To New Readers,

This blog documents, by way of writings, photos and videos, my ongoing love affair with South Korea. While that tryst continues, I am currently having a fling with Japan as well. Sorry Korea, I'm a two-timer after all.

I'm staying with a friend in Shimizu of the Shizuoka prefecture. What's in Shimizu? There's a bicycle that I rode to the harbour to be surprised by a view of Mt.Fuji in the distance. There's a cat that stalks around the yard with the kumquat tree, persimmon tree, and three other fruit trees that I cannot recall, and it just mews (the cat). There's a restaurant that serves good donkatsu where I ground up some sesame with a small wooden pestle in a small wooden mortar to dump into my donkatsu sauce. There's a dollar store, I mean 100 yen store, that sells some nice fabric tape and my favourite brand of caffeinated gum. There's a smell in the air that reminds me of the apartment below my old one in Toronto. There's a place where I tried on some jeans and spied someone pick up my shoes and turn them around because I had left them facing the wrong way outside my changeroom.

Oh, and before Shimizu I visited Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Kyoto and here are some photos of all that action, but don't worry I'll return to Korea soon enough, and hopefully she won't be too upset with me.

Spooning A Deer

Nara

Deer Fight!

Roots

Glico Man

Taiko Game

Elevator Wall

Posters

Posters

Posters

Graf

Okonomiyaki

Tori

Foxes

Fire Prevention

Cozy Restaurant

Mi-ke Neko

Osaka Sewer Grate

Osakajo

Osakajo

Ferris Wheel

Whale Shark At Kaiyukan

Tako

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

Takoyaki

Takoyaki

PS. Thanks to whoever for the klog nomination.

Here are a few more pictures from the Philippines.

Ilocos Sur

This is on the road to Vigan in the province of Ilocos Sur. Travelling by bus is arduous even in an air-conditioned ride as most places of note are five to eight hours apart. Watching the scenery is a welcome distraction.


Vigan

This is Vigan. A city with much colonial architecture that has somehow survived.


Cattle

Here's a cow quite common in the Philippines. It was a nice change to be surrounded by farm animals.


Bamboo Antenna

My cousins have put some bamboo to good use here.


Tricycle Blur

Tricycles are a common mode of public transportation. It's a motorcycle with a covered side car.


Swimmer

We were in a boat exploring the "100 Islands" when the boatman's cousin clambered out of the water, stayed a while, smiled at us and dove back in to swim to the nearest island. I'd like to know what his life is like.


Lingayen

This is a beach on Lingayen Bay. I have good memories of my grandfather taking me here. It has beautiful sunsets.


Jeepney

Jeepneys are large jeeps resembling army trucks. You climb in the back and sit on a bench facing the other passengers. Drivers will routinely take fare passed passenger to passenger up the bench and make change while negotiating perilous traffic.


Firework Guard

We came across a fireworks market. In the centre was this colourful tent underneath which was a guard with a machine gun and a videoke (karaoke) machine.


Fireworks

Some pretty fireworks.


Fireworks

Some pretty fireworks.


Tomorrow, I take a train crossing South Korea to Busan, then a hydrofoil ferry to Fukuoka, and then a train to Osaka. My life feels a bit unreal these days. See you in Nippon!



We took the boats up the river alive with rabid piranhas and Goliath anacondas as the jungle threatened to tumble down and hunter tribesmen peered through the foliage aiming poison darts until beyond the waterfalls we met the giant ape and struck him down and wrested seven ancient stones from his mammoth hand to make our way back downstream shooting past rocks and hidden shaman and returning to the civilization waiting for us.

Later I knocked a tooth out on a concrete waterslide.

Songs:
1. Battles - "Race In"
2. Akron Family - "Lake Song - New Ceremonial Music For Moms"

On December 6th Manny Pacquiao defeated Oscar De La Hoya with a TKO in round 8. I watched the fight via satellite at a community center somewhere in Manila. The place was packed wall to wall. It was a great way to see the match.

Saltwater, exhaust, dogs, cats, rats, geckos, palm trees, water buffalo, roosters, tricycles, jeepneys. Children living in the filth of the streets. Malls of dimensions that swallow up the outside. Beaches made for solitary encounters with the Pacific.

Sitting in a cold, South Korean apartment, the thirty-one days I spent in the Philippines are distant already; a prolonged hallucination. I expect to turn over my pillow to find beach sand, or have a coconut roll out from the fridge as proof that, no, it wasn't a dream, I really was there. You could trust these photos as evidence. They are all of Manila:

Laon Laan

Quiapo

Quiapo

Quiapo

Quiapo

Quiapo

Pasig River

Pasig River

Pasig River

Pasig River

Intramuros

Intramuros

Intramuros

Intramuros

Intramuros

Intramuros

Intramuros

Intramuros

Intramuros

Pasig River

Intramuros

Somewhere in Manila

Somewhere in Manila

Somewhere in Manila

Manila Bay

CCP

CCP

I think of Manila as one of the many ageing drag queens she is home to. One who is equally repulsive and charming, has seen it all before, and will tell you about it while blowing smoke in your face. Decrepit and abandoned art deco buildings hint at some sort of heyday, elapsed but still visible in the smog of the past. Every surface has layers, all equally faded and chipped. It is all covered in soot, if you can call it that, though it is certainly something different altogether when you blow it into a handkerchief as some alien, malignant goo. On buildings the patina of pollution is pretty like Paris, and while it can be beautiful to look at, Manila can be difficult to be in, especially for tourists like me. Gridlocked in traffic, the air stings your eyes and lungs. On foot, the pavement is uneven, threatens to harm your ankles and send you sliding on something wet into a ditch or sewage trench. Even so, I am told that it is a safer place now, not what it used to be.

Though she hasn't revealed herself to me yet, I sense that there is a Manila deserving of all the mythologizing perpetrated by old Western men high on drugs, fumes, young flesh and seedy life in cockroach infested bars. In some water-damaged apartment the anecdotes are reality. I'll just have to visit again someday.

That's Manila. Of course, I did other things too.

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