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Meili xueshan (snow mountain) in northwestern Yunnan by the China/Tibet border was the initial inspiration for my trip to China. In a sense, I wanted to reimmerse myself in the kind of beauty and purity that I’d found hiking the Annapurnas in Nepal back in 2014. And I also wanted to get a glimpse into Tibetan culture without having to go into Tibet, which now requires a separate permit that stipulates group tour option only.

My original plan was to leave Kunming for Shangrila right after arriving from Vietnam, go to Meili, then trace my way from Shangrila back to Kunming overland. I’d booked my flight to Shangrila but had to ditch at the last minute. I fell horrendously sick right before the trip. Ran a high fever for a couple of days and actually had to take pills (first time that I could remember in my whole life.) By the time I boarded the plane to Kunming, my coughing fits were still unstoppable and chest splitting. I decided I’d better go by bus, making a couple of stops along the way to buy myself more time to recover. Those 5 extra days were exactly what I needed. But although my cough did get better, it proved to be way more persistent that I’d expected. My lungs couldn’t handle much exertion. Whenever I started to walk uphill, they’d send up loud protestations.

From Shangrila, it’s another bus to a town called Deqin. I was really excited because we would go over the famed Baima pass. But it wasn’t passable due to snow, and our driver had to detour to take the low road. The 5 hour ride turned into 9 hours, not too bad in itself but really draining when you weren’t expecting it. It was also on this road that I first experienced the notorious Chinese public toilet. I’m very far from being squeamish and have also lived in India where hygiene is not a well-understood concept, but this was easily the most revolting I ever had to put up with in my life. By a far margin. All the shitty stuff (not so figuratively) that people use the toilet for gets exponentially more disgusting as it lies visible and accumulates instead of getting flushed away or properly thrown into trash cans.

The next morning, I took a van to the trail head and was relieved to find 3 other Chinese who planned to spend the same amount of time in Yubeng – the village that sits at the foot of the Meili – and then walk out a different way. This second trail I was told was much less used and less defined so I wanted to tag along with others. I didn’t quite want to walk in with them, however, afraid that I’d hold them up and they’d be too scared listening to me trying to spit out my lungs. But no they were not gonna leave me and patiently waited at each turn. I almost teared up at their thoughtfulness and really wished I spoke Chinese. Thankfully it was only 10kms – not 20kms like someone had told me.

I hadn’t seen proper snow like this since my New England time, which was already 6 years ago. I’ve never been a fan, but it was indeed a refreshing sight that brought back much memory. Prayer flags kept us company along the whole way, a sure sign that we were indeed in Tibet land. And at the top, they hang thick and heavy across tree branches in all directions. We walked around laughing delighted like little kids at the colorful fluttering fabric.


Meili xueshan, Yubeng, Yunnan, China, hiking


There are quite a few rest stops along the way because this is an important pilgrimage route, but this time of the year everything is closed. My companions were lively among themselves, but didn’t seem as inclined to socialize with the few other hiking groups. If we had a break and saw that others were coming, we’d get up and start walking again. And one of them even picked up litter along the way. I was so impressed! They truly shined after we got to the guesthouse, where they took out a dozen kinds of Chinese snacks, dried green tea, aloe vera face masks, and then promptly went to get hot water for the three plastic basins. And thus I was ushered to put my smelly feet into the hot bath and got my face pampered while sipping hot tea. I don’t think I’ve ever ended a day of hiking with such style.



The last night in Yubeng, my Chinese companions had a lively discussion on where I should go next. My plan was to bus over to Sichuan to check out Yading, but I was a bit worried that it’d be too cold and snowy. Here in Meili xueshan, we could only hike up to about 3500m elevation where the snow was too deep to continue on (about waist high). Yading is even higher at 4000m, its main hiking destination at ~4700m. And during our hike earlier in the day it’d snowed the whole time; I was reminded once again of why I’m at heart a beach bum sun lover.

A few options were brought up, but all involved going south like Xishuanbanna in Yunnan, and most favorably Yangshuo in Guangxi – a place so iconic among the Chinese that its landscape is printed on the 20 yuan note. Frankly they didn’t interest me much. Going south means getting close to Vietnam; I’m sure the scenery is pretty but I feared it’d not be novel enough for my eyes. After more discussion in broken Chinese and English with the help of translation app, I picked the one that sounded the most fun: Mohe, the northernmost town of China – and that properly freaked the girls out. They promptly responded: Forget everything we’ve said, just go to Sichuan like you’d wanted to. Not really sure what I wanted anymore, I decided to go sleep.

Our hike out to Ninong along the Lancang river was beautiful, sunny blue sky, and my heart said: Yes, I’m ready for more snow mountains. Yading it would be!

The back road from Yunnan to Sichuan is served by one daily bus connecting Shangrila and Xiangcheng. I had not seen such a desolate landscape in years. For the middle half of the road, we didn’t cross any villages or see any vehicles in either direction. There was one single family that lives 2.5 hours from the last village and 1 hour till the next. I wonder if it’s much more lively during the summer.

Sichuan, Yunnan, backroad, China, bus, winter, Shangrila, Xiangcheng, Daocheng

Sichuan, Yunnan, backroad, China, bus, winter, Shangrila, Xiangcheng, Daocheng

Sichuan, Yunnan, backroad, China, bus, winter, Shangrila, Xiangcheng, Daocheng

Xiangcheng to Daocheng – the departure town for Yading – was another 2.5 hours by shared van. I actually bumped into a guy who just got back from Yading at the Xiangcheng bus station who told me not to go because it was too much snow and ice. But I went ahead and jumped into the van anyway. It started to snow, and soon was a white out.

Sichuan, Xiangcheng, Daocheng, winter, snow

Luckily the sun came out shining bright again the next day. It was off-season in Yading. Ticket was half price. And not too many people were headed in. All good for a thrifty crowd-hater like myself. A driver told me in the summer there are 8000 visitors per day and buses and electric cars run back and forth all day. Looking at all the big tour buses lying idle in the parking lot behind the ticket office, I totally believed it. But for us (me and 4 other from the same guesthouse in Daocheng), we only had to share the whole park with another 20 visitors or so. The not so convenient thing was that the buses only ran 2 or 3 times a day, depending on demand. If you miss the last bus, then keep walking. (From the park entrance to Yading village where you can spend the night is 6kms, and from the village back to the ticket office is +30kms. No outside vehicles are allowed past the ticket office.)

Sichuan, Daocheng, Yading, Aden, winter

The main attractions in Yading are the 3 snow peaks (Chenresig, Jampayang, and Chenadorje – believed by Tibetans as emanations of the 3 Boddhisatvas) and the 3 lakes (Pearl Lake, Milk Lake, and 5 Color Lake). Pearl Lake is easily accessible year round, but to Milk Lake and 5 Color Lake is a 6 miles walk round trip. I was doubtful I could even reach those 2 and was so sure I would miss the last bus and not be back till after dark. We headed out late and I lost much time because everyone in the park from visitors to staff once they heard of where I wanted to go held me up to explain why I should not. One guy spent a solid 15 minutes saying I didn’t know what; he was so into it he probably forgot I didn’t understand but a few basic Chinese words like “not safe” and “not good”. I have to admit I was a bit annoyed, but still appreciated their concern just the same. The only person that thought I was completely sane was the young Tibetan running the guesthouse in Yading village. But he did tell me to absolutely not go past the lakes as there would be no trails visible this time of the year.

Sichuan, Yading, Aden, Pearl Lake, Zhenzhuhai, Chenresig, Xiannairi, winter

Yet for all those forewarnings, the hike turned out to be a breeze. I kept wondering “is it gonna get tough soon?” the whole way till I suddenly got to the sign post that announces my destination. Quite anti-climatic. It was icy in parts, and I had to take more pauses due to the altitude, but overall really not bad, and surprisingly little snow left on the ground.

Sichuan, Yading, Aden, winter, prayer flags

Sichuan, Yading, Aden, hiking, winter, Milk Lake, Five Color Lake, Wusehai, Niunaihai

I was up above Wusehai at 2pm (started walking at 11:30am). 5 Color lake was now only 1 color, and Niunaihai (Milk Lake) was also entirely under snow. I could only imagine how breathtaking their colors would be later in the summer and fall.

Sichuan, Yading, Aden, winter, Milk Lake, Five Color Lake, Wusehai, Niunaihai, Chanadorje, Xiaruoduoji, Chenresig, Xiannairi, hiking

I was admiring all the panorama with not a soul around when it suddenly dawned on me that if I hurried, I could actually catch the last bus and go back all the way to Daocheng. We’d stayed one night in Yading. And normally I wouldn’t have minded another night in that quiet village, but there was no running water due to frozen pipe and I wasn’t too fond of carrying buckets to flush down the toilet. And a hot shower at the end of the day sounded irresistible. So I started jogging down. I did make it just in time. We said goodbye to Yading as heavy clouds rolled in and felt lucky for having 2 beautiful days in the mountains. But our luck didn’t last all the way. The power was out in Daocheng and by the time it went back, I was already ready for bed.

Or: How I repeatedly disregarded my hunch and ended up paying dearly for it.

Woke at 6:30am. The rain had started the night before and I had thought I’d call the whole thing off if it was still coming down in the morning. But instead, I got dressed, went out in the dark, and bought a bus ticket.

Got off at Wannian temple and bam, Chinese tour groups and loud speakers! Maybe it wasn’t too bad compared to normal but to me it was shocking because I’d spent the past couple of weeks in remote quiet places. Thought about turning around. But then went ahead to get entrance ticket. 185 yuan, so freaking expensive.

Most tourists take the cable car up to the temple proper; i was pretty much by myself walking. (The temple was so noisy I didn’t even go in.) Passed a mom and daughter team, daughter already in middle age and mom a granny; I was so impressed. Crossed a young guy who seemed to want to walk with me but I ditched him. Big mistake. Why I ditched him I have no idea. He seemed nice enough. I was just in a cross mood. It was raining the whole time, sometimes fast and hard. My pants were wet, my shoes soaked. I took my socks off to wring out the water when I stopped for lunch and had to put them back on frigid after. I seriously considered just saying f*** it and turning around. But I pressed on. My feet were numb for an hour.

Sichuan, Emeishan, winter, hiking

So many times on the way, I paused and said out loud to no one: “what the hell, you’re crazy!” And in my head I was thinking: “did your parents raise you all those years to do this, taking a miserable hike in the cold wet rain and not even being able to see anything past 30 ft?” It was incredible misty and foggy. Finally climbed to the highest temple and then it started going down for a bit. This was getting slightly better.

But no! The monkeys appeared. There had been so many signs along the way: “Aggressive monkeys! Don’t joke them!” and I’d thought: No of course I don’t engage with wild animals; I’m not even interested a tiny bit in monkeys having seen too many of them in real life… Let’s say those signs were a serious understatement. I will never forget the leader’s mean face with his teeth out. He jumped right on my backpack and stripped the rain cover off and started gnawing at the top part. Then he very smoothly unzipped the side pockets but found no food so back to gnawing again. I got my pack off because he was weighing it down, which was a big mistake in hindsight. Should have just ran downhill with it (and with the monkey, but maybe he’d have bitten my neck off). I tried to tell the gang I’d give them all my food, and even attempted to unzip the top part for them so they’d stop tearing it. Of course they thought I was getting the bag back and started biting my legs. Hard! And from behind! Those sneaky thugs! Things were falling out and they got hold of my precious sleeping bag, and wanted to carry both the bag and the pack (and in it my passport) away, which really pissed me off. I started screaming, snatching both back and hitting the meanest one with the sleeping bag (wanted to find a stick but didn’t see any, and sleeping bag definitely doesn’t even hurt an ant). More bites ensued.

At this point I was shrieking so hard, someone finally heard. (There were quite a few people coming down after but no one was passing by at that point, such was my luck!) He came over, my savior!!!! He shooed the monkeys away and I was just standing there shaking and couldn’t stop crying. He kept saying “meishi meishi” to calm me down. And I was choking over tears to utter a few words asking him to give me a minute, and explaining to him that I don’t speak Chinese. He gathered my bag and the few essential things that were scattered around, and asked me to walk down a little further to a couple of small shops where I could rest (and where he came from). I was still crying the whole time. The monkey teeth tore my pants and sank quite deep in my flesh and blood was soaking out. I was completely shaken. The first time in my adult life, crying out of fear and helplessness.

I composed myself a little after sitting down. They cleaned my multiple wounds with alcohol (6 were bleeding and the others were more shallow and had dried up), gave me a place to change into drier clothes, and also a bucket of coal to warm myself and dry my shoes. Tears were still rolling down my cheek but I wasn’t choking up anymore. At this point I thought I could just walk down the mountain myself, but I’d need someone to accompany me past my tormentors. Of course I couldn’t say all that in Chinese (didn’t even know the word for monkey) so i decided to reach out to Kaylee for help. Girl is so golden. She was in Shangrila and after learning of my plight, made a series of calls to see what my options were and what could be done. All thanks to her, an assistance guy was dispatched to my place to help me get back to the foot of mountain. 14 freaking kms. At least most of it on the descent; instead of another 10 kms uphill. (None of the hikers that came after even saw monkeys. Make me wonder if they actually spied and seeing that I was alone and without stick, decided to ambush me.)


That walk back might have been the best thing of the day. I was thinking: damn this is the most romantic I’ve ever done, could be straight out of a Korean drama, a guy and a girl walking arm in arm in the rain under un umbrella in the forest. I’m sure my companions didn’t find it that way. The first guy looks 19 and he was panting way too hard and sweating quite a bit, having to carry my (light) pack and supporting me on one side. I almost didn’t believe I’d climbed up all those stairs in the first place. They were just never ending. (And now I can’t believe I made it back down.) A couple of locals offered to carry for 800 yuan but I declined of course.

Got a free cable ride at the end. Then driven to a clinic where they cleaned the wounds good (and damn it hurt), bandaged them up, and gave me 2 rabies shots. They even gave me money for the extra shots I’d need to get in Vietnam. The staff who drove me to the clinic left to go home before I was all done. I thought that meant it’d be easy to get back to hotel but I was wrong. After getting a walking stick and a goodbye wave from the doctor, I was on my way. Hobbling along a dusty road near lots of construction filled with trucks and vans, bamboo stick in one hand, torn bag in back, sleeping bag dangling on the side, and a super miserable face, I must have been such a sight. People gave me some good long looks. That was really the least of my concern then. I thought the doc had said I could find lots of cars to get back once I got to the big road, but there was no taxi in sight. Quite a few big buses but there was no way i could just flag them down and tell them what i needed and climbed those steep steps. Stopped a few guys to ask to borrow their phones to make a phone call back to my hotel, but they just laughed and told me to use my own. Tried to say my phone wasn’t working (ran out of money from all the calls up on the mountain) to no avail. They just walked away. So here’s what to remember, if you can’t help someone in need, at least don’t laugh in their face. That’s bad manner. It turned out ok in the end though, that they left me helpless. A moment later, I saw a police station and went in. They let me use the phone, then drove me back all the way, and even checked to make sure I was back in proper hands. Thank you Emeishan police! And really Emei, you should stop pasting those cheerful monkey faces on all kinds of signs and banners. The staff took photos of my wounds, I hope you’ll put those up on warning signs instead.

So much raving about the desert. In reality, our excitement waned pretty fast. Being beach people, we got desert fever after barely a week. There’s only so much rocks and stones you can look at before they start to blur together into a reddish hue under the unrelenting sun. At Arches, we barely had any energy left after lunch whereas before, we would hike from sunrise to sunset. We decided to hit the gas pedal and bolt out of Utah. desert primitive camping, Escalante, Utah

road trip, America, Utah, open road Our time in Idaho was short but rather eventful. I wanted to head north to check out the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness. I had no idea what is there except that the name sounds badass, but all roads up north were blocked due to forest fires. We camped at a small park by a dam outside Boise before moving onto Oregon, and witnessed an unfortunate accident of a car falling into the dam that resulted in a dramatic helicopter rescue.

Shoshone Falls, Niagara of the West, Idaho

Shoshone Falls, advertised as Niagara of the West

In Oregon, we made a quick stop at Bend for me to go on the Deschutes factory tour and then headed to our last national park of the trip: Crater Lake. The cool air was a nice welcome after the desert and forest fires. There were still patches of ice covering the ground, in the middle of August. We actually didn’t have high expectations for the park since neither of us had heard much about it before. As it turned out, the main attraction of the park enchanted us as much as the desert did before. It’s the bluest of blue. I’d never known that blue could be so unyielding and mesmerizing, and I doubt any photos could do it justice. We later learned that Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US, the second deepest in North America, and the 9th deepest in the whole world. Not a bad record. Another reason for the water clarity is that it has no inlet or outlet and is refilled by direct precipitation.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, hiking

Crater Lake

Our trip concluded with leisure hiking and rafting with friends in southern Oregon and northern California.

whitewater rafting, Trinity River, California

On the Trinity

Goodbye national parks! You are what I admire most about the US, preserved undisturbed wilderness that is open to anyone with the time and energy to explore and enjoy and cultivate the love for nature, for the Earth.

But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us — if only we were worthy of it … Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself. – Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey.

August 2012,

Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break….I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun. – Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey

As we left California for Nevada and Utah, I started reading out loud “Desert Solitaire” to Col whenever we had a break, at lunch or after setting up camp before cooking dinner each night. I didn’t know then but I couldn’t have picked out a better companion for this leg of the trip. Abbey is so witty and opinionated – especially on his car-loving compatriots – and his prose reads like poetry. The whole book is quotable. He gave us the perfect introduction and explanation of the desert landscape, based on his experience as a seasonal park ranger at the Arches National Park.

Quite simply, I had never seen such a scenery before. It actually got me interested in that dreary sounding subject of geology. I could never have imagined that one day my jaw would drop looking at rocks! But how could you not? Looking at rocks of orange and pink and red layering on top of each other, flaming up as the sun sets, how could you not ask questions and want to learn to pronounce those prehistoric names of the Earth’s past?

Valley of Fire, Nevada, colored rocks, desert

Valley of Fire, Nevada

Valley of Fire, Nevada, colored rocks, desert

Valley of Fire, Nevada, colored rocks, desert, hieroglyph

Zion national park, Utah, cliffs

We went marveling, from the fire rocks at Valley of Fire to the colored cliffs and narrow gorge at Zion to delicate bridges and arches diligently carved through millions of years by water, sometimes in the form of rivers and other times as tiny droplets.

Zion National Park, Utah, The Narrows, gorge hiking

The Narrows, Zion NP

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

a natural bridge

balancing egg, Arches National Park, Utah

Balancing Egg, Arches NP

Double O Arch, Arches, National Park, Utah, hiking

Upper O of Double-O-Arch, Arches NP

But Bryce Canyon topped it all. Hoodoos, what the hell are those! It was surreal walking through this rock forest, each hoodoo a unique creation of nature.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, hoodoos, amphitheater, hiking

the amphitheater, Bryce Canyon NP

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, hoodoos, amphitheater, hiking

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, hoodoos, hiking  Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, hoodoos, hiking, desert tree

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, hoodoos, hiking, desert tree

July 2012, I never traveled much during my years in the US, except for a couple of trips along the two coasts where I stayed with friends and their families. It’s a vast country and everything is so far apart that it’d only make sense to travel if you can drive. I’m not a fan of driving. And I didn’t feel safe hitchhiking in the mainland either. In July, as I was getting ready to move back to Vietnam permanently, I thought here might be my last chance to try out the famous concept of an American roadtrip: open road with endless paths and opportunities. In Hawaii, you can’t roadtrip. You only drive around (literally). Col wanted to go as well and would take care of the driving. So out we flew, equipped with an edition of National Geographic North America Adventure Road Atlas borrowed from Nancy, a second-hand national parks annual pass I bought from a fellow Hale Manoa resident, a floppy one-person tent purchased at 50% off ($15) from Sports Authority, and lots of sunscreen. We landed in Oakland, where Col’s sister and a bunch of my friends from college lived. I had forgotten how chilly the mainland could be, so one of our first stops was a thrift store for me to pick up a sweater, and a cowboy hat. Our rental car came through Costco travel, a black Kia Rio, the smallest size and most fuel efficient available. And we hit the road. Did we know where we would end up? Only for the next day. And that’s the beauty of a mainland roadtrip. Each morning, we woke up and looked at the maps to see which trail we would hike and where we would drive to after. It was a bit of trouble in the beginning when we were still in California because all the parks were packed and there was not a single space open at campsites since reservations were made weeks, if not months in advance. But still, not held down by routines and itineraries, we felt free.

Yosemite National Park, car camping

what to do when you can’t find a campsite

Yosemite: Yosemite national park, hiking, cliff  Yosemite national park, hiking, cliff

Yosemite national park, hiking

Yosemite national park, hiking, cliff

Yosemite national park, hiking, waterfall


Sequoia national park, giant dead sequoia tree root

Dead giant

Sequoia national park, giant sequoi tree

Living giant

May 2012,

Strange. Is the one word I’d use to describe Moloka’i, the friendly island. People were certainly friendly and embracing, in the way that only island people can be. But there is something else, hard to put my finger on.

Moloka'i, sunset, Lanai, Hawai'i, Alii beach

sunset over Lanai

At first I thought it was because of how local the place is, with Native Hawaiians accounting for more than 60% of the population and so few visitors (barely 200 a day on average, while nearby Mau’i is 3 times bigger and gets 35 time the number of tourists). I was walking along a beach park in Kaunakakai when I came upon a hula group practicing to the tune of Wahine Ilikea. (I never saw any hula practice at the beach on other islands). People talked about when to go out for an outrigger paddling session and where to go for the best shells at the moment and what they had found recently – Every single person I met was excited to discuss shells! In island-style, locals identify strongly with the area they’re from and live in (east/windward, west/leeward, north shore, south shore, and central). It’s even more extreme in Moloka’i and borderline incomprehensible given how small the island is. This lady in Kaunakakai told me how generations of her family have lived in central Moloka’i and how much she loves it there and she couldn’t remember the last time she went all the way to the east end. All the way to the east end! It’s 25 miles and 40 minutes down the road. I didn’t know how to respond.

Moloka'i shells

A Moloka’i obsession?

I was picked up by: a local Hawaiian who works in the helicopter patrol (looking for marijuana farms) who drove me all the way to Halawa valley; a mixed Brazilian-American who works for the county TV station and has the most adorable 4-year-old boy, whose neighbor is a famous fishing spear maker; another local Hawaiian, this time a medical kahuna, who took me in his home and convinced me to change my flight back to Oahu to a few days later so that he could talk more traditional Hawaiian medicine stuff with me, who fed me delicious pink Moloka’i mangoes that grew thick in his garden and gave me lomi-lomi massage every morning and once drove me up in the middle of the mountain where I got another lomi-lomi. Maybe this is why Moloka’i was so strange to me.

It is worth noting here that world over, Moloka’i is famous for the leper colony founded by Father Damien. In Hawa’i, the island was (is?) renowned for its powerful kahunas, or priests, sought after by kings from other islands in matters of spirits and sorcery. Many believe this explains the distinct mana of the land.

Halawa valley, East End, Moloka'i

Halawa valley, East End

Halawa valley, East End, Moloka'i

Kalaupapa, Moloka'i, leper colony, Father Damien

Kalaupapa, the most scenic leper colony in the world

leper colony, Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii, Father Damien

fish pond, Moloka'i, Hawaii

ancient fish pond on south shore

The people that I remembered most fondly were the 2 brothers that let me camp near them for safety on a desolate west end beach. When I told the younger one, still a teenager, that I’m from Vietnam, he asked: “oh, there are lots of scooters there and you all go crazy on the road right?” I was taken aback; I didn’t expect anyone on Moloka’i to know anything about contemporary Vietnam, let alone the traffic. Turned out he talked with a girl from Singapore on the internet who sent him youtube videos of southeast asian countries. Vive the internet! The older brother was living off the land; he caught some fish to grill and share with me. The teenager came to spend the summer with his brother, away from all the troubles at school where he had difficulty fitting in. There’s lots of love on these islands, and lots of broken homes. Their hearts are right, and I hope they have found, or will find, their way and their place.

West End trail and beaches:

West End trail, Moloka'i

West End beach, Moloka'i, Hawaii

West End beach, Moloka'i, Hawaii