Tuesday, 25 January 2011

I will be your wingman

Sawat dii khrap from Chiang Mai, north Thailand.

First thing to say is I love the Thai language. For politeness you end every sentence with the word khrap if you are a male. I get to say Khrap to people about 20 times a day - oh the small pleasures I take from life!

So after my last post I spent my final night in Pattaya, I had to get out of there, it was not good for my health or my wallet. My final night was the same as all of the rest - out at 8pm, drink, party and get in at a ridiculous hour.
I finally surfaced at about 2pm the next day and decided that I should be off. So I got myself off to the bus station knowing that I wanted to get to Kanchanaburi because it would be a little more peaceful than my current location.
There was no direct route so it was back to Bangkok for a quick change to another bus to Kanchanaburi. I arrived at 9pm and set about finding a place to stay. Walking around I was pleased to see that it was definitely quieter than Pattaya, but there were still lots of attractive Thai girls in bars beckoning me in! Oh no!
That night I just got a bite to eat and then went to bed to catch up on some much needed sleep.

My reason for visiting Kanchanaburi is that it is the home of the Bridge over the River Kwai. The next day I took a stroll down to the bridge, which isn't that impressive but it is obviously what it represents that is important, with the intention of getting onto the 'Death Railway' and riding along the tracks that the POW's laid all those years ago.
It is called the Death Railway because over 100,000 POW's died during its 2 year construction. An unbelivable number. What is worse, some of them died from attacks by wild animals like tigers - talk about thinking that your situation couldn't get much worse. You are starving, you are a prisoner, your comrades are dying around you from heat, exhaustion, malaria and torture and then after all of that a tiger sneaks up and takes a massive lump out of you!

As I had had a good lay in, I missed the train for that day so was left to wonder around and check out the Death Railway Gallery and Museum - which was truly boring. The best bit was a wall with all of Thailand's beauty queens painted on it from the 1930's to present day - how random.
When I got back to my hotel there was an Oz family moved in next door. Well half of the family. Apparently the 3 sisters had had a massive argument, so the dad and 2 of the girls moved in next to me, and the mum and the other daughter were elsewhere.
It soon became apparent that I would not be spending my time with them. The were full on Bogans (gypo's for us pommies!).
The old man was a alchy and his obese 21 yr old daughter was following his lead. What was worse was that she had lots and lots of scars down her arms and legs - evidently a self harmer. I wanted to no part of her world to be in mine. I talked to them until I had done so for long enough so that it would not be rude for me to leave. I made sure that I didn't see them again.
That night I was missing the party so I thought I would make up for it. Actually, I was walking past a bar and a prostitute who looked like a Thai version of Missy Elliott dragged me in. She was all over me in a second, which was not to my liking. But I had a drink and thought I would use her attention to my advantage; so I got out my Thai guide book and had a little language lesson. After I had learnt all of the words I would need for the rest of my stay in Thailand I kicked her ass at pool and Connect 4.
By this time I had had a few beers and Missy would still not leave me alone. Fortunately, I spotted a group of girls that were laughing at my predicament and used that as an excuse to invite myself over. The 3 girls were from Finland, and it continues to amaze me how good everybody elses English is from different countries.
So the party continued at the pub, then back at their place - a lovely room floating on the river itself, and I finally got into my own bed at 5am.
Not bad after only planning to have 1 beer.
The next day I rose at some hour close to midday and realised I had missed the Death Railway train again. My only option was to take a local bus to the other end of the line and then catch the train back to Kanchanaburi, which I did.
What is worth it? In one word - NO! It was just a standard train journey like every other one. The scenary wasn't particularly spectacular and there wasn't much to look at. Still, full respect to the POW's that managed to build the line that ran all the way to Burma.
That night I just had a nice dinner and retired early as the Finnish girls had departed earlier that day.

The following day I took another local bus and headed to Erawan National Park and in particular the Erawan Waterfall - a 7 tiered waterfall that you climb 1.5kms up to its peak and can swin in the pools of clear blue water.
It was a beautiful location and by the time I had got to the summit my sweat glands were telling me it was time for a swim. I then realised that there was no private area for me to change into my swimming shorts, so I made my way over to a sort of secluded area and did my best not to scare anyone whilst changing under my towel that in all fairness was way too small.
As I made my way back to my bag with my clothes neatly folded I slippped on a rock. My neatly folded clothes were now drenched neatly folded clothes! What can you do? I just had to laugh and lay them out on the sun and hope that they would dry asap.
I got into the water, which wasn't too cold and took in my surroundings. My surroundings were lots more attractive Russian women (nice) and big burly Russian wrestler type men (not so nice). As I was admiring the women I felt something sharpish on my leg; thinking it was some sort of plant I moved about but it kept clinging on. I then realised that it wasn't a plant, it was a big bloody fish feasting on my skin. It freaked me out at first but then I got my composure back and remembered that I had wanted to try a fish foot massage. Here was my chance and it was for free. So I stood there for about 15mins whilst about 4 fish had a wonderful serving of 'leg of Lamb'.

Eventually I made my way back down to the exit of the national park, slipping on more rocks and now wearing still damp boxers.
I got back to Kanchanaburi at about 15:30pm and thought I would pop into the train station to see what my options were as I wanted to move on. Turns out there was a train back to Bangkok and then one onto Chaing Mai (my current location) leaving that night. Problem was it left in 30 mins, so I made a quick dash back to the hotel, got my bag and made the train with time to spare.

The train from Bangkok to Chaing Mai would take 15hours but because I had booked so late there were no beds left. My only option was a second class air conditioned seat. Actually it wasn't as bad as it sounds and I managed to get about 6hrs kip, which was more than enough. I sat next to a fairly attractive girl but she didn't seem to want to talk and because she was reading a German book and my German is scheisse we didn't actually communicate for the entire journey! 15 hrs!!!

So here I am in Chiang Mai. I eventually found a decent hotel in the old part of the city and went for a little look around. No sooner had I been there and I ran into a group of people that I had met 2 months previously in Darjeeling, India. I knew that they were in Thailand but no way expected to run into them. So I hung out with them for the afternoon and they invited me to a Reggae festival that was going on out of town that evening. Perfect - my first night in a new place and I have 3 Irish lads and 2 Danish girls to get drunk with.
The festival itself was a lot of fun. There was only one stage but the music was good and the atmosphere was buzzing. I think it was buzzing because they put stuff in your drinks! I honestly did not drink too much but no way did I feel myself and knew that something was amiss. However, no point freaking out about it, I embraced the feeling and got down and dirty to some top reggae vibes.
Another nice conicedence to happen to me that day was to find that in amongst a few thousand people I was dancing directly behind Rachael. I knew she was in this part of Thailand but was not sure if she was still in Chiang Mai; well now I knew.
Everybody danced well into the night and I eventually got back to my room at about 5am.

Yesterday I did nothing. I still wasn't feeling 100% from whatever it was I had drunk at the festival and it wasn't until about 5pm that I felt normal again (well as normal as I am ever going to be - so not normal by most people's standards).
I met up with Rachael and the guys that she is staying with at her hostel for another night out. All of the people I met through Rachael are really nice and up for a good time. 2 of the lads are from Nottingham and Bromley respectively. Of all the people I could meet, I meet 2 lads, 1 from the city next to my own and the other 15 mins down the road from where I lived in London for 7 yrs. Very very small world.
We met at a bar called the 'Warm Up Bar'. The great thing about this place is that it is where the Thai students hang out and we were the only westerners in there apart from about 4 others. On top of the great live music and nightclub it also turned out to be graduation night for the uni students.
At one point myself, Rachael and a girl called Stacy were walking through the nightclub section and this guy started talking to me. Afterwards the girls commented that he had just groped them as they walked past and there you were chatting to him. I made them feel better by telling them that as he spoke to me, he groped me too, which he had done!!!
The place was heaving with Thai's in celebratory mood.
This brings me onto the title of this post. I cannot get over how beautiful Thai women are, they are simply stunning (sounding like Jeremy Carkson describing any Ferrari).
We all know what being a wingman in England entails - one of you has to take the fall and entertain the fat, ugly or fat AND ugly bird whilst your mate gets the fit one. Nobody likes to do it, but your mates are your mates so you have to.
In Thailand, no drama. If you want to take the fit one I will happily talk to your mate, why?, because she might actually be better. Oh, there are 2 lads in the front of the queue, that's ok, I will talk to the third girl because guess what? I can't decide if she isn't the best one or not. And so it continues.....
I have no idea what happened to the genetics of Britain, but I am definitely over English women (with a few certain exceptions), I could easily see myself with a Thai woman - and not one that I have to pay for!!!
Harsh I know, so please forgive me, but they are beautiful. Maybe it is the sun?

After Warm Up bar the girls went home so it was just the lads moving onto Fabric nightclub. The place was electric too and everybody was in the party mood.
I have just told you about all of the Thai women and my views of them, so it is only fitting that I tell you about some of the attention I got at Fabric. I can't remember HIS name but he was as camp as you like. Why why why does this happen to me? That is the last time I use Thai language and tell a gay guy that it is nice to meet him, he loved it.
The rest of the lads disappeared at some point that I don't remember so I was left chatting to some Thai girls about this and that.
All of a sudden the girl who sat next to me on the train appeared. She saw me and came straight up to me and apologised for not talking to me. So she wasn't a mute afterall, and she was French, not German. So we spent the rest of the night talking back and forth, me with my crap French and her with her perfect English.

In the end it was time for home and I decided to walk. Why I decided to walk when I had no clue at all where I was is beyond me, but off I set.
I managed to get some directions and when I saw the walls to the old city I was very pleased with myself that I had made it.
I popped into the 7 Eleven for a snack before the final stretch. I love 7 Eleven, they really are a drunk man's best friend. They are open 24/7 (so no idea why they are called 7/11) and you can get whatever it is that you desire at 5:30am when you are p*ssed. You want a pot noodle, you got it (they have hot water too); you want a ham and cheese toasty, here have one, you want an assortment of sausages from chilli, to wrapped in bacon, to ones filled with cheese, here you go, get your gob around that. I love it!

Part of the reason I went into the 7 Eleven was due to the fact that a prostitute kept hassling me for some 'fun'. I don't know why, but a prostitute hassling me whilst she is on her moped is hillarious. She was the one kerb crawling!
She would not take no for answer but I stuck to my guns. Besides when I saw her under a street light I couldn't be sure if she was in fact a bird or not.
Because I was disorientated from the beginning and now from outrunning the he/she I failed to notice that once I had past through the city walls into the old city that I was not actually in the old city at all. It was another 30 mins walking until I realised to my horror that I had not entered the old city, I had in fact left it. I was heading west into the unknown and give it a few more hours walking and I would've got to Burma (seriously).
So I had to cave in and get a cab. By the time the drama was over I got into bed at 6:30am this morning.

Today I again have just mooched around. I did manage to get some prices for trekking so the day after tomorrow myself and Rachael will embark upon a 3 day trek which includes elephant rides, visiting hill tribes and rafting down the rivers. All of that, plus food for about 20 quid.
I also visited the Wat Phrung Singh which I have to say is probably one of the best temples I have been to so far on my travels. I was dubious about going to see another temple but I am very happy that I did this one.

On the walk back I noticed a sign for the 'Prawn Legal Office'. Excuse me, the what?
Immediately I had visions of little prawns turning up at the office complaining about their rights, something along the lines of 'No more prawn cocktails!, this is not a 1980's English dinner party and we are teaming up with the Black Forest Gatteau to say NO MORE!!!'. Or something like that.
So that is that, you are up to date. I will be back out tonight with Rachael and the gang and will see if the Irish crew want to go to the zoo tomorrow.
I am still loving travelling even though I got lost for the very first time in 3 months last night.
I am also reading 'Notes from a small island' by Bill Bryson at the minute and it is really funny. I keep laughing out loud in restuarants. I recommend that you all read it - an American's view of England and the English. It also made me quite emotional reading about 'home' but have no fear, I am not coming back just yet.

As after though, I wonder what they would've thought at the Burmese border if I had turned up asking if they knew where the VS Hotel was?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

I am in the sex capital of Thailand and probably the world. My conclusions - I need to learn Russian!

I have made it to Thailand, country number 3 of the tour and I am now just over 3 months and 1 week into my travels. It is fair to say that I am settling into it all really well and I have no idea if I will ever be able to get back into a 'normal' life again. I think we will move on from that though as I still have 18 months until I need to seriously think about that, so back to the present.

My last few days in Nepal were uneventful apart from going to the cinema to watch a Bollywood film with Jennie, a girl I met through Rachael, and then also spending one day confined to my room with a Delhi belly!
I left Nepal on Jan 12th and my flight to Bangkok included an 18hr stop over in Delhi - my most hated city in the world to date.
However, as I am now more travel savy and have spent close to 2 mths in India I decided to face up to Delhi head on and give it another go. I had time to kill afterall.
I landed in Delhi at 17:30pm raring to go and at 18:30pm I was still stood at the baggage corousel wondering where the hell my bag was. As everything in India is done in its own time it wasn't until 19:30pm that I was told that my bag had been transferred to the holding bay for the next flight to Bangkok. I had no issue with this but it would've been nice if I was told this in Kathmandu and hadn't wasted nearly 2 hours.
In a way this was much more convinient for me as now it was just me and my 'man bag' so I made my way to the metro station to hit Delhi large only to discover that it was closed! My only choices were to get an expensive taxi to and from the airport into the city or just wait it out until 12:30pm the next day for my flight. In the end I chose the latter purely down to money and the now lack of quality time.
I headed to the departures to get some food and to try and have a kip to find out that I was locked out. The stupid regulations were that because I was flying the next day I would not be able to enter Departures until 7am - it was still 8pm!
So I did the sensible thing and blagged my way back into Arrivals with some crap story and it somehow worked.
So that was that, I found a nice little section that was out of the way and lay across 4 chairs for a 'good' nights sleep. I can't say that it was the most comfortable night as the chairs were about 30cm apart so I had to position myself very carefully.
I eventually got the sleep at about 11:30pm praying that I would stay asleep so the morning would be here quickly. I awoke 3 times feeling that I had at least had some deep sleep and was dismayed to look at my watch each time and it read 12am, 12:10am and 12:20am respectively. Aaaaggggghhhhhh.
At the last time check I was convinced that this was just all bullsh*t and no way could it still only be 12:20am. I did a sanity check on my phone and my heart lept when it read 5:45am. My watch needed winding up!
So with a spring in my step and 6hrs kip behind me I got up and made my way to Departures at 7am.
As expected I was first at the check in and just wanted to get through and get on my plane. I handed over my passport was then asked where was my luggage to check in. I told them that they already had it and they should know that but apparently that didn't go down too well. I was sent back and forth between the check-in employee and the supervisor with each one telling me something different. After the 3rd time of meeting the supervisor my patience was wearing a little thin and there was still no guarantee that I would ever see my bag again. In the end they did what they should've done in the first place and went to check if it was actually there and it was.
So that was that, I was on the plane and out of Delhi and based on my airport experience it is still my most hated city in the world.

Onto Thailand and Bangkok. I arrived early evening and jumped onto a bus heading for Khao San Road. I had done no research what so ever and had no idea where I was going. I only headed to Khao San Road because the Oz girls said it was lively.
The bus dropped me off at my destination and I was greeted with bright lights, drunk people, masses of street vendors selling all sorts of food, including roasted and fried insects (which I am still yet to try) and female flesh! After 3mths in conservative countries, India and Nepal, it was a real shock to see Thai and Western women in next to nothing out on the lash. This is going to shock you all but I didn't like it. I had grown accumstomed to women having some respect for themselves and dressing and behaving appropiately and this just seemed degrading.
I have just read this back and I am shocked and appalled at myself. Don't worry, things will be back to normal as you read on and as I am typing this sentence a very attractive Thai woman has sat opposite me in next to nothing and yes I am looking!!
I guess it was just strange to be confronted with this all again after hardly any sight of flesh in such a long time.
I took a walk around and found a relatively cheap hotel room in the middle of all of the action. I dropped my bag off, had a quick shower and went out to soak it all in. I did what I am best at - I got drunk.

The next day I awoke and considered what to do with myself. I had been in Bangkok for literally 16hrs but I decided to leave and head for the beach.
Part of my reason for this decision is that a friend from Norway is coming over to Thailand to meet me in about 4wks time so I figured that I would come back to Bangkok then and do all of the touristy stuff with her. Plus, I really don't want to see yet another temple or religious momument so soon after India and Nepal.

I googled Thailand beach resorts and up came Pattaya - the world's sex capital. It was a no brainer really and this where I am writing this post from.
Another reason I chose to head here is because the Rough Guide ommitted it from its book as it refused to discuss such a place - how could I not possibly check it out!
I headed over to the bus terminal, paid my 91 baht (about 2 quid) and enjoyed the 4 hr bus trip to Pattaya with the locals. At one time being the only westerner on a packed bus in another country would have been a little daunting but I really enjoy it now - it is that reality check that you really are here and you are travelling around far flung places. I bloody love it.

As with Bangkok I got off the bus at Pattaya when the driver told me it was my stop (who knows?) and again had done no research at all. I did the logical thing and acted like a moth - headed to where the bright lights were. That is what I do these days to find out where I need to go - flourescent lights means fun in my mind.
After walking around for about 30mins and not seeing a lot in terms of accomodation I decided to head to a bar to ask for advice. It never even occured to me that the red lights in the bar meant anything other than decoration as all I wanted to do was a have a beer and get my bag off of my back, but my life soon changed for the better.
I was greeted by a number of very enthusiastic girls (as is the case in every single bar - there must be 1000's of prostitutes here) and sat down at the bar.
There I got talking to an English bloke and he was a great source of information. 7 trips in the last 2 years would confirm this! I am now into my 5th day here and he has been my drinking partner every night!
I won't go into detail about him to protect the 'innocent', and the fact is that he is now a good friend as well.
I also have to consider the whole 6 degrees of separation thing, which some people now say is only 3 degrees. I would hate to stitch him up by naming him etc and then someone reading this tells someone else and so on. Highly unlikely I know but it is best to play safe - a key phrase for Pattaya too.
So for the rest of this post he will be referred to as X. I will only say that he is 55yrs old, which makes him part of the average population of tourists here.

There is not much to say about my activities during the day times here in Pattaya because I have hardly seen them. I can tell you that the beach isn't the best but is packed with old English men sunning themselves with their Thai lady friends as well as a very high number of Russians, both men and women and in couples.
The nightlife is what rules my life. I have the same routine which is to start boozing at 8pm when I meet X at the bar I met him in the very first night. He is 'dating' the bar owner for the 2wks that he is here and he dated her on his last trip too, so it ends up being the 3 of us out for the night. Jan, the bar owner, is one of the nicest people I have met and it helps that she is very attractive as well as being very funny. I can see why X has fallen for her.
I also like going to the bar because as I approach every night all I can here is 'Adam' being shouted out down the road in a Thai accent by all of the girls. It never fails to make me laugh. They are all actually really good fun as well and love Sambucca like me. They do lavish me with lots of attention too but it is all harmless fun.

So every night has been the same. Start at 8pm, drink at my 'local' and then about 11pm move on down Beach Road (along the sea front) and head to Walking Street - probably one of the best streets for a night out in the world. Along this street there are hundreds of bars, ping pong clubs, go go girl clubs, nightclubs, live bands, street entertainers etc. It is just mental. Add to this that literally every girl that you look at can be yours if she is not already taken and you can imagine my wide-eyed childlike look of joy on my face during my first night there.
So far in my 4 nights I have had a 5am, 8:30am, 4am and 7:30am finish respectively - which is why I haven't seen much of the day times.

I need to try and describe to you my observations of Pattaya but it really is very difficult to do. You just have to see it to believe it.
The first thing I will stress is that in no way is it seedy. Seedy would be if things went on down back alleys and people were sneaking about. This is pure sex in your face. If you have an issue with sex is any guise then Pattaya is not for you, simple as that.

So the way it works is this: (I also now have all of the inside information from chatting to Jan so I know exactly how much each girl makes and how she makes her money). This is part of the reason why I love to immerse myself with the locals and not just the tourists - it gives you a real view of the life and how things work and is just interesting.
Back to how it works - Lamby's guide to Pattaya for all you men who are thinking of coming over:

Every bar has a number of women working for them. As you walk down the street they will do their best to get you in - this can be a friendly approach or just shouting to get your attention which phrases such as 'hey sexy man' - you get the gist.
You can just go into the bar of your own free accord and then the women will come and sit with you and chat to you (and expect a drink).
If you like the bird, you take her. It costs 300 baht to buy out her 'bar' fee and then 1000 baht to the lady herself. So all in all, about 26 quid for her company for 12hrs - a bargain.
There are also your standard brothels and massage parlours too.

You also have the option of buying a woman to accompany you for however long you desire. This is the bit that I don't get but it is also the most popular thing to do it seems.
A massive percentage of the tourist population here are men aged 40 - 60yrs old and all you see everyday wherever you look are these men with their 'girlfriends'. They are walking down the street arm in arm, stroking each others' hair and acting as though they are in love.
As I said, I personally don't get it. If you want to have fun with an extremely attractive girl (which the vast majoirity are) then fine, just pay for the night. Why on earth would you then want to spend all day with her making small talk in broken English and paying for all of her meals and drinks - no thanks love.
I was trying to talk to a girl last night but her English was no existent like my Thai, so she got our her little guide book to point at phrases.
I promise you that the title of the book was 'Get quick rich English'. It was brilliant reading. It had various sections to do with life, love, sex etc. Some examples: 'I want to marry you', 'I have little education', 'I don't like working in this bar', 'Do you love me', 'Did you cum' (sorry mum) (also not sure why you would need to ask that, should be obvious), 'I don't love you anymore', 'You are an arsehole' and so on. Hilarious.

One thing that I have noticed is that I am one of the younger people here. As a result and the fact that I have my own hair, teeth and do not have a massive beer gut (frequent sight) I get a lot of attention. I even catch a lot of the Thai women who are already with a man staring at me. I don't mean this in any sort of arrogant way, it is just that some of the men here have really let themselves go.
But saying that, some girls I have talked to will only go with older men - why? - because the sex is over very quickly and they can go to sleep, whereas young men are more energetic and so they have to work harder for their money.
You really need to come here and experience this place. It is just crazy crazy crazy.

Then there is the subject of the ladyboys. One word to describe most of them is 'beautiful', another word to describe some of them is 'scary'. I am not sure how people mistake them because as soon as they speak it is obvious and you can just tell if you look hard enough - bone structure, shoulders and arms etc.
I reckon those that say they didn't know just got last minute nerves.
It is odd seeing the sort of men who are 'dating' them though. You can tell that at home they are not the sort of bloke who is homosexual, they all seem to be quite manly men. I guess they are just curious and maybe bisexual but won't admit to it.
I did see one 'girl' the other night who really caught my attention but I just wasn't sure what they were. Fortunately, myself, X and Jan were passing on my way to another bar so I didn't need to find out. Ha ha.

So that is that. There is so much more I could tell you about, such as the women love to hussle you at pool and Connect 4 (I thought I was good at that game until I came here), the Thai boxing that takes place in a ring in the middle of some bars, certain bars where you are allowed to pay to spank women (not sure why Jan took us there), bars where the women are having a soapy bath, bars where women descend on fireman poles from the ceiling and just appear on stage as if by magic......and so on.

And so we come to the Russian women. I do not know why there are so many here and if they are prostitutes as well or just holidaymakers. I don't know because I cannot speak Russian but I need to learn. The other night I saw a dream type woman. Russian, tall, blonde, blue eyes, curvy, just fantastic! They all seem to be stunning and my world travels will take me back via Eastern Europe - I have just decided that right now.

I am planning to leave tomorrow as I am spending too much money here on drinking. The drinks are UK prices and the partying is eating into my budget, so I need to go before I stitch myself up.
I am going to head north and get back to the real world (well my real travelling world) and get back into the mountains. As much as I talk very enthusiastically about this place, I am really missing Nepal and the Himalayas and want to be back in that world, not this one.

I am also going to defend all of these older men that are here and 'dating' these young Thai women. If I am single in my 50's and have a beer gut (please no) and lose a limb in an accident or are burned in a fire (I say that because I have literally seen all sorts out here) then why would I not come and get some sort of satisfaction out here. Women in the UK and Western world can be very judgemental and superficial (as are men too) where as here they can get the attention they need and are made to feel special by the women. They also get sex when they want it and do not have to go through the whole 'headache' scenario.
All I can is 'Rock on old English dudes!'

Finally I guess I should add that a lot of people would not declare that they are in such a place as this, especially on their blog, but I don't care. I have not said that I have done anything or not, and even if I did protest my innocence you would not believe me, so it is up to you to believe what you like. This is my forum to let you all know about the sights and experiences that I take in on my world travels and I could not not share this place with you all. I have never seen anything like it.
I imagine that Thailand holds much more similar desitinations that I will pass on my way around - who knows?

Bye for now, I am off out to get smashed - again!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

What to do in Kathmandu? I know, get on with the partying and get smashed!

Hello everyone. This will be my last post from amazing Nepal as I will be moving onto Thailand in 4 days time - I am not sure what Thailand will bring but I am thinking debauchery in every possible way!

So back to Nepal and my activities over the past couple of weeks. I am can sum it all up very quickly - sightseeing and partying with my Australian homegirls with whom I have spent the last 10 days.
My last post was on Boxing Day and in the 2 days that followed not much happened. I just hung around in Pokhara, caught up with some friends and attended the Pokhara street festival, which was nice but nothing special.
My aim was to get to Kathmandu for NYE to catch up with the Aussie girls but I was recommended a small place called Bandipur that lies on the way there so decided to visit that first. By pure conicedence it turned out that that was where the girls currently were so it all worked out nicely.
Bandipur is a really nice little town situated up in the hills with great views of the Himalayan range and the best bit about it is that no cars are allowed through the place - something you really learn to appreciate over here.
So I arrived mid-morning to be greeted by friendly faces and checked into the girl's hotel. The rest of the day was spent walking around, climbing hills for the views and not doing much else.
There was a cave that I really wanted to explore, the largest in the Himalayas and only discovered 23 years ago (which is crazy), but the girls had attempted to venture down there the day before and the route was apparently very dangerous and slippy. I thought this was just standard girl talk and all would be well when a real man such as myself attempted it in an Indianna Jones t-shirt but later in the day I saw this Dutch guy who I had met on the bus and he showed me the lack of skin on his arms where he had visisted the caves and slipped down all of the steps! ha ha. Maybe it is just as well that I didn't have the time to do it.
The only other thing worth mentioning about Bandipur was the sunset. It was probably the most spectacular one I have seen to date. Each mountain seemed to have its own unique cloud situated above it in the shape of a mushroom cloud (seen after a nuclear explosion); combine this with the reds and oranges of the sunset and it was an inspiring sight.

I only spent one night in Bandipur and it was enough to be honest, there wasn't lots to do. Also it was now the 30th of Dec so off to Kathmandu to scope out a suitable location to get on it for NYE.
I was expecting to get the local bus, but as the girls are on holiday and therefore have a much bigger budget than myself, I found myself in a luxury jeep for the 5 hour road trip to the capital.
I was in the boot with the bags but it was all good and there was a seat!
We arrived in Kathmandu late afternoon and as we approached the city I was greeted with a view of the Kathmandu Valley - erm, the view in Kathmandu Valley is smog! You cannot see sh*t! Pollution-ville.

Kathmandu is a bustling place and is manic. You share the streets with cars, motorcycles, dogs and lots of people and whoever is the most assertive gets the right of way. Still, after experiencing India it isn't all that bad and it was nice to be back in a busy environment after my weeks in the mountains, jungles and more laid back areas of Nepal. Saying that, I still yearn to get back to the mountains and will return one day as the Everest trek still needs to be conquered.
We found a hotel in the area of Thamal - which I guess can be described as the more touristy area of Kathmandu. As we checked in the subject of rooms came up. In total there were 5 of us so I just expected to get a single for myself, but before I knew it I was in a triple with 2 of the girls - sweet!

My first evening in Kathmandu was spent alone! After a quick meal the girls declared that they were going to check out the shops (a reoccuring theme throughout our stay here). I could not think of any worse way to spend my time so told them I was going to explore the city and try to find the drinking areas so we had a POA for NYE.
I spent 2 hours walking the streets of the city and by chance happened to pass lots of the major sightseeing attractions but no bars (I was getting worried). I headed back to the general area of our hotel and there right behind our place was the street I had been looking for, the street of my dreams. This street had restaurants, bars, lots of live music (a must for me) and was generally buzzing. So that was that, we now knew where NYE would be spent - and even better, we could crawl home if need be.

For NYE day we embarked upon the walking tour of Kathmandu. The tour took in numerous temples (I am completely 'templed' out now after Nepal and India) and finished in Durbar (which translates to Palace) Square. I only mention the translation because there is a Durbar Square in every city in the Kathmandu Valley and this perplexed me a little, so I needed to know what the score was.
Durbar Square is where the kings of the past would be crowned and from where they ruled. The whole square is very impressive and it was nice to see the buildings in the style of how I always imagined they would be when I used to daydream of visiting Nepal.
So that was the day, now onto the night!

To start our NYE celebrations we went out for dinner at this cool little Mexican restaurant. There was myself, the Aussies (Arancha, Josie, Nadia and Shahn), (girls - the names are not in order of preference, just alphabetical!!!), and we were also joined by Rachael (my friend who I met in India and have mentioned in previous posts).
NYE with 5 girls - just perfect really.
By the time we left the restaurant I was fully aware that I had had a drink but I was feeling good and had that lovely beer buzz.
From there it was onto an Irish Bar (why is there an Irish Bar in every city of the world?) for shots and more booze. Here we were joined by John, a guy from Oz who the girls had met in Pokhara and so our group for the rest of the night was complete.
At about 10:30pm we realised that the Irish Bar was not going to be a suitable venue to celebrate the stroke of midnight so we ventured elsewhere. First was to check out some dingy club which looked promising but as soon as I heard those silky vocals from a certain Justin Beiber I demanded that we left the gaff.
We ended up in the Shisha Terrace Cafe and Bar - which was perfect. A great blend of drunken Nepalese and Western toursits.
This was when the real drinking began and all that there is to say about the rest of the night is that we drank, we danced, we laughed, we sang and all in all it was bloody brilliant fun.
The night ended at approximately 3:30am when the Nepalese authorities decided that the curfew (which is usually midnight) should begin. The way that Nepal enforces a curfew is to send in armed soldiers, turn off the music and tell everyone to be on their way. It sounds quite shocking but as I have been out for a few nights now in Nepal it just becomes part of the experience, and besides, they are all really friendly and polite.

The next morning I awoke to find my roomies in not the best condition. I on the otherhand with my freaky ability to avoid a hangover was up at 8:30am reading (but still intoxicated).
The rest of New Year's Day was spent eating, to feed the hangovers, and relaxing at the Kathmandu Guesthouse, which has a beautiful garden which you can lie in and chill out and not here the hustle and bustle of the streets outside - it has become a bit of a haven for us in the past few days.
It also has a 25 seater cinema and shows a daily film at 8pm. I check the lisitng out every day and unfortunately it is always some dog-poo chick-flick, so I have yet to venture inside.

The 2nd of January saw us back to sightseeing. The 6 of us (me, oz and Rachael) first went to Swayambhunath, otherwise known as the Monkey Temple. This place was really cool and you have to climb up a lot steps (which you share with a lot of monkeys - some aggressive ones too) up to the hilltop to reach the temple itself. Once at the top there is a mish-mash of temples and statues. The view should also have been something special but we have discussed the smog!

From here we moved onto Patan which has its own impressive Durbar Square. We also visited the Patan Museum which is allegedly the best in Asia! I wouldn't agree but you have to love statues and carvings of erotic acts!
I love that every statue in Nepal (human or animal form) always had a massive willy and boobs, and some are painted in pink and red even when the rest of the statue is bare stone. Funny.

Our final stop of the day was to visit the world herritage site of the huge stupa at Bodhnath. For those of you who do not know (I didn't), a stupa is a mound-like structure containing Bhuddist relics, typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of worship. At this particular stupa there are thousands of pilgrims circumnavigating (clockwise for good luck) it and it was a good sight. However, I have respect for people's unquestioning religious faith but I still don't get it or see what it achieves and never will.

The next day brought a trip firstly to Panauti (which was so boring that I will not talk about it), a bus ride to Banepa where we had lunch with a complete stoner and then we took in a half day trek up to Nagarkot. The trek was nice partly due to the fact that it was good to do some walking again and some excerise.
The girls liked the walk because we past about 30 soldiers out on parade. You should have seen them saying hello to every single one that walked past with his big machine gun - very funny.
The whole reason to trek to Nagarkot was for the views, which are apparently some of the best and you can actually glimpse Everest in the far distance. You will notice that I used the word 'apparently' as the curse of the smog hit again.
Still, a good walk and result of feeling good from the exercise was to get back to Kathmandu and go out drinking. A night out wasn't on the cards but it turned into one of those spontaneous nights that ends up being great fun. This night was also my first contact with a Nepali band called Cobweb. They are seriously one of the best bands I have seen live, so tight, and the lead singer 'Flower' is amazing. Apart from Matt Bellamy (Muse), I am not sure I have seen many musicians play an electric guitar that well, and especially playing some Jimmy Hendrix. He also had the voice to match - very talented guy and band.
I have now been to see them play 3 times in 5 days and they will be in London and Oz soon!

As always when we have a night out (which was becoming a bit of a habit) the next day means eating and hanging out in the Kathmandu Guesthouse garden.

The day after was spent at Bhaktapur. This is one of the towns in the Kathmandu Valley that has been preserved and still is quite ancient in terms of buildings and way of life, and you realise this because of the astronomical entrance fee (in relative terms).
I cannot say that I was overly impressed with the place, the erotic statues are always worth a look and there were some beastiality ones to add to the mix as well but the stand out part of the day for me was watching 2 dogs that had gotten intertwined during the act of copulation. The poor dog had gotten his willy stuck in the bitch (I mean that in the dog sense, although she kept twisting him around so the other sense could also be applicable) and they were both clearly in pain from the yelps they made. What made it worse, or more amsuing for me, was that another dog on heat was trying to have his turn on her at the same time. It was just one big mess.
In the end we just had to leave them. By the way this was going on in the middle of the busiest square in Bhaktapur.

As we had gotten back to Thamal earlier than expected 2 of the girls decided to go for a massage, so I thought I would tag along. I opted for a deep tissue massage and elected to have a bloke do it because I didn't think that a woman would be able to administer the force neccessary to get ride of all of my knots.
I wish I had gone for the woman.
It all started well enough when he was massaging my legs which have been in need of some treatment since my trekking but once he reached my feet he nearly got a kick in the face. My feet are seriously sensitive and when he touched them I kicked out on impulse.
After that the pain started and this bloke had sharp elbows. An elbow over the shin is not nice I can tell you.
You have to bear in mind that this massage was taking place with the use of hot oils which was very relaixng on my back and legs (apart from the odd bit of pain) but when it came to my buttocks and chest......
I like to view myself as one of the most openly minded people I know and I am not homophobic in anyway, but I know that I like women. I have to say that I felt very umcomfortable when hot oil was splashed onto my bum and chest and he start to rub it in.
I mean, seriously, leave them alone man, this is not right!

The evening followed the usual routine of dinner with my homies and then back to the room to just talk about girly stuff with my roomies - which I am very good at now.
There were also the obligatory visits to the jewellery stores to pick up the various items that the girls had acquired. I will not disclose and figures but I am pretty sure one jeweller in Thamal can now retire and buy a streets worth of properties (given that you can buy a house here for 100 quid - which I read in the paper yesterday).
I am glad I made the trip to this particular store because one of the workers had fingers that I can only described in their most basic form as 'cock' fingers. Each digit from the top knuckle upwards was shaped just like the head of a penis - it was hillarious. I bet his wife is happy!

Thursday 6th January was to be our last full day together and the girls were leaving for a shopping trip to Dubai on the 7th.
We spent our last day together doing what any normal group of freinds would do - going to watch some bodies burn.
Like Varansi in India, Kathmandu has a cremation area at a place called Pashupatinath.
All in all this was not my favourite experience of Nepal. As you approach the front gates you have to walk down a path which has a number of lepars on each side begging. It was just awful and some of them were clearly near to the end.
Once inside we were confronted straight away with a cremation. After Varansi I am used to the sights and smells now of burning bodies but it was still an eye opener to see a bodies turned over in front of me and then watch the bodily fluids sizzle and steam.
Made me quite peckish for some barbequed food.

Whilst the girls were petting some puppies (also a frequent occurrence) I took a walk over the bridge to watch another cremation. I stood on the bridge and noticed a little old Nepalese man next to me. I looked a little closer and saw that he was quietly crying and that this cremation was obviously a relative. It is all well and good watching the cremations because it is just a dead body, but to see the personal side of it like that was not nice. All I wanted to do was give him a big hug because he looked to fragile. He then moved on and went to the rest of his family.
I think I am getting a bit soft now that I am in my 30's.
We explored the rest of the area which housed more temples, ruins and monkeys and then headed back to Thamal.
Our last night together was what it should be - great fun. We had a lovely meal and then got smashed again. I know it is a good night when someone chucks up but I am glad it was not me, but you know who you are!

Yesterday was then a standard post drinking day - food and the garden. In the evening the girls departed and I have to admit that I was a little sad. We have spent the last 8 days travelling together, as well as spending Xmas together in Pokhara and I have grown very fond of them all.
You meet some people in life and you just get on with them; it isn't difficult to have a conversation and you just enjoy each others' company, well that is what I had with Arancha, Josie, Nadia and Shahn.
The good thing is that in 2 mths and 2 days I will be landing in Oz and going to stay with Shahn straight away in Sydney, followed by a reunion the following weekend with all of the girls, so it is all good in the hood.

I would just like to say thanks again for making me feel so welcome within the group and even trusting me with the kitty on occasions!!

So that brings us to today. I think I will just bum around for the next few days. I have bought 2 books - Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' and a 'Teach Yourself Spanish' book (I need to get to South America at some point). I have been growing restless for some intellectual stimulation and as I have so much time on my hands I should at least get something out of it.

Finally, Nepal has been fantastic. As with India, I have been completely blown away by the place and leave with very fond memories. Nepal is so dynamic; mountains, jungles, bustling citites and beautiful little quaint villages. As with India, I will definitely be coming back.

I am pretty sure that my posts will become more interesting as of next week when I report from Thailand. I just hope that the massage experience was not a prelude of what is to come in ladyboy central!!!