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by Rick Green
It had taken us four days of strenuous trekking through the rainshadow of the Himalayas to reach Manthang, capital of the legendary Kingdom of Lo, or Mustang. For our efforts, we had hoped for an audience with the royal couple, but they were still en route from their annual sojourn in Kathmandu.
With the duration of our trekking permits limiting us to just one full day in Manthang, we managed to persuade the palace caretaker to show us around.
Unlocking the heavy timber door, he led us down a dark, dank, earthen-floored hallway. Ahead of us a lifeless figure materialized from out of the murk, a stuffed dog hung piñata-like from the ceiling. It was the raja's (Lo Gyelbu) first dog, a rare red mastiff preserved for posterity, forever on guard.
by Rick Green
Easing into a seat near the front of the bus, I noticed a homemade crochet banner strung above the windshield. It hopefully declared in large letters, "Bless our trip." With the previous day's journey only too vivid a memory, I definitely counted my blessings.
The trip began with a short flight from Manila to Legazpi City near the southern-most point on the Philippine island of Luzon. The perfectly symmetrical cone of Mount Mayon volcano was our goal, along with a quiet beach away from the sun worshipping crowds.
As we made our descent, I admired the rugged tropical countryside covered in disheveled coconut palms gently rustling in the onshore breeze, disturbed by the unnatural uniformity of soggy dark fields freshly daubed with verdant splashes of tender rice seedlings.
A small crescent bay on a scalloped coastline sheltered a flotilla of fishing boats from the deep, daunting swells of the South Pacific. On the periphery lay the scruffy clutter of Legazpi, capital of Albay province and the country's main eastern port. Majestic Mayon dominated the tranquil setting, its curvaceous hips rising into a gentle cumulus veil shrouding the summit.
by Rick Green
Leisurely pedalling through a verdant sea of tender rice shoots, I felt liberated from the confines of our car. Although the Mercedes offered air-conditioned comfort from the heavy atmosphere of Taiwan's East Rift Valley, on two wheels the peaceful postcard setting was mine to explore at will. Carefully nurtured fields painted the foreground emerald, enveloping the town's glaring white buildings standing huddled in the distance before a rumpled mountain range, its summits poking into a crown of whimsical white tropical clouds. I couldn't contain my urge to explore.
Chishang is a sparsely-populated township in Taitung County located in southeastern Taiwan. Not only is it at the opposite end of the island from Taipei, Chishang's rural tranquility offers a similar mental distance from the ambitious energy of the congested capital. Its main claim to fame is the high quality rice produced on the floodplain of the Huadong Valley, purported to be the best in Taiwan.
Anticipation of Taiwan's beach season steadily grows throughout the months of winter and spring as the heat and humidity of Taiwan's subtropical climate send temperatures through the roof. It's hard not to get excited about the beach when the thought of taking a dip in the Pacific Ocean can instantly banish the sticky heat that is so characteristic of Taiwan's climate.