Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I Tried to Exercise Today

I tried to exercise today. 

 To tell the truth, I had kinda given up on exercise. I've had the same view as Donald Trump has had on the body and physical activity. Our president believes that there's only so much activity a body can give, and so if you exercise, you're using up that capacity. No kidding. That's what he thinks. My choice wasn't caged in such illogical sophistry. I'm just lazy. 

 Well, I had an interesting day today, topped off with a refusal to allow me to exercise. My goals for today's errands were to buy some new business shirts. I've recently been given some new responsibilities at work wherein I have to go out and sell my company to corporate clients. I'm not perturbed by this task; selling stuff is what I'd done for 20 years before becoming a teacher. Whilst in the midst of this dressware shopping, I looked up and saw a basketball. 

Basketball. My favorite sport. In my 20's and 30's, I used to go out and play in pick up games two or three times a week. At the time, if I could do nothing else but spend the entire day on the basketball court, I would be entirely happy with that. Basketball was my release. Nothing better than to get all your muscles moving for a few hours, and better than working out a gym. Basketball has a purpose. See, one thing I've never understood about "working out" is that there's no achievable goal. Maybe in the long term, but who's thinking about that when you're on some boring treadmill? With basketball, you do a lot of running; you have to. Point being, it's cardio-vascular with a purpose.

  It's better yet when you're good at shooting the basketball. As I've been doing that since age 11, and have been taught by some pretty good coaches over the years, I'm a pretty good shooter, and I was shocked when I went out onto the court today and shot the basketball for the first time in a couple years. 

I couldn't even make a lay up. After a couple minutes, I realized what the problem was. The key aspect of shooting a basketball consistently is muscle memory. That muscle memory was still in place even though it had been 4 years since I'd played the game. The memory was the same; the muscles had atrophied. I'm just not built like I was before. 

I watch Klay Thompson nowadays and how effortlessly and thoughtlessly he releases his shot, that was like me 10 years ago. Time is the ultimate opponent. I was finally starting to get a feel for how weak my muscles were in comparison to the last time I'd went shooting (again, my technique and stroke were that of that of 35 year-old Joko) when the facility where I was found someone whose English was good enough to tell me to leave. 

As I've written about before, I was very excited to see that a well-maintained basketball court was 1 block from my house. That was 6 months ago. It was only today that I strapped on my Nikes and went to play. 

The facility was actually a seminary. A Chinese Christian seminary in the midst of urban Yangon. And these double-minorities couldn't see fit to allow me to exercise for the first time in a long time. I got chased out after barely breaking a sweat. I think I need to contact the head seminarian. If I explain, tell them I'm an English teacher, that I'll share my English teaching with them, they may let me stick around and shoot some hoops.  

I remember the high-schooler who lived across the court in Dallas when I was just akid. We had the only hoop on the street. He told me, whilst coaching me how to the play the game, that you never leave the court without hitting your last shot. It's bad luck. 

The Myanmar guy was smiling while telling me I had to leave. I ignored him and concentrated on my free-throw. On my second try, and first and last make, I adjusted for the muscle memory and swished it. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Returning to Amerika?

From my 2nd to last eg, and perhaps the most scenic.
The Lao trip has been over for a while now, and I've finally gotten around to finishing up the video series. Scroll down to the bottom of the blog to see the latest videos. 

The end of one journey, for a perpetual traveler like me, means really just one thing: where to next?
My next holiday will be in December. the The 11th through the 31st. Three weeks! 

Where to go? Places I've never been before come first to mind. Vietnam. China. Sri Lanka. Maybe Nepal, Bhutan or Mongolia. These are all places that aren't that far from my home here in Burma. 
Having a beer over the river.
That kinda epitomizes my time in Lao

Then I read on Facebook that my sister and her family would be going to New Zealand for Xmas and New Years. Well, let's check out the prices to go to New Zealand. Relatively speaking, that's not that far away either. Less than $500?!? That's cheap! 

Thing was, there was a big offset in our vacation times. I was off two weeks before they'd be in NZ. What to do with that time? My first thought was to go to Indonesia again. I've been there 4 times in the last 3 years, but it's such a huge country, there's lots of it still to be
A gaggle of Chinese men in suits at 6:30 Am. Huh?
explored. I looked into it, and even though it's halfway to New Zealand, it would have been costly. 
Money is always an issue. 
Another thought. What about going home? Back to America? 
Trans-Pacific flights are a competitive business these days, and I was able to book a Bangkok-Los Angeles flight for less today than it cost me to come to Asia 5 years ago. What a deal! Yes, I'm going back home. 

A rough pic of my December itinerary. I'm going to spend a lot time on planes.

In 6 weeks, I'll be back in America for the first time in almost  years. Here's what I'm looking forward to, in no particular order:

1. Fast food... sure, you can get McDonald's, Burger King or Wendy's in a thousand places in SE Asia, but it's not the same. It tastes... different. 

2. Southern Californian Mexican Food. Again, Mexican food itself can be had all over the world, but there's nothing like a Roberto's carne asada burrito from San Diego. 

3. Being able to go into pretty much any clothing shop and finding something that fits. Sure, I'm a bit of "big and tall" shop guy, but the very idea of what "2XL" means in Asia is very different. 

4. Seeing the family. My nephews are on the verge of the adulthood. Mom and Dad are in their golden years.

5. DVR. This one's kinda strange, and I don't plan on spending a lot of time watching TV, but I got my first Tivo box back in 2002. I've had access to a VCR since the 80's. Here in Myanmar in the 2010's .why is it I have no ability to "pause" what I'm watching so I can go pee? I can't program a device to watch something later on TV. I suppose that nowadays, with on-demand streaming via the Inernet, this recording ability itsn't so important. I can watch, for a fee, lotsa stuff when I want to, but how is that recording technology isn't here? 
Hang on, I gotta go pee. 

So here's part 12 of the Lao journey. 

Part 13 was my first "final episode" edition that didn't have any airport footage. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wow! It's Lao 11 - Phonsavan to Vang Vieng

Bringing it on home here in the final stages of the Lao journey. After a day of rest in Phonsavan, it was time for the longest leg of the journey, still just a modest 234 kilometers. I thought it might be boring, being in the heart of the country, not that far from the capital.
Something in me thought that you had to head to edges of a country to find it's most scenic places.

Not so! All of land-locked Laos is a hilly country and this part was no different. Simply amazing landscape. 

My routine on the motorbike was the same throughout the whole journey. Ride for 60 to 90 minutes, then take a 15 minute break.
I found lots of little restaurants and resting places between towns in this otherwise lightly-populated country. 

At first glance, dog or cow? 

The town of Vang Vieng was not on my original plan. My Vientiane guide suggested my final route, and I was not disappointed.
Just outside Vang Vieng
See, Vang Vieng has a bad reputation, at least for anyone 30+. Back in the day, this was a backpacker haven - a place for drunken gap-year travelers to flout local customs and be a bunch of besotted boobs. After a bunch of tourist deaths, the gov't cleaned things up.

The Lao backpack. Strap a basket on  your back.

I remember a friend, Anthony, telling me about Lao before I went there. He told the story of locals running down the street, waving bags of marijuana in the air, trying to sell it to him. Well, that friend looked like a hippy. Me, nowadays, not so much. Still, I'm actually a bit disappointed that not a single offer came my way to sell me weed. Do I look that old?  

I was not disappointed by Vang Vieng. There's a good reason why a place becomes a tourist destination - in VV's case, it's the tremendous topography. 

Enjoy the video.  


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wow! It's Lao 10 - The Plain of Jars

After several days in a row of traveling, it was nice to stop someplace and not go anywhere. I was able to get my laundry done, enjoy the finest hotel in Phonsavan and go on a remarkable day trip. 

That day trip was out 30 km or so to Site 1 and 2 of the Plain of Jars. I dunno how they say it in Lao,  but the jars are very large stone receptacles. The Plain of Receptacles doesn't really roll off the tongue.

A tree has grown up through one of the jars. Amazing!

These 2000-year-old stone buckets were used to... well... that's still a matter of debate. 

Watch me visit the mysterious Plain of Jars here...



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Wow! It's Lao 9: Xieng Thong to Phonsovan

Being a former French colony, Lao is known for baking pretty good bread, which I thought I would sample for breakfast. Simple stuff, my French roll was served with sweetened condensed milk - instant donut! 

I was a bit worried as I mounted the motorbike for this next leg of the journey. The guy I'd rented the bike from back in Vientiane had cautioned me that this route, particularly the second half on Hwy 13, could be problematic. Being so high up, it's subject to mudslides blocking the road, which he described as quite narrow. Furthermore, the rain clouds tend to stall and cling to the hills, meaning I'd likely face some bad weather. 
Driving through the clouds.

As it turned out, I saw a few mudslides, but none were insurmountable on my fancy enduro bike. The road showed signs of recent widening, and although I drove through a lot of fog, the weather was wonderful.  

I rolled into Phonsovan in time for lunch, and being a bit of tourist town, there were several nice restaurants on the main strip.
I didn't realize it until after I'd been sitting there a few minutes, but the decor of the restaurant (Craters) was bomb casing themed! This part of Lao was heavily bombed during the Second Indochina War, and un-exploded ordinance is everywhere. 

Having traveled a few days consecutively, I had given myself two days to explore the Phonsovan area, which you'll see in the next blog and video. 

Enjoy Part 9. 


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wow! Its Lao 8 - Nong Khiaw to Xieng Thong

This leg of the journey took me to the least heralded place of the whole trip, Xieng Thong, or Muang Hiam, or Thakon... so many names for one place... 

Pigs, water buffalo, cows, goats, dogs... the most dangerous road hazards in Lao were on 4 legs.

in any case, it was a stopover on the road from Nong Khiaw to the Plains of Jars, which you'll see in the next video, and so whereas there wasn't much to do at the destination, the road there was beautiful. 

I visited the Nam Et National Protected Area, the site of Laos' last remaining breeding population of tigers in the wild. 

After visiting the protected area, what else was there to do in this multiple named town? The market was the obvious choice. 
Finally, I found a nice riverfront restaurant that had a menu in English, and I enjoyed a nice dinner of larb. 
My waitress,
Larb, or laab, is the national dish of Lao. It's minced meat with seasonings. 

I asked that they made it not too spicy. Maybe they understood that and toned it down, but in any case, I still found myself in tears finishing it. 

Enjoy the video. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Wow! It's Lao - Part 7: Luang Prabang to Nong Kiauw

After spending two nights in Luang Prabang, I was eager to get back out onto the road and continue my ride through the beautiful Lao countryside. There at the tail end of the rainy season, the foliage was at maximum greenery. Verdant doesn't come close to describing how lush and fertile the landscape was. 

The story goes that once there was this woman with a gigantic vag... no.
Once again, I wasn't facing a long motorbike ride, so I was able to take in a few sights along the way. First of these was Mount Phusi there in Luang Prabang itself. You must my excuse my inner 12-year-old for laughing at the name "Phusi" (pronounced poo-see). In any case, the view from the top of the hill (it's a hill, not a mountain) was fantastic. 

The view from Mount Pussy
I was a bit worried when I got to Pak Mong and I had turn off the wonderful Lao Highway 13 that I'd been on since Paklay and onto something called Highway 1C. The "1" was encouraging, but the "C", not so much. It turned out to be a fine road, not that my CRF250 couldn't have handled anything. 

Eventually, I got to the river valley town of Nong Kiauw. Wow. What an amazing place. The rock cliffs jutting upwards out of the valley, I hadn't seen anything like it since my last trip to Yosemite. 

Enjoy the video.

I Tried to Exercise Today

I tried to exercise today.   To tell the truth, I had kinda given up on exercise. I've had the same view as Donald Trump has had on ...