The third and final part to the journey around the world.
April 11, 2014
The winds swept through the kitchen and drew out the smoke from what they were cooking and I was immersed in the pleasant aromas.
Arriving into the town of Coron proper, I was already somewhat adjusted to the culture and vibes of Palawan. However, on my first full day here, I was struggling to get moving. Partly because of the toll from being on a boat for five days coupled with the pathetic dinner I had eaten the night before. I think my dinner amounted to cost $2 and I didn’t get much more in my stomach than a small bowl of rice. The resort I was staying at was tucked far up into the hills and about 20 minute trike ride from town that none of the drivers seemed to want to make. It was very rustic here, with lots of greenery and wildlife enclosing the resort. Each “Casita’ was its own standalone structure that connected onto a pathway leading up to the pool and bar area, and beyond that was the dining area. It featured the customary open air seating underneath a large, palm-frond lined roof with no structural walls besides the kitchen area. In the bathroom I spotted the largest gecko of all time. It scurried along the wall when I walked in and was a dark green color. He was maybe 11-13” in total length
I spent the early parts of the afternoon recuperating and lounging around the hotel grounds. I took the free shuttle into town and dropped off laundry from the trip thus far and sought something to eat. I started to walk about and around one of the corners I spotted a restaurant I remember reading on trip advisor called, ‘Sinugba sa Balay.’ The translation of that name means, “Roast at Home.”
Once again, it was a large, open air seating area with large, hut-style roof. The kitchen was built with overlapping sheets of painted plywood and took up only a small corner of the property. Around the perimeter, and common to most parts of the developed areas of Palawan and Coron are the loosely established fencing made from bamboo and tree limbs. The tables were made of thick handmade wood planks and adjacent to the kitchen was a teeny stage with some native musical instruments set up, probably for a bit of night time entertainment.
I ordered a helping of garlic rice, vegetable curry and a bok-choy dish to share. While asking about some vegetarian options, the owner offered to transform a noodle dish into something I’d like with eggs and white onion. She hollered back at the man standing by in the kitchen and off he went to work on the meal. The winds swept through the kitchen and drew out the smoke from what they were cooking and I was immersed in the pleasant aromas.
To the side, a woman was mincing a table full of garlic and preparing other fresh vegetables. A large group had come to the same resort as me and they happened to find this place as well. Plate after plate of food was coming out to them and they had a few buckets of beers to go around as well. Finally, it was my turn and it was like time had stopped when tasting each dish.
The curry was the perfect medley of smooth, creamy and loaded with that good yellow curry seasoning. The carrots, potatoes and green beans were distinctly fresh in the sauce and still so crisp. The bok choy perfectly tender and hardly wilted with a lovely crunch in the vinegar and garlic sauce it was cooked with. The hand made noodles were just the right level of spice and cooked with the most savory scrambled egg bits. I also had a fresh cucumber and tomato salad that cleansed the palate before swapping from dish to dish. It was finally some cooking on par with what I had been served on the banka with Jeff the TAO cook. I left completely satisfied and feeling back to life again.
I stopped by the Tao Office, which also served as a temporary dwelling for the crew and said hello to Romy one last time. He had a fresh hair cut and was looking bright and cheerful. Downstairs I asked the ladies in the office about where I could get a good massage. Its a hot commodity here and an hour massage costs less than $10. It was nearing dusk as I went in to the parlor, but I took our time picking out which mineral oil I liked best. Once decided, they turned the lights down low and served what tasted like piping hot kool-aid. I had the room to myself and the roaring bike traffic outside seemed to just fade away with each passing second. I undressed and they went to work. The legs felt good as I had suffered a calf injury rolling off the bow of the boat snorkeling a few days prior, and the masseuse rammed her thumbs down between the muscle and the bone. I started to grow tired and did my best to conform to her requests to relax, but as her tiny hands were segmenting the muscles in my neck and shoulders I thought I would have to let out a scream. And as she sat on my back, punching all sides of my butt, I wondered what world I was exactly in, but felt relaxed none the less. I rolled over for the front half and before I know it they had laid a warm towel on my face and I was fast asleep. After some time, someone came in and whispered “finished” and I came back to.
I wandered back out onto the streets, slightly rested and still slightly delirious. I was hungry again and found a little diner I wanted to try called, Brujitas and it was owned by a French or possibly Swiss man with long, halfway coming undone dreadlocks.
They served the most garlicy, garlic rice I’d ever had, but it was chopped medium and roasted nicely. The mung bean curry was also a dish well received. Afterwards it took some convincing to a few different trike riders to take me back up to the hotel and sure enough I had two young boys taking me up the hills to the resort. They switched over half way as the one who started the leg didn’t know the second half. When I got there the other grinned and told me it was his first time driving up here. I laughed and thanked them.
In the morning I decided I would pack my bag and check out, leaving everything with the next hotel and have the day to explore. On a whim I decided I would rent a dirt bike and go exploring the upper parts of the island called, Busuanga. I was referred to a place called Angels and negotiated the price for a day’s rental on a Honda bike. I got got them down a 100 pesos total and he gave a brief explanation of the bike. There’s the ignition, throttle, brakes, shift up 1, 2, 3, 4, shift down — That’s it. I asked how far I could get on a liter of fuel and they each made up their own answers. Gave me a paper map of the island and circled some things to check out. Marked a kilometer stretch of road at the top of the island that he described as rough or bumpy and then cut me loose to figure out the rest.
Walking the bike to the edge of the road, I put it into gear and with the first twist of the throttle I nearly zipped out into traffic and was almost taken out by a passing yellow trike. I twisted the throttle more and went side to side, fast and slow learning as I went. I was off, weaving my way up the street apparently oblivious to the man running out into the road worried about what he’d just seen. I zoomed past where I had stayed the past two nights and got out onto halfway cemented roads. It was only one half of the road completed and the other side was still dirt being leveled and blocked off for future concrete. There was a bit of traffic, constricted at times to cross within a single lane with the road workers along the sides.
I had a bit of a plan and first stop was to find this place called Mike and Anna’s and then visit the Falls and Treehouse there after. Next, make it to the halfway point, grab a liter of fuel and loop back around the opposite side of the island, past the airport and connect back to where I had begun. Seemed easy enough and I was geared up for anything. The air was hot and the scenery got more and more beautiful with each kilometer covered. I was traveling along and noticed a beautiful church high up on a hill. I cut down its dirt path and parked the bike climbing up the steps to check it out.
It was immaculate and decorated with every day items. Coconut shell chandeliers, sea shell embroidered decorations in the walls. A beautiful bottom half of a tree stump for an alter and the same hard wood pews. The space felt so heavenly I could only imagine what the mood was like during a service. I snapped some photos and went back to the bike to keep progressing along the route.
The hills got to be very lush and pockets of water were making their way into view. I could see the parts of water I had traveled in on, which was an interesting change in perspective seeing it from the shore now. The seemingly uninhabited mountainsides I had seen from the boat, were now these dusty, country surroundings. Being able to see the shacks and traces of life that in fact did exist within these hills was a real treat.
One thing I will note about the properties here is, there wasn’t much for vacancy. I could see each and every person living here. The children were out in the open, either working, playing or simply existing. The adults were usually tending to some chore, either farming, burning trash, sweeping, or again, simply existing. And this went on, kilometer after kilometer. The roads, as mentioned, had gone from concrete highway (in what could be considered developed) to now rustic and rural, dirt covered and bumpy roads filled with loose rocks.
The thrill seeking of getting this bike out onto this terrain had taken hold of me. I was zooming past all this incredible scenery and the influx of seeing a rural and simplified life had me grinning ear to ear. It was infectious, like the ashes from a dirt pile I was born into this new world. Straddling a roaring machine I was pushed forward speeding up and down its hills. Anything could happen..
And so it did. Sure enough, as I climbed a hill a little too fast and upon coming over its crest descended into inevitable trouble. The region does in fact have rainy seasons and this part of the road had developed a very large and tumultuous tract of ruts running down its course. One such rut happened to be on my side and as I attempted to swerve away from it, I couldn’t slow down nor maintain control. My traveling partner and I both wiped out in succession. I happened to get my speed down a little and avoided going beneath the bike totally. So, my fall wasn’t too bad, but my road mate ate it pretty hard. The cracking of plastic fenders and crunching metal into dirt and rocks was loud enough to draw out a few locals into the street and we in touch with what pains were suddenly rushing to our senses. I quickly could identify multiple accounts of road rash along their arms, hips and hands. More on the legs and some on the rear quarters. Things were laying out in the street so my initial response was to clear the way so no other motorists came and added to the wreckage. I did my best to heave one bike to the side and went to my road mate to see how severe their injuries were as they cried out, “I’m Okay, I’m Okay.” I asked how’s your legs, “Anything feel like its not working?” They seemed to realize there weren’t any fractures and it was just a lot of burning scrapes and cuts. By now, the locals were there helping me over turn the second bike and moving it to the side. Standing up, I could see the extent of the road rash and it looked raw.
Covered in dirt and loaded with rocks, I knew this wouldn’t be an easy fixer upper.
I was standing there in the hot sun, situated on a steep decline with ensuing motorists whizzing by any minute. My mind raced as I knew I had first aid, but unsure how I could expedite this process smoothly. Thankfully, the man ushered us into his house that we basically wrecked directly in front of. We hobbled in and just being out of the sun was a relief, but the burn of our injuries was now coming on strong. I sat them on his bamboo bed and began diagnosing what was needed medically. If I could clean the wounds well enough that would be a plus. Covering with antibiotic and some sort of protection from the elements was also in mind. I knew there’d be some screams and yelps, but I just had to work around all those. I ignored my own injuries and focussed on what was before me. I had only a single splash of water which I used to clean the arm and hip with. As I would work on cleaning one wound, the man had his dirty, used for whatever, towel smacking at the other wounds trying to add in his part for medical assistance. I managed to keep him at bay as politely as I could and dressed the wounds one by one. I think it instilled some level of confidence because now we had to determine what would be our next move. I pulled out the paper map and he pointed to where we were, San Rafael. The language barrier was in full effect and I tried to say doctor, medical, help. He wanted to drive on one of the bikes, but that wasn’t an option. I knew we could drive, but we were smack dead in the middle of the loop that went around the island. Do we go back the way we came and travel along charted territory or do we forge ahead and complete the route? He pointed to a city, Desechado that I’m pretty sure I got him to repeat three times that a doctor was there, but he was certain we should continue around with the loop and it would not be quicker to go back the way we came.
I had to take him on his advice for what seemed to be a coherent understanding of what was at stake here, but that’s really all a hot, out of breadth, wildly uncertain assumption in a very remote and foreign region. Either way, I was back outside standing up the bikes and moving ahead with the plan. The roads didn’t improve and I know I could feel the stings of pain in my wounds and it had to only be worse for the other person. One of the wounds we shared was on the palm of our hands, of which controlled the throttle. It was a trick to find a position that didn’t stretch the wound open upon every twist. I followed behind to ensure I could see and respond to anything if it were to happen and they motored on with sheer determination to complete the route and get medical help. The road continued, passing through various ups and downs. So too did the rocks continue and we reached the stretch that was marked on the map as being “a little bit bumpy.” It was sheer climbing up dirt hills with ruts galore. I basically had to straddle the bike and hold the throttle in the lowest gear to walk the bike up the incline. It of course was burning fuel at an irretrievable rate and I’d not put any in since I left the bike shop.
I was on a mission and also under much different circumstances. I didn’t have the luxury to stop and explore the various towns that I passed, not to mention they were few and far between. Certainly less populated, developed and accommodating to anyone unfamiliar in these parts. I was hours from the start and could be hours from the finish, but I kept climbing and descending my way along the loop. We circled the north end and came around to the opposite side. I was hit with a new wind that held the fresh smell of salt in its air. It was a refreshing scent and carried me into a new sense of discovery. Yes I was banged up and on a mission against the elements, but I couldn’t help but notice my surroundings and the unexpected beauty that was able to overwhelm even in these dire circumstances. My road mate would look back and I knew it was same feeling on their end.
We managed to get our bikes past all the rough passages and cruised up to an area called Chee. It was the most developed thing I’d seen in hours and I knew it was a chance to catch our breath, check our bearings, hopefully put some fuel in these machines and water in our bodies. I turned to go down their single lane entry into the developed village. It had a central park area for recreational sports, a church at the back, shops and houses along its edges and a “supermarket” near the church. In this area, asking for bottled water is a necessity. I was asking for water, but getting a lot of puzzled looks for what I exactly wanted. I showed the empty bottle and one man offered to fill it from some unknown source behind a wall, to which I declined.
Someone then told me about the supermarket and sure enough, fresh from a cooler came 3 liters of fresh, bottled water. I chugged half and ran back up the street to where the bikes were being negotiated for liters of fuel. We filled up, both the bikes and us and were back at it.
The light was lowering and I knew I still had some distance to cover. It was nice to have the comfort of fuel and hopefully a more civilized route ahead. The destination I directed my questioning towards was the airport. So most could answer if we were headed the right way and it kept things moving swiftly. We came upon a bridge that at this point could only be amusing and gave us a good chuckle. It was so crudely built with different planks being added on top of already dilapidated supports and all curving downwards, dumping motorists near to the water at about a 40 degree angle. It spanned about 70ft long and a little boy was walking past with a bag of goods.
I asked if it was safe to cross and he looked at me like the uncertainty of this was absurd. Of course it was, so I grinned and pulled my bike up to see how well I fared with this circus stunt. It was wide enough to get a large truck over it, which I’d seen passing us a few times on our journey and I assume they absolutely did cross at this juncture. I walked it halfway to where the dip was most severe and then roared across the second half with some momentum. Evil Knievel would be proud.
Later on, upon asking another local if still going the right way to the airport, he said we were and suggested we followed him as he was going in that direction. It was a good choice as he knew the lay of the land and could pick much smoother lines.
We stopped for a few panorama photos along the way and of course lost our guide, but we were managing well enough on our own. We continued to make our way around the island and soon came to a juncture by the ranch and the road that led to the airport. Our friendly guide from before had parked his bike and was hanging with some others as we passed. He ran to the street and gave a motion signaling to take a right. A few moments later I saw the split and kept right. There isn’t any real signage along these roads. The best you’ll get is a marker of the town you’re passing and of course the paper map telling where you are and what towns are adjacent to it. I hadn’t much time to be too diligent with charting a course and mainly trusted our instincts to guide us the rest of the way.
The sun was beginning to set and we were entering the hours of dusk. We were on the final legs that took us to the airport that were now paved, except that the bridges were broken up and segmented to prevent animals from crossing them. I’d seen signs of animal crossings in the States plenty, but never an animal in sight. Here, when they say animal crossings, there is certain to be a crossing of cattle herds, goats milling along the edges, dogs darting erratically from side to side, etc. Like I said, anything could happen. At this point, I’d been on the bike for some seven hours and I was pretty comfortable with it all things considered. It was completely dark now and we were still winding our way around the backside of the island, climbing and falling along its inclines and descents.
As I was alone with the road in this remote part of the world, I began to notice the fears I had of going too fast or throttling into a turn harder than I would consider equal to my skill level. The mind scrambled with its judicious decision making, rationalizing, weighing the pros and cons and deciding how best to keep the mind and spirit contained. I fought this urge and did my best at connecting with my spirit there before me, guiding and pulling me forward. As it stretched itself out in front, I held the throttle and emptied the mind, entrusting the body to do what was needed to steer me through this passage. It was an exhilarating experience, that spread like a wildfire to all parts of my body. It created a feeling that seemed to dissolve this form I had as a rational, decision making individual and brought forth a true spiritual vestige traveling along a guided course. God knows its the only way to live.
And thankfully, we did make it back to where we began. We rode back into town and parked in front of the only hospital in this rural region of connected islands.
We checked ourselves in and sat on a bench. A nurse came over and looked at what we had going on and stated the obvious. The gauze needed to be removed and the wounds should be cleaned. That was the gist of their synopsis so far and I was happy to hear anything. The wounds of course were drying and stuck to the gauze so it was slow torture removing these fragments. Mind you, we’re still standing at the bench of the entry way as the assistance is being given. The wound on their hand was deep and they opted for local anesthesia to have it cleaned. The nurse took us to the room in the front with half the window panes missing and had us sit. She prepped what she could for the doctor in jeans to come in and villainously wriggle the needle directly into the wound before plunging the anesthesia after a series of screams were emitted. He gave a laugh and went back to his desk work as the nurse very kindly continued on, stopping when the pain surmounted to what was intolerable. Periodically she would give me a list of things that were needed and I had to run across the street to the pharmacy shack to purchase and bring back. It was a government hospital so many of the treatments were needed to be bought and provided for by the patient.
I opted for a bit of cleaning myself as most my wounds had gone untouched since I took the spill. Most were fairly superficial so I wasn’t too concerned for them. Finally, nearing ten o'clock I made it back to the grounds of the hotel and the guard let us in through the gate. I had left my bags there in the office and never checked into the room. So when I arrived I explained what had happened and they stood in amazement at the story that was told to them. Truth was, I already knew I couldn’t have hit a better home run for an adventure story to live and tell about.
I spent the next day healing and tending to wounds, but did manage to motor into town for another lunch at Sinugba sa Balay. I stopped by the bike shop to ask for another half day extension as I felt more connected to the culture and lifestyle using the moto's than relying on trikes for rides. Afterwards, we went to a salon for manicure and pedicures and had a good time laughing with the silly girls who each shocked us with their age and number of children. I’ll just say just barely in their twenties and as they went and told how many children they had, it got progressively more with only a single year of age added between them. Before I went to eat I dropped the bikes off at exactly the hour they were closing so not to call much attention to the scuffs and marks. I went up the street for dinner at a place that had nice outdoor lighting. I watched across the street as a pack of dogs wildly patrolled and protected their ‘turf.’ The relationship humans have here with dogs is uncanny to us Westerners. We’re so accustomed to there being a connection with the pet, but here its a complete lack there of. The dogs don’t even look your way unless to bark and if you were to try and approach for a pat on their head, they would swerve out of the way and look at you with sheer bewilderment.
The hotel grounds at night was very painterly with lanterns strung through the trees putting out a glowing luminescence over the gardens and iron tables set up in grass. The next morning I packed and went into town for some final rounds. While I was out, apparently the guys from the bike shop had stopped by. I think the staff took pity on us and covered our tracks by saying we’d be back at a certain time, but knew we would have already left for our flight.
I took the shuttle to the airport and sat in the hot, humid , open air airport with every seat in the single lounge room filled. Manilla was backed up for flights and causing wide spread delays on all incoming and outgoing traffic. I waited another hour, but I’d set the schedule to account for things like this and had plenty of time to cover it.
I went right from rural Palawan into Hong Kong. Getting back to a big, developed city was something I thought I would appreciate, but as it turned out, I was a little overwhelmed by the transition of going from simple, rural life into one of the busiest and most developed metros in the world. I’d never seen stacks of buildings like this nor had I seen harbors with boats of all shapes and sizes zipping around every which way. Planes leaping up into the air and taxi cabs circling the city streets beneath.
I initially felt dizzy by it all, but knew there was an experience to be had. I was desperately trying to gather my thoughts, but things we’re already off and racing. I had met a friend at the airport and we went to my hotel to drop off the bags before getting dinner some place nearby. She took me to a newly renovated area that was at the end of a dead end street. Everything tasted fantastic, but the items were quite small.
We explored by foot a little of the surrounding area and from remembering the Hollywood strip at night to seeing this place, tall and jam packed with seemingly similar lights, something still seemed off about it all. Some disconnect was happening where the structures didn’t seem to embody any human presence whatsoever. They might have housed people and lots of them, but they seem designed for something less than human. Where in the Philippines, I was able to peek in someone’s shack and remember their face, here they were mostly blank and held no expression or even bothered to look my way. Perhaps I didn’t hold the same level of intrigue and my presence just wasn’t that special, but I’m in line to think something else was going on.
The buildings went high and far and in each district, was a shopping mall. In each shopping mall, was another chance for Gucci or some wrist watch company to blast its interior lights out onto the streets and create its marque bigger and shinier. Inside each shop, there were dozens of staff members all standing in clusters with no customers to entertain. They just simply watched the people go by and presumably left with lights on when it was time to go. It continued in a similar fashion. I was puzzled and more inquisitive of why the excesses than I could be contemplative of seeing a new city for the first time.
The next day I rested up a bit before going up to 'The Peak'. First, I should comment that I thought every street and every block of Hong Kong was a mountainous trek of never ending inclines, so when I said I was going to hike to the Peak, I simply thought that meant up to the highest street. No, it was an actual peak of a mountain situated inside a cloud. It was nice though. The foliage collapsed all around me and the trails were damp. There was a big paved road that most the exercise junkies walked on to get to the top, but I circled around to one that spiraled up and was much more isolated. I circled to the West and then out to overlook upon the South side where we saw a huge sprawling cemetery descending down in different tiers. At this vista it was mostly residential high rises and out across the water were more shipping vessels.
Venturing on, hours passed and I was continually mislead about the level of exercise I had left to undergo. I just wasn’t prepared is all. The sights and even the smells were fantastic. I commented on how the maintenance of the park was very good and kept things respectful to the surrounding nature. I passed one or two enormous houses that had at least twenty rooms each. The discussion was, that if someone offered the city a lot of money, they would break permitting and allow for someone to develop. It was right in the face of the joggers and walkers, which was the intentional flash of wealth. This city operated from that perspective constantly.
Finally, I made it to the top and of course, “The Peak,” was graced by a shopping mall that was teeming with this odd sort of human life that just gravitated to different stores to buy things. Thankfully, I took a cab back down or my calves might have exploded and I certainly needed them for walking around.
I went out for a fantastic lunch and ordered enough for 10 people. Everything was delicious. The tea, the rice, the dumplings, the peanut soup, sweet and sour tofu, the spicy chili cashew vegetables and finished it all with a bucket of bean curd desert. It was noted to me here that Asian cuisine is typically accompanied by loud banging and clanking noises. It signaled good things are happening and livens up the atmosphere. I thought it was fun to watch as they carelessly dropped things into their clean-up buckets, keeping the noise at a high level.
Afterwards I explored the city a bit more and then got cleaned up and dressed for an outing on top of one of the high rises. I met back up at the roof top bar of the Prince building that had a great wrap around terrace with views in every direction of central Hong Kong. I was right smack next to the HSBC building that had its bright red illuminated lights and towering over me in the other direction was the IFC along with its partner the ICC behind in Kowloon. Seeing all the lights at night was intriguing and I do appreciate it for the sort of spectacle it created at night. I noted that everyone had to go and snap a photo of themselves with this scenery as the backdrop. The weather was very nice here actually. There was little to no smog, so most all the day I could see things quite well. Clouds would roll in now and again, but it was a good temperature and rains were absent too. I chatted on a couch with some other friends for a good while before we all parted ways.
The next morning I set out to explore the city more, but first walked over to an Irish nautical spot for brunch. They had a fairly decent eggs Benedict. It came with two teeny pieces of French toast and on top were three blueberries and two strawberries. The coffee was good, though. So, I downed a few of those before venturing onward. I found myself at a Red Bull X-fighters event at the harbors edge. Four motocross free-stylist were making passes and jumping from one side to the other. Backflipping and twisting, contorting their body out over the seats as they flew through the air. It was a good show but I ducked out before the crowd was to disperse and kept making my way towards Lantau.
It was my goal to go up to Ngong Ping and see the Giant Buddha. I made my way through the turnstiles for almost an hour before getting up to the counter to purchase tickets to go up on the gondolas that went up the mountainside. They packed us in with 6 other people and I smiled for the man taking photos to sell to us at the other end. The attraction was very touristy in its decorum, cost and adverts trying to sell you on more and more things. The ride up was very cool! I could look back and see the long, man-made strip of land that housed the international airport. And on either side of me were complete mountainsides. In the distance were various high rises for more residences. Up and up I went along the long, drooping cables. I never could see the top of where we were headed to due to dense and low lying cloud coverage.
Soon enough I was within the clouds. Eventually, I arrived, and like an out of the box toy, welcome to Ngong Ping village where, guess what! It was a strip of shops selling various stereotypical Asian assortments. No Buddha in sight, but I walked directly to where it was supposed to be. I could usually see it well from the ground without ascending its stairs, but in today’s conditions the clouds were too thick and uninterrupted to see it anywhere. I looked at the steps leading and tried to imagine seeing it there, seated inside the lotus blossom with the fingers of its outstretched hand pointing upwards. I walked over to a monastery that too was closed and I was enamored by its colors and architecture. Such vivid wood work and usage of colors. I was amazed by it. And along the entrance to its gate were incense was casting a noxious haze. I typically enjoy the smell of incense, but can’t say I’ve ever been in the midst of 200 sticks burning, some of which the thickness of a baseball bat and the length of a hockey stick. There were venders selling grilled corn on a stick out of a charcoal barrel grill and I felt I could use a little corn on a stick at this moment so I indulged. As I was snacking, behind me the buddha appeared for a brief moment from inside the clouds. It was a real treat, if even for a few fleeting seconds.
As I made my way back over to the fictitious village, I had seen that the line for getting a ride back on the gondolas was over 75 minutes of waiting time. I was in trouble. I had dinner and a flight to catch and it was nearing dark. I checked out the area where signs stated busses might take people back down and perhaps I could sacrifice my round trip gondola ticket to get back on one of these. It was eerily un-operational aside from a long line of people and two men in a booth whom I tried asking questions to. He seemed agitated and turned his back to pick up the phone and start talking to someone, anyone, other than me. Eventually I figured out the bus system and decided it would be the quickest way back down. As I waited, a few steers emerged from the cloudy hazes and started walking through the area that the busses circle around in. Everyone was watching and when the timing seemed appropriate, it let out a monstrous howl and stepped slowly towards the crowds of people waiting. Perhaps he was offering his own sort of transportation or maybe he was notifying everyone that the park would be closing soon.
Soon enough a half dozen buses returned back from their mountainous excursion and I was ready to board. They filled every seat and refused to give any change to a double price ticket. Thankfully I was able to break a larger bill with someone in line. The ride down was dizzying. Certainly the driver has made this plunge many times, but the pace was defiantly fast and allowed for only one car to pass in either direction. It was a lot of twists and turns, but I was back and taxiing my way to the MTR in no time. I made it over to Kowloon for dinner. The food wasn’t as good as the previous night's restaurant, but I managed to fill the table with items. I planned on taking most it with me on the plane to avoid getting sick by its food again. And it worked out quite well. On the plane I was petrified of eating anything they had in those carts. I think they were cooking with an Easy Bake oven right inside the carts as they pushed it up the aisles. The trip home seemed to go by much quicker and once I was in LA I was departing again for Palm Beach, destined for home.
The trip taught me a lot and certainly opened my eyes to the art of travel. I felt that the planning for this trip was done exceptionally well and it allowed me to really make the most of it. I would return in a heartbeat, if there weren’t so many other new places to go and explore. Until then, its time to relax, rewind and remember.