Wandering Goat

Travel stuff by Miguel A. Villarreal

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Location: New York, NY

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Alien life: Immigration Reform

Alien life: Immigration Reform:          We hear a lot of talk about immigration reform, but what exactly do we want to reform? Do we have an idea of what is necessary to ...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Arab Season

Is what the locals call it. July and August, being the hottest time in the mideast, are not coincidentally the time of year when the well off Arabs flee for other climes, one of which is frequently here in KL, ostensibly because its a Muslim country but really because it isn't. Though it should be noted that its a center of the Islamic financial universe due to its well developed Sukuk industry (look it up) As a consequence ME food and shisha pipes abound as do their clientele, which are of course Arabs. Also en vogue is the full length Burqa, a questionable development for the equatorial region. Aside from the more revolting sexist aspects of this particular convention, most striking is the fact that males escorting the burqas wear shorts and a t shirt. A fairer shake would be for them to wear three piece suits I think.
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Of medieval mace like fruits

At long last I have sucessfully consumed a portion of Durian - the peninsulas most well known and most maligned fruit. The smell is simply inhumane, leading to its rightful banishment from respectable establishments. The taste is not that awful, with a texture vaguely reminiscent of avocado. Hard to eat and inhale though.
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Thursday, August 07, 2008


Writing on a handheld device doesn't really allow for narrative flow but I've got two hours on the longboat so I may as well. I just spent two nights at kuala tahan at the entrance to Taman Negara rainforest. The town itself is a depressing collection of filthy shacks and concrete built into muddy riverbank. Its also overcrowded by both locals and tourists. If you're contemplating a rainforest trip in Malaysia I'd advise you to skip the peninsula and head to Borneo, which in retrospect I should have done.

The highlight was a 6 hour jungle hike yesterday that I forced myself into doing. I set off solo without a guide. I've done jungles before and figured this was one I can handle since its fairly touristed. Occasions like this are when its good to travel alone as one is left alone to question one's sanity after several hours of hot humid, muddy, leech infested traumatization rather than to face recriminations from other parties.

The jungle itself was surprisingly decent. Just a K or two outside the park entrance and you're pretty alone with the bird calls and the monkey howls and the heavy distort cicada solos. I saw a few small animals bolt away from me on the trail, probably small deer, and some elephant tracks as well as a few monitor lizards but the predominant organism, aside from the battalions of ants of all shapes and sizes (2 inches some) was the legion of leeches.

I've dealt with these guys before but man, they really still do suck in every sense of the term. I can't think of a creature more apt to induce revulsion, making their brief partnership with 18th c medicine all the more unlikely. The first one I saw yesterday reminded me how much I hated them ~ it was clinging to the edge of a leaf on the trail, totally vertical with its fat little mouth aiming skywards and waving around. It sort of reminds you of an annoying kid in class desperately raising his hand to get the teachers attention.

If successful it will then vault onto your shoe and then somersault its way up to your ankle and start to feed and get fat and nasty. Getting them off is no joy either. I had my Swiss army knife with me so I used the blade to pick them off. It was overkill of course and tweezers would have been ideal but I take great pleasure in bringing a knife into the jungle and using it to really knife things, as its normal use is to open beer bottles. Of course this backfired when I sliced my ankle open which turned my planned 18 k round trip into a 10k hike, which was fine insofar as I was running out of water in any event. Ok battery is dying so I have to end here.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

On a longboat in the Tembeling river

The coverage of wireless communications is amazing these days.
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Steak ahoy!

A trend which I must note- now that I've recognized it as a trend- is a peculiarity of Malaysian steakhouses. I'm uncertain if they got this from some other locale (Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong frequently borrow each others habits though won't admit it) or this is something they invented.

Anyway I first saw this in Penang and seen it repeated here in KL: a Malaysian steakhouse apparently must be nautically themed. Such as the exterior always looks like the bow of an 18th century sailing ship and the staff is outfitted in full Jolly Rogers style regalia. The incongruity of this is obvious - nothing says fresh prime beef like the dried beef and moldy biscuit diet of Her Majesty's Fleet!

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Penang (not the restaurants in manhattan, the island in the straits)

So I ended up spending two days in Penang - Malaysia's second city. And it showed! No, I'm kidding, sort of, lovely old chinese two-story shophouses and some nice Kongsi houses and good Peranakan/Nonya architecture (you'll have to look up old posts if you want to remember what that means) but not really much to report otherwise.  Good food though, I would recommend you shy away from the Rojak unless tropical fruit drowned in syrup and fish paste is one's idea of a good time. People seemed to take a genuine interest in the fact that I was there to sample their Hokkien Mee (a seafood/noodle soup with tamarind or something sweet in it that's damned good, one of my favorite noodle soups I'd have to say) and Char Kway Teoh ( a noodle dish that is the essence of awesomeness) so I guess that's something. But anyway it's your standard old colonial town, the first British settlement in Malaya but bypassed on the way to greatness by Singapore in the 19th C, which is good and bad, leaving it behind but free of overdevelopment and Japanese bomb damage. Old British Colonial outposts, of which I reckon I have now seen a hell of a lot of in my days, all have the aura of ghostly poetic metaphorism, which really goes wild if you traipse around the old Colonial cemetary (which I often due, I've done it like twice). So you see the old graves with their Victorian encomiums to the various victims of deaths at sea, tropical disease, childbirth etc and they're overgrown amid the banyan trees and the capital R Romanticism of the moment kind of makes you want to vomit, where you're ashamed of even thinking of waxing anything about it.
A few random thoughts for the record, on arrival in Malaysia one is still greeted with the homey and welcoming "home of the deadly death penalty for drug traffickers" rannouncement, and according to recent signage, piranha imports are also expressly labeled as uncool here, so keep that one in mind.  I should also say I'm fortunate to be here during yet another "Visit Malaysia Year" - just like 2007, according to unchanged signs, and just like the last time I was here in 2005. 

back sort of

so yeah I wrote this two days ago then realized that I was e-mailing the post to the wrong address so it got returned, it's two days later now so obviously we aren't real time.  The grand experiment fails.  Out of practice though man, that's what happens
Ok I hope this works.  This is my first post via handheld ever- so I'm writing in real time from a smelly bus between the gleaming ultramodern Kuala Lumpur Int  Apt and the rundown old airport where one catches the cheap local flights.  The only notable thing thus far was the incredible nordic stoicism of the two older Swedes sitting next to me, who did the whole 12 plus hours of the Stockholm to KL leg without getting up ONCE.  They literally just sat there like runes.  I was flabbergasted frankly, I am not one to lightly bestow the gast of flabber. In Sweden I understand the same feeling is referred to as "flabbjerkastjenorg"

Just noting as we pull in that Malaysia is one of the few places where you'll see a policelady with a headscarf and a submachine gun.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dormancy over

All right so I apologize for not writing in forever.  The mundanity (a word?) of everyday life I guess became pervasive in a Kafka Metamorphosis way so that i couldn't even bring myself to make snotty allusions  to Kafka.  Anyway I am starting this blog up again, without as much (any?) travel adventures and more boring musings, so I am accordingly doing it for myself.   

Anyway, enough about that. Something that just randomly popped into my head - and of no relevance whatsoever to anything printed so far, and basically just being written down so that I don't lose the thought - was an old memory of a football game I went to.  It was, I believe, about 1985, the year after the then-Los Angeles (nee Oakland and since re-nee'd as Oakland) Raiders won the Super Bowl. I went to an NFL game between my since mort Houston Oilers at the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Houston Astrodome - since downgraded to about the 1,536,905th wonder of the world, somewhere between that Japanese eating champion guy Kobayashi and the fact that the city of Miami has not self-imploded. Now, the Oilers back then were an awful, sad sack franchise, saddled with ugly uniforms and a general malaise that would make Gregor Samsa himself cringe. Turning into giant human insects would have been an improvement.  Nonetheless, I was a fledgling 9 or 10 year old fan at the time and thought they were sweet. As for the Raiders, they were silver and black demigods who lived only on the airwaves (how pathetic is it that 'airwaves' is now a dated term? awful).

As the Oilers were horrifically bad at playing football back then, tickets were rather easy to come by.  My father, doing the kinds of things that good fathers do, I believe arbitraily decided one Sunday in the fall that he should take me to the game, on the morning of. (at the time,  I believe it was my second ever NFL game, with the first being an inglorious Oiler loss to a powerhouse Dolphins team led by a young Dan Marino).  As the Oilers were awful back then, like I said, tickets were easy to come by, specifically, tickets in the Temporary Bleachers section.  
Surprisingly, these tickets consisted of temporary bleachers, set up in what would have been the centerfield area of the Astrodome in baseball configuration [aside- back in the old days in the multipurpose stadia (yes we are going latinate with our noun forms this evening), they used the same Astroturf (tm) for baseball and football, so accordingly one could see Earl Campbell run into the faded paint outline of foul territory, or see Jose Cruz field a fly on the ghostly specter of the 20 yard line].  The best par was that they were literally right on the field and very cheap (though uncomfortable, but really who cares).

As I recall it was a decent game, insofar as the hapless Oilers stayed relatively close to the Raiders before losing by a TD or two (i could look it up now but am too lazy and too into a narrative mode). The crux of the story occurs at postgame. The great part about the temp bleachers was that the area behind them was literally the passage to the visiting locker room, which both fans and, obviously, the visiting team, used for ingress and egress procedures (a cop term I learned in a differnt life). Anyway, as a wide eyed 10=year old, I remember after the game, my dad and I were walking out to the Astrodome parking lot (quite literally a whole 'nother story in itself).  

Our progress was halted when a makeshift array of cops (or cop) halted us prior to crossing around the concourse to the exit.  As we were in the temp bleachers, we had to circumvent the tunnel into the visiting team locker room, which is where we were stopped.  So we had to wait, like at a railroad crossing, for the L.A. Raiders to go by.  

Now for me this was unprecedented. The Raiders at that point were nothing short of televised Olympian figures who I had no business being on the same astral plane as, much less being mildly inconvenienced by as they strode back to the locker room.  So needless to say, for me at the time the experience was incredibly memorable.  Being in the presence of a bunch of giants (overall and to a 10-year old) wearing the formidable silver and black of the Raiders was, well, awesome. I vivdly remember them emerging from the tunnel from between the stands into the dark smelly concourse area, it was like a clown car, but with awesome intimidating dudes instead of awful clowns (who are also intimidating in their own way, but again- that's a whole other ramble).

A few guys in particular stood out.  The concourse at this point was full of whooping and whollering (sic) Raider fans, which I decided to temporarily belong to at that point as I honestly had no other option.  Anyway, the guys I recall were Marcus Allen (literally probably the best player at the world at that point) who simply ran past us alll, no desire to gladhandle or high five (or in my 4 foot tall case, low five), though  I think I grabbed his elbow as he jogged past.  A bit of a disappointment as he was my favorite Raider easily for his incomprehensible skill, obvious even to a youngster. Sean Jones (later an Oiler, and then, if I recall correctly, recently convicted of some form of fraud stemming from his career as a sports agent), all 6 foot 7 of him, with huge forearm pads, being incredibly intimidating so much to the point where I was scared to extend him the hand of recognition.  The best by far was future Hall-of-Famer Howie Long, who took the time to take his helmet off and shake my hand, or so I imagined, maybe it was just a grasp, but anyway number 74 has always gotten free pass from me becasue of that, even for his short lived and awful movie career.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Better late than never

So here's a good video of Yodsaenklai Fairtex, one of the guys I trained with last December (and by "with" I mean, "in the general vicinity of, as he laughed at my flabby ineptitude") at Fairtex.