Tagged : ‘seoul’

Day 1: Seoul to HCMC and Some Thoughts On Species Extinction.

4 years, 6 months ago Blog 0

It was pitch black when I got up in the morning. These love motel windows are great in keeping out the neon and street life but upon waking up, they give you the impression that you’re in a cave and that you’re some sun-deprived troglodyte. The walls, on the other hand, failed to keep out sex sounds all night, perhaps the nymphet found her place after all. Seeing that I found the window before the light switch, I opened it for the sun to beam in and to air out the smell of sleep. But after taking a whiff of the sweet, city aroma; and seeing grey buildings, grey skies, and garbage bags dumped in the unlikeliest of places, for example, on the roof of the metal awning right under my nose – I quickly closed it and continued groping blindly through the dark.

I showered in the plastic shoes provided by the motel, got dressed and left to do some last minute shopping. I bought a toiletry pouch, toothpaste, mouthwash and four small tubes of hand sanitizer at Lotte Mart. I then headed for the airport taking the express train.

My flight was at 14:00 – Seoul – Guangzhou – Ho Chi Minh City. I heard that my flight at 294 dollars was still too expensive.

Here`s something you don’t usually see at the airport – a skating rink! But as I was coming down the escalator, my canook sense (I say canook  rather than canuck for it sounds like canoe and brings back pleasant memories of Buckhorn lake) tells me that something was different. I then walked by it and didn’t feel that pleasant chill one would encounter walking by a real rink. In fact, it was made of plastic. Plastic has invaded all aspects of our lives…noses, breasts, snoop dogg songs, and now a skating rink. I did see a boy hit his head on the surface. Just like ice I thought. But real hockey-playing canooks would probably take this sight as a serious moral transgression, a spittle on the red maple leaf…also because the boy was without a stick and a puck and started whining to the rink rat for help in getting up. The whiny-ness is actually quite common among young Korean girls and boys up until the age of 30.

I boarded the plane in Seoul without any problems and arrived in Guangzhou at 18:00. The food on board was fried rice. What a surprise.

I read an article in the flight magazine about how the Chinese government is still getting heat from animal rights advocates for serving shark fin soup in restaurants, so the article discussed an alternative which is supposed to taste exactly like shark fin soup. The people at Southern China airlines finally got it. I applaud them, but for the rest of China, not so sure. Particularly, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Right off the international flights transfer ramp in Guangzhou, after the security check, I entered a long corridor with stores on both sides. On sale were items like tea, books, designer bags and expensive watches; overpriced artwork; exotic insects preserved in plastic key chains; and jewellery made out of China’s most prized, fortune bringing mineral, Jade. But what I was most interested in was an elephant tusk in a display case in the window.

After following its very detailed engravings with my eyes up and down numerous times, I was immediately hypnotized and taken to sub-Saharan Africa where elephants are chased down and poached and have their tusks ripped out and sold on a daily basis…probably to practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or, to airport souvenir shops like the one before me. I cringed inwardly hoping that this elephant hadn’t succumbed to such an unnatural and premature fate.

And then my mind wandered again to the week before watching Ewan McGregor’s and Charlie Boorman’s Long Way Round, about a road trip round the world on motorbikes. There was a scene when they were getting a lift from a trucker on the road of bones in Magadan, Russia. This was the segment of road where bad conditions prevented them from getting through on their own motorbikes, well, with a place called Road of Bones, what could you expect.

Ewan was videotaping from inside this herculean soviet machine of a truck when suddenly the driver hit the brakes, popped out of his seat with a rifle, and took off after a brown bear he spotted in the bush. Eventually the driver caught up, shot the bear, skinned it for its coat and removed the gall bladder. He mentioned that the coat is sold locally but the bladder is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The bladder goes to China because the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine puts it at very high demand at around $1,000 per unit. And then I thought: Is it possible for China and Russia to be the biggest contributors to species extinction in the Far East? In the world? With pollution as well factored in?

I also remember reading once that the Chinese government considered the tiger a “pest” and encouraged people to kill these animals under the anti-pest laws of ’59. That explains why they’re almost extinct and us as a human race soon to be.


bird tied to a stick in an animal market in Beijing

man looking through a cricket catalog in an animal market in Beijing