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(注:好久没更新博客,在此贴上几篇近来给一北京旅游杂志《旅行家》写的专栏稿和大家分享)

波兰作家卡普钦斯基。(网络图源)

“铁丝网。在一片白茫茫的雪地里,你首先看到的是铁丝网……这些带刺、猎食般的障碍蔓延在边境处,它们看似那么的荒谬和超现实,想防谁呢?这里是一望无际如沙漠般辽阔的雪地,见不到路,见不着人,积雪至少有两米高,要在其中迈步是不可能的。但这些如壁垒般的铁丝网,有话要对你说,要与你沟通。它们要说的是:小心!你正在跨越边界进入一个不同的境地,一个极其严肃、有次序、高度顺从的境地。学会倾听、学会谦卑、学会占用最少的空间资源。管好自己。最好沉默。最好别发问。”

上述文字摘自波兰作家雷沙德·卡普钦斯基(Ryszard Kapuscinski)的《帝国》(Imperium),一本关于游走在苏联国度瓦解前后的见闻记录。当时他正在跨越冰寒的西伯利亚,进入俄罗斯,以铁丝网借题发挥,短短数百字内,概述了该篇章即将展开的旅程之氛围,透露了接下来在路上遇到的人和事,在什么样的制度框架下碰撞发酵,为压抑冷酷的现实铺垫。

但沉默和不发问,不是卡普钦斯基的作风,多年的驻外记者经验,深入过非亚数十场战地采访,面临过死刑和致命疟疾的威胁,发问俨然是他的武器、是他的职责动力。于是,在他的“游记”里,透过一次次打破沙锅问到底的精神,通过与官员、老百姓、乃至边缘人物一次次对话问答,拼凑出一幅幅鲜活的当下社会写照。

我将他的“游记”划上引号,因为严格意义上而言,那不是休闲旅游书写。虽然有时候他会漫无目的地搭便车四处周游,随意和陌生人搭讪,但他的游与写,是经过严谨的考察、采访、重访,累积而来的旅游文学。他的文字带着浓厚报道风格之余,又充满寓言、创意、色彩丰富。曾经有一位爱书的朋友说,她不喜欢读“游记”,认为这类书籍大多风花雪月、吃喝玩乐、自我中心,要不就是各种景点介绍和攻略,那还不如直接在网上找资料,或买一本旅游指南书,或自己上路去探索。也许,类似卡普钦斯基这样,有记者背景的“游记”作家,能让她改观。 (more…)

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(注:又好久没更新博客了,在此贴上几篇近来给一北京旅游杂志《旅行家》写的专栏稿和大家分享)

一张马来半岛铁路的老照片。(网络图源)

记不清自己第一次坐火车是什么岁数,只知道是学前,身高未满需要买票的标准,于是和祖母挤在同一张床铺上,被祖母拥抱在怀里,随着车身辗过铁轨发出轰隆隆巨响和摇摇晃晃的韵律中,闻着窗外吹来南洋椰林芭蕉气息的微风,很有安全感地沉沉入睡。这个记忆种下了日后我对火车的特殊情结。

之后,我11岁第一次独自乘坐长途火车,那是我意识到社会险恶但人间冷暖交汇的启蒙课之一。400公里路程,从马来西亚首都吉隆坡到最南方的城市新山,当年需要坐十来个小时的火车,车厢里的左右邻舍见我幼小,一个个给我递吃喝的,连连称赞我独立懂事,让我心里好不得意。隔夜一觉醒来后,我发现兜里的钱包被偷走了,扒手却颇有“良心”地在我兜里留了一些零钱,大概是给我打公众电话求救用的(当年手机不普遍)。

而我开始觉得火车一节节的车厢装着一个社会的缩影,是多年后的事。过去这些年,我断断续续地沿着铁轨满世界乱转,发现自己其实走在历史的轨迹上,一列列的火车是一条政治经济传送带;从马来西亚的殖民痕迹,到中国的铁路红色记忆,到印度和巴基斯坦因分家而数十载“脱轨”,到欧洲工业革命历史任务完成后而逐渐隐退的火车,到俄罗斯西伯利亚列车的开荒流亡史,今昔往昔在一道道铁轨上交织流转,说不清我的旅程是在往前推进或是倒退。

摊开世界铁路地图,见到一条条黑线像人体的五经六脉般分布在各国,不难察觉这世界上也许有近半的火车路跟帝国主义有着渊源。蒸汽火车的发源地英国,随着工业革命需求伸展其触角到世界各地搜寻原材料,史上最庞大的帝国拉响鸣笛轰隆启动;大英帝国巅峰时期占据了全球约四分之一的土地,并在各个殖民地——从西边的加拿大、南边的非洲、至东边的印度和东南亚等国,大兴土木修筑铁路,每条铁轨都是其霸权政治势力的铁证,也是其经济脉搏。即便不是殖民地,如中国的第一条铁路吴淞铁路,也是由一名做鸦片、棉花、茶和丝绸等出口贸易的英商,没获得清政府批准下在上海非法建设。

世界火车路线地图。(网络图源)

我老家马来西亚的铁路曾是为了运输锡矿石而崛起,轨道将一个个锡矿资源丰富的城镇相连至海港,这一条条的轨道不但改变了马来半岛的地理面貌,也带来了社会人文巨变。19世纪,一艘艘船只将印度劳工运往马来亚修筑铁路,另外,一批批的中国劳工被“卖猪仔”至雨林里开荒淘锡,进而形成了今日马来西亚引以为傲的多元种族社会,但时至今天种族关系依然是一个暗流汹涌的政治社会命题。 (more…)

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Jet Lag in Cairo

It’s 5.17am in Cairo, and I have been up and about for more than two hours. The Azan call has just been sounded, one mosque after another blares their speakers, calling out to Muslims to perform their first prayer of the day, the rhythmic Arabic verses ripple through the winter chilling air, reaching every corner of the city resided by 20-million people.

It’s still dark out there, only a faint orange-grey hue is starting to filter through the sky in the distance horizon. From my 8th–floor hotel room’s balcony overlooking Cairo Downtown, I could see silhouette of numerous satellite dishes sitting on rooftops, puncturing the skyline. The streets below are still void of traffic, though I could hear occasional horn beeping and passing cars from a distance.

The blocks opposite my hotel, lights are shining through a few windows with french balconies, just a few lighted households showing signs of early morning activities, other than that, all is quiet. The streets in Downtown are lined with European-style architecture, these are the buildings raised up on a once swampy plain during a city make-over in the 1860s, by a ruler who returned from Europe and determined to transform the city into Paris by the Nile.

Somehow, I have the feeling that these buildings are left standing to decay, as many of them clearly lack maintenance, additional makeshift and non-descript concrete structures are springing up on neo-classical buildings’ rooftops, some balconies appear to be near-collapse, and the elevators that chomp up and down these buildings are moving through crack walls or iron-grill gates covered in cob-webs.

But in this early hours of the day, the city’s aging facade doesn’t seem as old under the disguise of semi darkness, until daylight breaks, the vibrancy of this over-crowded city is also contained. Having wake up so early from jet lag, I am enjoying a rare moment of tranquillity in Cairo.

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Egypt in “Transit”

A news photo showing protesters and army soldiers clash in Cairo December 16, 2011. Source: Reuters

My luggage is packed, my ipad loaded with e-guide and maps of Egypt; I am set to fly to Cairo in a few hours, yet my mind is still murky over what to expect from the journey ahead.

Until two days ago, Cairo doesn’t feature in my year-end travel plan, it was supposed to be a transit point en-route to Morocco (which I failed to obtain a visa), but now, Cairo has become THE destination. (more…)

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I have dreamt of staying in one of these traditional Moroccan courtyard houses named Riad. pix source: web

“My flight to Casablanca is on Sunday! I can’t wait….” before I can finish the sentence, the Moroccan Embassy officer interrupts flatly: “14 people are supposed to fly off tonight, and their visas are still pending.”

The message is clear – my case is not the most urgent, as I still have two days grace period, while others are only hours away from boarding, why am I complaining?

My sister and I have submitted our visa application to visit Morocco since December 4th, but the very next day, apparently, the country experiences a worldwide technical problem with its electronic visa issuance system.

My sister is lucky, as her application was one of the three visas approved for the entire past week before the system crushed, while mine, got stuck in the midst of processing, just short of pressing the “print” key when the system failed. (more…)

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翻墙很崩溃

又好久没更新博客了,倒不是最近不写字,反倒是为了给北京一些旅游杂志供稿,过去一个多月内洋洋洒洒写了数万字,但苦于无法登陆Wordpress上传新稿件…..

十月份起,Wordpress在中国又被封杀了,不翻墙就无法登陆,但近来不论用什么翻墙软件都不稳定,有时打开了登陆页面,但是敲入用户名和密码后,苦苦等待就是过不去,那种苦等很让人崩溃,最终我都放弃了免费软件,掏钱希望有比较可靠的翻墙工具,但是效果一样差(也许为了贪便宜,我没找对好的服务器),耗时磨耐性,我实在折腾不起就将博客暂时搁置一旁。

今天要翻墙前,我做足了心理准备,打算耐着性子要和这个世上最伟大的防火墙较劲,反正现在我有的是时间,自从上周辞职后,我就宅在小小的公寓里静养,估计这几天的大量休息,足以让我心平气和地面对艰巨的翻墙任务。

刚才我足足花了近20分钟才成功进入Wordpress,鉴于网速因翻墙而缓慢许多,要不是被系统提示链接超时,请重新载入,就是经常打开的页面是错乱的,需要不断刷新页面,等待之后还是等待,哎,当做是修炼吧。

今天无论如何都要把部分游记上传,是近日我给一本名叫《旅行家》杂志撰写的一组专题文章,关于西域以西的丝绸之路。只能分批上传,直到我的耐心耗完为止。

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提笔忘字

过去几年我在各地收集的明信片。

昨天我翻箱倒柜找信纸,想给父亲写封信,最终找到纸张泛黄的记事本,撕下几页后开始动笔,却发现提笔忘字;好不容易写满两页纸,却又发现附近的超市没卖信封。

这些年我已习惯用电脑敲字,以电邮取代家书,就连74岁的父亲都已会使用互联网和电邮,更让我少了提笔写字的动力;渐渐地我变成了书写文盲,若要用笔做记录,我往往会选择采用英文,毕竟26个字母如何拼就如何发音,没有复杂的笔画。

回过头来看,我只有在旅途中才会积极地提笔书写,除了日记也会在小小的明信片上,密密麻麻地随想随写,给亲人好友说说在路上的趣闻。纳入我邮寄名单的,只有固定的六个人——在老家的父亲和姐姐、还有四名散落在世界不同角落的挚友。

但我每到一个国家,有时会买十来二十张明信片,一来有收藏习惯,二来我不喜欢打草稿,直接在明信片上涂涂写写,不能像用电脑一般干净整齐地修改,往往字写得难看之余,还笔画错乱且词不达意,因此会有不少“作废”不能寄出的明信片。 (more…)

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