height big time!

It was too late and not to mention too wussy to bail now. We’ve paid up and the guys were shitting talking already. We had a drink at the hotel bar while waiting for the pick up. I know the waiting and the anticipation would make me shit in my pants and chicken out so I volunteered to go first. No, I demanded to go first!

By the time we got there, I was absolutely resolute to jump first. I thought my knees would go jello on our way up. They didn’t! My heart was pounding hard and fast but I wasn’t sure if that was the fear or the Bintang I downed before. Even when they kitted me up, I didn’t feel a thing. I look afar into the sunset! I was all ready.

I bunny hopped to the edge of the platform. This time I looked down. Dumb move! I knew I shouldn’t but it was a reflex reaction, totally involuntarily.


That hit me like a wall, head on. God that was freakin’ high and freakin’ scary!

“I can’t do this!”

“Fuck it, I’ll do it!”

Hands rose a part to the sides forming a cross. Body leaned slightly over the edge. Eyes stead fastened into the horizon.

Deep breath… Deep breath… Happy thoughts…

The jump master counted me down for the jump: “5-4-3-2-1-Jump!”


I was still on the platform. My hands found their way to the handrail, gripping it tight. Another reflex reaction, totally involuntarily.

“Chicken… pok pok pok…” The guys were boo-ing me.

A couple of moments collecting myself

Second count down: “5-4-3-2-1-Jump!”

And aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh…..

I leaped off and scream my head off.

Scary? Yes, for that few nanosecond of free falling. Then a quick yank upwards by the bungy cord. I was dangling like a rag doll and I was still screaming like mad! That was it. Quick and painless. Thrill? Yes, but that lasted too quickly too, very much like you know what, wink!

Feeling alive afterward? Yes

Kissing the ground? Yes.

Grateful for the cord? Yes.

Happy? Yes.

Do it again? Oh yes!