Friday’s Photo of the Week (Happy Birthday Mom)

My mom has an important birthday in a few days… and I won’t be in attendance.

My life seems to take twists and turns that most lives don’t. I could have depleted most of my funds and made it home for the big day, but instead I rented a room in Chiang Mai, Thailand and sent her my warmest wishes.

Me, Mom and Dad on the 'Royal Walk' at Changgeyonggung, Seoul, South Korea.

Me, Mom and Dad on the ‘Royal Walk’ at Changgeyonggung, Seoul, South Korea.

She’s an amazing mother and grandmother. And not too shabby of a traveler. During the trip to South Korea to see me (and then cruise back to Canada), she picked up a few words or Korean, did her best to interact with the locals and won over the students at my old school with Canadian gift bags stuffed with knickknacks and trinkets from Canada.

Mom, chopsticks and Pad Thai.

Mom, chopsticks and Pad Thai.

Plus she became pretty adept with chopsticks.

Happy birthday Mom. Sorry I didn’t make it back, but I know you’ll understand and that you’ll be surrounded by friends, family and most importantly, your grand kids.

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Friday’s Photo of the Week (RIP Michael Simning)

Michael and me getting acquainted at Speakeasy, Gwangju, South Korea.

Michael and me getting acquainted at Speakeasy, Gwangju, South Korea.

I only met Michael a couple to times. The first time being on a cold, snowy Korean night in Gwangju over five years ago when I went there to meet up with a Chris Walker-Bush. We’d been friends for years online, but now it was time to meet in person and hit the town.

Inevitably CWB, Corbett and… the other guy… ended up at Speakeasy and that’s where I first met Michael.

Within 5 minutes the banter and insults traded like old friends and the conversation only got drunker and more inappropriate. Clearly I had found a kindred, filthy-tongued, spirit. When CWB posted the first pic, Michael wrote “I fucking hate Canadians” on my wall. I knew he was joking and found it hilarious, because Michael originally came from Canada before settling in South Korea, getting married, becoming a father and welcoming any and all expats who ended up within the boundaries of Gwangju. One of my Facebook friends from Canada didn’t find it entertaining and sent him an email saying something akin to, “How dare he say bad things about Canadians, eh!” Which caused both of us to laugh harder.

That’s my Michael Simning Story… and one I fondly remember to this day.

Cheers Michael. Thanks for the Gwangju banter n' beverages.

Cheers Michael.
Thanks for the Gwangju banter n’ beverages.

Sadly, Michael passed away earlier in the week, losing a lengthy battle with cancer.
Others who knew him better and longer will supply more details, but Gwangju and all of South Korea is a slightly grayer place with his passing.

Cheers to you, Michael, you bespectacled, foul mouthed, glorious bastard!

Friday’s Photo of the Week (Monks in Laos)

One of the general rules in Buddhist countries it to not take pics of monks without permission.

It is a bit of a tricky conundrum since I am not a fan of posed photos. I prefer to capture the moment as it happens. I still try to respect the local traditions.

Sometimes life offers up opportunities too good to pass up…

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Such as in Vientiane, where the wats are big and the number of monks required many, so trucking them about between temples becomes a necessity best suited to a sawngthaew (literally ‘two rows’) pick-up truck.

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And when the young saffron-robed monk hoists up his own digital camera… on the banks of the Mekong en route from Pak Beng to Huay Xai… well… that’s just an invitation to snap a pic back.

Friday’s Photo of the Week (Tropical Shave)

Byron and his beard.

Byron and his beard.

For over two months, since midway through Movemeber I proudly sported a goatee, then beard, in an attempt to stave off the brutal Chinese winter. It worked, mostly. China gets *cold* from November through to February.

In Yunnan, it wasn’t a major issue but things changed when I hit Laos.

Laos, beautiful, lovely, tropical Laos.
With my beard and my backpacks combined with the 30+ Celsius heat, sweat dripped off my face and ran through my lush locks like a leaky spigot.

Byron without his Beard.

Byron without his Beard.

I inquired in Luang Prabang about getting a shave but 20 to 30 000 Kip seemed too steep, instead I bought myself a 13 000 Kip pair of scissors and attacked the wild mass of facial growth myself.

I’ll miss my beard, but I enjoy changing up my look and style now and again.

Plus, its already growing back.

Friday’s Photo of the Week (Caricature Mao)

Living in China for the past year I learned one very important thing, Chairman Mao is the MAN!

Peace out Caricature Man Mao.

Peace out Caricature Man Mao.

Forget his horrible failed Great Leap Forward, and a slew of other missteps, in China, the masses revere the great and powerful Mao. His image appears on posters, t-shirts, hats, pretty much anything and he always *ALWAYS* appears regal and educated and important.

My visit to the tea fields of Puer didn’t pan out due to my lack of Chinese, but for the first time in over a year I did find someone in China with a sense of humour regarding the venerate Chairman Mao… that alone made my visit to Puer well worth the trip.

Peace out Mr. Mao!

***

And I never could have posted this from China.
Thank you Laos!

Friday’s Photo of the Week (Chinese Train Toddler)

After a week in Dali (which I LOVE) it was time to head back to Kunming and continue on my southern adventures.

Making friends and playing games.

Making friends and playing games.

For 60 Yuan ($10) I bought a hard seat that took 7 1/2 hours to go 250 klicks… more or less. Imagine my surprise when my ‘hard seat’ meant a sleeper car with four bunks, the top two stuffed to the rafters with bags and 7-8 people cozily wedged onto the bottom two bunks.

One little girl really loved my iPad, so for the sake of this adorable little girl and the sanity of my fellow travellers we played Angry Birds, Civilization Revolution and watched some videos. (She loved the dinosaur ones from Hong Kong enough to clap).

My only real question, why did the train stop 500 meters from the Kunming station and wait for 45 minutes…. just so it could be ‘on time.’ Early is acceptable!

Friday’s Photo of the Week (Baiju Lie-Down Street Protest)

Planking to prove a point?

Stretching out to prove a point?

China throws up the entertaining mixed with the perplexing with outstanding regularity.
Yesterday as I wandered the streets of Kunming in Yunnan Province I happened upon this gentlemen. He stretched out across a narrow alley to protest a car driving down the street. Now, I don’t know if the car attempted to go the wrong way or what but he shouted his indignation at the offending vehicle with great vehemence! That’s the front corner of the car in the bottom right of the pic as the driver backed slowly away from the drunk protester.

A simple solution presented itself when 3 Chinese police officers simply grasped the man by the scruff of his coat and dragged him

Scruff-o-tha-neck road clearage.

Scruff-o-tha-neck road clearage.

out of the way. When someone came to assist the planking objector his immediate stagger to sprawl confirmed to me this was likely a baiju fueled demonstration.

Gombei!