Monthly Archives: January 2012

First Impressions (Korea and Railay, Thailand)

This is my third draft of this post due to me taking too long to finish it and losing it every time I lose internet. So I’m just going to power through this one.

Due to a scheduling delay on the part of AirChina–which Liz and I discovered are quite prone to scheduling delays–I was lucky enough to be able to spend 2 and a half days in Seoul, South Korea with my sis who’d already been there for a few days. The first night was spent in a spa in the airport, which was actually pretty cool. I had the option of swimming in a giant jacuzzi for my morning bath, but I declined due to my strong desire to get out of the airport and into the actual city in Seoul. I was, of course, well rewarded.

South Korea was a very nice intro to my travels as it offered a definitive break from the culture of the States, while still being more than adequately developed. A few surprising things about Seoul: a lot of the streets remind me of the futuristic world from Bladerunner, Seoulians (that’s obviously incorrect) absolutely love coffee, Seoul might be one of the most organized places I’ve yet to visit.

Bladerunner all the way

 

For reasons that I can’t quite put a finger on however, Seoul also struck me as cold, a bit subdued, and rather detached. It was as you can hopefully tell from the pictures an incredible city in its layout, architecture and content. Maybe it was the perpetual fog/smog or the surprisingly cold weather–for some reason I had it in my mind that South applied to it’s absolute and not just relative latitude–or maybe the diligently polite people, but I rarely got a warm fuzzy feeling in this city when I wasn’t drinking some delicious hot tea or a nice hot espresso. I’d like to make it clear that his subjective account is by no means a judgement on the city and I really did enjoy my time there immensely. I’ve even begun toying around with the idea of tacking Korean onto my dream list of languages to study–the alphabet, Hangeul, is one of the most interesting I’ve encountered and I encourage you to look into it.

National Folk Museum where I learned all about Hangeul and other minutia of Korean life and history

The feeling I’ve received over and over in Thailand, on the other hand, could not be more different. Today I decided that if ever during my travels I start feeling down or dejected for some reason or other, I’ll just go for a stroll, make eye-contact with the first Thai person I see and use their jubilant smile, inevitably contagious, to boost my spirits. It’s amazing how smiley the vast majority of people I’ve encountered in Thailand have been. I say smiley because of course I have no idea if they’re actually happy or not. My studies in social psychology, however, would lead me to believe that they are (fun fact: the very act of smiling improves your mood). On top of smiley, the people I’ve met here have also been out-of-their-way helpful towards Liz and I.

We flew into Phuket then went as direct as possible (an unofficial taxi and a long tail boat) to a beautiful section of beaches known as Railay.

A view of the beach we stayed on from a look out spot on a cliff

We stayed in this idyllic area for four days and while there I got to do a little bouldering (the area is world famous for rock climbing), Liz and I ran on the beach, explored some islands off shore in kayaks and swam in the ocean, always such a delight.

Our lovely but sparse lodging

Taken by my friend Manu from India who educated me about his country as well as relating some Hindu tales

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately and I’d hate not to share them with all of you, which is the main reason why I persevered through losing the first two drafts.

Liz and I are now staying at a delightful guesthouse in a bigger town inland called Krabi. Cross your fingers for a new post soon. All the best from Thailand

-Austin out

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Zen in the Art of Writing and Traveling

And so begins what I hope to be the first of many exciting and enlightening blog posts depicting the many places to which I will travel in the months to come. A few very important people in my life have asked me recently what my goal or expectations are for my impending travels. On each occasion, this question has perturbed me, most likely because I’ve refrained from coming up with a concrete goal. On each occasion, however, I struggled to come up with some moderately profound answer that might help guide my adventuring. More self-reliance was my answer. More confidence in making major decisions based on my own emotions. And this is a valid and applicable goal for me right now. It would be ignorant of me to say, though, that this will remain my goal for the duration of my traveling, which is one of the reasons why I’m reluctant to make goals for this period of my life.

Perhaps another cause for my reluctance is that the very nature of having a goal demands planning on how to achieve that goal. I have no plans, save the bare minimum needed for plane tickets and such, and would like to keep it that way. I briefly considered enrolling in a study-abroad program in Beijing that focused on learning Chinese and the study of internal martial arts but then I realized, with the help of my mom, that one of the points of my taking this leave of absence from university is to live outside the structure of any formal program. I want this trip to be more of a see-as-I-go adventure. For that matter, I would like for it also to be a learn-as-I-go adventure. With that mind, I suppose I do have one goal general enough that I expect it will apply to the majority of my travels, which could be described as a greater sense of self.

And it’s in that line of thought that I take the title of my newly created blog from a collection of essays by Ray Bradbury titled Zen in the Art of Writing. I originally bought the book on a whim a couple months ago because I wanted to start writing more, and I wanted to read about how a notable writer like Ray Bradbury might approach this occupation. It turned out, as one might suspect with a title including the word zen, that the book is as much about living as it is about writing. One passage, in which Bradbury describes his love of circuses, struck me as particularly inspiring and it explains the meaning behind “Rise and Run.”

By the time people are fourteen or fifteen, they have been divested of their loves, their ancient and intuitive tastes, one by one, until when they reach maturity there is no fun left, no zest, no gusto, no flavor. Others have criticized, and they have criticized themselves, into embarrassment. When the circus pulls in at five of a dark cold summer morn, and the calliope sounds, they do not rise and run, they turn in their sleep, and life passes by. I did rise and run.

So there you have it: zest, gusto, flavor. Add those to the growing list of goals for my goalless pursuit.

I do have a few goals for this blog, mainly to learn a bit about photography and have some fun with it–I got my very first camera this Christmas (Thanks Dad!). I’d also like to grow more comfortable with writing and I aim to use this blog as a sort of public journal consisting of organized reflections. We’ll see how all that turns out. In the meantime, I encourage you to share this blog with anyone you think might be interested.

-Austin out