Thursday, November 29, 2007


Manila! Now in the Philippines.

I do wish I was back in China because of the eternal awesomeness that transpired. Thank you, forever, to Wong, Kong, and the DL for such a great trip to a completely foreign world. And for DL for embarrassing Wong and I pretty much everywhere. People would hear him speak Mandarin and they'd ask us, why does the white guy speak such good Mandarin and you two Chinese guys don't?

We'll be back though. We'll be back.

Things I learned after being here in Manila:

1. I do not need any form of jacket, coat, sweater, or anything with long sleeves. It's pretty warm over here (27 deg C, or about 81 deg F, at like 100% humidity). I bought some shorts immediately, and now I need to find some sandals.

2. There is a typhoon blowing over the islands right now. It makes things very humid (sweaty) and also cancels lots of classes for my cousins. My aunt thinks I've brought the typhoon to rain down on them. Fortunately, they're thankful because that means no classes and sleeping in for them! Ha!

3. The air is cleaner than in China, but parts of the city are quite ghetto and dirty.

4. Thievery is really bad here. I've been warned by pretty much everyone not to take my camera around with me to some places that we go to. That means, sadly, there will be less photos this time around, at least while I'm here in Manila.

5. Maids do the work, not me. I can leave the dishes on the table, I don't have to wipe my mess up, I don't have to dig around to find the trash can to throw away my napkin. And the driver (my aunt has a driver) is totally badass on the road. You don't mess with the guy driving a 2 ton ginormous SUV.

6. After working on my photos, I have a lot more from China than I originally thought.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A moment, please

Things I have eaten while in China:

1. Shanghai style dumplings, the kind with the broth and soup still inside. Even some with shark fin in it, ooooh so delicious.
2. Giant dumpling with (mostly) broth. They hand it to you with a straw sticking out of it. Think of the Tropicana orange, except replace the orange with a giant dumpling. You just drink the soupy stuff. Yummy.
3. Lamb on a stick (street vendor). 5 yuan each (about 71 cents). I love lamb on a stick.
4. Pan fried Shanghai dumplings, just like the regular steamed ones but browned/seared on the bottom. Crispy and broth mix together so well. It's freaking hot though, so you have to wait a while before biting into it.
5. Stinky tofu (moldy tofu). It smells horrible, but tastes pretty good.

6. Turtle. Before and after photos, check.
7. Pork feet. I don't know why I never ate this before, because it is FREAKING DELICIOUS.
8. Various kinds of fishes.
9. Shrimp that was just alive 5 seconds ago.

10. I don't know the exact name for it, but I just call it "Dong Po Ro" (always said in English with a thickass Hong Kong accent), basically pork shoulder with a thick layer of fat on top. You bite into it like a layered sandwich, the fat and pork meshing together into an orgy of flavor. Yes, an orgy.

11. Thousand year old soup. I don't know the real name, but I call it this because we joked that they haven't washed their soup vats in millenia. Hence, the awesome flavor.
12. Some kind of weird berry that looks like dirt on twigs picked up from the ground.

13. Congee of all kinds and flavors. Century egg, whole crab, chicken and corn, leek and muscle (don't know what kind)
14. Snake. Snake is amazing!
15. Goose. Think of a duck, but huge. Same tender and flavorful meat, same deliciously crispy skin, just so much more of it because geese are so much bigger.

16. The best duck in the world (for Thanksgiving!)
17. Duck hearts... are fantastic.
18. Scorpions. Crispy crispy.
19. Ass. Literally, I had an ass-meat sandwich. Tender like slow cooked pork, more flavor than beef, almost as good as Dong Po Ro.
20. Sea cucumber. I've had it before, and once again, unremarkable.

Probably lots of other stuff I ate and forgot. These are the ones that are most memorable.

Tomorrow: To Philippines!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The new title

So my buddy Cianar came up with a freaking hilarious title for this trip. I'm traveling with two old high school friends, Stephen and Ling, and well, their last names lend itself so easily to the best trip sub-title ever.

Wong and Kong: Detectives for Hire, Wong and Kong and the Pregnancy of the Century, Wong and Kong Versus Mad General Dark, Wong and Kong's Peruvian Holiday

Wong and Kong in the Circus of Guilty Delights, Wong and Kong Fight Breast Cancer, Wong and Kong Versus Doctor Darkone's Ninja Robots, Wong and Kong and the Mystery of Lee Hester's Missing Testicles, Wong and Kong Join the Fourth Reich, Wong and Kong Bible Adventures...

The list goes on forever!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Down for the count

... 8 ... 9 ... 10! *ding ding ding* K.O.!

China's food (or something really bad) has finally taken me down. The little bug is stronger than the French one.

This is the soup that assassinated my bowels.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Living the Shang-high life

Shanghai rocks my world. I am living it the f*ck up.

So much so, alas, that I don't have time to write. I'll just have to bring back stories when I see you back home.

Already passed through Suzhou, Hangzhou, and now am in Xi'an.

Hope everyone is well back at home~

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Holy Roman Empires, and beyond

Walk with me...

After spending what would be possibly the best days of my life hiking, relaxing, chilling in the company of fellow travelers, I headed to Rome.

Rome ain't such a big deal. The Vatican is pretty awesome, but the city of Rome itself, not really too impressed with it. Trevi Fountain was nice, but the rest of it ... eh. Just felt like walking through it, never felt like sticking around to see what we've all seen in photos and postcards all our lives.

I'm back in London now, and this officially ends Europe 2007 for me.

Photos, as always, at the Flickr.

Tomorrow, I begin Asia 2007, starting with China!

After China? The Philippines, and possibly various other South Asian countries.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

From dream to reality

*Warning* If you see the photos in this post, it may very well ruin this place for you. Might be better to go to the place yourself. Plan your trip for a place called "Cinque Terre", and just go. You won't be disappointed.

You've been warned... Read on for what Cinque Terre is, and some photos of what it looks like.

Ever had an image of something in your mind, an idea of what it would look, feel, taste or smell like before you even came into contact with it? Then, when you're there, next to it, on it, nearby it, or whatever it may be, did it fulfill your expectations, and manage even to exceed them and become something much better, filling you with a kind of happiness, bursting forth as an uncontrollable laughter, creating within you a ceaseless fountain of joy and bliss?

Well, I should start from the beginning.

So I flew out from Amsterdam---which, by the way, is an absolutely magnificent city for its beautiful canal-based architecture, rich history and vibrant art housed in its many museums, unforgettable CouchSurfing people, and for its liberal attitude, which invariably includes the organically grown and the many deliciously baked goods that are created from it---and landed in Milan at about 11 PM because the flight was delayed. The Italian transportation system's penchant for being late will bite me in the ass again later.

Couldn't find a CouchSurfer this time because this weekend is, apparently, a holiday weekend. It's Halloween and All Souls Day (Nov. 1st) so everyone is on leave or hosting friends. Bit worried since I know that it's almost midnight and the metro system is bound to shut down soon, as it does all over Europe. By the time I got to the station where I needed to change lines, the line I needed was closed. Damn. Expensive taxi time. It's raining cats and dogs, and I'm not too excited to be here. I head to the hostel listed in my Lonely Planet, and luckily, even though I arrive after the curfew, they are still open and welcoming.

Next morning, I get up and head to the dining room for some free breakfast (woo, free!) and meet Conrad, a Canadian passing through Milan, and Clara, half German half Californian, as she describes, on a semester break from her studies. I ask her about this place I keep hearing recommendations about from other travelers I've met, Cinque Terre (pronounced, CHIN-kweh TEHR-re). She mentioned that she's headed there next, and that she's staying one more day in Milan because there aren't any beds in the Ostello 5 Terre for the night. She also recommended that I just call and see if they have anything, and I thought, well, why not try? I've only got a few days left before China and I'm not sure I want to spend them in Milan, a city obsessed with its fashion and looks.

Call up the hostel using my handy dandy Skype, and the guy tells me, "Yes, we have seven beds left. Where are you now?" I tell him I'm in Milan.
"Well, you should hurry and come by because we don't take reservations under one week ahead and if people come, we will run out."
"OK, thanks." Click.

Off to the train station, I buy my ticket to Cinque Terre and hop on the next one out. After about three hours on the train (and a fabulous nap later) looking out the window gives me a glimpse of...

Il Mare! I can see the sea again! And the sun! How great to see it shining in the beautiful blue sky, which I haven't seen for over a week. I look out the other window and I see... green covered mountains, and small houses sprinkled sparsely between the vegetation. The train finally arrives in a small city called Monterroso. I'm supposed to change trains here, so I get out and wait for the next one, which comes by about 20 minutes after. Finally arriving in the city of Manarola, I jump out of the train, and head toward the main street of Manarola, then up the street toward the hostel.

I see other backpackers heading up the hill. I walk faster to pass them up ...

Arriving at the door I see that... it's closed. Well, it opens up again in 15 minutes, might as well put my bags down and wait. The two backpackers come to the door. They're both from Australia, Guy and Donna. Door opens and I move inside. Woohoo! There's still a bed left. Fantastic! I put my stuff in the locker and explore the place. Top floor has a roof that... is open! I go outside and it hits me...

Cinque Terre - The 5 lands. 5 small towns, each with population under 1000 (including tourists, except for Montessoro, which is nearer to 2000), all built on cliffs that overlook the sea, individually charming, collectively breathtaking.

This is exactly what I envisioned Italy would look like. This is exactly why I came to Italy. I'm filled with absolute bliss and can't help but smile at my surroundings and how utterly beautiful it is.

I would try to say more, but I think this will explain it better.

Amazing, no? It's like a dream come true.

Want another one? Of course you do.

How about another city, say, Vernazza?

If you ever go to Europe, you cannot afford to miss this place. The food, the people, the rustic cozy atmosphere and the nature and trails... Amazing.

As always, head over to the Italy photoset yourself to see more.