May 27, 2012

The Parable of the Singing Bastard

I went to see Marvel's The Avengers at a movie theater in Seoul. When I went to the ticket counter, the staff objected to my being there and began to gesticulate wildly. I did not understand what the commotion was about until a kind Korean gentleman behind me pointed out that I needed a ticket just to line up at the ticket counter. He walked with me and we retrieved a numbered slip such as the ones found at banks or visa offices. As there was no one else in the lineup, my number came up immediately and I was able to purchase my movie ticket. While we waited for the film to begin, the man and I made small talk.

Me: What do you do?
He: I am bastard.
Me: No, I mean what is your job?
He: Bastard.
Me: Umm...
He: Pray to God.
Me: Oh, you mean pastor?
He: Yes.


He: What you sing about Korea?
Me: I don't sing about Korea.
He: No, what you sing about Koreans?
Me: I don't sing... oh, you mean what do I think about Koreans?
He: Yes.

May 17, 2012

Words of Encouragement

A Chinese girl was inquiring about the status of the Indo-Canadian Temptation in Korea.

Chinese girl: Hi sen sen. How r you? did you got a new gf? 

Me: No gf yet. A few failed attempts so far, but they were entertaining. Most are afraid of me and run away.

Chinese girl: HA~~~~LIKE WHAT I THOUGHT,U DON’T GET ANY ONE~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~U  SUCK~

May 16, 2012


As darkness falls in Bangkok, its bustling markets full of food and clothing give way to markets of flesh and a lack of clothing. It is a city of dichotomies that is representative of much of Asia these days - a collection of lands whose age old cultural fabric is giving way to a global mindset. The cosmopolitan city is a good introduction to the changes sweeping through the continent, a place where the past struggles to maintain relevance amidst the onslaught of a future that promises unparalleled opportunities and creature comforts.

Bangkok bookended my journey through Southeast Asia, as it was the alpha and omega of my loop through Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. I had plenty of time to leisurely explore Bangkok's different neighbourhoods from Chinatown to the backpacker dominated Khao San area, taste its succulent selection of street food, and witness Muay Thai kickboxing bouts, among other activities.

Distinctive temples adorn the Bangkok-bisecting Chao Phray River, with Wat Arun towering above them all. The Grand Palace features con men feasting on tourists outside its gates and an image of Buddha carved from a single piece of jade in a temple within. Another famous Buddha reclines inside Wat Pho, his gold leaf covered body and 46 meter length the envy of Bond girls and basketball players alike.

Ram, an enterprising young man whom I had met in Beijing, graciously hosted me in Bangkok. His apartment in Sukhumvit was within walking distance of the subway and metro stations and seedy nightlife areas, but I sometimes splurged on the handy motorcycle taxis that ferried customers to their destination for a few coins. Ram even had a spare phone which he let me use to keep in touch. I lost it on my second day in town, and he made me buy a replacement.

May 14, 2012

Tonle Sap

The Southeast Asian equivalent of North America's Great Lakes is the Tonle Sap, a mammoth freshwater lake spanning nine Cambodian provinces and its neighbouring nations. The lake functions as the beating heart of Cambodia, shrinking and swelling according to the seasons. During the monsoon season the lake expands from 2700 square kilometers to almost 16,000 square kilometers, rising 8 metres higher than dry season. Water cascades into Tonle Sap from the Mekong River like Americans into a Taco Bell restaurant in Seoul.

Tonle Sap can be poetically translated from Khmer as "Large Freshwater River". The major source of protein in the average Cambodian's diet consists of fish caught here. The Cambodian currency, riel, is even named after a certain type of fish. Apart from being critical to Cambodia's economy, the Tonle Sap is also spectacularly beautiful. I hired a boat to explore this UNESCO biosphere for several hours, stopping by at a fishing village.

The locals reside in stilted homes designed to survive the ecological phenomenon of a lake whose direction of flow changes twice a year. I stepped off of my boat onto a stilted platform. Crocodiles snapped their massive jaws at me from an opening underneath. I wandered around, stopping briefly to examine a bottle of snake wine, before hopping back to the safety of my boat.

The lake provides both fertile ground for farming and plentiful fish for eating. With fishing and agriculture the mainstays of their life, ecotourism provides another source of steady income for the Cambodians. All visitors, irregardless of whether they happen to be selfless heroes dedicated to the cause of alleviating global inequity through education, are encouraged rather vigorously by the boatmen to purchase supplies from the local shops and donate them to one of the orphanages or schools in the vicinity.

May 06, 2012

Heads of State

Five thousand years ago the first Yandi ("Flame Emperor") ascended the Chinese throne. He was credited with introducing basic agricultural techniques and herbal medicine to the masses. The last Yandi was defeated by the first Huangdi ("Yellow Emperor"), who also got a lot of accolades for bringing about the invention of the Chinese calendar, astronomy, and character writing system. In the Chinese doctrine of five phases, fire creates earth, and yellow follows red, so everything fits together quite nicely. At the Yellow River Scenic Area near Zhengzhou, these two legendary figures have been immortalized in China's homage to Mount Rushmore.

A massive man made square separates the two stone figures on the mountain from the mighty river, which was barely visible due to the heavy fog. On the square, a reenactment of a royal procession kept me occupied for some time. A bevy of long haired beauties were dressed in colourful ethnic wear. After the show was over, my travel partner Swathish and I climbed swiftly to the top of the mountain to examine the two large sculptures of the emperors heads. On the way down we took a more circuitous and relaxing route, stopping three times.

The first stop was at the viewpoint from which Mao had stood and declared the Yellow River to be of great strategic importance. The second time was when we happened upon a fine artist who could very quickly modify traditional water brush paintings he had prepared in advance and add personalized calligraphy to them. Impressed by his handiwork, we commissioned the artist to create several parchments. The third stop was when several Chinese girls spotted me and asked me to pose with them for some pictures. Always the gentleman, I gladly obliged. My travel partner stood to the side, simmering with quiet jealousy.


"Arnab reveled in the some of his favourite items - Chinese beauties and concrete monsters." - Swathish

May 04, 2012

Finger Bowl

I was sitting at a restaurant in a Beijing alley with my coworkers when a dirty bowl of soup arrived at our table. One of my colleagues seized the opportunity to recount a Chinese pun:

Several friends were sitting together at a streetside eatery when the waiter arrived with a bowl of piping hot soup. His thumb was halfway submerged in it.

"Your finger is in the soup!" exclaimed one of the disgusted customers.

"Don't worry." the experienced waiter calmly replied. "It doesn't hurt."