The Life of Berwick…

It’s been an interesting 48 hours in Seoul.

I started off with the intention to play in the Main Event at the Asian Poker Tour in Seoul (http://www.appt.com/tournaments/seoul/) with a buy-in of $2,500 USD and about 200 competitors, for a grand prize of $150,000 approx.

But, I slept in and missed it!

They had a secondary tournament starting at 8pm that night, however, with a buy-in of $500 and about 50 players, which I managed to make it down there for.

The tourney planned to play down to a final 5 players, and then break for the night and return at 1pm for the final table.

Well, I made it down to the final 5, but by that time it was already 2am. I was a bit irritated by this as it was a Friday night and it had been quiet all week in Seoul so I was looking forward to a good weekend evening out.

I ran out of the casino, jumped in a cab and headed straight for JJ’s, a club at the Grand Hyatt in Itaewon. I arrived just after 2am, threw down 3 shots of tequila in short order along with a few other drinks and very quickly caught up with everyone else.

By 4am I was back at my hotel with, oddly, 2 Thai girls (are they everywhere??). I don’t remember getting much sleep although I may have dozed off for a few hours and awoke to my alarm at 12pm. I put the 1 Thai girl who ended up staying the night in a cab and I grabbed another taxi to the casino.

A lot of poker players wear sunglasses at the table to disguise their eyes but I never do… except that day… and it wasn’t to disguise my eyes, it was because the light in the room was irritating me, having a bit of a hangover and having not really slept since the previous night.

I ended up playing perfectly, however. In fact, I’d have to say, that was the most perfect tourney I have ever played. Every one of my calls was dead on… it didn’t seem like I could do wrong. After a few hours I ended up finishing first… I’d post the amount I won here, but Rev Canada pro’ly scours the internet looking for more money to steal, so I won’t, but it was well into the multi-thousands… which was nice.

I actually commented to a guy there that it would take a wheelbarrow full of Korean Won to carry it out, since their largest bill is 10,000 Won, which is the equivalent of about $10 USD! But he noted that for large ‘bills’ they actually use these cashier check type things which everywhere seems to accept… it’s weird that the government won’t just print larger bills but it is something to do with them disliking material wealth and so they try not to encourage it because they don’t want to encourage materialism… but as usual the free market finds a way around everything governments try to do… it’s a good thing too, because the millions in Won I won would have been a suitcase full of cash!

And so continues the life of Berwick…

I have never really commented on my blog before about Seoul since the last time I was here was in 2002, so I will do so now.

I like Seoul quite a bit… it seems to have a mix of everything… at times it can feel like Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and Taipei all rolled into one.

There are tons of nightlife areas but unless you have some Korean friends with you, most of them are difficult to engage into as most people don’t speak much English at all… and many of their clubs are very strange… not normal by western standards. For example, I went into one that had a $40 cover charge… they then sat me down at a table, brought over a huge plate of fruit and 4 beers, which they opened all at once… I can never drink more than 1 beer (it makes me feel so full) so I was a bit irritated as I basically spent $40 for one beer… this place was apparently quite normal in that you kind of just pick out people you like at other tables and then the waiter brings them over… it’s kind of a cool idea, but speaking no Korean, it was kinda useless for me.

The main foreigner area, where you meet a lot of people who can speak English, is Itaewon. It is apparently near the American military base and has grown because of that… Interestingly, the military guys usually have a 12pm curfew, so the mood of the night changes dramatically before and after midnight.

There are a ton of clubs there but one of the better ones is Spy Club.

Also in Itaewon, just up the hill, is the Grand Hyatt. The bar there is called JJ’s… it is also a good place to go to meet people who can speak some English but the style is totally different than in the rest of Itaewon. The rest of Itaewon is pretty down market but JJ’s is one of the more “upper class� style clubs I have been to… It is pretty obvious that most people there are quite well-off… there are tons of tables outside and inside that people reserve and all buy bottles etc… the drinks are really, ludicrously, expensive… a shot of tequila and a glass of gin on the rocks cost me over $30!

The only other area I found that was okay was an area called Gangnam which has a lot of different places.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am staying in Myeong-Dong, which is a fabulous area to stay as it is block upon block of walking streets full of restaurants and shopping… it’s a great vibe.

I ended up going to a number of different areas to check them out, including Apgujeong-Dong and Sinchon, but all it made me realize is that Seoul is SUPER spread out… everywhere is a good 10-40 minute taxi ride away. The subway is an excellent way to get around as it is quite easy to figure out and is very cheap, but the taxis aren’t too expensive so it wasn’t too bad.

But now that I have checked them all out, I realized that the main areas I want to be are Myeong-Dong, Itaewon and maybe Gangnam a bit, and those 3 areas are all fairly close to each other, so it’s not too bad.

The last time I was in Seoul I was here with some friends who were Korean and spoke the language and knew the area and they took me to some really cool clubs… I didn’t see too many really cool clubs this time, so it is possible I just missed them because I wasn’t in the know… this is a huge city though, so I wouldn’t doubt it if I missed quite a lot on my short one week stay this time around.

Hopefully I get back soon, I’d love to spend more time here.

I have booked a flight to Vancouver on Monday, and so will end my Asian leg of this tour and commence my America’s leg, which will likely last at least a few months and take me through most of the Caribbean, Central America and parts of South America.

Or so goes the plan…

Taichung… to Taipei… to Seoul

I never ended up making it south to Kenting… it was a big holiday in Taiwan… full moon festival or something and all the hotels were full, so I headed north to Taichung.

I spent 2 days in Taichung… it was about as exciting as Kaohsiung… Taichung was a bit better but not by much… there is a semi-cool area in town around a bar called the Pig Pen. One thing that is good about Taichung is the nightlife is cheap. I went to the Pig Pen and it was $15 for entrance and all you can drink.

In general though, outside of Taipei, Taiwan nightlife is pretty bad. Chinese people just have no clue about good nightlife. There is something about Chinese people that reminds me of ants… for example, at any club in China or Taiwan, almost every single person will face the stage, where there is either a DJ or some guy rapping/singing along with the music (karaoke style) and they will all basically mimic what the person on stage is doing. Chinese people have a hard time being individual… they seem much more comfortable as part of a group.

So after 2 days I left Taichung and took the train North to Taipei… I stayed at my old haunt, the Wan Tai hotel… a very nice little hotel… only thing bad about it is it is in an area that is very Taiwanese (ie. no foreign food, no english signs, no people speak english etc)… and all the food around there (and in Taiwan in general) isn’t that good. I didn’t do anything in Taipei since it was a Monday and a Tuesday so I just relaxed and got caught up on some work.

But the thought of spending another day eating bland, strange Taiwanese food was not appealing and I craved some spice, so I caught a plane to Seoul.

I hadn’t realized it, but I haven’t been to Korea in 5 years!!! I was shocked when I realized that… I have been to Seoul a few times, but usually just whisking in or out on private jets or on business trips for 1-2 days, usually only staying at the Grand Hyatt in Itaewon, so I looked forward to finally seeing a lot more of Seoul on this trip.

I found a great hotel for the money and location. It is the Ibis Hotel in the very central,cool area of Myeong-Dong. All the other hotels in this area are all expensive and 5 star but the Ibis is brand new and everything is very nice for less than half the price… I highly recommend it.

I haven’t done too much in my first few days here… but the food is great. I like all the spicy korean food along with all their sour flavors, such as kimchee, pickles and numerous other pickled vegetables.

There is an Asian poker tour poker tourney tonight at the Sheraton Walkherhill hotel so I am going to head out there tonight.

My intention is to stay here through the weekend and then fly to Vancouver, likely on Monday… not sure how long I’ll stay in Vancouver, but probably at least a few days, then likely on to Edmonton before beginning a bit of a caribbean trip, then to a conference in the US (Denver) near the end of October, then likely back down through latin America for a month or two… that’s the general plan for now.

I kinda have a new plan… I think I will set up a home base somewhere in the caribbean or Mexico or Panama over the next few months and use that as a home base to leisurely travel the remainders of the caribbean, central and south America that I haven’t been to yet. Once I have visited everywhere, I will then get a place somewhere in Africa (likely South Africa, but maybe elsewhere) and use that as a home base to explore the last remaining continent I haven’t been to (other than Antarctica).

More from Seoul this weekend…

The embodiment of evil??

I’m in Taichung, and I will have comments on the weirdness here soon… but in the meantime, I couldn’t resist ranting:

First of all, I don’t believe in “evil”… all humans are generally born good.. but some have chemical/psychological imbalances that make them do things most people can’t understand.

But in the biblical sense of evil, no such thing exists. So, when George Dubbyah Bush read off the sheet of paper supplied to him by his speech makers, stating that there is an axis of evil, including Iran, Iraq and North Korea, I could barely hold in my indignation.

Not that “Lil’ Kim”, Kim Jong Il, isn’t a warped, pathetic, cowardly, sick bastard, but he’s not evil… he wasn’t born that way. He was born into a warped system… practically a biosphere, really, extending to the northern half of the Korean peninsula, provided to him from his equally deluded, psychopathic father.

Anyway, the whole lead up to this routes back to George Dubbyah… he is actually just an idiot talking-piece, the same as Greenspan and other puppets, but if you want to talk about evil, how close to evil is this:

The U.S. political system has to be one of the most fuxored systems ever created. From electoral colleges to straw polls, the whole thing is just an embarrassing mess. And, more so, it is so bizarre that the whole system is at the whim of the President. All 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 senators, as bottom-feeding, corrupt and sold-out as they are, are completely at the mercy of the President.

So, when I saw the headline today that Bush had used his 3rd veto, and it was to stop funding medical care for children, I couldn’t help but laugh…. but in a cryingly way.

Most presidents use their self-centered, pathetic veto power often, but Bush used it less than any president in modern history … he didn’t even use it at all in his first term. But he has now used it three times (compare that to Grover Cleveland’s 304 vetoes!). No, it wasn’t to stop the despicable use of fiat money and young men and women to occupy foreign lands. No it wasn’t to stop the transfer of wealth from poor working class people to bankers and the rich…

Here were the three times he was so aroused with fury (or shoved in the back by his handlers) that he had to do something:

1. Stem cell research – in other words, he was against the use of the scientific examination of basic units of biology in order to stop possible massive human pain and death

2. Troop withdrawal – read: he was against pulling out tens of thousands of mercenaries from occupying a state thousands of miles away and embroiled in massive turmoil and human suffering that hasn’t been seen on this scale in decades

3. And now, in his 3rd almighty usage of the veto power, he was so angered by the attempt to supply health care to children he just had to do something. (fyi, I dislike ALL centralized, non free-market attempts at anything, so in a bizarre way I am with Dubbyah on this one… although I would have vetoed EVERY SINGLE BILL FROM CONGRESS OVER THE LAST 7 YEARS ALSO…. and would have also attempted to overthrow the entire U.S. government.. but hey, that’s just me).

So, from a guy, Dubbyah, who says that there are 3 evil nations on earth, the only time he did anything to affect his nation was to stop the alleviation of human suffering, to continue empirical occupation and death-squads and to stop the eradication of sickness in children??!! (By the way, this is in no way a political promotion of the Democrats… if you think that it is you have been living in the neo-nazi.. sorry… neo-conservative state of America for too long)

All I can hope for is to catch Dubbyah one day alone in a room long enough for me to beat him senseless. And yes, that is a direct threat. Come and find me Homeland Security, and the CIA, and FBI and all of the arms of the American Offense.. sorry.. American Defense system. In fact, I have no doubt that if I were masochistic enough to turn on Fox News later today, it will have a flashing “ALERT!” graphic stating that there is a heightened threat level due to intercepted “terrorist chatter”.

I better hit the road before the black helicopters show up. Until next time!

Hong Kong, again – and now Kaohsiung, Taiwan

I flew up to Hong Kong with Jane for a few days this week. I have been to Hong Kong so many times that it feels like a partial 2nd home… but I hadn’t realized that it has been quite a long time since I was last there.. more than a year and a half ago.

We went to the horse races in Happy Valley on this trip. I highly recommend doing that if you are in Hong Kong… what a beautiful, cool, interesting place. Hong Kongites take their horse racing very, very seriously. There are so many VIP areas, luxury boxes and socialites there that it is really an experience. And all this against a beautiful backdrop of a field of green grass, an oasis right in the middle of Hong Kong, surrounded by hundreds of high rise building, making for a truly dazzling visual backdrop. In fact, I think I’d have to rate going to the races in HK as one of the top man-made urban events/places to check out.

Here is a picture of Jane and I at the track.

Pic of moi
Pic of Jane

I then shipped Jane back to Thailand and I took a short 1 hour flight to Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s 2nd largest city, with about 1.5 million people. I like Taiwan quite a bit… it has a really great mix of a lot of the good things that China has, but without a lot of the bad things… From what I have seen of Kaohsiung it seems like a really nice, picturesque little city.

The nightlife is pretty bad though. I went to a place called the Pig & Whistle, which the internet and the hotel concierge told me is the best place to go. At 10pm it had about 12 people in it, all of them guys, all sitting at a bar, drinking beer. I ended up chatting with two guys though. One from England, the other from South Africa… they have both been in Kaohsiung for 4 years teaching English. They took me to another place (doubled me on their bikes… I love motorcycle/scooter based transportation… I really don’t like cars at all) which was much better, called Fabric… but the people in that club were very Chinese-style… in other words, everyone was kinda weird and mostly stuck to their own little groups and smoked a lot… but I did meet quite a few people and many of them were nice… not many people spoke much English though and my Mandarin is very poor, so most convos were pretty short.

As an indication of how bored I got at one point, I dared the South African guy on a round of beer to go over and kiss this one old, 60 year old lady who was wearing a neck brace, on the lips (why she was at a disco is anyones guess… for someone with a neck brace on though she was really dancing hard!). He really got an A for effort… she wouldn’t do it, and even at one point her husband got really mad and I thought he was going to get beat up! But he tried for about 5 minutes, lol.

After that I decided to do my usual and take off and try to find something interesting on my own. I ended up at a place that I guess you could say is sorta like a strip club, but the girls don’t really take off their clothes. There was only about 15 people there and it had a strange stage show… there was an MC guy on a microphone talking almost constantly… about what I don’t know, and most of the show was just some guy wearing kinda crappy little g-string style underwear, breakdancing?! Chinese people are so friggin weird when it comes to nightlife. Apparently part of his ‘show’ was to go into the crowd and interact… he saw me and came over and challenged me to an arm wrestle?! The MC guy walked over too, and was hovering over me while a spotlight honed in on us, as I was arm wrestling some nearly naked Taiwanese guy?? I lost the arm wrestle… and my dignity. 😛

So, needless to say, Kaohsiung will soon be history. I am going to head south on a 1.5 hour bus ride to a place called Kenting, which is supposed to be a nice and fun beach town. I really have no idea what to expect… but that’s the point of going.

After that, I will likely come back to Kaohsiung and catch their new (as of January of this year) super high speed train to Taipei. It goes 300km/h, so the 350km trip takes only a bit more than an hour! That’s pretty cool! From Taipei, I may go to Seoul… but not sure. I am also looking into going to North Korea… I really don’t want to as the only way you are allowed to go is as part of a tour group… and the shortest trip is 4 days… and I won’t have internet, or even a cell phone (they confiscate all that stuff and give it back to you when you leave the country) for that entire time… but it would be neat to see a bit of N Korea… and definitely would be a cool place to say you have been… but 4 days without internet, or outside contact, and being bussed around and shown only things they want me to see, doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time… not to mention the fact that I’ll have a very hard time holding my tongue and not telling all the government people there how evil they are and how much I would like to participate in the overthrow of them and execution of Lil’ Kim… and you are actually supposed to praise everything you see there or you can get in serious trouble… so I have no doubt if I go I have a very good chance of ending up in a prison.

So, we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’m still in Taiwan… if you want to find me just look for the naked arm wrestling show in Kaohsiung, I’m there all week with two shows on Sunday. 😛

Detoxin’, the medical “system” and hitting the road again

I spent the last week detoxing at the Atsumi Healing Centre in Phuket. Upon telling a few people this, the most common response was, “why, are you sick?�… which is quite typical of western culture. In the West, the only time you worry about your health is AFTER you get sick, which is totally backward.

95%+ of all health problems people have are completely avoidable just by living a healthier lifestyle. We are subjected to a number of toxins in the air we breathe and the food and drink we ingest (unless you only eat raw organic fruits and vegetables) which need to be regularly cleansed. By simply detoxifying your body on a fairly regular basis, you can proactively get rid of the source of the great majority of health problems.

When it comes to health, no other organ is more important than the liver and thereafter, the colon.

Disease almost always originates in the colon, because when it is overloaded with toxins on a regular basis, those toxins seep into the bloodstream and lymph, eventually settling into weaker areas of the body. The body deliberately stores toxins in fat cells for safekeeping, but when too much builds up in one area, cancer or other serious diseases can develop. The name of the disease depends upon where the poisons settle. In women, one of the largest areas of fat is found in breast tissue—this is why breast cancer is so prevalent. If you understand this one concept—that most disease originates from a dirty colon (and wrong diet)—you’ll understand more about the cause of degenerative disease than most of the western medical community.

As example of bizarre western medical practice, upon catching a cold, or the flu, in the West, many people take cold or flu medication to help slow or stop the symptoms of the cold or flu… but this is EXACTLY the wrong thing to do. When you have a cold or a flu your body is trying to rid itself of toxins… in the case of the flu, for example, it is trying to burn them out. By stopping this process you are actually doing the worst thing possible and keeping the toxins in your body. This alone over time can build up into major disease.

In fact, it’s pretty much safe to say that the whole medical profession as it pertains to health in the West is a joke… instead of understanding how disease develops and being more proactive with patients to teach them how not to become so toxic in the first place, most doctors in the west just wait until you are gravely ill and then prescribe you chemicals to help you feel better or just cut out the affected parts… it is pretty much a useless system.

But I digress.

My stay at Atsumi was great. Not only do I feel much better than I have felt in a long time but I learned a number of new habits and concepts for diet and exercise which I hope to incorporate into my daily life.

Many of you know I was a vegetarian for about 7 years after which I became a complete carnivore, practically ONLY eating meat for the last few years. I found that vegetarianism alone was not a perfect diet for me. And I also know that living a more Atkins style diet isn’t the healthiest approach either (it is great to lose weight but not great for your colon, liver etc).

At Atsumi, I was on a raw food ‘fast’… which basically meant all I ate was raw fruits and vegetables. I found it to be very nice and am trying to eat a great majority of my food now in only raw food.

As well, I did many other things including daily colemas, yoga and liver flushes.

All in all, I am really glad I went and intend to go back soon to do a full fast (likely for 7 days). I feel more grounded than I have felt in a long time. And all those bad habits I have picked up over time (drinking too much… bad nutrition etc) seem to have subsided greatly because my body is feeling so clean and good right now.

I highly recommend it for anyone… and Atsumi in particular… it was very nice and the people were great.

After Jane and I detoxed, Jane took her PADI scuba diving course then we went scuba diving in Phuket, which was very nice.

We then had some time to catch up with some friends. Jane’s friend recently had a baby with a farang guy from Canada… they are living in Phuket now… I have to say, I admire this guy’s lifestyle… he is totally easy going… first of all, he named his kid Heineken (Nicky for short), because that’s his favorite beer… that should tell you something! He cruises around Phuket on his motorbike with his kid in a front-backpack and his gf doubling behind him… even when he wants to come out and have a drink and play some pool, he’s got the kid in a backpack on his back while doing it… Here is a pic.

On to other topics… my Thai 30 day visa expires again in 2 days… I want to get to Canada and the Caribbean in the next month or two, so I had a decision to make… start heading East or West? I decided to head West and do a ‘stan tour (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan etc) and then finish up some areas of the Middle East I’ve missed, like Iran and Syria… I was just about to book the trip when one of my friends notified me that it is again that time of the year, Ramadan! I was so close to actually booking a flight to Bahrain again… which if you have been following my antics, I did exactly a year ago, during the last Ramadan…. No eating and no drinking alcohol is fine if you are detoxing… but I just finished doing that… I wanna eat and have some drinks!

So, I again looked Eastward… Some people in Taipei, the last time I was there, told me that southern Taiwan has some beautiful beach areas, so I am thinking about heading that way… then maybe up to Seoul, then over to Canada, in the next few weeks.

Tune in soon to find out where I ended up.