Far East Files-8. Back On The Rim

I am homeward bound; first on a packed-full 747 from Singapore and then a sleek 777 from Hong Kong to LA.  Along the way we pass over that arbitrary, time-warper of a boundary, the International Date Line.  The IDL allows me to leave Asia at 2 pm and arrive the US at 2:35 pm the same day.  All I know is that splendid Cathay Pacific, an airline that US carriers should emulate, delivers me 12 hours later to La La Land.

I arrive, of course, jet lagged beyond belief and still spaced out from the two Bollywood movies that I indulged in while over the ocean. This is the far edge of the Pacific Rim, a mental frontier where the cultural Asian tide spills into North America stretching from Los Angeles to Vancouver. It signifies the termination of my Far East fling and what a ride it was.

To contemplate the journey and recharge the sleep cells, we head to Venice Beach for the night, a funky California enclave that I have visited sporadically over the decades.  Dinner at oceanside Larry’s offers Western fare and a choice of 20 draft beers.  I chomp down on arugula salad and a cheese burger.  The meal is a hefty wake up call from the delicate dim sum that I devoured a day ago during a Hong Kong lunch.  Duvel from Belgium and an IPA from the LA-based Smog City Brewery supply the elixirs for the trip’s review.  We’re a million miles away from ordering a Chang.

This adventure had some surprises for me.  I found Thailand underwhelming and its natural world either overrun by tourism or filthy from overuse and neglect.  Still, the people were generally friendly and the food was ooooo la la.  I ate at least one curry every day, sometimes three.  The city of Hong Kong and the island nation of Singapore, however, we’re pleasantly amazing.  Those places throttle the Asian verve into high gear.  They are modern, fashionable, prosperous & preposterous, metal & glass hot spots of the Far East.  I could sense their monetary moxie while wandering the busy streets.  I was also amazed at how efficiently these urban centers handle the millions of people that reside there.  It was an impressive display of two 21st. Century Asian societies shaping the global economy and the world’s destiny.  Images from nearly a month in the Far East now flood my mind…

With Larry’s complete, we weave back to the hotel through skateboarding hipsters, scantily clad beach babes and delirious homeless people. One street vender has his sleepy dog lay prone on a pillow, adorns the furry one with pink panties stuffed with dollar bills (hint, hint), and posts a small sign that says, ‘This ain’t no Disneyland’.  Ah, you gotta love dysfunctional Venice.

The sun is setting golden over the Pacific while I gaze west to ponder the East.  It has been a voyage of discovery, one of personal growth and awareness.  I laugh now at my childhood impressions of Asia as delivered to me by the film character, Charlie Chan.  He often quoted Confucius, that Tang Dynasty cheerleader and philosopher, at critical points in his detective movies.  So to end the Far East Files, I choose the eloquent Charlie to close for me.  “Confucius say… Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.”

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