This is so sad…

January 25, 2007

We are back in the US and I am trying to readjust to “real life” and work up the energy to finish dealing with photos and writing things up. In the mean time…

When we met other travellers they were often surprised to meet Americans (US Citizens not the varied peoples of the two American continents) especially those on an extended trip. They think of most Americans as quite ignorant about world affairs. Sadly it is generally true. The following video was sent to me by one such friend from the trip. It is filled with cheap shots and editing to make the yanks look stupid, but it works to hilarious results.

I’ll just keep saying I am Canadian.

Back in the USA

January 19, 2007

Soyan eating sushi in TokyoIt was a sushi lunch, but it felt like the final supper. Today we spent the day the day in Tokyo on our way back from Malaysia. We took the train from the airport in to Tokyo — round trip train tickets for two… $100 (ouch)! We had some sushi and went to see the Royal Gardens, now we are waiting to fly to Honolulu where we have one night at the beach and then back to the continental US.

Four months ago I sat in this same airport lounge in Tokyo, with all of Asia layed before me, waiting to be explored. Now I am here again, but this time headed home. It has been a grand adventure and I have really loved it! I have seen and done the unexpected, met wonderful people and tasted what I could of this exciting continent. While I am looking forward to reconnecting with friends and the convenience of not carrying everything I own, I am sad to be heading home. I know other adventures await, but it is hard to see how they will compete with vagabonding. There is a unique freedom in waking everyday and saying… “If I could go anywhere and do anything, what would it be?” That’s how I celebrated my 35th birthday learning to scuba dive in Malaysian Borneo.

Jonathan and Soyan scuba divingI have lots more stories and photos yet to tell so check back and I’ll try and catch up on the month in Thailand I have skipped and a few other tidbits. In the mean time they are calling my plane, so thanks to all the wonderful people we have met and let’s see what the future holds…

Forbidden Fruit

January 18, 2007

Durian: D24, Teka, RajaI had heard of a fruit called durian from Soyan’s mother. It was always spoken of in wistful tones, her voice dripping with desire. Soyan, on the other hand, stressed how awful it smelled. I had never smelled durian, but I had been warned that it smelled “bad”. “Bad,” I thought, how bad can it be? I had been warned that it smelled “like rotting meat” or a “rubbish dump”. I had also been assured by its fans that whatever the momentary unpleasantness of the smell, it was well worth it for this little taste of heaven on earth. Despite the fruit’s popularity in Southeast Asia and in particular Malaysia, it is banned in most hotels. It is illegal to consume on public transit. It truly is… the forbidden fruit!

George picking RambutanWith this background I was delighted to be invited by George, another kind and generous “a.S.i.D” forum member, to join some of the forum for a fruit safari at his durian orchid an hour outside Kuala Lampur. George informed me that I had not really been to Malaysia until I had eaten durian. I am not a “fear factor” type, but I am not a picky eater either, so I was excited about trying it. I looked forward to joining the legion of durian fans, if for no other reason than the pleasure of enjoying forbidden fruit.

Chin Tong, one more of the “a.S.i.D” group that has been so welcoming, picked us up at the hotel and we began talking durian. He loves durian, and was anxious for us to try it. He made a convincing case that he wanted us to try it because he liked it so much. He assured me that, while it has a distinctive odor, if you enjoy blue cheese, you’ll be fine. That seemed promising, but the confidence was short lived. I asked his two children and their two friends if they liked durian and learned there was not a single fan among them.

Chin Tong carves a DurianAt the farm we took a wonderful walk and saw the astounding variety of plants and trees from all over the world that George has collected. We played in his waterfall and tasted his delicious rambutan, another local fruit. Finally it was time for the main event. In a crate next to the table were a dozen durians of the three best varieties. There were D24, widely considered the best commercial variety, Raja, popular for its deep yellow color, and Teka, George’s personal favorite. Only the D24 is commonly found since the other two strains have lower yields, making them less profitable to grow commercially.

With great reverence Chin Tong began to butcher the fruit, and the previously slight odor grew strong. While I didn’t really like the smell, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. That seemed promising, after all I had been told that eating durian was like sampling the ripest of strawberries or a delicious cream custard… while sitting in a latrine. It was time for my first taste.

The texture was very smooth and creamy, very much like a soft brie and with a similar color. The flavor was most similar to eating a whole roasted clove of garlic, with some onion flavor and a hint of, well, let’s call it fecal matter. Soyan captured me on video, hating it, but trying hard to maintain positive or at least neutral perspective, but it was really terrible. I forced myself to try two more varieties that were sufficiently similar to the first to assure me that while I had tasted forbidden fruit, I would never enjoy it.

George explained that around 90% of people he brought to the farm that had not previously been exposed to durian, didn’t like it. Perhaps that is why there was so much enthusiasm to share durian - if we like it that’s fine, but the real fun is in the “here, taste this, your going to hate it!”

Visiting the orchard was great, and seeing how rural Malaysia is just outside the city was a nice contrast to the many malls of KL. I am even glad I tried the durian. Thank goodness, I never have to do it again.

Thanks again to all my new a.S.i.D. friends in Malaysia!