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Thursday, June 25, 2015

EUROPEAN INVASION: LIVE AND STAGGERING

EUROPEAN INVASION:  LIVE AND STAGGERING

A huge thank you to Carolyn N. and all the other people who worked on the title of this 'Home Invasion' tour name!!

For those who don't keep up with me on Facebook, this massive tour through Europe will be kicking off on August 1st.

It's looking like seven countries (one of which I've not spent any time in before!) and I'll be staying with a lot of friends.  Epic fun coming up.

But until then, honestly, not a lot is going on.

In Plovdiv, Bulgaria I'm just burning time hanging out in a very nice apartment (with it's own washing machine) and bitching about the shoddy state of video games and shows from the TV.  Although I despise watching television itself, I do obtain commercial free shows and watch them on my computer.

Doesn't make for outstanding blogging.

Until either something interesting happens here or the journey starts, don't expect a lot of space filling blogs.



MORE ON AMERICANS AND CELCIUS

By Joseph Osborne

For the benefit of Logan's non-American readers, he is correct, Americans don't arbitrarily hate the Celsius scale. . .they just get frustrated with trying to mentally convert it or figure it out. They are raised on Fahrenheit, so they don't know what those numbers mean, and sometimes try to do vague conversions or estimates in their head and get confused or frustrated.

Why the US hasn't adopted Metric is something you could write books on. Really short version: the process was beginning in the 1970's, but it got politicized and Ronald Reagan's administration hated the Metric system so they actively stopped any metrication in the US. Since then there's been no real government or cultural drive to adopt it. It's been slowly leaking in some places, such as beverage packaging in liters and milliliters, but it still has strong opposition in some corners who see it as a partisan political issue and somehow unpatriotic to use.

Also, in the spirit of his Celsius guide, I give you an adaptation of that. Celsius as it applies to Kentucky weather:

40 = Hottest days of summer. Everyone knows it's hot, and everyone is complaining. Will probably be like this for a few days in July or early August.
30 = Normal summer midday temperature. Its kinda hot, we're used to it.
20 = Nice fall or spring day, or a very mild summer day. Everyone is talking about what a nice day it is.
10 = Chilly early Spring or late Fall day. Wear a coat.
0 = Typical winter day.
-10 = Cold Winter Day. Wear gloves and a scarf in addition to your coat.
-20 = Coldest Night of the Year, will be like this on some nights in January or February. Leave the faucets on a bit so the pipes don't burst.
-30 = Equivalent to all time record low temperature recorded around here.

Thanks Joseph!



BARBERS

Outside of India, Bulgaria I got the cheapest shave ever.

According to a barber I spoke with, Bulgarian barbers do not offer straight razor shaves because Bulgarians are too 'macho' (his word) to shave.

I was able to get a machine shave for 2 LEV.

That's approximately $1.14.  They don't expect to be tipped either.

And people say "Why don't you want to lug a heavy electric trimmer around?"



CLASSY

The next time you want to impress your friends with a scholarly quote, wait till they say something (doesn't matter what) and say "Well, you know what Sir Thomas Beecham said..."

(Give a second as they wonder who the hell it is then continue.)

"Always try everything once except for incest and folk dancing."

Then sit back and grin at them like a maniac.

Since it was a quote of a knight of the realm, that makes it classy.

And here is a link to it so you don't think I'm just making shit up.     Now, go be classy to your friends or boss!



DRUNKEN RAMPAGE

For those who want to see my drunken posts of 140 characters or less harassing the rich and famous, my handle on Twitter is Logan9a.



AN INVITATION

If YOU (yes, you) have an article you want to put into the blog, let me know.



VIDEOS I FORGOT I'D MADE

These are from Indonesia - the small island:

Julias
Norma 1
Norma 2  (Why do I have two?  Who knows.  My eventual editor can sort it out or make a montage.)



COSTS

Meal - about 6-12 lev depending on what you want.
Beard trim (machine, not straight razor), 2 lev.
Plastic bottle of boot leg wine, 6 lev.
Glass bottle of legal wine, 12 lev.




Thursday, June 11, 2015

THE BIG SHIT

THE BIG SHIT

There I was on a small island in Indonesia.


The island is right where the very point of the arrow is - it doesn't show up well on this map but if I show just the island it gives no context.

It was pretty primitive there.  With only one five watt light bulb to light the room (really?  Who buys five watt light bulbs) it was twilight all the time inside the room.  Sure, it was nice outside but you can only take so much of the great outdoors before feeling 'stabby'.

Not that the outdoors stayed outside.  Monkeys enjoyed giving a wake up call early in the morning by jumping up and down on the corrugated steel roof.  That will wake you right the hell up.

When you sleep under a mosquito net, the one ancient under powered fan loses most of it's cooling power.  After nearly dying from Dengue Fever, I was grateful to sweat myself to sleep under the netting.

While part of me felt that the primitive huts would be best decorated with fire, the other part knew if they were to build them properly I couldn't afford to stay there.

As to exploring the island, you have three choices - rent a motorbike, walk or hire someone to drive you around it.  I'd tried a quick test drive atop the motorbike and felt like a clown trying to ride a miniature bike.  Not secure.  If you wreck it, you pretty much bought it.  And the hospital.  Hiring someone to take you to see different dilapidated huts with corrugated steel rooves is pricey so I walked.

The longer I live on a jungle island...

...the more I start to become Colonel Kurtz...

One way had hills and eventually led to a different shitty village.  The other way of the one long road island had even larger hills and may have eventually led somewhere else.

For three weeks I walked the same six or seven kilometer round trip, ate a very small lunch, floundered around the ocean then sat in my hut until dinner time.  The dinner at Norma's was home style and amazing every time.  After dinner, back to my five watt bulb and computer with usually no internet until sleep overcame the slapping of bugs who had made it through the netting.

Obviously, I couldn't wait to leave.

Until a buddy of mine who had invited me to Belgium confirmed the trip I didn't know if I'd be heading west to Europe or sweating it out in Asia.

Will we get to meet the amazing Belgium detective Hercule Poirot?  No.  He's dead.  And fictional.


After getting the word that the trip was indeed on, I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

"I want the guy at my hut at six AM."
"Oh, he don't coming till six thirty."
"If he comes then, he won't find me there because I want to leave at six."
"I call him."

I mistakenly thought this would be the most nerve wracking part of the trip.  Oh, the innocence!

There are only two ferries per day off of the island.  If you miss one, you need to wait until the afternoon for the next.  And that would be after your flight to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia had already left so you'd then miss the flight to Istanbul Turkey.

Because I am paranoid of someone even less competent screwing things up, I like to check things.  Turkish Airways had indeed sent me a confirmation e-mail for my ticket but they'd cancelled the payment and my flight without bothering to send an e-mail about that.

And they wouldn't let me buy a new ticket.

Super.  Thanks so much.

So pissed.

Kuala Lumpur is a major airline hub so I figured I could go see someone and sort out that mess when I got there since it would be many hours until my flight.

The ferry back to Banda Aceh (Aceh is pronounced 'Ah-cha'.  Why isn't it spelled like that?  Who the fuck knows.) was smooth and noisy with the locals blasting music and children and smoking incessantly.   I would like to note that if women smoke, they do so at home and in private.  I'd asked why since the men smoke like they're practicing it for the Olympics.  "It is not polite" for a woman to be seen smoking.  Wow.

When the ferry docked and I disembarked I heard someone call my name.  It was a very clever local who had learned it from me when I first got there weeks ago and somehow remembered it.

This is a clever guy.  Of course I will ride on his wildly unsafe tuk tuk to the airport.  Note that the tuk tuks here are like motorcycles side car with you a bit higher than the driver.  Think 'catapult in case of accident'.

I can fly!  I can fly!  I can (splat)!


"How much to the airport?"
"How much you want to pay me?"
"Eighty!"
(Looking hurt) "Hundred!"
"OK."

I knew the price was a hundred.  Bargaining skill.

Once in the Banda Aceh airport, I discovered they were implementing what I call a 'sting in the tail' for departing travelers - a 100,000 IDR 'airport tax'.   Fortunately, I'd purchased my ticket before.  For one time travelers, these shenanigans are always a double fuck.  You'd carefully gotten rid of your local currency only to be told you need more to leave.  In addition to getting fucked by the airport, you can again get fucked by the currency exchange people.

There was no Turkish Airways office in this tiny airport.

They did have a restaurant that sold spaghetti.  Since I'd not eaten all day, I decided on a small meal to tide me over until the major airport of Kuala Lumpur and their expensive American fast food.  Remember, I'd been eating nothing but healthy Indonesian food for weeks and that might kill an American.

Took a picture because they gave you so little.  Sure, it was only 25,000 IDR but four fork fulls (say that five times fast) does not a meal make.  Had another after this one.

The only thing the airport had in abundance was brief power outages.  Thinking those might not be so great for the whole 'airport thing'.  Quite a professional confidence booster.

After several hours of waiting, the plane eventually managed to fly me to Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur (AKA "KL") is a major hub.  If you come to this part of the world, you will probably either be flying into KL or Bangkok.

Most airports have easy to find ticket counters staffed with happy (well, not entirely miserable) people who can fix you up with tickets.

Not KL.

Their offices are hidden upstairs behind the food court and only staffed sometimes.  Naturally, Turkish Airlines wasn't when I got there.

So I went to find my American fast food injection.  Wendy's isn't nearly as good as back in the USA so I went for Burger King and was content.

Most people eat fast food because "you know what you're getting".  And that tells you everything you need to know about how adventurous most people actually are.

I ate it because I really, really, really wanted some dead cow without bits of jagged bones in it.

While waiting for Turkish Airways office to maybe open, I went to check out two other airlines who go to Istanbul - Malaysian Air and Emirates Airways.   Their prices were a bit more than the $460 of Turkish Airways weighing in at an amazing $750 and $1000 respectively.  Holy shit.

Despite having been told that it would be hours until Turkish Airways office maybe opened, I went back there to camp out.  Worse come to worse, they might find me dead just like Kenny from South Park.

"I don't want to go into too much detail but... you choke yourself with a belt around your neck while masturbating dressed up like Batman or something, then you pass out from lack of air and apparently it makes your orgasm super awesome." - South Park

But surprise!  They were actually in!

After explaining my problem and showing them the confirmation I'd been e-mailed, they said they could fix it.  I gave them my credit card and discovered they (and the website) don't accept debit cards.

What the ever loving fuck.

This is the first place I've ever run in to that doesn't treat a debit card exactly the same as a credit card!

The ATM gave me the majority of the money but of course not enough.

So I got to dig into my emergency cash.

Note that neither Captain Jack Sparrow nor a treasure chest were in my emergency cash.  Not much treasure either.

After going downstairs to a bank and playing the "Can I exchange this bank note here" and "Sir, we do not nor do I even know what country that is from" game I managed to scrape together enough cash into Turkish Lira to go back and buy the ticket.  The price had gone up by nineteen dollars but I just put that down in my mind as a very small reasonable bribe and a lot cheaper than the other airlines.

Everything that day was a lot harder than normal.  Not just the big stuff but strange little things too.

Like when the escalator I was on stopped leaving me halfway up.  "Great, now I'm stuck here!"  Oh, the looks I get when I say these things.

The Turkish Airlines flight was the best one yet.  By requesting it, I got the escape hatch seat (no extra charge) and nobody was sitting next to me.  Which is probably pretty good for them because I was pretty damned ripe by then with the stink of Asia sweat still on me.

Just that dirty.

After an eleven hour flight, Istanbul.

Wow, does this picture make it look super awesome.  I've not yet found the stuff I like there.

When you are tired, you make stupid mistakes.  Like using an ATM that doesn't have an open bank attached to it.  Which ate my mutherfucking card.

The culprit.   Fuck ING Bank.  Fuck it right in it's goat ass.

Whenever I talk to other travelers and the subject of plastic comes up, I always tell them "The more you have, the better."  When they tell me "One is enough for me!" I hope they don't run into this situation.

Of course I need to call ING Bank but I have no Turkish sim card.  Nor money to buy one.  Because the fucking machine ate my card.  And you really don't want to buy a card for a country you will be in for a few hours.

The information desk (isn't) was of no real help.  "Go to the post office in the airport.  They have a phone you can use."  And perhaps it will magically translate the automated menu as well.  Because you know they don't have a 'Press 2 for English' option.

So I went to a different bank that I should have used the card at and talked to the lady.  She was very kind and helpful and called the evil ING Bank for me, navigating through their unhelpful automated call response blockades.

She discovered that it wasn't a matter of simply sending a technician out to unlock the machine, check my ID and return my card.  Nope!  They wanted me to contact my bank (Paypal) and have them send paper work to them.  They will then eventually maybe give back my card.

After hearing that load of shit, I really really wanted a crowbar.

Damned crowbar store.


Then, I wondered 'how could this possibly get worse?'

And that's when the zipper popped right off my bag.  I shit you not.

Note that I'm not telling you all this to say 'woe is me'.  But when you are tired - as you often are while in transit - you do stupid shit.  And sometimes, the universe just feels like taking a big shit on you.

I hate drama but suppose it does make for a better blog.

After exchanging yet more of my emergency money with the nice helpful lady (she is happy) I sought out the metro rail system.

This is a great thing.  It hooks right up to the airport, only costs 4 TRY (Turkish Lira) to use and allows you to bypass all of the taxi drivers.  These guys have such a bad reputation that entire articles are written about their evil.

The train was easy to use, fast and clean.  Fuck the taxis.  If you don't have coins, the machine takes a 5 TRY note.  It gives you 1 TRY change and a plastic token you use to get past the barricade.   There are even route maps inside the car and the destinations given in both Turkish and English.


Otogar is the main bus station in Turkey.  It is pretty much a town within Istanbul.  Big, dirty, crowded.

Picture taken by some slick professional.  Who seems very tall.

Fortunately, I knew to seek out Metro Bus.  They have an excellent reputation, decent buses and are arguably the cheapest.  They have two offices and I made the mistake of going to the smaller one.  Which gave me a ticket and sent me to the larger one where the bus would go anyway.  The offices are only fifty meters or so apart but apparently the company is doing really well.

The larger place also has a phone charger which is great because the battery goes down really fast.  Asia makes shitty batteries.  I have a small battery charger but it was out of juice.  Again, Asia - shitty batteries.

So after my eleven hour flight, I got to wait a couple more hours for the six (actually turned out to be eight or so) hour bus ride.

I used the bus wifi (it kind of worked, I was happy) to tell Georgi (my contact in Bulgaria and grandson of the owner of the apartment) all that had happened.

Felt so sorry for the old guy who sat next to me for the entire bus ride.  I stank.  Bad.  Close to thirty hours of non stop travel after leaving the sweat capital of the world.


In good news, I left a place where the temperature was in the mid thirties and went to a place where it might get up to the low twenties.



CELSIUS FOR DUMMIES

You know why Americans dislike Celsius?  Because they are always trying to convert.  Remember, "Math is the devil, Bobby."  No, I don't know who Bobby is.  That's just the saying.

C     What it actually means

0      You are really cold.  Water freezes at this temperature and you are mostly water.  Get out!
10    It is chilly.  If there is wind, it gets really cold.
20    It is warm enough for a t-shirt.  Hence, for Logan, the ideal temperature is somewhere between
             ten and twenty, closer to twenty.
30    You are sweating balls.  In SE Asia the locals are complaining about how hot it is.
40    You are in a desert.  Not the edible kind - that is a 'dessert'.  This is the one where shit dies.
50    If you aren't dead, you may soon be.

I don't know a lot about the negative numbers because hey, fuck cold.  In Siberia, I've been told (by people insane enough to live there) it gets down to negative forty.  Fuck that.

So now you know how to do temperatures in pretty much every place else in the world.



AND NOW BACK TO OUR STORY

Last we left our intrepid hero, he was totally grossing out some nice old man by simply sitting next to him and stinking.  Just nasty.

The bus only left fifteen minutes late which counts as a win in Turkey.  It all seemed to be going really well until we got to the border.

A lot of the people who smuggle stuff just aren't very bright.  They do things like 'line backing' (where they have other people go first) and they dress in ways that tip off the guards.  Like the girl dressed in what I call 'whore sheek'.   Bottle blond, revealing clothes, badly painted pink toenails sticking out of high heeled sandals and fake eyelashes I've not seen outside of a bad porn movie.

Not sure who considers these eyelashes sexy.  Aside from people who make porn.  Note, this is not the actual girl - just wanted to show the length of the eyelashes.

She stood out from the regular crowd.

And obviously something went wrong.

A guard brought her to the bus and wanted to see her bag.  No bags.  Where are the bags.  Here, you wander around un-escorted and un-watched while I go find out what to do.

After a couple hours everyone - including the lady - get back on the bus and off we go.  I was very curious as to what the fuck happened but I don't speak any Bulgarian.

Ah well.

After the exiting Turkey side, the bus immediately stopped at the 'duty free' shop so that people could stock up on things that really didn't strike me as that great of a deal.

Not that great of a deal unless you want high end stuff slightly cheaper.

More waiting.

Then to the Bulgarian side.  Where the Turkish side had been fairly quick checking people through you might want to allow a lot of extra time on the Bulgarian side.  They obviously need to hire a lot more people.

After we crossed in to Bulgaria, we got to see several kilometers of parked trucks waiting to go through the border.

I had been extremely concerned about 'is Bulgaria within the Schengen area'.

For those who don't know, here's a map:


Here is Logan's interpretation of this.

You have the European Union.  Some countries are members, some are not.
You have the Schengen Area.  Some countries are in it, some are not.  Some are sort of in it.

Really - sort of.

Bulgaria is in this classification.  For other countries within the Schengen area, they are.  For outsiders they aren't.

Confused yet?  Imagine if the issue mattered very deeply to where you traveled.  What a pain.

For normal tourists, the Schengen area agreement is wonderful.  It means that when you visit Europe, you can go where ever the fuck you want and not have any border controls.  It is like getting to visit the fifty states without needing to go through a border control station between Nebraska and Iowa.  It use not to be like that.  Every country you had to do the whole border song and dance.  (Editor:  Not a literal song and dance - usually.)

An excellent song and dance.

For anyone who wants to be in Europe for more than three months this sucks ass.  You can be in the Schengen area for three months out of six.  Then, you can fuck right off.

Considering I need to be in Belgium at the end of September (it is June at the time of this story) it makes a big big difference.

Everyone had different opinions as to whether Bulgaria is or isn't.  The internet also has different opinions.  Really.

I have two things in my favor:

a) the border guard I questioned about it said that Bulgaria is NOT.
b) the stamp he put onto my passport was so light I'm thinking it may not be legible.  This may come back to bite me in the ass later but he apparently had run out of ink awhile ago and didn't care.

Hence, I get to hang out in Bulgaria for a month and a half then wander around eastern and central Europe before putting a toe into western Europe.


[For those wondering how Logan is able to afford even a week in Belgium, simple answer, someone else is paying for it.  Food, drinks (including alcohol) and lodging.  I just have to get there.  Note that if you want Logan somewhere, paying for all those things is a pretty good way to get him there.  Pretty damned good.  Plus, in this case I get to hang out with an old friend.  Epic.  Dry humping statues may be involved.  If so, pictures will be posted.]

Even before the border, the wifi left the bus.  I'd read about this when doing research in the past so I managed to send off all my panicked rambling messages early on the ride.

Within these messages, Georgi sent me several cab numbers that were trustworthy.  In Bulgaria it is important to get a cab that works for a company rather than an independent cab.  The company ones charge very reasonable rates, the independents will fuck you.

By 'cab numbers' I mean the numbers on the sides of the actual cabs.  Not sure if these are the company names - as opposed to an actual name.  For anyone traveling here, the numbers suggested are: 6665, 9199, 6155, 6160.

The first cabby was lurking near the bus station and followed me to the currency exchange where yet more emergency money went away.  When I tried to find out approximately how much for the trip, he was very vague and wouldn't give an answer.  I tuned him out and ignored him.  Found a cab with 6665 on the door and asked him.  Though he didn't speak English he signaled, "I don't know, I use the meter, probably 2.5 or 3 LEV."

Got in that cab.  It was 2.5 LEV, I just gave him 4 LEV.  That's a bit over two dollars.  Done.

It was a lot further than I would have wanted to walk even if I didn't have all my worldly possessions with me.

After traveling for a bit over thirty five hours, I was finally at the apartment.  Georgi's father immediately offered a beer.  I refused but accepted water.  Felt so rough.

Did I immediately go upstairs and have a shower?  Hell no - needed supplies.

Off to a restaurant to get food for the evening and to a store to get some necessities.

Then shower, food and sixty percent of a bottle of whiskey.

Fell asleep before I could finish it.  Dammit.


The next day, something which had been held back for the entire thirty five hour trip came forth.  I had to take the big shit.  Most people's scream "Daddy!  Daddy!" and they have to kick it back into the toilet.  Mine instead said this.

And that is the story of the Big Shit.  Turkish Airways unexpectedly cancelling the ticket, Big Shit.  The machine that ate the card, Big Shit.  And of course the Big Shit was the Big Shit.

For those only paying attention to the bad, I would leave you with the these:  The helpful lady at Turkish Airlines who got me a new ticket in an amazing seat.  The helpful lady who used her personal phone to call the evil bank on my behalf.  The fact that I would have soon needed a new Paypal card as that one was going to expire in about four more months.  People are really super nice and I appreciate it every day.



THE ROUTE

For those who haven't carefully studied the blog (what are you thinking?) here is the route I've taken thus far:

Trip begun 1/4/11 (note, I use European style dates which makes so much more sense than US style.)

UK, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, (ship across Black Sea), Georgia, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Nepal, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Cambodia, Thailand, Turkey, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuana, Poland, Germany, Spain, Morocco, Germany, USA, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, you aren't even reading still, Costa Rica, Panama, sailded to Columbia, Columbia, Ecuador, Perus, Panama, Dominican Republic, Germany, your eyes have glazed over, Turkey, Ukraine,, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Italy, Tunisia, you are growing sleepy, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, you are now hypnotized, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Thailand, send money, Malaysia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Bulgaria.



ENGRISH

In much of the world, English is spelled like it sounds.  You know, logically.  Spaghetti becomes 'spagetty'.  Since English is no longer the language of America (or the UK for those who know some history) but the world, I've noticed it is beginning to change in much of the world.

Sure, tourists may roll their eyes at the way 'inferior primitive non-English speakers' they look down their noses at spell but personally, I don't mind the words changing.

Fuck spelling bees.


DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know that at the bottom of the blog (the whole thing, not just this posting) are a bunch of cities and countries.  If you click on those links, it takes you to pictures from all those places.

My youtube channel name is Logan9a - there are over six hundred short videos from around the world showing a lot of different stuff.



THE TRANSITORY NATURE OF THINGS

As I watch my gear slowly (sometimes quickly) fall apart, it causes me to ponder the transitory nature of things.  Everything is temporary.  Perhaps that is why some people take on crippling debt to attempt to 'build equity' in a home.  It is a 'permanent' abode.  It always seems to come back to fear of mortality.  While I personally look forward to my own eventual ending, it won't be something I'm going to be able to blog about.

...And speaking of transitory...



SELF EXAMINATION

Going to share something personal.  Apologies if it is too personal.

No, it's not about my latest bowel movement.  I don't consider those personal.

Two days ago, my mother died.

First thing I did was to sit down and analyze my feelings about it.

Emotions weren't really involved - they simply weren't there.

She had been living for the last couple months in a hospice home and in a considerable amount of pain.  So, I'm sure that death was a release from this pain.

My father yet lives and for him I am sure that it is a crushing blow.  He's been married to my mother for something like fifty years.  You can't just shake that sort of thing off.  It will burden him for the rest of his life.  That's the negative part.

I'm glad that on the LHI (Logan's Home Invasion) tour I had gotten to spend a couple days with them.  I told my father then that I wouldn't be back for any funerals.  Simply, I don't have the money to jet back to the USA to attend a funeral then jet back to where I live (Eastern Europe and Asia).  "I came to visit you guys while you are both alive."

Normally, males have a very strong bond with their mother.  Yet, I'd never really gotten along - or even 'clicked' with my parents.  At the age of sixteen I'd moved out of the house and begun to work.  Never asked my parents for nor expected anything from them.  It was not a very emotionally tight knit family.  Even tonight (via Skype) I'd asked my father "How are you doing?" and he talked about the paperwork and preparations he needed to make for the funeral.

Discussing emotions is not within our family dynamic.

Yet, a decade or two ago when I had heard that a childhood friend had taken his own life I was literally stunned for an entire day.

Hence, I find my emotional reaction to this situation curious.

Edit:  Please don't say 'our prayers are with you'.  That is as useful as 'raising awareness' and I don't believe in a 'sky daddy'.  I'm putting this up not to garner some sort of sympathy but just to examine my feelings on the matter and share them.  I do hope others are closer to their parents.

And now, to leave you with something to lighten the mood.



FROM THE INTERNET...

Right sign but I'm thinking she wouldn't be smiling like that if she was reading my blog.  OK, maybe she would.  Is this about my blog?  Don't even start with that "You know, there are other things out there people find offensive..." crap.



COSTS

Taxi driver, comes to your door (supposedly) and takes your luggage (well, the backpack anyway) to the car and drives you to the ferry - 100,000 IDR

Slow ferry (not much slower than the fast ferry at tripple the price), 27,000 IDR

Metro Bus ticket from Istanbul to Plovdiv Bulgaria, 60 TRY

Phone charger in Metro Bus station, 1 TRY, got about 15% battery back for that.  Slow.

Bulgaria shopping trip:  Hand full of cherries.  Hand full of strawberries.  Bigger than a fist block of Feta cheese.  Two bottles of inexpensive wine.   Three candy bars.  A banana.   26 LEV.  (About 15 USD).  Nice.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

ALL HAIL OUR INSECT OVERLORDS!

RAMBLINGS

Well, I am declaring that (for me) Sabang (Indonesia) is a complete bust.

It's not the primitive surroundings.  I can handle needing to sleep under mosquito netting which helps some.  Not being able to use toilet paper nor having a bidet is a nuisance but still workable.  For those wondering how to wipe, get your hand wet from a ladle of water and jam it on up in there.  Rinse and repeat.

For those 'oh I want to get back to nature' people, fuck you.  After you've had monkeys land on your corrugated roof very early a couple mornings you will come to like nature better from a distance.

The problem is that unless you are under water, this place has absolutely nothing to see.  Nothing.  I've walked to a nearby village a couple of kilometers away and wow it was lame.  Since SCUBA is beyond my meager income - even if I want to spend $250-300 to get certified any time I do one dive in a day I've blown my daily allowance - that leaves snorkeling.

Hey kids - when you smoke for four decades small dogs have a better lung capacity!   I am the anti-role model for kids.  "You wanna be like Logan?  No?  Then stop eating so many sweets!"  "You like swimming?  Don't smoke like he does - you will smell like shit and you won't swim well."

Because of this, I'm going to start doing some research on Sri Lanka.

As you may have guessed, the kind of travelers that come out to this fairly remote and wild region are pretty hearty and experienced travelers.  During the nightly dinner (which is the best $2 per day I spend) I've heard a lot of positive talk about Sri Lanka.  Friendly people, low prices.

And Buddhists.  Which means I may get some alcohol going.  Good deal.

Rather than storm off half cocked, going to do some research and publish it into the blog.

Either way, I will end up ditching my fifty dollar plane ticket which would take me back to KL.  Given how much I dislike this place, I can live with losing that money.



FUN PHOTOS  (OR WOULD PHUN FOTOS BE BETTER?)

Thanks to Jason P. for this startling look ahead to the End Times.  All hail our new insect overlords!



NOTE

Sorry for the lack of pictures and things.  I don't have internet here other than what I can tether through my phone - and it is a limited amount.  When I get somewhere wifi lives I'll get more pictures and things going.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

BANDA ACEH AND SABANG ISLAND, INDONESIA

Making this blog on Notepad as the internet is mostly down.

Says I've got a lot of bars but in Indonesia - especially on a small island - this is what we call a 'lie'.

Eventually, I remembered getting taught how to tether my phone to create a temporary wifi hotspot.  That works.  Love my phone.



COUNTRIES IDEALS AND FAST FOOD

It's amazing what you can get out of the way even something simple - like preparing fast food - can tell you about the ideals of a country.

What's Burger King's motto?

Disclaimer:  They are getting rid of this motto because apparently, fuck your way.  The new model should be "Take it our way - like the little bitch you are."


In the USA, where individualism is important this is true.

Asia says 'The nail which sticks up gets hammered down'.   Japanese proverb and a lovely thing to teach the kiddies.)

Order off the menu.  Want extra tomatoes?  Too bad - doesn't come with those.  No, we won't even take extra money to make it that way.  There is a reason our country is poor and we want to demonstrate that.



STUPID IS

Really didn't like this movie but it is damned quotable...

Stupid Logan goes to a fast food place while sitting around the airport.  Since public masturbation would get me thrown into a cell, better eat something instead.  Either way, I get a little joy.

And mess.

While I was at the fast food place I got to see three examples of extreme stupidity.  There were more, but these were the ones I excitedly wrote down.

1.  After eventually explaining to the girl working the counter what BBQ sauce was and that I'd like some, she said they didn't carry it.  "What goes on the chicken nuggets?"  Oh - there is BBQ sauce for those but it is impossible to purchase it unless you want the nuggets as well.

2.  In India, getting menu 'sets' is extremely common all over the country.  Watched the counter girl try to explain - for five minutes - to an Indian gentleman that he had the option of getting fries and a drink with his meal for just a little more money.  Eventually this virgin to all that is fast food shook his head and just walked away.  Fortunately, he seems to have married someone with a higher IQ as she stepped in and took care of it.

3.  When you type an order into the computer, it appears on nifty computer monitors.  They were working fine.  The folks who make the food had no truck with this 'new fangled gadget' and yelled back and forth several times about the same order until it was prepared.  Hate to see what they do during a rush.  Of course, nobody thought to drop some fries in the frier while this was going on so those got delivered about the time I'd finished eating the burger.  One thing at a time is all they can handle.



NARRATIVE

Getting from the unimaginative airport in Bali back to Kuala Lumpur was not a problem.

You can't check in your bags - or get a boarding pass - until three hours before the plane is ready to leave.  This prevents you from entrance into the vaunted inner airport where all the comfortable chairs and less music, screaming babies and narcissistic loud phone users.

The inner courtyard is almost deserted.

At least I got to gorge myself on Johnny Rockets...

Clearly, I ordered with my eyes and not my brain.  'Merican style.  I ate most of the onions rings and ate less than half of the burger.  Pulled off the 'bacon' - it wasn't.  $17 of food.  Note, there were more onion rings originally...  Some have mysteriously disappeared.


The time passed slower than a loading screen.  It was like getting groped by eternity.  Ever wonder what immortality can feel like?

At this point, I discovered the cool new umbrella I got may actually suck.  I like the umbrella because it's an extra three inches or so longer.  Which now makes it a 'checked' item.  Which gets put in the over sized items bundle.

But it's become my cane.


Eventually, I arrived in Banda Aceh.

Before coming, I'd read on the internet the fare from the airport into the city itself is 100,000 IDR.  After taking that long assed drive, it seems 'fair' to me.  He even told me by tuk tuk it was three thousand to go from the city to the ferry and five thousand from the city back to the airport.  Remember those figures.

Got a taxi from the airport with a guy who didn't seem to tricky and evil and made it to the hotel I'd researched.

Full.

And the backup hotel close by.

Full.

And three other hotels in the area!

Full.

And one had no free wifi in the room.  Double fuck you Logan'.

Universe?  Is that you?  Trying to tell me something?

Looking around the small town thinking uncharitable thoughts about the houses and the corrugated steel and crap look of the place I said 'fuck it'.

Usually a tuk tuk is a motorcycle pulling some sort of wildly unsafe metal cage which has wheels and a couple metal chairs inside.  Here, it's almost a side car.

If we get into an accident, I have unimpeded access to the street.  This is why normal side cars you sit down low.  Here, you sit on level with the driver.  Guess I shouldn't have watched that horrific video of motorcyclists getting taken forcefully off their motorcycles.  To the tune of Benny Hill.

The ride to the ferry was not a big deal but when I gave the guy five thousand and wanted change he thought I'd lost my mind.  Holding it up ahead of the ride and asking if it was correct apparently wasn't.  He wanted 30,000 not three thousand.  Not a big deal (it's under $3) and the length of the ride justified it.  The ferry was 27,000 IDR.  On websites they talk a lot about different classes and such.  Don't know where that came from and all the seating looked the same to me.

The ferry itself was a couple hours of 'fun' - even got a little sleep on it.

After the ferry dropped us off, I was offered the price of 80,000 to take me to the place I'd written down.  Again, the price I'd read about.  Normally, two people would sit in the sidecar I was told.  "How?" I asked filling it like jello.

We crawled up hills and raced down them.  Street markings and other traffic ment very little to the driver.  Over an hour later I was deposited but not at my destination.

Oh no.

Where I wanted to go there are no roads.

Begin the game of 'choose your own death march'!

Back in the airport, I'd already begun to stink.

"...Why do poor people smell like sour milk?" - Eric Cartman

I was pretty ripe.

The trail through the jungle (yes) had been built sometime during the time of the Pharaohs and not repaired since.  Since leveling land is difficult they just built it up and down the steep hills.

It was awesome.

Naturally, the place I had read was the 'good one' is at the end of the line.

Just like Colonel Kurtz.


How far could the walk really be Logan?  Going to measure it with a GPS later but the locals said one or one and a half kilometers.  With all my stuff.  Up and down hills.  Through the fucking jungle.


Before I go in to detail on the place I found, let me state that this looked like the best of the places I saw.  Yes, really.

To restate my earlier position, any time you are near the sea or ocean, all of the buildings are shit.  If it isn't, you're paying several hundred dollars a night.  "Sure, you are staying in a dilapidated shit box but look at that view!"

There is a hole in my floor to allow mosquitoes to come in to the room.  From there, they can fly in through the gaping holes in the mosquito net.

Mosquito netting is very delicate.  Every place I've ever been to desperately needs to replace theirs.  Including this one.

Tomorrow I'll get more pics of the room.

I do want to apologize in advance though.  This is the kind of vacation area most people frankly dream of.  I can throw rocks into the ocean from my room.  There is interesting coral really close.  The only thing lacking is booze.  Muslim country.

Monday, May 18, 2015

BRAIN BLEACH

LEAVING BALI

Tomorrow, I'll be leaving Bali and decided scribing my feelings would be a good wrap.

Coming to Bali to recover from the dread Dengue fever which had wracked my body with deathly illness and my mind with the fever bright visions was the tonic needed.  If my body were a temple, worshipers would still think some throw pillows and Molotov cocktails would remodel it nicely.  Doctors condemn my lifestyle but are baffled as to why my liver and kidneys do not show any stress or exploded like hand grenades.

Looking at this pic makes me want to rub my nipples.

After less than a month here, even the taxi drivers are starting to ask "Exercising?" rather than mindlessly saying "taxi?"  They've come to grips with the fact they will never get to rob me as they do other tourists.

Though anyone in shape would laugh at my puny six kilometers of walking I've laboriously built back up to, I'm happy to shuffle that far.  According to my phone, my moving speed averages at three kilometers per hour for those who wish to try it at home.

Not to downplay the Bataan Death March but I've got a good imagination and feel a bit like that if I do more than ten kilometers.

Though Ubud has a lot to see, walking here isn't really advisable.  You are lucky to get a sidewalk chalked full of pit traps and ankle twisters.  Better than the side of an extremely narrow road with cars moving fast on blind turns and scooters attempting to pass them without concern of safety.

Using this pic I found on the internet.  Though photoshopped, the driver looks happy and a dog is driving a car.  When you are either killing people using a motorized vehicle - or getting killed by one - happy pictures are important.

It's not ideal for walking here.

After a month, you settle in to a place.  Your possessions get spread throughout like children's toys.  Fortunately, it only takes an hour to pack everything.  Unlike the people who live in houses or apartments, I don't have the clutter of a lifetime to slow me.  Too much detritus.

With as little stuff as I have, yes, most people do appear to be hoarders to me...

Feeling rejuvenated, it is time to do something a little harder.  Bali is a common stomping ground for tourists, even those as low as the hipster.

The place less visited awaits on the morn.



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WHERE TO GO, WHERE TO GO

From this excellent website, I arranged countries in order of restaurant prices.  Then, I commented on them.







FOUND ON THE INTERNET




STRANGE DREAMS

So I was running some sort of inter galactic hotel/guesthouse/hostel.

Working on slowly seducing some sweet young thing.

Could speak all of the languages in the world but not sure how.

Problems came when some military guys on leave came in to town.

Encountered them while out getting food at a restaurant.

They wanted my cigarette butts.

Needed them for the 'war effort'.

They told me why, but it just wouldn't stick in my brain.

Because it's classified.

One of the lady soldiers wanted some cigarette butts but with some cigarette left on them so that she could smoke them down.

"Well, why do you keep calling them butts then?"  Chimed a different soldier.  "Don't call them butts."

The commander was a creepy, tough, stalk the guy who might take my daughter to the prom, knife him and hide the body so it will never be found kind of guy.

"We're not unreasonable - we can even buy them.  How much do you sell them for?"

One hundred fifty five - which is way above the going rate, I know.  But you have to remember we have an intergalactic place.  We get people from all over.

(Commander looks creepy and dangerous)

"You know what?"  I say  "We'll just give them to you.  We don't have many left.  I've got like seven left back at my place.  You say the word and I'll go get them.  It's only a few blocks away.  Just say the word and I'll go get them."

"That won't be necessary." Says the creepy commander in a voice that says he will get me back if it's the last thing he ever does.

I find less than a half dozen there and give them to him knowing he is already plotting revenge.  The female soldier sulks because she wanted to smoke a couple of the butts.

I wake up thinking I need to get back to my place and make sure we've got a resell license and that I'm getting drafted to go fight the aliens soon.  Maybe I need to flee?  Or get final revenge on the creepy commander?

Dreams that make you say "Jesus, my brain may be broken."


STRANGE DREAMS 2

One of the nice things about taking a brief nap is the chances of remembering your dreams goes up.

In my dream, I was writing an autobiography and it started with this:

"You owe it to your children to torture them.  You need to do stuff that would have been widely condemned at the Nuremberg trials.  Psychological manipulation, suffering, fear all need to be inflicted with such sadism and cruelty it would make Charles Manson blush.

If your children ever become famous enough to write an autobiography, it will make great reading.

Sadly for the reader, my parents didn't do any of these things so my autobiography will be a bit dull."



USER MADE PICS

This one is from Eric H who I'd first met back in the very old days when I was in the military.




TRAVELER'S LORE

According to a couple tourists from New York I chatted with, having about three thousand dollars for a month in SE Asia is a good amount to go for.  This includes airfare out of the US (though you may not wish to return) as well as 'security money'.


From Bob B., here is a great article on bits of etiquette from a few countries.



PC GAME REVIEW

Review of Euro Truck Simulator 2 demo:

After half an hour of messing around with it, deleted that crap.

The graphics were pretty good but the AI of the NPC's was shit.  Sure, some of the cars I can see trying to 'carry on'.  There are a lot of idiot drivers out there.  But if you saw a big rig either piloted by a mad man or some sort of retarded monkey, would you continue to drive as though everything was OK?  No.  And not once did the police seem to care about what I did, even when I'd bash an occasional car off the road.

Bashing cars off the road, not much fun either.  No Hollywood explosions or bodies getting tossed out.  Things we've come to expect (in defiance of reality) in the USA because we love gore.  So long as only a certain amount of nudity (and absolutely no penis) is shown, having blood and guts is fine.

The controls are pretty shit but it was just as confusing and irritating as driving a truck would be IRL.  Going backward, complete nightmare - just like real life.

Not seeing a lot of 'fun' in delivering packages back and forth especially when you have to worry about getting tickets and such.  I'd personally prefer something like the old fashioned 'car wars' computer game from the ancient days where you did have cargo but it was a bit more 'arcade' feel and people were trying to kill you and you could kill them.

Or a space game.

I'd rather worry about 'pin point' driving only during small amounts of time like combat rather than 'I'm going to be driving down this highway for a long time with a clumsy trailer on the back and need to pay attention the whole time'.  That's what this game offers.

(If anyone knows of a free demo or free game like what I was talking about above, please let me know...)



PRICES

Fuck the other travel blogs that don't show the prices of things.  That always pissed me off.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

KILL ALL HUMANS - BENDER

FAT KIDS

Because Europeans think I'm exaggerating.  

I'd like to have random readers send me pics of fat American kids to show it is an epidemic, but we have so many perverts (and suspected ones, and overly paranoid and protective parents) that taking a picture of someone else's kid would immediately get the cops called in.  If you are not white, the police then may shoot you.

Note that I have no clue where these kids are but the language is showing probably not in the USA.  Looks like Thai or Cambodian, perhaps.  [Later edit:  One of my friends fluent in the language said the picture is actually from the Republic of Georgia!  Surprised me.]



STORIES FROM UBUD

The invasive passive aggressive hippies:

Every now and then I like to stop and eat somewhere a bit nicer.  While it is possible to stick to the one to three dollar meals, every now and then you have to go nuts and get a five to ten dollar meal.  Mind you, I don't make a habit of it but every few days it is a nice treat.

Sitting around a bit nicer restaurant than what I am use to when suddenly two bongo drum wielding hippie fashion statement losers enter, sit down and begin to play.  To me, starting up noise where there was none before is very invasive and selfish.

Not this one but the 'hippie uniform' makes them pretty interchangeable.   This is a miscellaneous dirty hippie.

The customers all ignored them.  The Thai women running the restaurant didn't want any trouble.  In the USA, a fat guy wearing a wife beater T-shirt would have brandished some sort of firearm to drive off the hippie menace.  The women just looked embarrassed.  After it became obvious the two hippies weren't going to stop banging on their drums they turned off the restaurant music.

After a song which might have gotten them run out of even Burning Man, one of the hippies went around with an upturned bongo drum to collect money.  Due to the 'gosh I love to murder dirty hippies' look, he didn't approach me but his collection took in ...nothing.

The hippies went away with a shouted 'fuck you!' and the music was turned back on.

XXXL?  Same color?  Yes, I would totally wear this shirt all over the world.  If you want to get one (for yourself - sending me clothing is stupid expensive) the only website I know of is here.  If you decide to get yourself one of these and find other websites, just put them in the comments below.



WALKSIES!

People say 'walksies' to their dogs.  I say it to myself to attempt to get motivated.  When it's not bucketing down rain or looking like that is coming soon, I try to get out and move my fat ass around.  It's not really a walk so much as a sweat drenched stagger with frequent stops for sitting and complaining while drinking something cold and smoking.

If you get a bit from the usual tourist area of Ubud, the land of the touts ("Hey mister, you want taxi?") are left behind.  Friendly, smiling natives (who don't speak English) and are a big part of why people often come to Bali are encountered.  If you travel (stagger, stagger, stagger...) further you enter a new zone...

Welcome to the 'what the fuck are you doing here' zone...

This is where very few people speak English and they look at you like 'did you get dropped off here and then your driver took off'?  'Were you robbed?'  'Did the family you use to live with decide to release your fat ass back into the wild?'

After seven to nine kilometers my legs were telling me that if they were forced to continue carrying my 'Santa got nothing on me' gut around snapping off was an option, I got a motorcycle taxi.



COCKFIGHTING

Dani's Homestay is one of the few places I'd be happy to return to over and over.  Like everywhere else in the world it has disadvantages.  One of the minor disadvantages is that it is not easy to find.  You have to go through some alleys to get to it.

Or out of it.

Down one of the alleys I encountered a group of men several of whom each had their own rooster.

One called to me "Cockfighting!"  The voice tone made me think he was wanting to shock me.


If it had been kids fighting to the death with hook knives, that would have shocked me.

If the roosters had big hook knives strapped on, that would have shocked me.

If the men were using their actual cocks instead of roosters to fight, that would have shocked me.

My answer of "I know!" seemed to deflate him.

Going to have to step it up quite a few notches if you want to shock Logan.  The stuff I've seen...

For the more mild mannered among you who want to condemn cockfighting, I will put in a couple extra details that will help soothe your pansy asses.

1.  They humans weren't strapping on the barbs and such that makes cockfighting really dangerous to the birds.  It was more of a 'squabble'.

2.  If you object to cockfighting, you've obviously never lived near roosters.  After you do for a couple years you may change to a 'kill all those sonofabitches' mindset.

And this will appear to be a bit of good natured fun.



VIDEO GAME REVIEW

Yes, I'm behind the times and have just started playing "South Park - the Stick of Truth"

Not a lot of video games where you can watch things like this happening to your character...

Good stuff:  It is South Park.  If you like South Park, you'll like the dialogue and such.  Turned based combat and it actually seems to work fine in this game.  It is interesting to wander around the town and loot it.  Questing system seems fine and interesting.  The back story (extensive) of South Park is in the game.

Bad stuff:  The retarded system of save points is an unnecessary pain in the ass which will make it more difficult if you want to later try a different character class (like 'the Jew').  Also, there is no way to remap your keys.  I've checked out several forums on this and a) everyone hates both and b) the company that made the game has your money and doesn't care.  Missing an arm?  Fuck you - you don't need to remap your keys you commie lefty!



TRAVELER'S TIP - INDONESIA

Bring extra dental floss if you use it.  They don't here and it is freakishly ($20) expensive.


PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje Bitola Ohrid Struga | Albania: Berat Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples Pompeii Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv

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