Andy Through The Looking Glass
Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "icarusmartini" journal:
[<< Previous 10 entries]
Kandy Mountain: Redux|
Yes, I'm back in Kandy! Many of you thought I wouldn't make it, and I almost didn't!
I was supposed to be back here two days ago, giving me just under three days to hang out, say hi to people I know and generally try and detox a bit. However, Mihin Lanka Airlines had other plans. The fuckers. I was meant to fly out of Bangkok on Saturday at 12pm, meaning I'd get to Colombo at about 3, then get a cheap bus up to Kandy for about 6. Instead, on Friday I got an email saying that my flight had been cancelled - but that it was ok, because they'd booked me onto a Sri Lankan Air flight the same day. It left a bit later, which was a bit of a hassle, but it didn't put me out by too much. So, I turned up at the airport, went to the Sri Lankan Air desk and explained my situation. They said that; a) They'd never heard of any deal with Mihin Lanka, b) they never dealt with Mihin Lanka and c) the flight was full anyway. I was told to come back on Sunday and try to get on the next flight. After a short period of incandescent fury which was made all the worse by having no target (Mihin don't have offices at the airport and don't answer their phones or reply to emails, apparently, and it wasn't really Sri Lankan Air's fault, so I couldn't shout at them), I went back to Bangkok, fired off an angry email to Mihin threatening to sue their arses if they didn't fix this for me, then got drunk and watched the new Rambo film (it's not very good). No reply from Mihin the next day, so I had to go to the travel agent and buy a ticket - I got the last seat on the only flight leaving yesterday. This cost me 170 quid. I am still rather annoyed about this.
In the end I got the flight, and arrived at the excellent Forest Glen guesthouse in Kandy at 1am. I leave tomorrow at around midday.
Then I go back to England.
I have mixed feelings about this.
One the one hand, I really rather miss several of my friends, my family and my dog. I miss certain aspects of England, such as decent beer, some of the food, various luxury items and creature comforts etc. and I really ought to come back for Paul's wedding, despite his continued inability to reply to any of my emails.
On the other hand, most of my friends are coupling-up and settling-down, whilst I still relish my freedom and independence. This leads to them not wanting to party as often as I'd like. My social life in Stockport has been somewhat unsatisfactory for some time now, to be honest. As for the decent beer/food argument, the beer out here is certainly bearable, if one seeks the right brand (never drink Chang beer) and the food is generally excellent! The luxury items and creature comforts I can easily do without. Also, England's horribly expensive. And cold, rainy and dreary. And people are generally far less friendly.
I could live with all that, however. The thing that's making me dread a return to England is the fact that I will have to give up a lot of my freedom. I'll have to get a proper, grown-up job, quite probably working 9-5 mon-fri, then maybe a drink at the weekend if I can find anyone to drink with. This, frankly, sounds hellish, but unless I'm lucky enough to fall into a fantastic job that I enjoy and that gives me enough freedom, then I fear getting stuck in the daily grind of the 9-to-5. The expense of travelling round England and staying in hotels also means that, should I grow bored of a town, I can't just up sticks and leave it forever. I can't flee the country easily. Etc.
The last six weeks have really driven home just how much I love being free! I accept that with freedom comes a higher degree of personal responsibility - I can't scapegoat anyone but me - but the benefits far outweigh the downsides. I really think that, once I return home, I'll get a job, save up for six months to a year, then flee the country again. Set up a bar in Vang Vieng or something.
Anyway, sorry for the generally negative tone of this entry - I'm fiercely tired, having had very little sleep for the last few days, and I'm still rather ticked off about the flight delays. I'm actually fairly cheerful! I've had an awesome six months, and the last six weeks have, quite possibly, been the happiest of my life! I've had a large number of truly amazing experiences, and a relatively small number of bad ones.
I shall update once I'm home, giving a full and frank account of exactly what this experience has meant to me. There will probably be a lot of the same conclusions as are in this one (I mainly wrote this entry to have a rant about Mihin Wanka), and it'll be introspective and weird. You have been warned!
Right, I'm off to spend some time saying goodbye to Kandy!
Luang Prabang Bang, He Shot Me Down.|
Right, just for Martin's amusement, here is a longer update about what I've been up to!
Last Sunday, after a week of drinking, I decided it was time to get out - for the sake of my liver, if nothing else. I was in the Oh La La bar with my buddies for my going away party, when a kickass tropical storm hit - it came up pretty much without warning. One second we heard a couple of raindrops, then the building started shaking and a solid wall of rain started blasting almost horizontally through the room. It was amazing. We stood at the entrance to the bar (one wall of it was totally open to the elements) and watched the lightning. There were huge, sky-illuminating flashes every couple of seconds. I went outside for a few seconds and actually got wetter than I did when tubing. I looked up and saw a flash of sheet lightning directly overhead - the thunder nearly deafened me and I scuttled back inside after a brief rendition of 'singing in the rain'. Of course, the power went out within seconds of the gale starting. I was lucky enough to have my torch with me as I'd left it in my pocket after going caving a couple of days previously. Annoyingly, this put me in the position of 'guy who walks everyone home'. I still have excellent night vision, it seems, despite the lack of carrots in my diet recently. I didn't actually need the torch for the most part, despite the near-total darkness. This impressed the hell out of people. After walking several people home I spent a happy half hour trying to convince the owner of the bunker to open up. This was eventually successful and the ten remaining people who were too dumb to go home went and drank in the dark for a while. I was sent home to get my mp3 player and speakers, and was so pleased with myself for being able to run all the way back in the dark without even stepping in a puddle, that I got a bit cocky and decided to take a shortcut back. After falling off a wall, skinning my arm and snagging my trousers on a fence, I made it back to the bar! We sat round the solitary candle, drinking, listening to quiet, tinny rock music and chatting. It was brilliant! Left at about 3am, spent a couple of hours in my room wrestling with a lesbian (who I then walked home - she lived bloody miles away!), then got to sleep at 6. I had planned to leave town on the 9am bus that morning, but that didn't happen for some reason. Mysterious, no?
Of course, my failure to leave resulted in another going-away party. Got to bed around 4am this time and made the bus! Oddly, drinking for around 17 hours a day, every day for ten days doesn't seem to have had any negative side-effects apart from leaving me slightly tired.
Then, I went to Luang Prabang. It was dull and I had to pay for drinks. I met up with some guys who I'd met in Vang Vieng, though and we hung out. There's only one place in LP to hang out after 11:30 - the bowling alley. We stayed up late-ish drinking and bowling for three nights. And that's about it. LP's a bit dull. Although we did go to a rather splendid waterfall yesterday. It cascades down for a mile or so through a series of bright turquoise pools that one can swim in. Sadly, the sun had gone and it was raining when we got there (this is fairly normal for LP weather) but we dived in anyway and I was seriously cold for the first time in months! It was great! It was also nice to not totally suck at bowling for the first time.
This morning I flew back to Bangkok. I'm staying on Koh San Road again. It's great - coming in on the bus it felt like I was returning home! I have been informed that feeling that a city like Bangkok is home is a tad worrying, but I don't care. I love this town. Not as much as I love Vang Vieng, but a hell of a lot more than I love Luang Prabang!
Off to Sri Lanka tomorrow. Four more days till I return to rainy dinge. Joy.
There'll probably be another update while I'm in SL, giving my thoughts and feelings about my experiences over the last six months. It'll be fun!
V for Vang Vieng|
Hi guys! Sorry I've not updated for such a long time. Circumstances have kinda prevented me from doing so in any meaningful manner.
I ended up staying in Vang Vieng for ten days. It was frickin' awesome!
I spent my days waking up around 11, having breakfast, then floating down the river in an inflated inner-tube from a tractor tyre. This practice is called 'tubing'! It's great fun! You float along a bit, then some guy in a slightly rickety bamboo bar throws a line to you. Should you so choose, you grab the line and are hauled in for beer! There are many such bars, and the bits without bars are great too. The scenery's awesome, the weather's been great (mostly - more on that later) and it's just so ridiculously relaxing to just float along without a care in the world for a bit.
I made large numbers of friends while tubing. It's accepted that everyone on the river at the same time as you is now your friend. Then, rather than float the last kilometer or so back into town (it's all shallows, which rather scrape one's arse), we'd stop off for a drink at the last bar before the shallow bit, then get a tuk-tuk home. It was all extremely Apocalypse-Now-esque, looking over the river at night, with lights blazing in a few places and loud rock music blaring out across the water.
After tubing, it's traditional to meet up with all your tubing-buddies and get drunk. I used the 'Oh La La' bar for this purpose - it's the one I alluded to in my last entry. It's great! I made friends with the staff pretty quickly (they were a mix of Lao and Swedes), and generally hung out there for a few hours, then Smile bar and then the bunker till 5am. I'll go into more detail about my adventures tomorrow, as I'm running late today due to a power cut and I have to go out drinking shortly.
Anyway, I'm in Luang Prabang now. It's not so good. I miss my friends, I miss tubing and it's been raining fairly constantly since I got here. I've got some new buddies now, though - they're a good bunch who I have to go and meet right now, in fact! I'll update in more detail tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll be in Bangkok - weird, huh?
I'm in Laos now!
I changed my plans a little after my last entry - rather than returning to Phnom Penh to get a flight up here, I decided it would be better to discover that Siem Reap has an airport which provides flights to Vientiane (the capital of Laos). I spent another couple of days in Siem Reap mostly just chilling out on my guesthouse's rooftop bar. The staff were really cool and we hung out a lot. Most of the other guests were fairly groovy, too! It was nice. But, all nice things must come to an end, hopefully to be replaced with even nicer things. So I booked a flight to Vientiane, planning on spending a couple of days there, before hitting Vang Vieng, Luam Prabang, then back to Bangkok.
Siem Reap airport was one of those tiny ones where you walk out to the plane and climb up a little ladder to get in. I love those places. On the flight, I got chatting with the girls who were sitting next to me (no, Nik.) and found that they planned to go straight up to Vang Vieng. My travel philosophy rather dictated that I had to follow them. So I did! The bus ride took four hours, and the driver carried an assault rifle. Luckily, the girl I was sitting next to was pretty cool (for a Christian) and we discussed religion and politics for a few hours.
When we arrived in town it was getting dark, so we checked in to the first halfway-decent hotel we could find and went out for dinner. This proved to be interesting. Turns out we were in a very Lao part of town, and quite a way from the backpacker enclaves. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that the only cafe within walking distance had no English menus, or English-speaking staff. It did, however, have a table full of extremely drunken soldiers. One of whom (a surly drunk) took a shine to my Christians! He also stole my seat and got particularly surly when I asked him if I could have it back. This was starting to look rather bad. The surly drunk's CO seemed to take a shine to me, though so, after playing a quick game of "what weird stuff can we get the white guy to eat?" he decided we should drink a toast. A toast of lao-lao. Lao-lao is a particularly vengeful and rather illegal kind of rice moonshine - the kind of stuff even I wouldn't usually drink. However, I needed to get the officer on-side and refusing a toast is a grave insult over here. So I drank. As soon as I finished, the officer and I were bestest buddies and he personally threw surly drunk out on his ear! Then he went and sat quietly on his own table and neither he nor his drunken mates hassled us again! Still, had an early night that night and fled to the more touristy area the next day.
Checked into a spiffy guesthouse, with really great staff! It's $10 a night, which is a bit pricey for here, but I can afford it - I stayed well under budget in Cambodia, and I feel like staying somewhere nice for a few days. The town's tiny and touristy, but has breathtaking scenery, great weather (not too hot) and some good bars. Lao food is pretty good too - I've generally been relying on the French influence on Lao for my breakfast (baguette, good coffee), then eating with the staff in the evening. No idea what I've eaten over the last few days, but it tasted great and doesn't seem to have killed me. Last night I went for a wander, only to find that most of the bars close crazily early. Luckily, I met a Swedish chap in one bar just before it closed and he invited me along to 'Smile Bar' - Smile is a lovely little bar on a small island in the river, great views, lots of little bamboo cabanas, a fire, music and every white person in town. Also, as I found out when I arrived, the place also contained half the staff from my guesthouse! I hung out with them for a while, made lots of new friends and was invited to a lock-in just before the bar closed. The lock-in was being hosted by a Kiwi chap in a bunker-esque underground (not literally) bar just off the disused airstrip. It was really rather good. Good music, lots of drinks (I got a free drink for correctly guessing that the Kiwi was, in fact, a Kiwi and not an Australian) and a great crowd of people - I made many new friends and agreed to go 'tubing' with them today. Tubing involves sitting in an inflated inner-tube and floating downriver for a few miles, stopping at lots of bars on the way. This sounded like fun, so I agreed to meet these guys at noon at the second bar. Then I stayed up till 5am, woke up at noon with a blinding hangover and decided that my day would be better spent sitting quietly somewhere.
Then I came here!
I think I'll stick around Vang Vieng for another few days - it's nice, I have friends, I like it - then hit Luam Prabang. Everyone I've met says that Luam is insanely beautiful, but quite quiet. This could get boring, swiftly, so I shall use my time there as a recovery period between partying here and returning to Bangkok. Apparently there are flights available from Luam to Bangkok, so I'll enlarge my carbon footprint a little more. I attempted to offset the bad karma generated by my destroying the environment by giving blood in Siem Reap - the children's hospital there is desperate for blood, and I had some blood to spare, so - after checking that the needle was sterile - I bled out a pint for them. The nurse butchered my arm and I now have a huge bruise somewhat reminiscent of Requiem for a Dream, but I got a free T-shirt out of it! Yay!
No one's complimented my hair for a few hours now, but the staff at my guesthouse apparently spent some time yesterday talking amongst themselves about how nice my skin is. This is mildly ironic, as they like my skin's amazing paleness, while I am somewhat dissatisfied with my utter inability to tan!
What? That's not irony, you say? Look, this is my journal, and if I say it's ironic, then it's ironic, OK?
Right, I'm going to go and drink some more coffee, then find somewhere to sit quietly for a few days! Take care of yourselves, be good, leave lots of lovely comments and etc.
Preah Khan, Preah Khan, Let Me Rock You Preah Khan.|
Well, I'm officially templed-out!
Following my last entry, I did, indeed go to the Killing Fields at Cheung Ek, followed by the genocide museum at Tuol Sleng (S-21). There's not really much I feel I can say about that experience except that I seriously needed a drink afterwards. It shook me.
The "drink afterwards" was taken at the Lazy Gecko bar, which is a rather nice place by the lake. While there, I met a Canadian drummer who largely shared my taste in music. We drank until the Gecko closed, then we went to another bar for a bit, then hit the Heart of Darkness club. This place is really rather notorious around Cambodia and Canadian Drummer did warn me about it beforehand. It's the scummiest, darkest, loudest, latest-opening, stabbingest bar in a pretty scummy, dark, loud, late-opening, stabby town! Personally, I loved it! The DJ was dropping some old-school beats when I walked in (I'm sooo street!) so I hit the 'floor, continued to drink lots, and ended up leaving at around 7am - leaving a crowd of disappointed hookers in my wake. I woke up five hours later, feeling somewhat poorly and with no drinking water available. This was not fun, so I dragged myself outside and booked myself on the next bus outta town. Well, I booked myself on the 12:30pm bus the following day. That night, I met up with CD again and we acquired some more groovy people and drank till 5. Then, some sleep, a six-hour bus ride, a tuk-tuk to the hotel that a guy in Bangkok recommended to me and another ride to another guesthouse when the first one proved to be full later, I was snugly ensconced within the 'family guesthouse' in Siem Reap! I apologise for the tortuous nature of that last sentence.
I have spent the last few days exploring the temples round Angkor Wat! They're frickin' awesome! It was another experience that kinda defies description. I took over 200 photos, though - that oughta give you an idea of how impressive it was. There were too many damned tourists, though - and the average temperature round here for the last few days has been 40 centigrade (that's about 115 Fahrenheit, or 313 Kelvin, or 'Too bloody hot' on the Andy-scale). The heat possibly made me go slightly crazy as, in a bid to avoid the crowds, I kinda Indiana-Jones-ed it a bit. At Angkor Wat (the biggest, most impressive, and most touristy temple) I got really annoyed with the crowds, so I climbed out of a window, trotted along a handy ledge, scaled a near-vertical wall down, crossed a courtyard, scaled another wall and settled down on another ledge on the shady side of a deserted outbuilding. It was awesomely peaceful away from the crowds, so I stretched out on my ledge and promptly fell asleep. I woke up an hour later to see a little Japanese guy hanging out of a window in the main building, taking pictures of me!
There's not a lot else to say about the temples - partly because it's still really hot and my brain isn't working, but also because I am suffering from severe temple-fatigue. They all start to look the same after a couple of days. I do recall that Ta Prohm (where they filmed Tomb Raider) was pretty darned cool, and Mebon was nifty for reasons beyond its amusing name. My favourite would have to be Preah Kahn ('Sacred Sword') though. It was one of the only ones where you could spend a lot of time inside, away from the heat, and it had several miles of twisty passages to explore - kind of like a Buddhist/Hindu Gormenghast. Hardly any people round most of it, too. I tomb-raided my way to a gorgeous isolated terrace with a shady Spung tree on it and spent quite a while there, musing. Spung trees are awesome, by the way. They've overgrown quite a bit of many temples and they kinda look like they're melting through the stones. There are pictures which I will attempt to put up sometime.
Right, now I'm off to celebrate St Paddy's day with a group of chicks I just met at my guesthouse (and no, Nikki, I am not going to shag any of them). We're going to an Irish theme bar down the road, which is a little odd in itself.
Incidentally, I really have no idea where I'm going to go next. My traveling philosophy basically revolves around finding interesting people and following them (or their recommendations) and this has been working well so far - sadly, Siem Reap is something of a dead-end, and unless I want to spend two days travelling I'll need to return to Phnom Penh soonish. I think my most likely plan is to head back to PP at the end of this week (I actually really like Siem Reap), then fly up to Laos for a week or so, then back to Bangkok for a few days before returning to SL. This is, obviously, subject to change, but it does kinda bring home the fact that I have fewer than four weeks before I have to come home. This saddens me a little as I am loving traveling. Also, the barman in my guesthouse spent a good half-hour admiring my hair this morning.
This will probably be a fairly short entry as there is a crowd of screaming Khmer kids outside and they're really getting on my nerves.
I'm in Cambodia now!
Phnom Penh, Boeng Kak area, Phlauv 93, to be precise. And we do so love precision!
Let's see, what have I been up to? I returned to the blues bar I alluded to in my last entry and surprised the brace of scousers I'd acquired when the barmaid had my drink ready for me when I got to the bar - apparently I'm a regular there now. Sat around, drank, listened to the blues. It was fun, but a little unfulfilling, so I left the country. This is now my answer to all my problems, apparently.
Arrived in Phnom Penh airport at 7pm on Saturday and shared a taxi into town with a couple of girls I acquired - since I now have to justify spending time with anyone to Nikki, I should point out that I didn't shag either of them - they were a bit annoying, to be honest. We headed to the riverfront, where the nice hotels are, but they refused to even look at any that weren't in Lonely Planet. I tried to explain to them that a write-up in LP only meant that someone stayed there once, possibly several years ago, and thought it was ok, but they wouldn't listen and ended up staying in a reasonably nice hotel that cost $60 a night. I stayed in the equally nice hotel two doors down which cost $20 a night. It was weird. It was a nice room. There was no wildlife in there. It had an ensuite and air-con - and a TV! I'm not used to such luxury, but I stayed there an extra night anyway. Spent the next day just wandering round the riverfront until I got too hot, then popping into a café for a drink. Also, sleeping a lot. I'm getting too old to go on week-long drinking binges in Bangkok. After two nights of luxury, I felt it was about time I got booked into a cheap, rat-infested hellhole. SO I went to the lake. Found a pretty nice place on my second try - it's small, the tiny fan does little more than move hot air around and squeaks while doing it and the view consists of a corrugated iron roof. It does have an ensuite, which somehow managed to flood my floor and most of the floor below this morning. It's great! I've continued to do very little today, except continue my quest for decent fish amok - the Cambodian national dish, which is radically different depending on where you order it; it's varied from a kind of sweet-and-sour soup, to a baked curry with an egg on top so far.
My first impressions of Phnom Penh are not so great, to be honest. It's a bit too noisy, dirty, smelly and hassleful. Also, the tourists here seem to have an incredibly high dickhead ratio - lots of ex-public-schoolboys on a gap year who treat the locals with loud contempt and don't seem to realise that they are the reason that Cambodia is no longer 'unspoiled'. Twats.
For this reason, after hitting the Killing Fields and Genocide museum tomorrow for some light relief, I'll be getting on a bus and going to Siem Reap (what I Siem sew, I suppose). It's the town nearest the Angkor temples, and it's supposed to be quite nice there. Then I shall spend a few days visiting the temples and stuff. Then, if I have failed to acquire any interesting cronies to follow, I'll be a bit lost. I might go to Laos (the 's' is silent - learning is fun!) I might go to 'Nam, I might go back to Thailand and sit on a beach for a week. The world is pretty much my oyster, which makes it rather difficult to actually choose a course of action!
My hair's still great, but I fear it's not being used to its full potential here - it's too hot, and the sweat kinda stops my hair from being a waterfall of honey, and turns it into a dank, lank, skanky hank of mank. It's only for another day or two, though, and it's still pretty magnificent.
Right, I'm off to continue running for some amok, I'll probably update next when I'm in Siem Reap, being awed by temples.
So, yeah, tigers!
Following the last entry, I had a fairly relaxed day. The booze ban was still on, so the Ozzie chicks and I went to look at the Giant Buddha statue in a nearby temple. It's certainly a very large Buddha - about 100m, head-to-toe, I think (although, I could be way out - I have forgotten the exact amount. It's bloody big, though). We amused ourselves for quite a while by stomping round the temple saying, "GIANT BUDDHA SMASH!" and debating whether Giant Buddha would win in a fight with Godzilla. Then Godzilla attacked and Giant Buddha kicked his ass. So that was that settled. Following this, we wandered round the temple grounds for a bit, generally being disrespectful, but justifying it by pointing out that it was quite amusing, and Giant Buddha looked like he had a sense of humour and wouldn't Smash us. This turned out to be the case.
After being chased from the temple by a flock of Monks, we had tea. I was nearly slain by a particularly lethal chili. Then we found a kind man who would sell us sneaky beers! We took a few back to the girls' hotel, and set up a table on the upstairs landing (where the cops couldn't see us drinking, y'see?) We were joined by some other folks who brought booze and cigs to the table, and we played poker for seeds for a few hours. I lost all my seeds (sunflower and pumpkin seeds - so stop sniggering at the back) at the poker (despite cheating outrageously), but ended up with two free packets of cigs and the best part of a bottle of vodka, which I thought was a fair trade.
Then! Monday! Went for a proper, touristy, guided tour with the chicks! It was kinda cool, despite the 7am start. We started off at a floating market, which was floaty. We floated about for a bit, looking at stuff, and being a little annoyed when our boatman went blithely paddling on past any stalls we wanted to look at (possibly because they weren't owned by his friends). After this was a trip to the Bridge over the River Kwai, and the attached museum. This was really quite interesting, in a somewhat horrifying way. The tall Ozzie wasn't allowed to walk over the bridge because, apparently, Big Girls don't Kwai.
Walking over the bridge was a little disturbing, as there were no railings, the planks creaked, and there were hundreds of tourists, all trying to stick to the middle. No Japanese tourists, but several Germans. This struck me as odd, for some reason - the only reason I mention it is because I want to fill this paragraph out a bit, and if I join it with the paragraph above - which would make grammatical sense - then it would give less prominence to the awesome pun at the end of it. Right, that's a better paragraph, on to the next one, I think.
After Kwai-ing our eyes out, we went to the tiger temple at Kanchanaburi. It was cool. On arrival, we walked through a bit of forest, then down into 'Tiger Canyon', which really looked like the scene at the end of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', only with fewer Nazis and more tigers. There were tigers! They weren't tame! I handed my camera to a guide, and was led by the wrist through the tigerfield. At certain safe places, I was instructed to pose, while the guide took pictures - this worked out well! One of the tigers decided to attack the tall Ozzie - because of her meaty, Antipodean aroma, I assume - but she managed to evade it.
Then, I led my people out of the valley of darkness, with the biggest tiger by my side! And that's what the picture was all about. Basically, it was getting dark, so the tigers were no longer content to just lie around and be prodded by tourists - they wanted to go and eat stuff. So we had to leave. All the tigers were let out first - which added a certain frisson to the escape - and we walked out in single file behind the biggest (and, luckily, tamest) one. As we walked up, we were allowed to walk with the tigger for a bit and be photographed. It was really cool.
Then back to Bangkok.
The booze ban was off by the time we returned, so we decided to get drunk. We had developed a strange desire to sing karaoke, and spent some time trying to find a karaoke bar. Despite being in Southeast Asia, this proved to be insanely difficult! Eventually we got a taxi, the driver spent ages trying to find a decent place for us, and just as we were about to give him a hefty tip, tried to rip us off for almost twice the meter-fare. This was annoying. There was an argument, a policeman was called (by the driver, after he'd turned the meter off and prepared a blatantly untrue story) and the policeman made the driver give us our change. It seemed alarmingly petty, but there was a principle at stake here, and I don't believe that those who try to rip people off should be rewarded for it.
Anyway, we went into the karaoke bar. Well, I say, 'karaoke bar'... it turned out to be more of a brothel, with a bar in it. This didn't stop us, though! We soldiered on, got horribly drunk on horribly horrible Thai whiskey, befriended the locals and managed to sing some classic ballads really badly! It was great! On the way home, I borrowed a busker's guitar and played an impromptu gig in the middle of Kao San road. This was cool. What made it even better was the fact that my alcohol-addled brain could only remember one song: 'Last Christmas', by Wham. Why this was the case is a mystery to me, but the crowd went wild for it, which is what matters.
Tuesday was somewhat more subdued. Thai whiskey gives particularly bad hangovers. We hung around, the girls got their hair done, then we went off to watch the Muay Thai at Lumpini. Sadly, it was ludicrously expensive - the only affordable tickets were for standing, and none of us felt like paying a still-substantial sum to stand for a few hours. So we headed back to the girls' hotel - it has a cheap bar with friendly staff - and watched Aliens Vs Predator 2 on the bar's tv. It was a particularly dodgy copied DVD, so we couldn't tell what was happening during the dark bits (ie. the whole film), but it was a pleasant enough way to unwind.
The next day, the girls left after a few hours of afternoon drinking, leaving me drunk and alone. I wandered round a bit, drank some more and wound up in a rather nifty blues bar. Still, it wasn't terribly exciting, so I decided it was time to be movin' on. It's like there's a voice, keeps on calling me. Down the road, that's where I'll always be. Every stop I make, I make a new friend - can't stay for long, just turn around and I'm gone again. Maybe tomorrow, I'll want to settle down - but tomorrow, I'm going to Cambodia, so I won't be able to.
That's right! Tomorrow, I go to Cambodia! I'm flying, as the alternative is an 11 hour bus ride along one of the worst roads in the world. And the flight's fairly cheap. My internet time's about to run out, so I'll sign off - there'll be further updates from Cambodia, I expect! My hair's still the envy of the world.
Fear and Loathing in Bangkok.|
So... bad craziness has been happening - but in a good way.
After my last entry, I went off to meet up with my new friends, but they didn't turn up. This annoyed me a little, so I went back to my original plan and wandered off on my own to see what happened. Walking down Kao San Road, I was accosted by a tiny woman holding a sign bigger than herself which advertised "Rock bar! Free entry! Cheap beer!" This sounded good to me, so I headed in. Got chatting to an American guy, name of John. He looked and sounded a lot like Robin Williams, so I thought, 'Yay! I'm going to hang out with Mork!' Turns out he was more like creepy Robin Williams from 'Insomnia'. Within a minute of introducing himself, he was giving me (very) detailed, unsolicited advice on the best places to go for sex shows, and where to obtain cheap, clean hookers. This went on for some time, and included him inviting me to come along with him to Soi Cowboy (the answer to the question of where to get cheap, clean hookers). I was debating going - I mean, John is possibly the worst person I've ever met, but it'd be an experience, and I'd get a free tour guide! Luckily, the band started setting up and we decided to watch them instead. I'm really glad we did, because they were awesome! They rocked really hard for hours! John was so impressed that he forgot all about trying to obtain cheap, nasty, fumbled sex in an alleyway somewhere. After a while, John decided to try and pick up the two girls at the table next to ours - in a strange twist, I probably wouldn't have spoken to them without John, and they wouldn't have spoken to John if he was there on his own (they thought he was my mate and that I looked cool). These girls turned out to be a pair of kickass Ozzie chicks who were good company all night. We all ended up heading back to my hotel bar for secret, post-curfew drinks. Bangkok has an alcohol curfew of 1am, so the bars are all sneaky and serve beer in coffee mugs after this time. It's all a bit prohibition. The girls left after a few drinks, but arranged to meet up with me the next night. John left shortly after this, after trying very hard to set me up with a hooker - the last I saw of him was him praising me to this dodgy-looking slapper who'd just sat next to me, then winking and saying "You're welcome, dude!" and walking off, thinking he'd done me a great favour. I was wondering how I was going to get rid of this hooker and get to my room. Luckily, it turned out she wasn't a hooker, just a drunk Swedish chick who dressed like a hooker! We chatted for a bit, then I went to bed - alone.
The next morning, I woke up with another evil hangover and bummed around a bit. Went to the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha - both of which were frickin' awesome. There will be pictures in the near future, I feel. Then I met up with the girls again - they were really relieved to see that I hadn't brought John with me.
Then things got a little weird.
Since it's election day today, the sale of alcohol was forbidden last night and today - the theory being that people vote better when they're sober and not hungover, apparently. This was something of a blow to our plans of drinking heavily. We went back to my hotel bar to see if we could get sneaky drinks - we could, but to make it even more prohibition-y, we could only buy cocktails that didn't look like cocktails. I had a few long island iced teas. Then the girls decided that they wanted to go to a ladyboy show. I figured I'd tag along - it'd be an experience and there was no way in hell I was going on my own! Following John's advice (he was a very useful man, for a moral vacuum) we headed to Nana. Now, I appreciate the sex trade as much as the next man, but Nana is something else. I stayed between the two girls at all times so as to avoid being molested - with good reason! The one time I left them was to go to the toilet, and I was molested quite a bit on my way there. We found a ladyboy bar, took our seats and attempted to order drinks - no alcohol though, so we had a nice cup of tea each. It was surreal, to say the least; sitting in this tacky, sleazy bar in the tackiest, sleaziest part of Bangkok, watching bored-looking ladyboys jigging about on stage, sipping a nice, hot cup of tea. The girls didn't realise that making eye-contact with the 'girls' on stage was an invitation to 'talk' to them, so they got a lot of attention at first. Once the hookers realised that we were just tourists who were only watching, they gave us a wide berth (except to molest me on my way to the toilet). After an hour or so, we realised that we'd got about as much out of the experience as we were going to - unless we actually picked up a hooker for the night, which we weren't going to - so we left, and blagged our way into a hotel bar when we saw a guy in there with beer! A few drinks later, we headed for home.
I'm having a great time!
Oh, and the ladyboys are jealous of my hair! Hurrah!
My Koh San Vinnie.|
I'm in Thailand!
Specifically, I'm in an internet cafe on the Koh San road - backpacker-town! It's been something of a culture shock, going from my nice, quiet temple to this chaotic hive of clubs, hookers, booze and noise. Also, I'm not used to there being so many white people around - it's about 50/50 white to Thai here. And the white women dress less moderately than the hookers. It's all a little odd, to say the least. The really odd thing, though, is that I'm pretty much settled in already and used to the insanity.
Anyway, I acquired a couple of interesting-looking backpackers at the airport, as per my plan, and followed them round a bit. Turns out they know Thailand pretty well, which was lucky. I got installed in an acceptable guesthouse just of the main road - the room is clean, but about the same size as a pigeon's coffin. Then I went out with my new friends and got drunk! Yay! At one point, I had the thoroughly surreal experience of sitting in a bar that was showing 'The Beach' on their big screen, at the point where Leo's complaining about Koh San road being all full of awful, noisy folks, I was able to turn round and see the real thing! After my friends had gone to bed, I wandered round for a bit on my own, just to soak up the ambience. Turns out, if you're a guy walking round Bangkok on his own at night, everyone assumes you're a sex tourist. It's rather annoying after the 500th proposition in as many yards.
Today, I woke up with the worst hangover I've had since before I went to Gambia. There's something to be said for nit drinking heavily, I must say. So, I drank a few gallons of water, had breakfast and have spent the last few hours just wandering round aimlessly. It's been kinda nifty - I wander round looking at interesting things until I get too warm (it's really quite hot here) then I find a pleasant cafe and sit in the shade until I've cooled down, then I repeat this until I get a little bored and decide to update my blog.
Life's pretty good, really. I think I'll stick around in Bangkok for another three or four days, until my new buddies leave, then try and find a secret island with a really nice beach and a community of irritating hippies to live with! Or, y'know, I could go to Cambodia instead.
Mentally, I'm fine, now. Although, I can't help but feel that I'm taking all this change and craziness a bit too well - either I'm extremely adaptable and comfortable in many different surroundings, or I'm going to freak out enormously in the near future! I shall try to delay the freaking-out until I get home, where everything's all familiar so I won't need to freak out. It's a daring tactic, but it might just work!
The only real downside of Bangkok is that my hair doesn't draw quite the same level of admiration as it does in the rest of the world. This is because the Ladyboys also have really great hair, and their legs are better than mine.
So, in summary: Happy, sane, healthy, enjoying life! Hurrah!
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