Inter-Realm Enclosure


a terrestrial European purgatory,
the terminal encloses
our transient souls
airport air, static and stale—
yet mobile and mosaic in its own way
spiced by the respiration
of thousands of earth’s denizens
worldly forms internalize and effuse
the captive atmosphere
that’s outside the outskirts of Stockholm

the Earth is near, but
only through periodic intervals of glass slates
can I scale such a realm
humbly sized hills span the horizon
covered by conical Scandinavian spruces
pointing towards the billowy clouds—
landscape that backdrops a Lufthansa aircraft
its wheels roll across the black tarmac
the winged carriage designed
to transcend mortal beings
towards the heavens above


the layover void entails
indoor insularity arrests the experience
the Swedish landscape, untouchable
the Stockholm cityscape, unperceivable
so describes my brief survey of the area
the only kind I truly know

I entered what’s technically Sweden
with but a smattering of regional knowledge
my first flight’s carrier screened Scandinavian factoids
the most memorable slice of the montage
informed me that Celsius was a Swede

I absorb minute observations
of my short-lived, transient sojourn
conscious that most in-transit concerns float
within the vacuum of myopia

removed from the comfort zone
of my home country’s currency
I calculate equations of divine banality
given variables: products and exchange rates
duty free: alcohols for sale, for outside EU borders
Euro accepted: after a Euro fee, crown trade encouraged
authorities from the material world
still control materialism’s realizations
in the hub of purgatory

I thus avoid acquiring additional matter
to my accompanying earthly possessions
packed into the parameters
of the airline’s weight and dimensional limits

American, I appreciate the English inscriptions
printed on café menu selections
continental reminders spot my surroundings
European English: A “Favourites” sign indicates sandwiches
European beer: A Staropramen bottle glows emerald
European water: An umlaut dots the o


a dialectal smorgasbord
simmers within the airport café
stews of words spiced with “mit” and “und”
hint of Germanic ingredients
“s kockou!” three nearby Slavs remark
about domesticated bestial entities
that enhance our planetary existence

I wait as I watch
a slew of summoned souls
queue up
to pass beyond gate 14-b
slowly they migrate
towards their aerial carriage to elsewhere
I sit waiting in anticipation
for my turn to come

I monitor the nearby monitor
which has yet to announce the gate,
my threshold of liberation
to advance to the next level
another world awaits beyond purgatory
my turn will come

Travel from NYC: Four Ambivalent Factors


New York City is a fascinating place to travel—and travel from. Living within a locale where constant change permeates controlled chaos amidst a sea of countless cultural influences can be as riveting as it is tiring. Many New Yorkers may say it’s hard to travel, due to demanding jobs coupled with the high cost of living. Nevertheless, NYC is not the worst place to feel trapped, as there is often something, somewhere in the five boroughs left unexplored.

Read more.

Costa Rica: Town, Cloud Forest and Volcano


The small town of Bagaces, Costa Rica, is a pleasantly relaxed place.

However, try not to get stuck there on Good Friday. It’s a major holiday, making the buses few and far between. Scant travel options was something we discovered that very day, by waiting on at the edge of town for several hours in the heat. I did not take a photo there, as it was nothing to see, but we got to know a street-side bus stop quite well. Finally, we crossed the street and hailed down a bus going the opposite direction, just to get out of Bagaces. The driver overcharged us because he could see our desperation and we ended up in the city of Liberia.

Upon entrance to the bus terminal in Liberia, we were hot, sweaty, disgruntled, and wanted to get out. A bus was leaving soon enough for Playas del Cocos, a destination of which we had no knowledge,  but decided to take a chance.


And it wasn’t so bad.


We met a man from Montreal who relocated to Cocos and ran a Lebanese food stand in town. He instructed us to walk along the rock formations to a secluded white-sand area. There we went very early in the morning.


Though it was an enjoyable, spontaneous time, Playas los Cocos is not somewhere I’d recommend ending up on Good Friday, either. It’s apparently a huge vacation spot for people who live in Costa Rica, which is fun and festive, but accommodations are scarce and prices are inflated.

At least the place we stayed had a cat, Cleopatra.


The place we stayed at in Monteverde the next night was more worth it–given this was the view outside the balcony. At night, I even noticed an armadillo scrambling around the ground.

Of course it’s not about just staying at the  that’s not the best open view of the trees.


Naturally, climbing up into the hills to watch the sunset is more worthwhile than hanging at the guest house.


Some of the establishments, like this art camp, display intriguing little structures that play on capabilities of human creativity with nature. Like this gazebo, which resembles trees, and is made out of trees.


Even better, of course, are trees that haven’t been re-appropriated to show trees. At the Tropical Cloud Forest, life is abundant, but sometimes difficult to notice in the lush density of flora.


Look up, and it’s the same tangled case.

Note: watch out for Spider Monkeys atop. They tend to throw down strange items when they are eating.


Or, for falling trees.


At a mountain in the clouds, elevated water vapor must go through a physical reaction, thus fall, at some point.

After Monteverde, we journeyed by van to boat to van to La Fortuna.


Finally in La Fortuna, several journeys presented themselves within, for instance, upwards on a volcano.


Some of the mud was rather clay-like.

This part was through pasture lands lined by flowery bushes, with cows grazing and butterflies flapping throughout. Occasionally, we’d pause by a guided tour group observing intriguing cases of ecological niche phenomena to listen in on some information–such as ants carrying pieces of leaves or flowers to create fungal concoctions for their colonies’ functions.


That open part was steep, but the real challenge came up the muddy, more root-covered area toward the top.

IMG_1234[1]Then it was a toppling time down.

Simmering Back: New and Old

So, it’s been about two months since I’ve been back. At first, it was strange adjusting back to this culture. The weirdest thing was the dimensions of space-to-human usage.

In most of Southeast Asia, people got around by low-powered motor scooters. Here, scooters are usually luxury products (unless used by food delivery service drivers), and huge cars aremore abundant.

Rather than hundreds of drivers crammed into the same road going about in every such direction at low speeds, there are big cars driving along wide, multi-lane streets at high speeds. The American highways were at first a huge shock, but I am at the point where they are becoming normal again.

Some things I’ve been doing seem like they’ll always be the same. For instance, Grand Central, as long as I’ve known it, remains static. Maybe during times in the past it was grittier or more accessible to the public, but today, it is the same luxurious, crowded, semi-long distance train terminal I’ve always known.

There have also been some changes around town. I’ve noticed that the 99-cent pizza craze has taken off on a new level. A few years ago, they were few and far between, but now, some places even conduct price wars where they reduce the price to 75 cents to compete with their neighbor! While this cheap pizza may not be top-notch, the regular pizzerias have graced me with the beloved style of slices that I will forever compare all other pizzas to.

Readjustments have been made to American household appliances. I messed up using a drip coffee machine for the first time, but was able to figure out a clothes dryer again right away (such dryers were pretty much non-existent in Asia). Though I barely ever use an oven, it is pleasant to have that as an option once again.

Being American, it is also hard to match the endless consumer options we have at home with those abroad. Though many people live in excess, as it’s so easy to do, I can basically access any food or other useful product I’d desire.

Some things I’ve been doing have been the same. Riding the subway, going to Central Park walking around the East Village have all been similar.

The Union Square Greenmarket is an exact replica of what I remember it as. Walking around it is aesthetically pleasing, but all of the smells can’t help but make me incredibly hungry.

I’ve been to Bryant Park dozens of times, in the past and present.

However, this is the first time I’ve embarked on the carousel cat.

New things are always a treasure. I’ve ventured to Astoria Park in northern Queens. On a nice day, this is a great place to bring some Greek groceries from one of the local stores and relax on a bench. I also embarked on Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, and discovered where a high concentration of live-action cricket-playing is located. I walked along with High Line, and decided that as beautiful as the view is, it is better to go on in bad weather, when it is not flooded with tourists.

The Staten Island Ferry ride is also a new thing I’ve done. The smell of the water, views of the Statue of Liberty and sight of planes taking off and landing into the Newark airport are all pleasant.

In the Coney Island/Brighton Beach area, some of the businesses I remember have shut down to make room for new development, but the people and overall feeling of the place remains the same.

I mean, real estate developers could never kill the integrity of one’s ability to walk around the boardwalk with a cat on the shoulder!

Though I have not been itching to travel long distances lately, there are still many places to explore that are not too far away.

The End

Shrine in Tokyo, Japan
Shrine in Tokyo, Japan

So, it’s all finally coming to its end. The year and a half that I’ve spent in Asia has been reducing itself to its final months, weeks, days and soon hours, before I embark on a 24-hour plane ride back to New York City.

Bell House in Vigan, Philippines

It’s difficult not to reflect or try to remember certain themes or occurrences, even when I am in states of not being attached to the fact that it’s really happening. I’ve been traveling throughout Southeast Asia for about six months, and it’s gotten to the point where it’s become my reality, and doesn’t even feel like a trip any more. Perhaps it will feel more like traveling when I’m not actually here.

Of course there are many things I’ve learned, about myself and the places I’ve seen. I’ve gained new perspective even on being American and the United States itself.

Tiger in Kaohsing, Taiwan

This has been the longest I’ve traveled at once. After a year of South Korea, the weather was headed towards fall, where I decided to skip the cold this time around. First stop was Taiwan, where we motor-tripped around the perimeter of the island, and that was followed by an island-hopping adventure in the Philippines.

Lizard in Malacca, Malaysia

From Manila, Philippines, we flew to Singapore, quite possibly the cleanest city I’ve seen. When I was younger, my impressions of Singapore were that you’d be arrested for chewing gum or littering. When I got there, however, I did not see one cop the whole time, and people were even jaywakling. I only spent two days there before heading to Malaysia and into the cities of Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, learning about the multi-racial aspects of what makes the country what it is.

Lake Toba, Sumatra

Ten days of Sumatra, Indonesia, involved wonderful lake views, volcano trekking and hot springs. It was then we flew back to Malaysia to Penang island, then to the Cameron highlands, a low-temperature tourist spot full of green tea plantations and other assorted temperate agriculture.

Guest house window in Vientiane, Laos

A few weeks in Vietnam was a mixed experience. Then it was through Cambodia, stopping in its biggest city, Phnom Penh, then making it up to the provincial towns on the northern route. We then spent a week in Laos, starting from the south on the river island of Don Det, then the provincial city of Pakse and capital city, Vientiane. Vientiane was very laid-back and hardly a bustling metropolis, and it somewhat reminded me of Binghamton, New York, being full of empty buildings and pedestrian-less streets.

Canal in Bangkok, Thailand

We ended up in Bangkok for a week, a wonderful city of canals, cats, markets and street food. I traveled on my first sleeper train before a brief excursion to Koh Lipe, an island in the sea in the south, before making it back to Malaysia.

Anyway, most people can acknowledge that it’s not about the biggest list of places you travel or how many sites you’ve seen versus how far you got away from the tourist trail, but what you get out of it, whether at the time or during a session of reflecting. Of course I’ll emphasize the good and the adventurous when I look at pictures and tell others stories, but there have certainly been periods of downs during my travels, whether it’s sketchy food, allergic reactions to bug bites, lies and rip-offs or air conditioners breaking on boat rides where all the people are packed in like sardines.

Motorbike shop in Ulsan, South Korea

There are of course big things I will miss about Asia. For one, I’ll miss the casualness of everyday life. In America, I feel as if there is too much officialdom, that I’m always being watched and that I always have to consider the legal consequences of simple actions. Asian food will never be the same when I return, whether spiced incorrectly or just not being up to substantial quality. I’ve consumed many different versions of rice and tofu that I’ll certainly wish to eat again. I’ll miss riding a motor scooter without repetitive visits to the DMV, and checking into a place to sleep without having to give a form of valid identification and copy of a credit card before I even pay the enormous fees.

And, there are of course things I have missed about the US. It will be pleasant going back to where I can truly speak English the way it is on my mind, without modifications to people of other cultures. People, places and food are of course a big factor, but there is also the general feeling of truly belonging to a place and being part of it. There can of course be problems when you’re expected to keep up with the expectations of your society, but this is a standard that any local living in their own country has to acknowledge, whether or not they choose to follow these norms.

Toy vending machines in Tokyo, Japan

Perhaps I’ll return to Asia one day. Maybe I’ll make it to the places I’ve missed in the countries I’ve traveled, or go further on into new places like China, or Burma, or Nepal. But, for now, the time is coming to leave this travel experience as what it was. While it will likely affect me in the future in ways I may not even realize, it is an experience that is meant to have a designated start and finish.

I will make my return home this weekend. Though I’m full of anticipations, wonders and predictions, I’ll really only know what it holds after I arrive.

Vietnam Agriculture Shots

Like most places in Asia, rice is a staple food in Vietnam. Here, I find myself eating it every day.

Therefore, like most rural regions in this continent, rice is grown all over the place. Especially in flat lands, one can find so many stretches of rice fields. Some are smaller and just look like they feed families, but others look like they grow it to sell.

In the hill country of the Central Highlands, coffee is a huge crop. I learned that most of the beans are Robusta, but some are Arabica. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee exporter, after Brazil, and this rural drive certainly made it seem so.

In the driveways of this region, the farmers carry the coffee beans out to dry under the sun.

After we were out of the Central Highlands, the weather got hotter, and all of these green, dread-locked plants started appearing.

I was wondering what they were, until we got up close, and discovered they were dragon fruit cacti.

We’d been eating these our whole trip, but still had never seen one grow. Now, we were surrounded by them, and couldn’t escape if we tried.

Here is a shot of the finished product of coffee, and the finished fruit of dragon. Coffee in Vietnam is served very strong. It is given on the spot to drip right before you drink it. Often, people need to consume it with condensed milk, as the taste is too intense, but some can handle the thick bitterness and drink it black. Most of the time, Vietnamese coffee is accompanied by green tea, which helps neutralize the flavorful caffeine and sugar.

Monkeys are also fans of dragon fruit, for future notice, whenever you happen to run into a monkey and have a dragon fruit handy (and preferably a knife to cut one up). I was able to toss this piece to this monkey, in which it caught with its two hands!

This market is in the city of Dalat. Supermarkets are not common in most of Vietnam, but markets are. Even in towns that have a big supermarket, markets still dominate how produce is sold.

Apart from plants being grown to eat, there are also plants used for other factors. For example, rubber tree plantations are common in Vietnam.

Up close, it kind of looks like they are wearing visors around the tap. Sort of like the ones that older women in Korea wear, for anyone who has seen those.

Looking at them as a whole, though, they look extremely carefully planned, mathematically measured on all dimensions.

So, it’s been quite the educational experience driving around Vietnam, getting to learn about the different crops and other products I’ve been consuming here and elsewhere, where they come from and how they are processed from the earth. Even so, there are so many things I’ve eaten or seen and still not known the name of, let alone have any idea about the agricultural process it takes to create them.

Vietnam So Far

First starting out in Vietnam, we were trying to figure out what to do. We were in the central coast of the country, and as Vietnam is a long, coastal country, we could either make a move north or south. That gave us some time to check out the tourist sites around us.

This is from Marble Mountain. It was full of caves, Buddhas and candles.

We went to Hoi An for a couple days, which was probably the most touristy place so far. We drove out to My Son from there, to check out some Cham ruins.

The ride there and back was full of rice fields.

We rented a scooter went up to Hue from there, and on the cloudy ride, this was on the way there.

In Hue, we bought a scooter from another foreigner, so we had to return the first one to Hoi An. So, I got to learn how to drive semi-automatic for the first time, in a foreign country, in the rain!

Though a good skill to have in these parts, these types of bikes do not exist in the United States, so it is only a temporarily useful skill.

After returning the bike, we made a decision to head southward, as the weather was warmer.We ended up spending days riding for hours and hours at a time, observing the agricultural and natural scenery, stopping at night in small towns. Vietnam has so many visitors that even in the smallest, off-the-map villages, we ran into other westerners. During one of the rides, we noticed this foot bridge. We only took a picture of it from one side, as it looked a bit sketchy to cross.

Most of the area we passed was largely rural, hence the omnipresence of cows. In some towns, at any point, a cow, pig or dog can run out into the middle of the street while you are driving. This might be very dangerous in a car, but on bike, you have more opportunity to maneuver, plus you aren’t driving too fast anyway.

Through the hills, some of the driving can get quite windy, so you’ll be forewarned. Some signs even let you know that the area has a high cow population.

Many of the landscapes reminded me of parts of California or the Southwestern United States I’d been to. I realized how little I knew about Vietnam before I had actually come.

From the movies, I thought it was all jungle, but in reality, the natural surrounding is quite diverse.

Rubber tree plantations are quite fine places to stop for a picnic, with all of the symmetrical cleared space, plus the umbrella-effect from the top of the trees.

Apart from landscape, this is a very populated country, so lots of different types of houses and buildings line the road.

Being New

Never have I felt such a wave of personal attention before, until I entered the village of Bekasi, Indonesia. This particular town is about one hour outside of Jakarta, and able to be reached on a 35-cent bus through one of the craziest and smog-filled traffic clusters known to the driving world. Though the city limits of this place contain over 2 million people, it is not at all urban, and has a very provincial feel.

Entering Bekasi from Jakarta, it seems as a simple rural village. There are a handful of main streets with single-lanes on each side, each passing traffic side packed with hundreds of moving motorcycles and collective taxis. Single-story shack shops line these streets, selling instant coffees, chips and occasionally mobile phones.

What is more interesting in Bekasi is passing away from the main street, into the network of homes, alleys and rice fields. The main street connects this village to the outside world, but it is the interior of this village that makes it what it is.

As we walked down the dirt and concrete alleys that snake these residence buildings together, we realized that we were fascinating the locals with our foreign skin and style, and attracted a small crowd as a result.

People often executed the same English lines:

“Hello, Mister!”

“Hello Miss!”

“Where are you from?”

“What is your name?”

“How are you?”

While hearing these expressions over and over, it was an extremely hot day in the tropical weather,  so rest was often called for. Everywhere we stopped for a few minutes, crowds would stop and stare, and their numbers would grow.

Once becoming the center of a crew, the people of this village would motion the inquiry to take a photograph of you, and you would sit in a single spot, while others took their turns standing next to you, posing, getting up, and letting the next contestant sit down for the same photography round.

Walking down by some establishments of this village, I was also asked to make announcements for the local community.

If you took your camera out, many people of this village would happily stand for a photo, and then possibly ask you to take more after you have captured an image.

Apart from the human population, the number of animals was quite abundant. Herders would walk up their crew of sheep every so often, the old ones looking suffocated in their dense fur, and the young lambs frolicking along.

Stray goat families also scattered throughout this village, on the main street and in the side fields, nibbling on whatever looked tasty, whether small flowers or wrappers or leftover pieces of rice dishes.

Of course, lots of little cats also roamed around Bekasi. They formed their own sort of social network, creeping under motorcycles, striding across the sides of alleys and jumping across the rooftops.

At one point we entered the back of a small schoolyard, which was an area of grass and dirt surrounded by rows of one-story buildings. Dozens of children began to come out and have a look at a new breed of humanoids unfamiliar to their previous visual experiences.

As some of them saw our presence, the word of newcomers spread, and more and more ran out.

This ongoing pattern of being a magnet continued consistently, until I was surrounded by a sea of over 500 children. It felt like being a celebrity without any special talent, yet being so entertaining and special to the spectators. Everything I did, whether shifted my weight, opened my mouth or turned my head 20 degrees, changed their facial expressions to any range of excitement or fascination.

We had to part ways with these children, as such a thing was quite overwhelming on a scorching day.

As Bekasi is partially a rice village, we also entered the muddy bog territory of a rice field.

I got to guest-star rice farm. This is certainly a job of hard work, having to be under the hot sun all day, using a load of manual strength to beat the stalks against the board for a little bit of yield, then having to repeat this process hundreds of times.

Sometimes we can find different sorts of universes within our own planet. You can be completely unfamiliar with it existing, and get treated like an alien upon arrival, and still be confused after departure.

Compare and Contrast Travel

I have been in Vancouver, British Columbia, for 4 days so far. I have been staying in this downtown hostel that is more of a dirty flophouse in my opinion, which has been quite funny.

I realize that when I travel, I always tend to compare everything to other places I’ve been. Within a day, I made the observation that Vancouver reminds me of a combo of Toronto and Portland. I also have walked through Chinatown a few times, and decided I like it more than the one in San Francisco, less than the one in New York City, and of course more than the one in Portland, as it’s kind of a joke.

I was sitting in a park the other day on the water, and a German tour guide came by, and from what I made out of my knowledge of German, he compared the Lion’s Gate Bridge as the Golden Gate Bridge of this city, and Stanley Park as the Central Park. I have also walked down Hastings Street, which is supposedly the sketchy street of the city full of drugged-out weirdos, and decided it was no worse than Mission Street in San Francisco, or the west side of the Burnside Bridge in Portland. Yaletown looked like the Pearl in Portland. Downtown clubbing scene resembled home too.

Of course some things about this city are unique. In Chinatown, I became fascinated by this shop that had a plethora of dried-out dead animals, even though I’m a vegetarian. Never have I seen a specimen of double dead geckos on a stick!

I noticed there seem to be a lot of international ESL students, most of whom look Japanese and Korean. I notice these things because I used to work as an ESL teacher.

I also saw a seagull trying to scarf down a starfish, which is also a first. Later that day, I saw a seagull picking its beak at a flattened-out pigeon that had been run over on the street. Yum.

Well, I have a few more days in this city to go exploring. I am enjoying my time so far, and hope to run into more new stuff, or perhaps see if it reminds me of familiar places…