East Before South: Travelogue04

East Before South: Travelogue04

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East Before South is the tale of a very long trip that began, innocently enough, with a fabulous party in Rio de Janeiro. The journey will take you on a ride in rattletrap buses, dugout canoes, camel trucks, army convoys, sea ferries, and clapped-out trains. It will take you through places not on any map. With hundreds of (sometimes) irreverent travel anecdotes of the kind you just wona€™t find in any other travel book, ita€™s the unvarnished truth. It will show you the world the way it really is. From Rio, the road took me across the heartland of Brazil to Belem at the mouth of the mighty Amazon and upriver into the heart of the jungle. Then down the coast for the Carnaval and further down still, hugging the beaches, toward Argentina and Buenos Aires. Tango. To the very tip of the continent: wind-blasted Patagonia. Up again, a yoyo trip, north to Salta, and through the unofficial border to Boliviaa€™s wild west. Then: a transcontinental flight to Europe: family and friends in Poland, then a€”Quickly!a€” across the Baltic Republics to the Russian border, where I was arrested and deported before I could properly enter the country. Two days later, back again, toward Moscow again, and farther east still, always east, on the Tran Siberian Express bound for Ulan Bator. A weeklong journey across the wasteland of Siberia to Mongolia: there are roads there, yes, like there are tracks on Mars. The Mongolians have a saying: a€œTwo Chinese are worth one Korean. Two Koreans are worth one Japanese. Two Japanese are worth one Mongolian.a€ But that, of course, is a lie. South, then, toward Beijing and then more south to Shanghai and more south still to Hong Kong: stopping in places for reasons that are never specifically clear, the road taking me ever farther from the beginning. Hot-air balloon over Guilin. Then Bangkok in a blur: after a day of intensive culinary tuition, I can now burn Thai food with as much efficiency as I burn everything else. Then an island where I've been before a€”Ko Samuia€” which is no longer the same. Back to Bangkok. To Borneo. Back to Bangkok. To Manila. Then Alaska. Then half-neglected, half-lost, the ancient city of Leh: prophetic words on the roof of the world, their truth distilled to its crudest essence. Then, finally, South Korea: a€œThe Soul of Asiaa€ as proclaim the tourist slogan slapped across the fleet of taxis that cruise the wide boulevards of Seoul. From Korea, from Japan, around the Ring of Fire: Taipei, albeit ever so quickly: touch-and-go, really. KL for a massage. Singapore for the Singapore Sling. Then from the coffee plantations and volcanoes of Java to the primary rainforests and spiritual smorgasbord of Sulawesi and Bali: surfersa€™ paradise. Indonesia encompasses over 13, 000 islands with 336 ethnic groups and a borderless rainbow babel of different languages, cultures and traditions. In addition to coffee-colored Hindus, Christians and Buddhists, this is the home of more Muslims than all the Middle East. Linking the islands is the lingua franca of Bahasa and an underlying songline of history: animist religions are uniting threads that cross oceans, adding layers of meaning to the word a€œmulticulturala€. Here some Muslims drink beer and arak in addition to java; some worship Buddha, Vishnu, Krishna, and Jesus in addition to Allah; while others leave offerings to good and evil pagan spirits (tourists included). In fact, clutched in the talons of the mythical Garuda, the national airline and state crest, is the motto a€œUnity in Diversitya€. I muse about that in an undertakera€™s shop, where he sells coffins and Coca-Cola side-by-side, and at the same time, it seems. There was much more. I hitched rides on logging trucks and dugout canoes, traveling often alone, crisscrossing language-zones and time-zones, transfixed by an idea of the worlda€b, a way around it. The fourth book of the Travelogues, qEast Before Southq is a story of that trip.Heather and I both lug around mobile phones: we could make this easy ... Only we dona#39;t: neither one of us feels sure how we can get them to work in the local phone-network. Instead, we buy a cheap phone-card and before ever leaving Rio we commence calling a number we have. ... We use a blue pay-phone before the train a€”with a toot of its steam whistlea€” rolls out of a€” 20 a€” 20: INDONESIA.

Title:East Before South: Travelogue04
Author:K.K. Pierscieniak
Publisher:el_Traveler Media - 2013-12-13


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