844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Frustration & Rumination (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Oct 7th, 2009 - The power supply to my computer stopped functioning. It became superheated and just stopped working. That was most distressing as I was quite certain finding a replacement would be nigh impossible. I started to freak but held it together and started my search in Hanoi. Streets here have themes and it was not long until I found ‘computer’ street. After a couple of strikeouts I hit pay dirt. When I was in the US I was unable to find a spare. Not so in Vietnam. Even with the ‘white guy screwing’ I probably received on the price it was still only about $18. I was so giddy I bought two. Upon returning to my hotel room I plugged in my debunked power supply and the light came on. So now I have three. Awesome. Might as well carry around a spare computer while I’m at it. Sometimes I get frustrated.

Having a minor heart attack at the prospect of losing my netbook does have a bit of a pathetic air about it but it showed me one thing: I really enjoy doing this. I want to do it a little longer. My tickets are booked. I am headed to the Himalayas. All I need is a breathtaking view and a Sherpa. I might get another chance to see my tiger. Perhaps, I can ride a snow leopard up a snowy peak or spank one of the rarest rhinos in the world. Sky is the limit……literally.

I fly from Hanoi to Bangkok via Air Asia. It will be another attempt at getting past the counter without checking my bag. So far I am 7 for 8. Cross your fingers. I envision the folks at the Hanoi airport as being lords of discipline. We shall see.

This is a catch all for miscellaneous tidbits that belong in earlier posts but slipped my mind at the time of writing. I suppose I could rewind and edit but what the hell fun would that be?

While cruising through the mountains of Northern Vietnam on a motorcycle my friend Shell and I came across many road signs, some of which depicted the gradient of the road. Ten percent was by far the most popular but we did see a few sixes, eights, and nines. There were even a few ridiculously accurate signs as well, to include 6.05 percent, 9.05 percent, and if you can believe it, 8.87 percent. 8.87 percent? Seriously? I guess rounding up to nine would be dangerously imprecise. I wish I had time to survey the hill so I could know whether or not I was being mislead.

I have yet to experience so much highspeed internet, especially wifi, than what I have encountered in Northern Vietnam. I am sure Japan and Korea hold the title but this placed is wired out the wazoo. Even the hotels in the mountains had wifi and while I was on a boat in Halong Bay I picked up a signal. Between that and cells phones there are probably enough radio waves flying around to fry brains and sterilize reproductive organs. Careful.

The reaction I receive on a daily basis from many of the local Hanoians borders somewhere between a smile and a snarl. Let’s call it smarling. Smarl and the world smarls with you.

Random Mental Swirlings
This is a repository for ponderings, pontifications, tangents, rants, epiphanies, and any other sorts of profound or maybe not so profound musings. This is where I try to pin down some of the capricious and sometimes obtuse machinations of a mind permeated by the random.

I wish I was handy. I am not. If it cannot be repaired with superglue then you are probably better off having your dog take a look at it. I have noticed that being mechanically inclined would be a huge asset when traveling in the less developed areas of the world, not so much in respect to the individual traveler but to the folks you might encounter.

Imagine the possibilities if you had the ability to perform simple (or not so simple) repairs on structures or mechanical devices? Help a fisherman with his clogged motor. Repair the staircase on a mountain hut. Re-shingle a poor man’s roof. Tweak a motorbike for teenage boy on his way to the market. Assist a family with their broken down vehicle on a deserted road. Help a lorry driver get his thirty-year-old jalopy started and over the mountain pass. Fix the plumbing in a village hut. You get the picture. Imagine the people you would meet and experiences you would have. It is the random nature of such encounters that would make such acts extremely rewarding.

As I mentioned Bob the Builder I am not but the perfect example of the kind of person I am referring to has never been far away. My brother is one of these people and every time I come across one of the situations I highlighted above I think of him and say to myself, “I bet Gil could fix that”. Of course, it is a cliché to refer to that special person who has the ability to fix anything and everything. I suppose we all know one but I find it hard to imagine someone better suited to find new and interesting ways to repair things that would frustrate even the most determined of us.

We had a lawnmower. I must confess that I am sketchy on the origin of this riding lawnmower but if I am not mistaken it was my grandfather’s and given to us by him. It did not look like much. It was old and not a little forlorn but since we’d rather ride a dinosaur than push a shiny John Deer it might as well have been a Cadillac.

My bro kept it running for years with sweat and sheer will power. I did little to assist, unless running over stumps, trees, mounds of dirt, and all sizes of rocks counts as assistance. It would break down and he would fix it. He’d find the parts or make his own. Not sure how he did it but he did. It is not just the fact that he could repair that little red devil (more of an orange after a few years as the gas I kept spilling on it tended to fade the paint job), I am sure there are many who could do the same.

No, it was about the tenacity with which he undertook the task. Most would have dismissed the idea of wasting time on the ornery little machine but he persisted because it was not just about the convenience of having to avoid pushing a mower in the summer heat, it was about conquering the little red-headed bastard child of the landscaping family.

I believe that relic still sits in the woods behind our place rusting away the years in silence. If you put your ear to you could probably still hear my brother swearing at it. And if he put his mind to it he might even be able to resurrect it once again.

He performed the same types of life-saving procedures on a 1970-something Ford Bronco given to him by his father and worth at least a cool $500. If the vehicle were human it would have been diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia or some other terminal illness. If you pointed to an area it probably needed a repair. But Gil kept it alive for years. Sure it was drafty in the winter, sweltering in the summer, handled like a WWII tank, guzzled gas like an addict, and purred like a lion put through a wood chipper. It did not matter. He was just as proud of that thing as he would have been if he built it himself. He put his heart and soul into that beast and kept it running. It was worth more to him than a brand new pick-up truck. It was never hard to understand why. 

I once had a plastic tricycle-type bike made by Hot Wheels. It was one of those low riding plastic toys that had a large wheel in the front with a pedal attached and two smaller wheels in the back. It rocked and I looked great behind the wheel. I somehow managed to puncture the front wheel but my brother saved the day by covering the wheel with a bicycle tire. After that I could have probably raced in the Paris to Dakar Rally. Wherever it sits the rubber tire is probably still attached.

In sixth grade my brother helped me build a volcano for my science project. I was not the only one. Other kids went with the baking soda/vinegar type of volcanic eruption. Pussies. My volcano had sparklers tied together like dynamite with smoke bombs thrown in for good measure. Good thing we were outdoors because this thing was a blatant fire hazard. Flames shot a good two and a half feet out of the top. I amazed my friends and frightened my teacher. What did they expect? It was a f***ing volcano. Can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Lucky for them I had not decided to simulate an asteroid collision. There would probably still be a crater.

Not quite following the line of thought above but random enough to be in this section are futuristic space city / invading armada drawings. When my brother was young he used to enjoy drawing these scenarios on paper, heavily armed cities of the future on the ground and alien spacecraft permeating the sky above. He would then use a pencil to simulate lasers firing from the ground forces or the aircraft above often with devastating consequences. These volleys were always accompanied by sound effects simulating catastrophic explosions. The best part is he never really knew how the battle was going to turn out until the very end. He would also redraw the city as it appeared after the fierce battle.

Being a rather young lad at the time I was absolutely captivated by this activity. I could not get enough. He would draw pages and pages of future battles to be fought and then present them to me on my birthday. I would immediately drop everything and begin strategizing and preparing my forces for war. Whatever else I’d received as presents would be sitting in reserve waiting for a chance to shine. They received their due but not until the fate of the universe was determined. It is kind of like when you buy a pile of shiny new toys for 2-year-old at Christmas and he/she is in the corner rolling in the discarded wrapping paper.

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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim