Saturday, 23 February 2008

disappear 2


What do you look at when you walk through a strange place?

Do you walk to explore the endless possibilities of hidden beauty? Or do you just walk to forget yourself and the many trivial things that come attached with you? Do you look up at the sky. Or do you look down at the cobbled pavement. Or at nothing in particular?

When you stand at the corner of Harbour bridge in Sydney waiting for a traffic light to change, do your eyes wander to see while you wait, or do you just stare at the sign that reads “DON’T WALK”?

In Istanbul, Avignon, Florence, Hoi An, and many other cities, I enjoy walking through the old quarters that have remained the same for hundreds of years.

In Cairo, my favourite place is Khan Al-Khalili, where I like to get lost in the crisscrossed lanes, or sip a cup of mint tea at Fishawi café which Naguib Mahfouz used to frequent.

In Chicago I like to immerse myself in the jazzy atmosphere of its many sidewalk pubs.

In Seoul’s Myong-dong, it’s a great place to watch some of the most fashionable people in the city.

In Paris, there are the familiar streets leading up to all the museums I love to visit – the Lourve, the Musee d’Orsay, the Musee Picasso and the Pompidou.

Is the time you spend walking in the city a meaningful experience, or is it just a period empty of meaning – distracted from distraction by distraction, as T.S. Eliot once described our apathetic moments in this twittering world?

Sometimes it’s the part of the city in which you stay that seems exciting.

The Hotel Number Sixteen in London, close to South Kensington, is within the vicinity of many elegant book stores and galleries.

The Marriot Garden Resort in Bangkok, by the river bank of Chao Phraya, has a glorious view of Wat Arun in the far distance and bustling traffic of river taxis.

In Singapore the Westin is just a short walk to many lovely spots including the Esplanade and the Art Museum.

These hotels are all in the heart of their cities, and great starting places for exhilarating walks.

Wherever I am, I could follow those long, straight, flat monotonous roads for miles and miles, north, south, east and west, and never get sick of it. For in those walks I find far more than I seek.

Road signs by the Thames river near Big Ben, London.

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