Monday, December 12, 2011

Random Ramblings Epilogue

Day & Night - 12.12.2011

I sat down on my bed, opened my laptop, and browsed to the folder where all my blog entries resided. It was like one of many days in the past year or so, except that now, I am sitting on my bed at home instead of some hostel or guesthouse. My thoughts are many, as were the experiences in my trip, as I tried to pen my last entry of my blog, and of my ramblings.


 
Writing/Blogging
I have always been a private person. Sometimes, intensely so. A perfect fit into the stereotypical mold of the Man who would keep to himself, and not divurge much about their feelings. And so, never in my wildest dreams, would I think that I would be blogging publicly about my journey, revealing snippets of myself, my feelings and my "failings".

This trip is not just an excursion to fulfill my "101 destinations to see before I die". I wanted to try things differently; I wanted to explore paths that I normally would not take and face the challenges of trying something new. And so it is with blogging. Further to that, I wanted a "travel blog" that is a little different from the usual travelogue of describing places visited and/or recommending places/restaurants. So I tried to incorporate inspirations or "lessons" garnered from the experiences and encounters. Of course, the key word is "tried", and certainly, I did not always managed that aspect. But still, I would at least try to provide an interesting enough tale. And I'm happy I tried.

I am not a prolific writer, so sometimes the words don't come so easily. But on days or events that generally moved me, the words flowed. I remembered when I left Lapland with my failed quest, I wrote my entry in two hours, on the overnight train back to Helsinki; and it was one of my favourite pieces. Similarly for the Antarctica entries. But there were many days and times, even if I had two or three stories forming in my head, I could not begin to pen it down! And I fretted that these uninspired posts would pile up!! It was certainly challenging!

But I am so so glad that I did it. It was during those times when I tried to put thoughts and feelings into words, that I truly reflect. And well, I honed some writing skills as well!

A special thanks to all who had motivated me with your encouragement and 'Likes'! ;)


Long-term Backpacking/Traveling
During the later months of my travel, I met a South Korean girl who was also on an extended trip. She had a problem of not meeting like-aged female backpackers - round-the-world travelers in the late thirties were few and far between, she lamented. I sort-of agreed (adding that those over the 'four' were even rarer!), though I think it was purely coincidental. The world is just too big, and both of us are too  insignificant a number to conclude on that statement. But those few that I encountered (who were thirties or more), their travel were all more extreme than just a gap-year. One had cycled around the world for the past 3 years; another had driven his car around the world for the past 5 years, and well, yet another had traveled for the past 11 years!!

And I just had to wonder about my limits. This journey had laid my limits bare, and there were many a times that I wished I had a younger body, a stronger mind. A little more street-smart here, a little more adventurous there. Endure a little less of comfort living, yet enjoy a little more of life on that foreign soil. No, no, these are not regrets! Just retrospective reflection.

With that reflection, came just a tad of regret on one aspect of the trip. My obsession with sticking to my budget had perhaps, in a way, skewed certain decisions. And sometimes, my penny-pinching habits had reached paranoia levels - there were times when a taxi ride of $1 could have saved me 40 minutes of strenous wandering with my full luggage, or that 30 minute walk (and back!) just to get that 50-cent cheaper meal. Further onto my trip, as days of "administrative stops" become longer, aside from finding a good clean hostel (with Wifi!), discovering a well-stocked supermarket nearby provided a twisted sense of bliss that I never knew could exist.

Sadly, while I do try to sample the local specialty wherever/whenever available (cheaply), most of my sustenance were what I call "peasant food". It was a blessing indeed that I am a bread-lover, considering that the amount of bread I had consumed in the past year could have been twice the previous years! So, I was really thankful that somewhere in the middle of my trip, I had friends who joined me and as a group, food exploration was more affordable, and alot more fun!

I don't know, but perhaps this prolonged excessively budget-conscious traveling lifestyle had taken its toll, making one succumbed easily to travel fatigue? Or perhaps, it was just a self-rationalizing excuse :)


Photography
One thing's quite certain though. My photography, too was affected by the rigours of traveling. I had packed my photography gear pretty much the way I did for most of my travel. Even though it was the longest trip I would be undertaking, I had convinced myself that photography would still be paramount. And given that my previous longest trip of 2 months, I had fared relatively well, I was looking forward to capturing some serious travel photography.

The only thing really serious was my overall disappointment. The mental strain on the logistics of travel, on avoiding scams and dangers etc, left little else for imaginative composition, let alone the quickness to capture "magic moments". I was never a street shooter to start with, and an uncomfortable people shooter at best, so at the end of the day, the number and quality of shots (or lack thereof) of these genre were indeed disappointing.

And when The Fatigue consumed me towards the last parts of my trip, it was a surreal experience. An interesting scene may appear before me, and the photographic instinct within me would conjure a potential frame in my mind. Yet, there was immense resistance in reaching for my camera (even the compact!) in my bag. I felt like my limbs were no longer in control and another entity had taken over. Ridiculous!

Luckily, my passion for landscape photography salvaged some battered ego. Still, there were many areas that left me wanting. I looked through my photos of Torres del Paine and felt that so much more could be done (the place had sooo much more to offer!). And amazing Antarctica! The disappointment in my pictures was as big as the icebergs that I tried to capture. Though there were a couple of images of wildlife that I'm pleased with, it was that theatre of icebergs and glaciers that had so captivated me. Yet my pictures spoke otherwise. And the most painful realization of it all? That this was probably my most luxurious, and least stressful portion of my trip!!!

A friend once remarked that sometimes, when one gets too engrossed into the photography, one may lose the appreciation of the actual experience of the event or scene. So while my overall photographic experience was disappointing, I could only comfort and console myself that I had indeed experienced many of the experiences... *snicker*


The Ultimate...
One of the most unique experiences of traveling, is the people you meet and the conversations you have along the way. Every traveler would get different experiences. Inevitably though, there would be many common questions asked and many varied stories shared. And inevitably, when others knew of my extended trip (especially towards the later half), the single most common question would be, "What is your favourite place?", "Which country did you like best?" and its variants.

I suspect it would be repeated when I reached home.

The answer was more straightforward when one of the travelers rephrased the question to the following,

"If you could only go back to ONE place, which would it be?"

It may seem "unfair" but my answer would obviously be Antarctica. After all, the place is exotic, it is so expensive to get there, and the name alone would set people's eyes widening. But truly, being someone who loves mountainscapes, winterscapes, scenes of ice and snow and scenes of nature in general (and without breaking my knees, legs, back etc), the answer is really quite apparent.

Antarctica aside, Patagonia would have easily vied for top spot for my favourite place. Though both of these could not rightfully answer the question of the country I liked best (since they are not a country). And even though I prefered Fitz Roy on the Argentinean side of Patagonia, that hardly make Argentina my favourite country... so that particular question would have to be left unanswered...

There was another variant of the question though, which would generate a different answer. Many also asked which was my most memorable place/experience etc. Needless to say, the treks in Patagonia, the excursions in Antarctica all answered the question perfectly but there was one that was quite out of the ordinary.

In terms of the most memorable travel experience, and one that I may not necessary care to redo again, would be the Amazon riverboat journey. A journey filled with an amazing smorgasbord of conflicting feelings such that somehow, you would want to relive that experience, yet at the same time, be revulsed at the same thought. An experience that no amount of reading, photos or videos could prepare you for, and it is that initial impact of the entire episode that could not be replicated on a second visit.

But at the end of it all, of course, all of my experiences are dear to me. All my ramblings and all my photos. And all together, they form a very special chapter of my life. Thanks for reading (if you have followed this far!) and if you haven't realized, I do have a website which you can check out, um, in case I do have another trip or blog in the unforseeable future...

So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish!!*




PS:  Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome and appreciated. You can find my email on my website


* shamelessly quoted from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Ultimate Feeling

Day 448 - 03.12.2011

I smiled as the bus pulled over at the entrance of the immigration building. I thought I had my last overland border crossing of my trip during that re-attempt on the Armenia-Iran border. But apparently not.

When I started my trip, I had envisioned that I would naturally return via air. It never crossed my mind that I would be coming back by road, that I would have a stopover in Malaysia. But here I was, retreiving my luggage from the belly of the bus, and heading straight to the automated clearance system.

I smiled as the group in front of me were fumbling with the self-service passport scanning, and complaining among themselves in a language and accent so familiar. I smiled even as my fingerprint scan failed to open the turnstile. This had happened before, and really, what would go wrong on this border crossing? :)

The officer opened the gantry and motioned me forward.

"Sorry sir, just let me do a quick check here."

I smiled and nodded.

I was soon back on the bus, and the bus soon on its way into the drizzling night. I smiled as the letters in corner of my mobile phone screen changed to the Starhub operator. I looked out of the window, and smiled as I saw a typical road sign but the words 'Mandai Zoo' sprung out strangely into my face. I smiled as rows and rows of tall rectangular flats, neatly and brightly lighted, whizzed by. I smiled as a beautifully lighted and spiral-shaped  bridge came into view - I remembered it as Helix Bridge. I smiled at a petal-shaped building, that was not yet completed before, but now looking pretty in the night. I smiled at the beautiful and familiar night skyline, but yet looked a little different.

I smiled when the taxis sped by, ignoring my frantic waving on this drizzling Saturday night in Beach Road. I smiled at my smile, knowing that 448 days ago, I would have been throwing profanities at the taxi drivers  instead.

I smiled this day, at the ordinary, at the mundane, at the things I  normally would not. And why not?

I am home! :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Home

Day 332 - 09.08.2011

I like to go to the mountains, you know? Not say I very fit or what, but I like to see mountains lor. Then now summer very hot, I buay tahan, so wherever got mountain I will chiong there. So in Georgia I go Svaneti and Kazbegi, but still very humid hot lor. But yesterday, I just come back from the Kaçkar mountain in Turkey. Wah! So different! Very cooling! So shiok!


But hor, keep raining and very very misty leh. So, bo bian lor, suay lor, can't really go and trek. But still, I really enjoy the weather, no need to sweat like pig. I got take short walks to see waterfalls lah, but never see the mountain top. Never mind lah, just nua in the village Ayder also good. This "village" quite tokkong lor... Wah lau eh, got Wifi in the guesthouse one! Nowadays, villages are very modern liao!


But I tell you ah, the most special mountain I've seen is when I only 3-4 years old. I just move to Telok Blangah. Wah, first mountain I see is Mount Faber! Haha, small ginna lah, dunno the world how big. But last time brain small, so the image stick longer. So to me, Mount Faber still special lor. Moreover, it's home!

Oh yah, at home it's National Day liao! I remember Singapore's National day ok? I quite patriotic one. How not to be patriotic? Kena tekan for two and a half years, and finish my whole reservist cycle leh. How not to be patriotic you tell me?? Wah lau, even those old national day songs I still can remember how to sing ah, dun pray pray ok? Aiyo, nowadays ah, the new national day songs quite lousy leh... make people go gaga the wrong way. Although I don't like Dick Lee, but his song sung by Kit Chan I think one of the best liao!

Alamak, see lah. Now think of home liao. But surprisingly, up to now, I never think of chicken rice or mee siam (no hum) leh! Only sometimes think of the lor mee at my market. Wah, I think next time go back Singapore cannot go out to eat alone liao. Cos will forget to bring tissue paper to chope seat :(. But I think last time when mata wear shorts that time, go travel long long sure miss family and friends at home. Cos got no internet that time mah, so very expensive to call back.

But hor, even with internet, still cannot vote :(. I wait so many donkey years, cos my area everytime walkover mah! Now finally got chance to vote but I overseas cannot vote :(! Buay tahan! L L man!. How I know wor! But like our ministers (who are paid many many peanuts) always like to say, "Let's move on!"

So hor, that's why its "Majulah Singapura!" lah! Haha!



Happy Birthday Singapore!!!



PS. For those international readers (if any) who doesn't know WTF I'm writing.... never mind lah! :).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Facing Death

Day 291 - 29.06.2011

The winds swept across the grassy ground, fluttering the lines of faded prayer flags strewn across the mountain face. Dull grey clouds hovered in the sky as we sat down and prepared to wait one and a half hours for the ritual to begin.

I was lucky. I had missed the shared tourist minivan but a driver sharing the room with me in the guesthouse was also scheduled to visit the sky burial ritual with his two clients. Two kindly ladies who are lay-followers to Tibetan Buddhism, they had no problems for me to tag along without any additional payment. And being lay-followers, they easily struck up a friendly discussion with the lama "guarding" the burial site.

The Serthar sky burial site is apparently a well-known site, with rituals held every day. As one of the local Chinese visitors in Serthar dryly commented, there is death everyday. A Tibetan practise, the "burial" involves the corpse being offered to the elements after a certain ritual. The stone pedestal in this site in which the ritual is performed on was imported from India some 20+ years ago. Bodies come from all around the region, including Qinghai, Gansu and as far as Tibet! The lama recounted that during the Yushu earthquake a few years back, this site performed the highest number of burials in a single day - 120!! And just the day before, he further commented, there were 11 corpses! How many will today being?

The grey clouds began to shed droplets of rain as we reached an hour before the ritual. Our lama chuckled and said,

"Look behind you" in his Tibetan-accented mandarin.

We turned around, and there hovering above the mountain ridge, hundreds of vultures circled the skies expectantly. While we (as well as the lamas) had to rely on our watches, their animalistic instincts had been honed to the ritual timing...

At 1.30pm, the lama beckoned to the two lay-followers and we moved to the actual grounds. From their bags, the two ladies fished out a small little container. They certainly had been informed or have read up on sky burial rituals. The lama nodded and indicated that the cut fingernails and hair should be placed on the ritual pedestal. Apparently, by placing your fingernails and hair there, and with the lamas performing the rituals, you could somehow achieve the karma of a "sky burial" when you are finally laid to rest wherever you are. One of the ladies suggested that since we are fated to visit this together, I should also do the same. She promptly produced a nail-cutter where I snipped off a few small pieces, as well as a tiny tuft of my hair using my swiss-army knife. And as instructed by the lama, we then circumambulate the stupa in front of the burial ground - the number of rounds as dictated by one's age. And so as I trudged round the stupa in what seemed like eternity, a cold dreary drizzle began, as if in preparation of the mood ahead.

A motorbike sputtered into view bearing the first corpse. In response, the vultures congregated close to the ritual grounds. It was an unsettling sight, the hoard of vultures bearing in so close. So much so that a few monks had been deployed to keep them at bay. The air felt fetid, the atmosphere somber and even with the drizzle and the shuffling of the watching people, time seemed to suddenly freeze.


I had decided not to describe the process. Photos were also not allowed, although the two lay-followers had come to good terms with the lama apparently, and he whispered to the driver and me that  we could take some pictures discreetly if we wanted. Both of us just watched.

Somewhere in the middle of the ritual (which were performed by a different person), the sun appeared and bathed the site with light. Our lama chuckled again, and pointed to the side. The waiting vultures, wet from the drizzle, were sunning themselves quite spectacularly! It was quite a sight. I left the ritual grounds to take photos of the vultures. Watching the ritual performed on one corpse is probably enough. There were three adult and (gut-wrenchingly) one infant corpse.


These lamas (or Buddhism) view them as just a shell, devoid of spirit or consciousness, and so treat them as such. But the very human trait in us would not and could not face these sky burials as calmly as them. I have seen death or dead bodies before. But here, it was a different experience. Inevitably, a grimace will fill your face, and your heart. And with a shout, the ritual was complete, and the floodgates were opened. The vultures hopped, flew and swarmed over the remains in a feeding frenzy.

"And so, irregardless of your status in life, in death, you will be returned to earth/nature," intoned the lama.

The two lay-followers agreed heartily, visibly moved as well.

I just nodded numbly.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Onward Travel

Day 279 - 17.06.2011

She looked at my printout and then on her computer screen and a frown soon flashed across her face.

"Sir, do you have a visa?" The young girl at the AirAsia check-in counter asked.

"No, Singaporeans don't need a visa for less than fifteen days in China." I replied confidently.

"But you only have a 1-way ticket sir. Do you any other tickets out of China?" she further queried.

"No, I may be using bus or train, so I will be getting my tickets only when I am in China!" I replied not-so-confidently, my heart sinking a couple of notches.

"Sir, I can't let you board the plane unless you show proof of onward travel." She droned.

My heart sank further. This was the second time I had encountered this. Just a week plus ago, on my flight out of South America, I was also refused my boarding pass at the check-in counter in Buenos Aires airport.

At that time, I had thought that the world had conspired to keep me in South America. With the Chilean volcano ash cloud, my flight time was changed without notice to me, and then my check-in was deterred. Similarly, the Iberia staff had refused to issue the boarding pass unless I show proof of onward travel out of the EU. But luck was on my side then. While my original plan was overland travel through Europe to Turkey, somewhere along my trip in South America, a group of friends had tempted me with a customized photographic trip to Western Tibet, a place I had longed to go. So I had decided to join them and bought my flight tickets. Unfortunately, there were problems with obtaining my Chinese visa, and I had to forgo the trip. My tickets however, were non-cancellable; so I had proof of onward travel (out of Europe)!! And of course, I made it back to Brussels.

But now, here in the Kuala Lumpur low cost terminal, my flight to Chengdu was my last known transport to anywhere. I did not have any onward travel.

"Why can't I board the plane? I can go in China visa-free for fourteen days, and I can extend my visa and/or get my plane or bus tickets when I am in China! I never had any problems before. This is not my first time to China. Can you check with your supervisor please?" I tried to argue.

"Sir, it's our policy sir. Ok, I will check with my supervisor."

She returned with the same answer. And we had a remarkably similar exchange again on why I can't get onto the plane and why she can't allow it. Finally, she attempted to ask another (presumably) more senior supervisor. As she approached him, I moved forward to try to talk directly to this man, who certainly appeared a little more senior in years.

After another frustrating exchange, while he appeared more sympathetic, the result was the same.

"But I didn't have any problems before, when I had my one-way flight to Beijing. Why is this different?" I continued to argue.

"Ah, Beijing is different. You know China, each part is different, and their rules always change. We have our rules and they are very strict!" he explained.

Not particularly convincing, I thought.

"And if you are refused entry at the China immigration, you'll be turned back here!" he continued.

"Ok, I will take the risk lah. Just let me board the plane!" I pleaded desperately.

"No, no. We will get fined. The airline will get fined, and this poor girl will get into trouble as well!" he explained again.

That "poor girl" had the "Why Me?" look.

And, of course, the airline would get fined. Why do they need to care about me.

Luckily, Kuala Lumpur's LCCT had free Wifi in the terminal. So I used the same trick I used for my Brazil visa application. I looked for an online flight ticketing site that provided offline/delayed payment. I booked my flight, made sure my flight details and reservation number were clearly on my laptop screen, and rushed to the check-in counter again.

My flight was 6:15pm and it was already 5:30pm when my luggage finally got checked in.

"Got time to get my dinner or not?" I wondered aloud.

"Sir, you have to get to the boarding gate NOW!" the girl stressed.

It had been a long day. I hastened towards my onward travel.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

High Altitude Entertainment

Day 246 - 15.05.2011

The spectators streamed in slowly. The air thickened as the crowd thickened, though not in the manner of breathable air. At over 4000 meters, the air is thin. I resisted the temptation to redeem my free popcorn and drink, saving it for later. And moments later, the speakers cackled to life with the music from the movie 'Rocky' - 'Eye of the Tiger'. Right on cue, a man walked into ringside, proclaiming a great deal of litany with some extravagance.

I didn't understand a single word of it since it was in Spanish, but I could guess. Having watched WWF on TV when I was younger (WWF does NOT stand for World Wildlife Fund here), I was not a stranger to the scenario. In fact, it was almost identical to what I've watched on TV. I would never had imagined myself paying and watching a live wrestling match, but here I was. But this was no ordinary wrestling match. Like most tourists here, we were here to watch the cholitas wrestling.

Before the cholitas made their appearance, there were the usual show 'fillers'. Wrestlers with strange masks; wrestlers in tights, bearing comical skeletal prints; wrestlers wearing army uniform. They could do with more imagination though, with many stints seemingly copied from the American shows. But no matter, the highlight were the cholitas.

They strutted out into the ring with full fanfare... and full 'plumage' - extravagant traditional attire complete with their hat and plait. There was the customary parade round ringside, and then instigating the crowd to a frenzied cheer. And then, of course, the usual behind-the-back-attack by her opponent, and the fight is underway!!

The punches and kicks were so laughingly fake, it was more painful for me to watch than to be on the receiving end of the attacks. But the agility of the cholitas within their voluminous skirt were nonetheless impressive. There were nothing to stop them from executing all the high-flying moves! I had thought a strange sight when I saw Peruvian women playing soccer in their hats and skirts, but these Bolivian cholitas have topped that!! And stranger still was when after the male opponent had slammed the poor cholita into a wrecked heap on the ring floor, he had the graciousness to help her adjust her skirt to cover her bottom to protect her modesty, before delivering a 'vicious' kick to her belly. Weird!...



But take nothing away from these athletes - for that's what they are. At El Alto where the event takes place every Sunday, the altitude alone makes any strenuous activity a chore, let alone high-flying wrestling. And some of these cholitas are housewives (poor husbands!) from low-income families earning extra income, and it takes alot of training to be able to come out and not sustain any injuries. And like all wrestling, it is all about entertainment. And when the last match just ended, a voice screeched over the PA,

"Those who came by the tourist bus, the bus is leaving soon. Please leave ASAP!"

And while the tourists stream out of the hall, the kids (what are these Bolivian children doing here?!) all rushed into ringside; some tackling the wrestlers present, others just yelling and jumping around, and it was total mayhem in the ring.

Yes, this is entertainment!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Circle to Circle

Day 194 - 24.03.11

I started my trip with just a very simplistic strategy. All I had was a high level route that cover my dream goals : the Trans-Siberian, the Northern lights in Finland, then down to western Europe to catch cheaper flights to South America for Patagonia etc.

Somewhere along the way, a fellow traveler's Facebook album titled 'Barrow to Ushuaia' caught my eye. It didn't quite register in me what that may mean until a while later. I looked at my journey and realized I had similarly traveled from one end of the globe to the other! In fact, with my Antarctic trip, I had traveled from beyond the Arctic and Antarctic circles - 68 degrees North to 68 degrees South!


It was nothing special really - it was not like I've done it purely overland or the whole journey was on a bike etc; it was just a portion of my journey. But the notion of traveling from one circle to the other does sound unique and intriguing and I thought perhaps I should write something special about it.

And so, after many hours on the buses (and boats), here's a little "rambling" to commemorate my journey from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle. There are many references to my blog posts, so for those who have not been reading my 'Roving Random Ramblings' blog, feel free to check it out! ;)


Circle to Circle


Above the Arctic circle, my tale will start,
The village of Kilpisjärvi, my journey depart.
On the quest for the Aurora, I would be,
Oh, these magical lights, I so longed to see!


Santa Claus himself, in Rovaniemi I meet,
But alas my quest, ended bittersweet.
The Finnish Lapland, I had to leave behind,
As more adventures out there, I sought to find.


From Helsinki, to Tallin, a ferry I rode,
A most Wi-fi country, even the buses become nodes.
In Tartu, I discover, the childhood in me,
The toy museum I wandered, childlike in glee.


Southward to Riga, the party town welcome,
The hostels at night, pubs they become!
A gift of Baltic Amber, in Cape Kolka I did get,
A march of Latvian pride in Liepaja, never will I forget.


But the misadventure in Klaipėda, I lamented so,
The star attraction of Curonian Spit, I failed to go!
In Vilnius, I explore, museums and galleries galore,
Never have I, been so arty before!


Onward to Warsaw, where Cricovan wine I imbibe,
Then in Krakow, the horrors of Auschwitz, I barely could describe!
The ski town of Zakopane, my next visit entail,
Snow greeted me, and pleased me, always without fail!


An Eurolines bus trip, to Prague I booked,
A Frenchman I met, whose vocabulary I got hooked.
The city itself, so pretty covered in snow.
But it was Český Krumlov, who almost stole the show!


Based in Písek, a Singaporean friend well met,
From him, a home cuisine, I managed to get!
A flight I then take, to Brussels I land,
A night of waffles and mulled wine on Christmas market stand.


In Bogota, I began, my South American foray,
But passport got pilfered, on barely the second day!
A month I waited, for replacement to arrive,
And thus my trip to Venezuela, this delay did deprive.


In sleepy Salento, my coffee cravings did appease,
But not the sleepless gal, who kept crying "Stop snowing, please!"
Counting down in Cartagena, I wished my luck to turn,
Atop the colonial walled city, the pyrotechnics burn!


Receipt of my new passport, with breath bated,
And flew to Leticia, my new route dictated.
On the tri-border chaos, I wandered and wondered,
Now am I in any country, I mused and pondered.


Then to Manaus on a riverboat, along the Amazon no less,
The culture shock in hammocks, I could never had guess!
Trekking the Amazon jungle, an experience unforgettable,
With tarantulas, killer ants, and even grubs palatable!


Sped down to Rio, dancing to the rhythm and beat.
A city of revelry, and plenty of... meat!
Watching a glorious sunset, on the beach of Ipanema,
This wondrous show, better than any in the cinema!


22 hours of bus ride, I had to sit through,
To reach the wonders that is Falls Iguazu.
Covering two countries, and both sides I saw,
Each has its strength, and each has its flaw.


But based on my experiences, if I may so opine,
I have to say, I prefer the side Argentine.
Then downwards and southwards, more hours on the bus,
Reaching Buenos Aires in 18 hours plus!


And just in time, it's Lunar New Year in Singapore.
But instead of chewing bakwa, it's vacio steak I tore!
Despite the lack of angpows, of auspicious red,
A bottle of red Malbec to put me to bed!


Then over to Peninsula Valdez I stop, and across Magellan Straits I go,
Before I know it, I'm at fin del mundo!
Excitement bubbled, when I went shopping around,
A deal I've got, and I'm Antarctic bound!


Sergey Vavilov, is the name of the ship,
That would sail us on this amazing trip.
A cruise it is not, when we brave the Passage Drake,
Sickness will afflict all, make no mistake!


But celebrate we did, on crossing the Circle,
And the world around us changed, oh what a spectacle!
There were seals and whales, and penguins spotted,
But it was the icebergs and glaciers that got me besotted!


In Marguerite Bay, we reached our southernmost mark,
Then to the continent proper, we thus embark.
Captivated I was, that I longed so much to stay,
Though the memories I'm sure, will remain till the end of days!


A fitting end to a journey so magical,
That had me raving and rambling so lyrical!
And thus the globe I've traveled, one end to the other,
And so my tale will end.... but I hope I have another!!