Writing in Hindustan

tour bus

I was on a bus in India, staring back at a little girl with the blackest eyes.

Not black like death, but abyssal; pools of deep wonder staring back at me. Nothing else.  These black pools belonged to a small round face, which had a flat, round button for a nose, and a rose bud for a mouth. Black tendrils of corkscrew curls framed this orbital face. She looked no older than five. Her kurta, so tiny it looked like she had worn her doll’s dress, was red and faded as the earth.

Her curls bounced up and down and so did her tiny ball of a head as our bus—this rickety pile of metal and wood with a 3rd-hand engine and four wheels—bounced and rocked its way down a #####-mile highway of rocks and pebbles. Her eyes though, those abyssal black pools, remained as steady and fixed on me as a placid lake. A tiny thumb was lodged inside her tiny mouth, like it belonged there.

The bus screeched to a halt, throwing most of us forward. I squeezed my eyes shut for a few seconds and blinked them a few more times. I glanced outside the window, my gaze lost out into the dark nothingness of night. I tried to peer through the thick clouds of smog, the dark layers of night, for any mere indication of current location. My watch said 4:30 in the morning, which meant I had been riding through Hindustan for over five hours now.

An infant, the round-eyed little girl’s sibling, started to cry.

What am I doing here?

The question blared at me for the tenth time since I plopped on that torn seat. It was a literal question and less of an existential one, though I knew there would be no escaping the latter for long.

Our driver, this frail little man with three layers of clothes on, jumped out to inspect the engine, muttering words I’d never understand. The baby’s crying grew into full-on wailing. The person behind me was kicking my seat, restless. My temples began to throb.

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Roam.

 

Sometime in 2006, I caught this song by the B-52’s as the main theme behind an Animal Planet promo (unfortunately, I still cannot find a clip) and it stuck. Yes, the song certainly added to my romantic daydreams of working on wildlife conservation efforts in Africa or South America or Australia. Well, 6 years hence I am still far away from all those places. But if I were to have an anthem, this would be it.

And glancing back at the past 5 years, I think I have had a pretty fair share of roaming about.

And it has been one hell of a ride.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beds and Breakfast

So more on Borneo. 

To satisfy an unbearable itch for the random and unexpected, I had booked a flight and packed a bag on a whim to Kuching to catch this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival. Some friends that were going as well, with their travel arrangements down pat, offered to bunk. I greatly appreciated the offers, however the call of the random accommodation was too persistent to resist. 

The one I chose was conveniently located in the City Centre, along some nice cosy pubs, and right behind a commercial hotel. Upon pulling up into the narrow alley, the cab driver asked me, “Are you sure you are staying here?” I blamed the obscure alley, weak flourescent signage and hole-in-the-wall entrance for his doubt. 

It was as minimal, no-frills, and downright straightforward as accommodations can get; this is the girls’ shared room, pick your bunk bed, a pillow and a sheet, the shower and toilet are down the hall. It was nice and cosily spartan. And clean. I slept like an overfed baby that night. 

The next morning, I woke up with two other girls. Yes, that’s how how we like to tell our story to people who ask how we met because we seem to have a long inseparable history. Haha.  One of them had to transfer and we spent the whole morning hostel hunting in the scorching Sarawak heat.     
    

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A hot hostel hunt

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Found: a charming outdoor kitchen and wash area

While there is a good number of Couch Surfers in Malaysia, the budget inns and hostels (at least in Kuching City Centre) are quite a recommendable option. By nice, I mean comfortable, convenient, reasonable, clean. For SGD18 / MYR8 per night, I had nothing to complain about. Not only did I wake up refreshed and with two new good friends, there was free breakfast as well.

Borneo

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.. was incredible.  

This is how I summed it up for my friend: 
“Too short yet the kind that yanks you out of yourself and you come back as someone else.”

And hello hello, I have been back on the writing board yet somewhat caught in a strange cyclone of thoughts and feelings with a mad undertow. Things have ceased quite a bit the past few days though, and a blog resurrection is nigh. :)

Curious Creatures: Street Dogs, Bangkok style

 

 

I love dogs.

And cats, hamsters, wombats, and most furry mammals and marsupials. Okay, probably most animals.
I really miss my dogs back home.  So I can only surmise that the sudden pangs of separation anxiety prodded me to make this post.

 

In Thailand, street dogs are more commonly referred to as soi dogs, as soi basically translates to “side street”. When I travel, I find myself befriending dogs (and cats) in the most random settings and occasions. Here are a couple in Bangkok I found really adorable.
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Tarot, palm and star reader.
English speaking.

 

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And another one in a Bangkok train station.
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Too cute.

One observation I made about soi dogs is the general lot of them look and seem rather friendly. And healthy. Not the feral, mangy and defensive sort I often spot in local side streets. I wonder if it is the availability of resources needed for survival in the areas they dwell in, or the kind of societal treatment these dogs get from their human cohabitants. But it was a nice and pleasant generalization.

 

A couple of local groups working for the welfare of these dogs:

 

Thailand’s Soi Cats and Dogs (formerly Soi Dog Rescue)
Soi Dog Foundation