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Friday, September 30, 2011

BANGKOK, DAY TWO

CHRIS C WISDOM

My old pal Chris found an interesting fact. New York City and Cairo have the same population. New York city covers twice as much area as Cairo. Interesting. Packed!



AND BACK TO THAILAND

Unlike Cairo, however, eateries seem pretty easy to find here in Thailand. Even without resorting to the 'will I have diarrhea if I eat this shit' 'street food' places, it is packed with places to eat. One downside here is that the beer isn't very good. I've only had two kinds. One with a picture of two elephants facing each other, the other Heineken. The first is rubbish, the second is meh.

I went on what Pete would call 'a bit of a wander'. I call it a three kilometer death march through South East Asia heat. I eventually managed to find what I was looking for - a special pharmacy that supposedly stocked a drug I needed for my blood pressure. They didn't have the generic I was use to getting but only the brand name that I couldn't afford in the USA. For a three month supply, it was 680 BHT. At today's exchange rate, that is $22. Considering it was over ten times that in the states, we are getting horribly, horribly ripped off there. Daily.



BIDET

In one of my earlier posts (and on the blog), I discussed how to use a squat toilet. In this one, we shall discuss how to use a bidet. In some toilets, the bidet is built into the toilet itself. After you've taken your dump - or when you want a nice jet of water against your balls, you simply turn the handle and it happens. In a perfect world, all bidets would work in this manner. As it is, they do not. Some are a separate hose with a handle - much as you may remember from your mothers sink when you were a child. Instead of spraying dirty dishes, you must use it to spray your asshole. This is not as easy as it sounds. In order to be effective, the water pressure must be right up there. Rebounds and flooding are common problems. I suggest the following steps for using this sort of bidet. 1) Remove all garmets, place them into a waterproof bag and hide them in a dry place. 2) Yell "Mee Krob!" It was introduced as one of the seven swear words on South Park. This will tell anyone in the immediate area they should flee and the people who live downstairs to expect brown rain. 3) Spray that ass. You will notice water rebounding pretty much all over the bathroom as you spray your ass and enjoy the new bizarre feelings - like a water park gone horribly wrong. 4) Somewhere during the process, you will notice that the water level is beginning to rise dangerously and it is time to flee. Flee, preferably screaming. 5) Try to figure out how to flush the toilet from outside of the flooded bathroom. 6) Hide from the outraged downstairs neighbors who are on their way to pay you a visit, dripping wet and smelling like what is probably still floating in the toilet. Good luck. [Biography: Logan Horsford is currently working as a cultural attache helping to bring what is left of the American culture to the rest of the world. His two books "Torturing Children" and "International Etiquette for Dummies" both hit number one on the New York Times bestsellers list for twelve weeks. Mr. Horsford is currently doing a motivational talk circuit on the dangers of not spanking your children regularly and without cause.]



MOVIE REVIEW

Johnny English Reborn. After a bit of a rough start, the movie got underway nicely. Without giving any spoilers, my favorite scene was Johnny English after the parkour master. The whole movie was worth watching just for that scene.


CLOTHING

My pants made in Arabia might have turned to shit due to the extreme humidity of this place. They're a bit sticky and such and harder to move around in. There are also a lot less flies here so they may turn into 'hanging around in air conditioning and I got my other pants wet trying to use the bidet again' clothing.



TOMORROW PLANS

I'm planning on going to a town called 'Pattaya' tomorrow to visit Tonto, my abused native guide. I know I haven't seen anything of Bangkok yet. I am indeed planning on coming back but for some indefinable reason, I'm just wanting to get to this Pattaya and check it out. I am going to get the card to the hotel I'm at now, it suits my purpose and is close to shit I want to go to. I suspect I'll be back here later.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

One baffling thing about the party city of Bangkok - stores stop selling alcohol at midnight. Stock up if you intend to drink after that. As people who know me know, I like to drink either by myself or with a small group of people without the burden of music. The closing of the stores alcohol selection (they put a piece of cardboard over it) is a cramp in my style but I'll live.



COSTS

Mains, in a tourist restaurant, 90 BHT

Starbucks coffee, 175 BHT. I'm fucking addicted. Sue me.

Movie, 120 BHT

Special 'fish hook' head set, 349 BHT. One set got destroyed through use, one stolen. I am down to my last one and figured I'd need a back up.

16 GIG flash drives (x2), 800 BHT each. Not as cheap as in the US but there are too many times one would have come in useful not to have some. I also had a wild idea about trying to save my pics (30 gig) on one and sending it to Bert, but I'm instead going to contend myself with keeping them on Photobucket and deleting them off of the computer. It sucks but it's a tiny hard drive and I need the room.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TRIP TO THAILAND

HOW TO USE 'SQUAT' TOILETS

For those not in the know, a squat toilet is simply a hole in the floor that may or may not have places for your feet to go. People in the lands these exist consider them more sanitary than 'sit down' toilets because no part of their bodies come into contact with the actual toilet. For Americans and other nationalities who are unused to such things, these can present several problems - such as accidentally taking a dump into your own pants. Or for women peeing into their own pants. For men, urination is not a difficult at all hence that shall not be covered in this brief guide. As I have not had (nor intend to - not even in Bangkok - a sex change operation, I do not know about the unique problems of women hence I shall leave them to their own devices on this. In order to defecate for men, I suggest the following steps. a) go into the toilet. Locking the door behind you is an option but given the subsequent steps, leaving it unlocked might increase the humor. b) remove your pants and underwear. Hold them in one hand, preferably stretched out at arms length from you. c) Defecate while making a loud noise. For preference, attempt to mimic several cats fighting or your favorite super heroes battle cry or make the sound you'd make if you were being beaten to death. This may cause the unwary to rush into your stall to save you so making this noise before actually defecating to save it for when they burst in may be amusing. This is doubly fun if the unusual food or water has given you explosive diarrhea. d) Clean yourself the best you can. Being that many of these places have not heard of toilet paper, this may involve your hands and a nearby sink or perhaps the leg of your pants. Hopefully, you did not wear shorts on this particular day. e) Exit the building with as much dignity as you can manage. I hope that this simple guide has helped prepare you for the colorful and interesting things you can do while traveling. [For those who don't read my blog, this could give you more of a reason not to read it as this is the kind of crap that sometimes gets discussed.]



WHITE WEDDING

In a piece of unusual news I picked up from locals in Cairo it seems that a car was driving with the usual reckless abandon and lack of skill I've seen many cars use. It left the road and sailed off of the overpass it was on. The car then fell approximately ten meters - onto the bride who had just gotten married. No shit. Apparently, this caused heavy dismay within the marriage party. I don't know about you, but I'd hope that if I was the driver, I'd have died instantly. I'd kind of be surprised if he wasn't taken out of the car and beaten to death - but it is Egypt. They are pretty nice people there and probably wouldn't have done that.



TRIP TO THAILAND

Check out time from the hostel was at noon. I needed to be at the Thai embassy in Cairo at three PM. Given cab drivers inability to find the place I want, Cairo traffic and not wanting to miss the appointment time (hence my flight) I decided to leave a little after eleven for the embassy.

The traffic through Cairo went at a steady crawl but within 45 minutes (and stopping to ask three different people directions. And I had to walk half a kilometer with the bag on because he still got it wrong. Aside from that, I'm gold.

So, I get to the embassy. I had my pack on but my kindle in a separate carry bag. Figured I'd read while I awaited the convenience of the Thai government. One of the Thai people working at the embassy asked me what I needed. Following advice from my native guide, I kept my voice happy and non threatening and didn't make prolonged eye contact. I told him that I had arrived several hours early from the time I was expected and that I was just going to hang out until the time for my three PM appointment. To my surprise, the guy got my receipt from me (which I didn't know I had), dug through a pile and presented me with my passport. "Because you are so nice, we do it now." He said. Thank you, native guide! Note, that when you give an embassy paper work, you do NOT get it back. Fortunately, the paperwork I had given them was... Well, lets say 'special' and so I didn't need it back.

So, now I had to figure out what to do. I really didn't want to go sit at the airport for ten hours but eventually came to the conclusion 'fuck it' and caught a taxi to the airport.

Those that have hung out with me a lot know that nothing irritates me more than listening to music - other than TV. It's not that I dislike music, I just dislike whatever you're playing. I don't want to hear it. That is why God invented headphones - so Logan wouldn't be tortured with whatever shit you think is great and that makes me want to kill you and firebomb the band.

Normally, I don't make a huge deal of it as wanting to hear the other person instead of some pre-recorded bowl of shit can be seen as anti-social but when I am paying for a cab ride, I figure I can request. The cab driver may of course refuse my request - but then I do have the right to find a different cab if it offends me enough. Yes, a lot of people will see this as 'dickish' behavior. Fuck off. In this case, getting a new cab wasn't something I needed to do. The cab driver was playing news or some such and I asked if we could turn off the radio so that I could 'listen to the city'.

He did it - but I had no idea how it would prey on his mind. First, he began to hum. Then sing. Then compulsively clean his car. Whistle. Tap his fingers. Scream at the other drivers. I was delighted. Watching his mental deterioration due to having to think was much better than listening to Arabic radio. It kept me amused for the entire two hour taxi ride to the airport.

Unfortunately, arriving nine hours to the airport entails certain difficulties. You can't get into the airport proper (where the food courts and such are) until about three hours before your flight. They've never heard of arriving that early. As a result, I had to eat at the only restaurant available - Burger King. It made me feel physically sick afterward. I am happy to have been weaned off of fast food.

Eventually, farting as I went (fast food does bad things to me now) I was admitted to the main concourse. They had something I really wanted. Duty free Kaluah for only $21 a bottle. I actually stood and stared at it long enough that the store security was brought in to figure out if I'd become a problem or not. In the end, I decided not to buy it despite really, really wanting White Russians. There were two reasons I decided not to get it. First, I had already checked the 'big bag' and I didn't want to lug that shit half way around the world - and risk forgetting it on the plane. Second, I'm not sure if the milk in Thailand is pasteurized and such. I'm sure it is, but I just wasn't sure. I am confident I can, of course, get vodka. Sadly, it would be something 'Absolute' vodka rather than the much better Ukrainian vodkas such as my beloved 'whore-tits-ah'.

I had gotten all of my remaining Egyptian Pounds converted into Euros. I reasoned that in Thailand, the Egyptian Pounds would be of less use than a truckload of dead rats in a tampon factory. The small coins I tossed into the 'Red Crescent' box. I always get odd looks for donating to them, but I figure they can use the coins and it is probably a good organization.

So, I bought a cup of shitty coffee for five Euros.

It is a huge price to pay for a cup of coffee, especially in Egypt but if you are spending Euros, you feel like the number is small, hence not as bad. The prices in the airport are totally out of touch with reality. You will pay eight times or more unnecessary mark up as a part of the 'fleece the tourists' movement. Given all of the clothing shops that are in the Cairo airport, there are a lot of stupid and rich tourists that come through there and actually buy shit - or logic says the stores should have closed due to needing to pay rent, right? Who knows.

Looking back on the Egyptian airport thing, I think it would have been better to keep 100 EGP (about $20/person) for a meal and miscellaneous drinks.

It is worth noting that in Egyptian airports, they don't play the silly games Western European airports play with their smoking areas - such as 'you must buy a drink to use our smoking area'. In Egypt, it is either a room or suspended outdoor covered cage (a brilliant place to have a smoking area) that anyone can go into.

Eventually, I managed to board the plane and rocket toward Thailand at ten kilometers up and just under mach one.

As I often do, when I leave a country, I reflect back upon it.



REFLECTIONS ON EGYPT

You can do a lot of very diverse vacations within Egypt. If you want the 'sand and sun', the Sinai. If you want to see old shit (monument/tomb/temple) and get hounded by people trying to sell you shit day and night, Luxor. But for me, this time, Cairo was my favorite city. This is odd - usually, I'm not a big fan of big cities. But, in Cairo, there is a lot to explore.

Overall, Egypt is in decay. The place is literally falling apart. In a society where having things like 'elevator rest periods' which replace regular (or any) maintenance causes you to wonder 'what the fuck are these people thinking'.

Overall, the people of Egypt seem optimistic about their futures. They hope the new government will fix things. [I think it's a fairly common thread - someone else will fix our problems - new government, return of tourists, etc.] Maybe it will but there will have to be a few changes in the thinking of the 'man on the street' before a lot of needed changes can take place. Three that come to mind are the aforementioned 'someone else will fix my problems', 'lack of maintenance' (on everything) and of course littering. On the good side of the coin, we have optimism, general friendliness and hospitality in the Egyptian people's favor. The elections are suppose to be held this November (though people are a bit fuzzy on exactly when) and we'll see what 2012 has in store for the country. It should be interesting.



BANGKOK

Their airport is ultra modern. It is clean and filled with friendly people. I breezed through customs and baggage claim. I did remember to show my special sixty day tourist visa to the guy at customs so that he didn't just stick me with the standard thirty day one (well - I hope he didn't). Looking at my passport, I think I might need to find out where the American embassy is and see about getting an extension for it. [Side note, seems to be 10 KM away - taxi.]

Outside of the airport, they have special 'smoker zones' the way they did in the Netherlands.

I was worried that finding the train into the city from the airport would be difficult. This turned out not to be the case. It might have been the case for the guy who got onto a moving walkway that was going the wrong way until his wife irritably got him to stop being an idiot and get off of it. This guy was in his sixties. This proves you are never too old to be stupid. Despite any alleged stupidity I may have, I found the direct express to the area I wanted easily enough.

From what I've read, taking a taxi into the city would be about 500 BHT, I spent 90 BHT. When I got off of the train, I found a guy who said he was a security guard. No gun, no ID but he seemed friendly enough. He told me I should go check out the Tourist Information place. He helped me negotiate a tuk-tuk for 20 BHT that took me there and dropped me off.

When I got there, I discussed places to stay with the lady as I had with the security guard. She verified what he said in that the hostels I'd looked up were in the 'modern city of steel and glass' part of Bangkok - and that probably wasn't what I was here to stay. She even said I could have stayed home and seen those. I agreed on that point. She said that if I wanted to get an air conditioned taxi over to the old town, it would be by the meter and would probably come out to 150 BHT. She also had a special deal where I could get a hotel room for only 600 BHT that was 800 BHT if you went and booked it directly. Like the man, she said that the price was the price - non-negotiable. This is not the case. I successfully negotiated with other places after leaving her and passing on her 'generous' offer. So, I wandered into about six different places with the bag. Most of the rooms I saw were cheap but not quite what I was looking for. I eventually got the one I am at for 400 BHT. It's got it's own bathroom and air conditioning. Note, the lady at the 'tourist information' place had told me that if I was to get air conditioning, the minimum price would be 600 BHT. Never, ever believe what people at 'tourist information' centers say. Ever. Fortunately, I am a bit seasoned to believe them. Note that I was also amazingly vague with the lady who was trying to figure out what I cam to Bangkok to see - eventually, I just told her that I couldn't think clearly and needed some rest before doing any planning. Why? Because I have the mutherfucking internet and it will be a cold day in hell before I pay her extra money to tell me what I can look up easily.



LOGAN PAMPERING

After checking into my hotel room, I decided to wander around. For some reason, a couple neurons in my skull hit each other in just the wrong way and I decided to pamper myself.

I got myself a foot massage (100 BHT). I don't know what they're doing differently in movies and such but it was rather boring. I've never had one before so I am glad I did. Perhaps if I was a professional dancer or some shit it would mean more. As it was, I don't think I will need another.

The fish that eat dead skin off your feet then began to fascinate me. It could have been the torrential downpour of rain going on outside. For 200 BHT, you can have them do this eating for 20 minutes. Well worth it as it was perhaps the most unusual sensation I've ever had. I'm not sure if they actually took off any dead skin. I'm guessing people do it more for the generalized 'pampering' and sensation - possibly like mud masks - than any other tangible benefits. It is quite a good thing to get done once in your life. Chris tells me that in the states, it costs $40. Here, under $7.

After that, I paid 80 BHT for an extremely painful straight razor cut by a woman who liked to straddle my leg in a somewhat suggestive way while doing it. Believe me, I don't mind pretty girls straddling my leg but I felt that the experience was somewhat blunted by the sharp metal being inexpertly wielded at my face and throat.

And, that was pretty much my first night in Bangkok.

Yes, I may get a manicure and pedicure at some point. Never had either before so why not.



PHILOSOPHY

I was thinking about all of the people who are 'working to give their children a better life (than they had). Since the kids are stuck working in a job just as the parents did, it seems to be failing. Go enjoy your life instead.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Never, ever believe what people at 'tourist information' centers say. Ever. Their objective is to book a room for you. In this way, they get commission. Go look for yourself.



COSTS

Two small cans of 'cold coffee' (chilled and meant to be so) at a 7-11 at the airport where they apparently haven't caught on to the severe price gouging yet, 15 BHT ea. Can of soda I saw at the same place, 17 BHT.

Windowless small room, double bed, AC, shower, bathroom in room, 400 BHT + 500 BHT key deposit.

Two bowls of soup stuff and two soft drinks (I bought lunch for a guy who gave his work as 'poet' though he wasn't making any money at it, 107 BHT.



VIDEOS


Cairo:

Bowling in Cairo

Fire Escape

Personality

Bangkok:

Bangkok Tuktuk

TJ's special feature, 'View from my window'

Fish Feet - without a doubt, the oddest thing I've ever felt.

Monday, September 26, 2011

ON THE ROAD AGAIN...

HOSTEL FUN

Although I've personally had no issues at all with the hostel apart from the usual Egyptian 'what is this 'maintenance' you speak of?' thing, I've had zero problems at the hostel (Australian Hostel) I am at. Sadly, the other guests cannot say the same thing. A few of the guests who were staying for a few days got moved to a hostel they reported to be a 'shit hole' because a large tour group wanted to come in. From learning a bit about how hostelworld and such works, my guess is that they didn't adjust the number of beds they had available within hostel world as they wanted more money. The 'shit hole' hostel is owned by the same people. It features things like 'no running water' and 'broken beds' and pipes that drip water despite the hostel having no water. Not a nice place. When confronted with these things, the owner who had sent the person to this horrible place said that he would no longer help people to find another hostel when he needed to clear them out of this one for needed space of larger, more profitable groups. I'm not sure what effect he wanted this statement to have upon the person complaining but it really was less effective than apologizing or giving the person a free nights stay would have been.

Also, it has been related to me that one of the girls said that one of the owners of the hostel let himself into her room to kiss her good night - after she was already asleep. So, you must be on your guard.

If you decide to let them move you to a different hostel because hey, they want more money or are utterly incompetent at computers, be sure to check it out before you agree - and go find a different hostel. With all of the shit that goes on in Egypt, I honestly think that you should go find a second hostel even when you like the first one - just to cover these things.



LOGAN'S SCHEDULE

Well, tomorrow at 3PM - well, lets face it, probably I'll be there plenty early - I should be standing in front of the Thai Embassy to see if I can get into their country with the extended visa. Either way though, I'd really like to get my passport back. Since I'll be checking out of the room in the morning, this should be my last post until I get ensconced somewhere in Bangkok. I'll keep everyone posted.



VIDEOS

Cairo, Egypt: From Hostel balcony [by request from TJ!]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CAIRO - BITS AND BOBS




MUSINGS

So at my hotel I'm at, the manager apparently didn't like the books saying I was paying 50 EGP (a bit less than ten dollars a night) for an air conditioned double that other people pay two to three times that for. I had repeatedly told the manager that I would be staying indefinitely and I said "Do not rent out my fucking room" to him. Daily. Today, I am told that this room is already reserved for tomorrow. But they can move me to a worse room. There is a saying I learned awhile back "Fuck me once, shame on you. Fuck me twice, shame on me." So, I bent all of my efforts into finding a different place to stay. Found a room in a different hostel for tomorrow night (the day I must vacate) for 60 EGP (about eleven dollars). I reserved it. Break a deal, face the wheel. There should be a wheel. So, I was going back to the original hotel and the rather snooty desk lady said "What did you decide to do?" I replied "Not tell you my plans." She asked again, I repeated it slower - no problem, English isn't her first language. She said, "OK. Let us know what you decide to do." I gave her a great big smile that she apparently correctly translated as 'Eat shit and die', judging by the look on her face. Major rule of traveling: Keep your own council till the last minute. They'll know tomorrow when I flip last night's stay charge at them as I'm walking out with my pack on that I won't be here any more. That saves on shenanigans now.

After being a day to 'get out' by the bitchy niece of the owner, I found the 'Australian Hostel'. Since it had a picture of a kangaroo in the logo, I figured I'd be OK there.

If you are going to fail, fail up!

The Australian Hostel has much more of a 'hip' feel to it. The internet is also literally two or three times faster. Although this isn't good by American (or South Korean) standards, it is much better than what I've been dealing with.

In talking with various Egyptians, they are all expressing a lot of optimism about the future. They think the new government will help correct many of the problems caused by the old. Something I've been curious about. Mubarek (old president) has apparently stashed billions away in assets which are now 'frozen'. Other dictators in the past have had their assets 'frozen' in the past. I'm guessing at some time, something happens to that money - right? I mean, the bank doesn't get to keep it all, do they? I am sure they carve off as much as they can, but what happens to the billions and billions of dollars at the end of the day? Does the new government 'put it toward public works'? By that, I mean "Does the new government steal it?" You never hear about that money unless it is 'frozen'. Curiouser and curiouser.

The other night, I played dominoes for the first time with three Egyptians who work at the hotel. They were very surprised that I won. Because of this odd happening, they all asked their names NOT be put in the blog. Oh, the shame! As a side note, I haven't won a game after that but I'm not really into dominoes. For those curious about it, it seems to have a healthy amount of luck involved.

Some people at the hostel had told me about chicken prepared in an unusual way. Basically, they squish it flat then grill it. I tried it out but it wasn't anything really special.

So I'm talking to an Indian guy this evening. He is talking about the difficulty of being too nice to people and getting taken for his money and how he is learning to be more 'hard nosed'. I told him about the 'dicks, pussies and assholes' theory from the movie Team America. I told him that I had to learn to be nice because my default setting is 'dick'. I also revealed that while many people have the 'nice' label on their foreheads, I have the 'seeped in old evil' on my soul. At the end of the conversation, he thanked me and said the conversation was 'very enlightening'. His body language said "We are done here." I smiled with the "I'm happy to be a dick smile" and went back to what I was doing before.



THE QUEST FOR THE THAILAND VISA

I will be telling the full story after I disappear into Thailand. This is a bit of a parallel story.

Outside the Thai embassy, they have guards that are from the Egyptian army. While I was waiting on documents and people, I decided to go have a smoke with these guards. After checking with the guards and discovering they all liked Pepsi (beb-si), I got the three of them Pepsis. (4xsoda=10EGP). These guards used very old Romanian assault rifles of some sort though I couldn't pinpoint exactly what kind. They asked me not to take pictures of their weapons. Given the shape they were in, I can understand that.

For now, lets just say that the Thailand embassy has all of my paperwork as well as my passport for 'processing'.

Which makes it a bit awkward for me if I am asked for my passport by the Egyptian authorities - since I am required by law to always carry it in foreign countries as are all tourists...



CAIRO NOTES

Although I've really had no interest in going to the pyramids or big museum they have here (did that twenty years ago, don't feel the need to go again), I do like the energy of Cairo. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Terry Pratchett's 'Ankh-Morpork'. You can see the gears of the machine as it works. It is one of the grittiest, dirtiest cities I've been to. I've walked quite a lot in it, down forgotten (well, I forgot them anyway) byways and alleys. Through bazaars where strange goods are sold. What also helps in my comparison of Cairo and Ank-Morpork is that both cities have a river that you couldn't easily convince someone to swim in.



EGYPTIAN CUSTOMS

I've been told that the police here have very little firearm training. The weaponry is just basically part of the uniform. Given how they seem to handle them (as well as 'gun safety' and 'gun security' (keeping them out of reach of civilians) I can certainly believe it. The Muslims think there is nothing worse than a godless man. I think there is nothing worse than some heavily armed guy who doesn't know how to use his weapons. Note, I'm not sure if this generalization applies only to soldiers, police or the bank guards with the triple clip in their MP-5's.

Mohammed quote: "Human life (in Cairo) is cheap. We have a lot of spares."

On Friday (the Islamic holy day) voices can be heard coming out of the loud speakers literally all day long. Sometimes, it is so long and rapid you wonder why the speaker doesn't pass out from lack of air.

Hissing. This is an interesting custom. As you are walking down the street, if you hiss at people they take this as 'pardon me, coming through'! It is not seen as rude and you don't have to do it very loud. It isn't seen as rude. It does work. Good to know on the busy, crowded streets where the sidewalks are people who are selling unneeded shit.

Like propane? Have you ever wanted to buy a rusty tank of it without the need to leave your home or place of business? In Egypt, you can. People ride around bikes with four rusty tanks strapped to the back. In order to let the customers know they have it, they like to use a metal wrench to hit the tanks. It gives off a distinctive sound. Not so distinctive as the explosion I had expected, well hoped for. But a distinctive sound, nonetheless.

The depths of my ignorance often astound and distress me. There was a brown smudge on many men's foreheads as they were wandering around. I noted it but didn't remark upon it. It turns out these are rug burns. Really. While it is true that a hat or bandanna or something could be worn to prevent this, if you did, how would people know how devout you were?



MEDICAL

Eventually, I broke down and had Mohammed the taxi driver take me to an eye doctor. Doing two short trips with him (to the Thai embassy then the eye doctor) enraged him. He told me not to call him again. Apparently, his help and friendship are only available when I am paying a high rate for them. Fuck him. This was distressing only because he was the only person who seemed able to find the Thai embassy. Fortunately, because I am a distrusting, suspicious and paranoid person, I talked to two different people and got directions - one to the embassy and one that is to a famous restaurant within walking distance to the embassy.

After getting dropped off at the medical clinic by my disgruntled taxi driver, I managed to get one of the eye doctors aside to quiz him to see if he knew what Iritis is. If he didn't, our conversation would be over and I'd move on. Fortunately, he did know all about it. I turned over the 150 EGP ($30) and they did some looking and such. He then assigned me two drugs. One of which is my old friend Pred Forte and the other one is some weird shit he described as a 'condom'. Normally, he would take a look at my eye in a week to see if the pressure was building on the eye from the Pred Forte then tell me if I needed this other stuff (Cosopt, for you amateur pharmacists) and then have me take it if it did. He said to pick it up now. If my eye hurt (from pressure) after a week then start using that. In the states, he explained, you couldn't assign drugs like this due to liability and such. Here in Egypt, no problem - everything is 'take at your own risk'. I left happy. The Pred Forte, so expensive in America is 15 EGP here. The Cosopt is about 85 EGP. Not happy about such an expensive condom, but what the hell, I'll have it with me just in case. I might pick up some extra Pred Forte for the future but it is strong, nasty shit so I am wary of it.

My having no permanent address, cell phone, giving incorrect and untrue personal details (like name, birth date) on the forms they had me fill out seemed to stress them a bit but the money the understood perfectly. It turned those frowns upside down! Aside from my various internet connections and reliance on my bank account for my meager funding - oh and of course crossing borders legally and needing to show my passport - but aside from all of that - I am now living mostly 'off the grid'. Nifty.



CLOTHING COUNT

For those who have been asking, the clothing count. All of the clothing I own amounts to the following: Four shits, seven underwear, three shorts, seven bandannas, two badly custom made long cotton pants suitable for desert wear, twenty socks (don't give me any shit about that number - good sports socks are impossible to come by in some parts of the world and are amazingly expensive in others) and two keffiyehs. One microfiber towel.



FACEBOOK FOLLIES

Thanks to Behzad on Facebook for this gem:




MOVIE REVIEW

Bridesmaids. I'd give this a six out of ten. Although there were some good jokes in here, the main character (right up to the end) was such a douche-bag.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

No rubber bands. I'm not sure if it is age (4-6 months doesn't seem long), heat or other conditions that did it, but mine melted. I now have an interesting, sticky mess to clean out of my backpack. You don't really use rubber bands later anyway. Cord is your friend.

Thinking you are going to wrap up your business to an embassy (any embassy, any business) in one trip is not clever. Don't have anywhere urgent you need to be on the day of your visit to an embassy or consulate.

Everything is negotiable. Unless they are booked full, you can negotiate with almost every hostel owner - unless you book on Hostelworld (etc). Bookings are for 'gaspers' (people who are taking their gasp of life on a short vacation) or people who like to pay full price or people who absolutely positively must stay at that hostel. The price shown for rooms and such in hostelworld is often simply not true. If you have time and flexibility, you can haggle. If you come stumbling in at 3AM and desperately need to sleep, just give them the money and go crash.



YUMMY




COSTS

Shitty meal in a cockroach infested restaurant that Mohammed my taxi driver took me to against my better judgement, 30 EGP

An interesting looking drug dispenser (pill holder) that has a design which hopefully won't spill out my medicine all the time. Bought two at 15 EGP each.

Meal: 5-25 (on up) EGP. Note, the food isn't really anything that special in Egypt. Not good, not bad - middle.

White rum. Like Egyptian food, it is neither good nor bad but somewhere in the middle: 55 EGP.

5KM cab ride, 7 EGP

Cigarette lighter, 2.5 EGP

Medium sized spaghetti with some sort of strange meat, 7 EGP

Flat chicken meal, 35 EGP

Airplane ticket to Bangkok. Despite all of the sites saying it is only $377, when you dig into it and actually try to buy it - oh, gosh, that ticket has just sold out. Sure, it is still showing this price but we are full of shit! The actual lowest price (via Egypt Air) turned out to be $463. Beware of buying tickets for the old 'bait and switch' routine. My method did involve finding everyone I could who was traveling between Cairo and Bangkok which (for those interested) included Qatar, Royal Jordanian, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways and Emirates.



CAIRO VIDEOS

Driving fun
From the Lips of Mohammed

Hot Chicken Soup
Sweatin with Hot Chicken Soup

Elevator
Kurgan
Only five Egyptian pounds

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

EGYPT - LUXOR TO CAIRO

OASIS HOTEL

My overall feeling on the Oasis Hotel as I'm getting ready to leave it. It wasn't a bad deal for $10 US (50 EGP)/night.. It has a lot of frustrating parts, five flights of stairs - some of which are uneven and slippery.

Some of the staff wanted to be helpful but didn't speak much English.

I would stay there again if I was in Luxor.



LOOKING BACK ON LUXOR

The Sinai was a very different place. Only the cab drivers were a menace there. I didn't have some crazy cat lady chase me down the street waving Bast figurines. No horse drawn carriage drivers stopping in the middle of a busy street to try to lure me into their carriage - their shouts drown out by the cacophany of outraged honking. No small boys attempting to surround me yelling "Money, money, money!" Clearly, they have been taught by their parents that tourists are walking ATM's - they just don't know the code word "My friend!" which actually means "Hey, sucker!" Aside from kids in Luxor, I really haven't seen many outright beggars. Mostly 'baksheesh beggars' or people who were trying to sell small things of tissue (which Jana would approve of as she is a tissue fiend) in order to get some money.

It is sad to compare this to the Egypt I recall from twenty plus years ago where people would wave at you as you drove past in a cab just to be friendly

It makes me want to leave Luxor.

I had thought about 'What is it I'd like about a country' and come up with a list. I'd like inexpensive (by my meager standards), good internet, moderately interesting (doesn't have to be highly interesting - anything above 'fucking dull) area to wander around in sometimes (and my standards are faily low on this) and people who aren't looking to fleece me. In the winter, I'm happy to go to an area that doesn't snow. I don't care if it is lashed by a monsoon to start with (as this is interesting).

That should allow me to save up some money and get some options. I haven't seen some parts of Europe and such yet. I'd like to get above the 'magic number' of dollars in my money and only spend down to that. But that may take awhile of hard saving.

We'll have to see how it goes.



THE NEXT STEP

One of my buddies (we'll call 'Bill' because he likes his privacy) who lives in Thailand has convinced me to come visit him while I sit to recharge my money. He has also pointed out that there are five or so countries in easy distance I can explore.

I had pondered of going to explore the rest of Africa but the countries either look expensive or dangerous. There is a few countries that aren't, but they seemm to be islands in a sea of shit.

Hence, at last I will be off to south east Asia.

I don't know what awaits me in Cairo, but if it is more of the same as from Luxor, a speedy escape will be my goal. If I like it, I may dally. I think partially it will also depend on if my visa starts when it is issued or when I arrive.

Fortunately, 'Bill' has lived i Thailand for ten years. I can get some tips from him. This will also put me closer to Pete's neighborhood for a possible part two to the vacation. Matt - you blew your chance - I'm now getting further away for right now. Though next summer I might be back to visit Poland - I've heard excellent things about it.



NARRATIVE

Today, I'm off for a hellishly long nine hour [it turned out to be over 10] train ride to cairo. I've got to find a place to camp out for awhile the set about finding the Thailand Embasy. I have to get my extended visa (per 'Bill Blogs' instructions the leave the country.

If all goes well, I should arrive in Cairo by ten at night or so. This is well after I want to arrive. Never arrive in a strange place after dark. But it seems to be the only option as train tickets were sold out.

When I got to the train station, I had my first big stroke of luck. A train pulled up when I got to the station at ten in the morning and I asked a guy (in Arabic) if the train went to Cairo. To ask in Arabic if the train goes to Cairo, you point at the train and say "Cairo?" He responded that it did indeed. I got on the train. Officially, due to a combination of silly rules and massive corruption, the train stations are not suppose to sell tickets for anything to foreigners other than the wildly overpriced night train. They will always claim that the train is sold out for the next five days. I'm not sure what they'd do if you said "And on day six, bitch?" but it is worth pondering. I did try following their 'fleece the tourist' rules and get the sixty dollar night train ticket but it was also sold out. Hitchhiking in Egypt totally doesn't work - the locals will demand money for taking you for a lift even if they are going that way anyway - at taxi cab prices.

Hence you may as well just get a cab.

I don't want to pay for a cab, so I just got onto the 'verbotten' (forbidden) train and decided to see what would happen. I reasoned that I could buy a ticket enroute. I sat in second class and got a second class ticket for 52 EGP. They have three classes of cabins and the tourists are only suppose to ride in first class due to the 'fleecing policy'. Apparently, the conductor that sold me the ticket didn't know or care about that. I got sold the second class ticket for under $10 USD, saving me about fifty dollars.

I sat around and periodically dozed or went into 'long travel comas'. I couldn't see out the windows for part of the time because there was a guy asleep against the screen that was pulled down over it.

Nothing is fast in Egypt and travel reflects this.

Periodically, beggars would shuffle through the train attempting to beg money off of the passengers. In most countries, this is not permitted. Here, I think in the Muslim religion, you score points with The Big Guy for helping out beggars. The train staff wanted everyone to have the opportunity to score points. Hence, the beggars as well as the people who sold shit went back and forth working the passengers. I don't mind the people who are selling stuff - I even bought some fairly foul sweets off of one of the guys. This ended up being my only meal for the next half day.

I had been told by the Kiwis that the trick is to never leave your seat - even if the guy with the ticket turns up. This didn't work. The conductor got involved and suddenly everyone could speak English. I got moved to a different seat. Upon my getting moved the second time, the kindly conductor decided to bump me up to first class since I was a foreigner. This is my second big stroke of luck. A procession of railway employees materialized, grabbed my pack and gear and we then marched through about six or more cars of the train. I don't think this is just my uncanny luck - I think it is also the innate kindness of the Egyptians manifesting itself. But the luck doesn't hurt.

So, then I was in first class. I paid the conductors some baksheesh (expected tip) and sat down with the amazing leg room. The seat was much like being in a first class seat on an airplane. The car was filled with the usual mix of the 'lets listen
to my radio' people and those with kids who were bored out of their minds and Completely out of control.

I had a different conductor materialize and tell me that I wasn't suppose to be in first class. I told him in a loud voice that I had been happy in second class but had been moved by another conductor and please go talk to him. He wandered off, angry that he was trapped in his own life. Later, he decided to exercise his power over me by giving me the 'if the person comes whose seat it is, you must vacate the seat. Buying a ticket on the train does not guarentee your seat' talk. Because I was bored, I was very bored on the train ride, I was playing the "I do not understand your horrible English" game and stretching out our time together. Unfortunately, an Arabic lady who had the Innsmouth look (which included not only bulging eyes but both eyes were 'lazy' and 'wandering') came to translate. This ruined the game and I returned defeated to my seat.

The person who actually owned the seat either never made it to the train or had already disembarked. That was my third stroke of luck on this trip.

One thing I found odd was how possessive I got about a seat that I didn't pay for and was there only by the grace of the kindly conductor. I think I am wired in a very odd manner. I will have to give that more thought and perhaps learn to 'let go' more. Life is a lesson combined with a test. But you get the test before the lesson. That is what makes it a pain in the ass.

So, the amazingly long trip continued. I got plenty of nicotine. Despite no smoking being allowed on the train, this does not deteur Egyptians. They figure between the cars and outside of the seating areas is OK.

Despite the rattly often neck snapping bumpy ride, I really enjoyed getting to travel across the country for $1 per hour.

The train ride had gotten rough enough that nobody was trying to lean their head against anything. I'm not sure if the heat messes up the tracks or if they just don't maintain them but it is neck snapping excitement. Since the sunscreen was free of head, I was able to raise it to observe the landscape. Sugar cane looks like corn from a distance and everyone seems intent on growing it. Not many other crops in evidence.

I've also noted that where humans live is a huge problem with litter. In Egypt this is extremely pronounced. It is like living in a landfill in some places. I was told that pre-revolution it was much cleaner. Apparently, revolutions make a lot of trash.

As I pass houses, I think 'no matter how rude the dwelling, how decrepit, how messed up, they all have a satellite dish sticking out so they can get their TV fix. I remember something similar in Korea in the 1980's but with TV antennas. I do wonder if the satellite dishes make it more difficult to 'stop the signal'. The 'signal' (internet) does make it harder for despots who prefer to work in the shadows.

I believe that Muslims believe helping beggars somehow builds you merit with God. The people on the train wanted to give us plenty of opportunity to score points with the big invisible man in the sky because first class got worked by at least five beggars.



ARRIVAL AT CAIRO

I met up with a nice guy on the train who helped point me in the right direction to get out of the train station and over to the area where I thought (ha!) I would be staying. I had considered going to a place a nice couple had told me about called Arabian Nights Hostel but it was too far away. It was late night and I was exhausted. I was already in downtown Cairo so I went for the 'Wake Up! Cairo Hostel.' I talked to their extremely cool desk guy who told me they could give me a bed in a dorm for 50 EGP. But only for one night because it was booked solid after that. I really wasn't interested in paying the same rate for a bed as I'd been paying for an entire room in Luxor. Ah, but this is Cairo, sir. I thanked him politely for verifying that I was indeed in Cairo (I have my moments!) and asked him to direct me to another hotel.

Cut to, the Arabesque Hostel. There was a guy named Tiger at the desk and we fell to haggling. I got the room (twin) for 50 EGP. The next day, Tiger tried to explain that it was actually 70 EGP and I hadn't understood him. I firmly explained this was not the case and if you 'break a deal, you face the wheel'. After enough Logan had been done to him, he whited out seventy and wrote down sixty. After more than enough Logan, he whited out sixty and wrote in fifty. He had enough Logan served to him.



AROUND CAIRO

I like this city feel a lot more than Luxor. Here, tourists are such a small piece of their income I haven't been hassled in days. Nobody cares! They are too busy with their own shit to follow me around in a horse drawn cart, or talking about their boat or holding up lots of traffic to try to talk me into their cab.

Hanging out here for a few days shouldn't be a huge problem. Irritating, as I'm being forced to do it rather than by choice, but not bad.

So, I decided I wanted to hire a cab for a day. I picked up a cab driver named Mohammed. Everyone here is named Mohammed. They are all very happy the big prophet had a cool name rather than something very silly.

Mohammed took me to the Thai embassy. I explained to the guy I wanted to stay for an extra sixty days and got grilled. Eventually, he acquiesced to give me the list of the paperwork I would need. After I repeated it and asked if there was anything else, he figured out some other stuff. Not a really professional place. It seems though that it is all based on 'how do they feel about you' so I've got a decent chance. I used what training and know how I possessed to try to get around some of the paperwork but there was too many and too crowded to even think about bribing him. And it didn't feel like that was what he was looking for. So, I have some stuff I needed to get and other stuff my Thai contact (Bilbo Baggins) needed to get. So, it will be some work.

I then had Mohammed take me shopping. This is always a mistake as I do much better alone than with someone else. Although he was impressed with my bargaining skills on one item, he felt I paid too much on another. The item I paid too much for was some blank books. I got a couple shitty ones that maybe should have cost 5 EGP for like 30 EGP. Never bargain when tired, bored or 'just to get it over with'. And these books suck - basically I can toss them and be happier. Fear not, I was alone later that night and passing a shop. I saw some books like the ones I want and said "Ah, I was at a place and wanted to get these earlier but didn't have any money on me. I was going to go back tomorrow and get them. They were 15 EGP there - how much are they here?" The merchant quickly responded they were 15 EGP. I picked up five and left. I may have slightly fibbed when I said 15 EGP at the other place as they were actually 50 EGP each. My bad.

The place Mohammed took me to eat was literally a cockroach infested dump.

This tells me that I really don't need to hire cabs for the day any more unless I'm just wanting a driving tour.

But Mohammed was good company. He had a lot of interesting tidbits about the country. One thing he mentioned (no idea if it was true or not) is that the pistol/weapons some of the cops have is merely part of the uniform. They don't really know how to use them. For Muslims, they can imagine nothing worse than a godless man. For Logan, he can imagine nothing worse than a man with a firearm and no training. A good quote from Mohammed, "Life is cheap here - we have plenty of spares."

Eventually, my back started hurting really bad so I had him return me to the hotel.

Later that night, I went to Abu Tarek's restaurant. I went looking for miscellaneous Egyptian food. I found a very Egyptian restaurant - high volume place, packed with Egyptians. Aside from drinks, they only have two things on the menu: Koshery, large and Koshery, medium. There is no small. Koshery is a starchy, cheap noodle dish served with tomato sauce and miscellaneous other shit. This is one of the things that makes Egyptians look more like Americans (portly). It was a cheap meal for around $2 USD and very fast. Also, there was no 'upcharge the foreigner' thing - same price as the locals. I managed to eat half a medium and was full for the night.


The only thing irritating is that the internet here is the same 'oh my god this is worse than fucking dialup' (it's not but I'm still hating on it) style I have experienced elsewhere in Egypt. Another couple of decades might be required to get an upload speed that gives me more than 1 MB per minute. This will displease TJ who wishes me to record longer videos in order to catapult myself into TV stardom. With my own 'beeper' for when I talk in American.



PHILOSOPHY

Although I don't consider traveling as 'glamerous' and I often talk about the hard and or shitty aspects. These are something NOT talked about in normal travel stuff. I am covering them simply because they are often glossed over by a starry eyed traveler who wants to see yet another big pile of old rocks. Despite this, I do enjoy a change of scenery. Some people (including my wise mentor) lament after the fact that I haven't found anything I seem to like. I decry this. I am finding it all vastly interesting. Sometimes though, after the fact. In some cases, it might be long, long after the fact. I can honestly say I am having the time of my life right now, going to foreign countries and bitching about them.

This strikes me as strange, but very American.

Something I am not putting in the blog is my endless, long, rambling strolls around the places I'm at. Stopping for tea and playing backgammon with the old men. And getting beaten. Take it for granted that I'm usually doing this kind of shit. Or, sitting in my room and writing this blog.



TRAVELER'S TIP

Sort your money in private. Big bills inside the fold, small shit on top. This will help reduce the number of times you have to fan out your money and scream "Gosh I hope I get robbed!"

When traveling in Egypt, do what the locals do. At a minimum on trains bring a roll of toilet paper and a big bottle of water. At a minimum.



TRAVELER'S LORE

In India, check out Goa and Kerale - they don't try to sell you shit.



COSTS

Breakfast sprite at Oasis Hotel, 3 EGP
Koshary (starchy, fattening dish of all noodles with some chilli stuff on top and red liquid you can pour on for some heat), 4 EGP

Hiring a taxi for the entire day to do your evil bidding, 200 EGP

Shitty meal in a cockroach infested dump, 30 EGP

Medium Koshery, 7 EGP

Fanta, 4 EGP

12 pieces of laundry in hotel at 'I can't believe I am fucking paying these prices', 30 EGP.



HEALTH WATCH

This exciting report is brought to you by the COTFSM. Worship their noodly appendages!

For the last two mornings, I've woken up with one eye red, bloodshot and a bit blurry. It went away after a couple hours. I'm going to monitor it closely to see if I need to go to the doctor. Explaining iritis to someone who doesn't speak English is a real bummer. Fear not those who want to give me dire warnings. I don't want to end up on the floor in pain for three months. Again. Especially in a place where I don't speak the language, etc.

Remember that something similar happened when I was in Georgia. Since the doctors here really don't understand me (or perhaps what is going on) it is pretty hit or miss.

So, it will either get better (yea!) or worse (doctor time).



VIDEOS

A Kiwi buddy of mine (AKA Thad) suggested I make some videos on what I keep in my bag.

Here you go!

Small bag
Big bag

Ninja spotting
Market
Safety Warning
Cairo driving

Children's Video

Friday, September 16, 2011

WALL OF HIEROGLYPHS - ER TEXT

NARRATIVE

The next day, I decided to get some long, light weight cotton pants (trousers). While wearing long pants might seem contrary in the desert, they keep the flies from crawling on your legs and more importantly, you noticing it. The flies get very old fast here.

So I needed a guide and got a twelve (?) year old kid named Tarek. If he'd been named Mackmood, it would have been better as my long time gamer friends may recall. Anyway, he took me through a couple of mini bus rides and through a maze known as the bazaar. He steered me away from vendors he thought were disreputable and to ones he liked better. Sadly, the tailors he took me to weren't very good - but they were cheap. A lot of people say "Buy for quality!" but that really doesn't apply to me. I may have to throw out the pants in a couple months or have them literally stolen in less. I am living very much in the 'right the fuck now'.

Getting clothing from Tailors you don't share a common language with (Tarek's English wasn't advanced enough for this) is a real challenge. I insist on trying everything on as well. Naturally, there are no dressing rooms in the bazaar so I was just climbing in and out of the pants pretty much out in the open until they got altered enough to somewhat fit. One of the tailors had the cheek to ask for baksheesh for altering them. I told him that I didn't think giving baksheesh (tip) for making pants I didn't haggle on at all and that still didn't fit well despite their measuring was going to happen. Hell, they didn't even want to alter it till I told them I'd be riding horses and camels and would need to have it less 'dress like'.

The pants feel a bit like "Lumsie pants". These are the pants that motivated amateurs would make me for NERO - usually without having me around. This is sad considerin these tailors were doing this for their living.

Tarek doesn't know how to read and write in Arabic but he does have a full time job. I know the bleeding hearts and stuff whine and cry about 'child labor' but it is a very different system here. This kid has a decent (if low paying) job at a hotel doing cleaning and odd jobs. It isn't especially dangerous unless a fat American accidentally sits on him and crushes him. So, by the standards of people I'm seeing around me, he is doing OK. Not great, but OK.

When you want to have custom made clothing, you get to pay in advance. Should you decide to get clothing for the desert, get the light colored stuff like the men wear rather than the 'more modest but hot as fuck' clothing that the women wear.

I even bought more pens as the ones I had gotten in Georgia exploded. Fortunately, I follow the 'everything that has any potential for leaking will' philosophy and had them in a plastic bag. That saved me from a lot of work cleaning out the backpack.

Fuck Stairmaster. I've got three flights up to my room and two more up to the roof. I'm working that body just crawling up to my room. At 18:00 they have free tea (just fucking one - except for me because I know how to haggle) and cake. The tea is extremely bitter. I normally don't have any sugar in my tea ("I'm sweet enough." - Bricktop from 'Snatch') but you need a little to make the tea palatable. Note, if I'm in someone's house (or tent, or yurt) and they bring me tea with sugar in it, I won't say shit. Just smile and try to drink some.

On one of the hot afternoons, I decided to try out the 'Siesta' thing - a bit of sleep in the hot point of the day then up later at night. It didn't work out so well.

I went to the West Bank of Luxor with Aaron and Tasha - a couple from New Zealand who look like they're in their early thirties yet have grand children. They are a lot of fun and nice people.

If you go to the valley of the kings (or queens, for that matter) study ahead of time and find out exactly where you want to go up front. When you buy a ticket, you get to choose three places to visit. I'm not sure how many their are but their are the or four times that many. We even went to see someone named "Queen Chicken-Soup's" (or something close) tomb. I've heard this is where several tourists were massacred a few years ago. This massacre is supposedly the reason tourists cannot travel on the day trains - though that makes no sense. The only tickets for tourists are the sleeper car and charged initially in USD. Plenty of USD. What a scam.

The train station at Luxor is the worst I've seen. This is another country where people have no concept of how to wait their turn. Que jumping is common. Either the procedure for selling a train ticket is too complicated for the people who work there or they just enjoy visiting with (and arguing with) each other so much they will have meetings throughout the day and avoid working. Waiting an hour in the train station and literally not seeing one person get their ticket made me decide to just get on the train and sort it out with the conductor.

I have been called 'half Egyptian' by people after bargaining with them. I take this as a high compliment. Some people have also called me 'the professor' in passing though I have no idea why.

In an 'oh for fucks sake' maneuver, the owner of the hotel I'm in likes to turn off the internet at night to let it rest. Apparently, leaving it on throughout the heat of the midday sun is OK but during the cool night it can tend to over heat and it needs its rest. This makes leaving uploads going a bit more tricky - I'd like to be able to leave those spinning on their slow, lame internet during the lowest (if any) usage part of the day. I suspect they turn it off to try to save a couple piasters worth of electricity.

Many of the children here are quite cheeky. They make inappropriate comments to tourists, especially women (such as we should have sex). I believe both they and their parents should undergo 'spanking therapy' for a period of no less than a solid year.

So far, this is the only country where I have literally had to shout at locals to leave me alone. The amount of scam artists, touts and rude people is really amazing. There are some genuinely nice people but most are hungry for money since tourism is only a small sliver of what it use to be.



DIE ZUKUNFT (THE FUTURE)

Apparently, tonight is my last day in Luxor. I thought I had another day or two but my dumb ass didn't keep track of when I checked in and such. Fuck it, I'm off to Aswan to see if it is any better than this place. If it is, and it is cheap, then I may check about getting an extension on my visa. If it is like Luxor (I've been assured it is nicer) then I will start planning my next jump.

I was pondering taking a boat down the Nile into Aswan but it looks like it could be a bit pricey - and my money is a bit on the low side. Additionally, I'm pretty realistic about this - I think I'd be bored out of my skull after the first few hours. Doing it for two days with a crew I can't really communicate with, meh. I'll just take the four hour bus ride.

Many people here (the hotel staff who would like very much to profit on my travel some more) have tried to find out my plans but I am very vague on them. Partially (admittedly) because I don't really know my plans and partially because I am following the advice of my mentor Adam when he said "Keep your own council." Adam doth guide my steps. He taketh me to water and doth throw me in. He doth show me where to sleep and tell me he will put a boot in my ass should I bother him again. Amen, bitches.

I was pondering Sudan but it doesn't look at that wonderful. India looks very interesting but they have a lot of touts (people trying to get you to buy stuff or go with them to buy stuff) and I'm quickly getting burned out on that crap in Egypt.

Right now, I have no idea where to go. The money is holding out but I need to get somewhere cheap to sit and recharge. I've heard Morocco is more expensive than Egypt so that's probably out. Tunisia is not doing well right now, also probably out. Not sure where to go but I do know what I'd like:

No snow (rain is OK)
Mutherfucking internet
Cheaper is better so I can more quickly recharge my money.
Being able to get there from where I'm at for under $800 would be a big plus.
Need to be able to stay there for long enough to make it worth going there.
Preferably somewhere I haven't been yet.

Suggestions are appreciated.



FUTURE TRAVELING WITH GROUPS

I may be fortunate enough to travel with Pete sometime again in the future. He is currently working on wrapping up his filming of "How to wrestle angry crocodiles in a Holmsian Fashion" but after that may be ready to go traveling.

I've heard little from Matt who discovered traveling is expensive. I think he went somewhere else when he realized that Georgia (etc) was on the other side of Europe and (more importantly) the airlines knew that and were charging heavy for it. I'm hoping that I get to travel with Matt sometime as he is a wacky fucker.

There is no telling if Jana will convince her parents to give her money for a car then use it to run off to Nepal.

If you (the person reading this) want to travel with me for a time and have the money/time to be able to do it, let me know. We may be able to work something out. Please don't contact me and say "Oh, I wish I could travel with you but I don't have money/time/both. Yes, I suspect a lot more people than read this blog fit into that situation. I don't need to hear about it. Just stop buying stupid shit, get a second job and save your money. My plans right now as to where I'll be are a bit 'in flux'. I really have no idea what is in Africa that I'd like to see. I'm still trying to figure out "Do I want to bother with it or head to India?" I'm thinking I'll probably try Africa but I've got to figure out a way to do it. I've been told that Africa is the hardest place in the world to travel. And... que dramatic music! ... And we'll just have to see if I can get a clue... Er, plan.



PHILOSOPHY

Something I wonder about as I stand among the ruins of an ancient civilization: For several thousand years, people KNEW that their religion (Egyptian pantheon) was the true religion. Now it is regarded as barbaric mysticism. Will the religions we have today which are half the age the Egyptian ones got to while still believed one day be regarded in the same way?

Just as I did over twenty years ago, I started to 'go native' when I first arrived. Note, for 'going native', I am using the definition of 'dress like the natives, eat where they eat, drink what they drink' rather than a more outdated definition. I see 'going native' as more of a positive thing - blending into their culture just a bit. The way I view it, there is probably a very good reason why people who live in Arabic countries wear a large square of light, cotton material on their heads. I figure I should test it out and see what's up. Often, there is a very good reason the natives are doing it. Sometimes, the reason they are doing things is the same as why the man's wife cut off the ends of the ham.



EGYPTIAN CUSTOMS

If you haggle for everything - and haggle hard - you are given more respect. If you don't, you are seen as a sucker and a two legged ATM. Prices can start at five times or more what they'll eventually sell for. A lot of people don't like haggling, think it's rude, a hassle, etc. My advice is to go with the expensive tour group that will take care of processing your money out of you, travel with a person who enjoys haggling or don't go. Seriously, the change on people's attitudes after I haggle with them is phenominal. Before, they look at me like "Hello potential money". After I haggle for even something minor like a soda, they are introducing themselves, telling me about their children, etc. Warning, if you feel yourself starting to get angry walk away from the haggling immediately. You've lost. Do not turn around, don't talk to them again period. You will ignore that sentence and pay for it later. You've already lost. Realizing it and leaving will save you a lot of troubles later. Keep a sense of humor and realize it is all a game.

At most of the ruins, they have metal detectors. Ignore them. You will beep. Pretend to be deaf. Just wander through the metal detectors neither hearing nor seeing them. The guards don't care but if you stop and start emptying your pockets and such it may be time for baksheesh. Unless a guard physically grabs you, don't look around and just keep walking. I have done this at every metal detector and have never been stopped. I don't know why they have them up - I figure it is modern art.

At all of the ruins there are lots of areas where merchants have set up shops. My advice is to completely ignore them. They are the piranha tank. What do we do when we are in the piranha tank? We move with a fucking sense of purpose. If you want to even glance side to side at the bright, shiny trash they have for sale you will be literally swarmed with people trying to sell you stuff and the occasional pick pocket. Two separate travelers at the same hotel I am staying at had pickpockets make a go for their stuff but were luckily foiled. Walking slow or even being polite, you will get harassed. You've got to storm through these areas like you are making your way with all speed to the toilet before something horrible happens. The only thing you can say to people is "la, shukren" (no thank you). I've found it best to do it in a distracted, yet hard tone of voice tinged with the boredom of having used it to brush off hundreds of these people. You should be able to get that voice down pat by day two at the latest. If you really want any of this stuff, I'd head to the bazaar so you don't pay the 'selling at the ruins costs a lot more money for the shop' prices.

Never tell the hotel you are staying at that you are curious about any of their prices for bottles of alcohol or they will go out and buy several and try to get you to buy them at approximately double the price you can get them for in America.

They have women here who wear veils and robes so that only their eyes are showing. I've heard them referred to as 'ninjas' before. Recently, I heard another term that the person who told it to me considered derogatory, 'black ghosts'. Personally, I think it is rather fitting - they wear all black, it is shaped like a kids 'ghost costume' and they are rather like ghosts (non-participants) within their own society. Thought that was interesting.

I'm not sure about other cities, but in Luxor they have 'over the top' religion. People are constantly reading the Koran, listening to the Koran on TV, praying, hearing the massively amplified via loud speaker call to prayer from the mosques, etc. Religion is everywhere. I'm wondering if the economic troubles have strengthened some people's 'faith'.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

While I was out stomping around Luxor trying to brush off the hordes of people who wanted to sell me useless shit, a guy on a bike riding the same direction as I was walking said "You walk like an Egyptian!" I glanced at him and responded "Ha!" He figured this had made him a friend and he want on, "I need a moment - I need a letter translated." I said "Sorry - I know that scam already!" [Note, this is a very old trick to lure you into a shop.] I took another few steps then looked around. He had vanished. Pulled a complete ninja. Be sure to read up on the scams of any country before visiting.

Two different guests at the hotel have reported attempts to pickpocket them. Usually it is someone selling one scarf - they don't have multiple so look for that. The scarf is used to hide the movements of their hands. Be on the lookout for this.

Get a student ID card - even if you have to make one yourself. If you don't have one or the skill to make it, chances are good that your hotel will be able to get one made for you. [The price at the hotel I am staying is 110 EGP.] Have a picture of yourself handy. These cards can save you quite a bit more than they cost depending on how many different places you go to visit. Students and teachers save half on exhibits. Generally speaking, if you like ruins and such as much or more than Logan, get one right away.

Within Arabic countries you are often asked what your religion is. Christian, Islamic or Muslim answers are easy, common and IMO wrong. [Not answering can be seen as rude or suspicious behavior. You can't say Atheist as they can imagine nothing worse than a godless man.] They put you on a side of the conflict. Since I don't really care about religion (it hasn't really done anything for me) I am saying 'Zen Buddhism. A) it keeps me out of the religious wars boxes, B) it discourages further questioning by the locals and c) it makes as much sense as any other religion does to me. Well, so does the flying spaghetti monster - but I don't want to irritate the locals by worshiping that. Or trying to explain spaghetti.

The tourist information center in Luxor (next to the train station) is actually useful. I recommend the one on Saad Zaghoun street (AKA Mahatta Street. If you are very lucky, Mourad Gamil will be working. This guy is the most knowledgeable guy I've talked to at any tourist information booth in any country I've been to yet.

They have different prices for Egyptians and non-Egyptians. If it bothers you, walk away and don't give them your money.



TRAVELER'S LORE

From a girl who lived in Thailand.
The following are considered very rude:
Stepping on the threshold of the door, eye contact, touching people on the top of the head.



COSTS

One quarter of a chicken with rice, soup, hummos, salad: 19 EGP.

Stella beer, 8.5 EGP.

Lamb kabob + french fries + 'babbagenush', 35 EGP.

Most of the restaurants seem to be 30-40 EGP though you can find 'dubious' food at street vendors for 5-10 EGP. How strong is your stomach?

Upscale market shirt, USD 50. Fuck that.

Luxor to Aswan via taxi, 300 EGP. I'd rather sit on the torture bus.

Sheesha, 2 EGP

Alcohol your choice, standard 750 ML bottle, 200 EGP (fuck that) from hotel.

Tea, 2 EGP

Service taxi to Aswan, supposedly 15-20 EGP but I couldn't find where it leaves from.

Estimate of a private taxi ride to Aswan, 400 EGP.



VIDEOS (since I was threatened by TJ if I didn't immediately produce more videos, here you go!!)

Nuweibas premiere restaurant
Fallout 3 bathroom
Don't touch the fucking camera
In the bazaar
Up on the roof
Street in front of my hotel

Paint Job
Bats
Confused
Karnak Money Shot
Dealing with Backsheesh Beggars
Stella
Leaving Karnak

Thursday, September 15, 2011

DESPITE SHITTY INTERNET

ISRAEL STAMP

I had mentioned before that you don't want an Israel stamp in your passport. When I was going through the Israel customs on my way back (with the fancy Egypt stamp) I had asked if the lady at passport control could please stamp a separate piece of paper. She decided to play it hard with me and say in a aloof tone "Why wouldn't you want an Israeli stamp in your passport?" I smiled at her and said "Because your neighbors suck." She started to do the restraining laughter thing, stamped the separate piece of paper and said "Thank you for visiting!" Humor - the cure for what ails you.



MAGIC BUS

Back in the 1960's there were a lot of wonderful things about buses. They even made songs like Magic Bus. The bus I got on was not fucking magical. If the bus I was sitting in was anything to judge the general transportation by, you want to get a cab. For the love of god, if you are in a group or can afford it, get a cab. If you try the bus, you will agree unless you are really macho.

The bus vaguely smelled of mold and piss. The more destitute a people are, the more religious they get as they hope God will get them out of whatever bad spot they are in. In Egypt, they are pretty religious. There are television shows where you can watch and listen to the Koran being read twenty four hours a day. On this bus, you can hear it pipped into all of the speakers right above your head. The speakers with no off switch or volume control. Dust, cobwebs and dirt adorn the crumbling and faded surfaces of the bus.

The bus ride is grim and a bit depressing though not as slow as I'd thought. Although I was getting of at Suez, I had to buy a ticket all the way to Cairo. Since it was a total of $14, I didn't bitch.

I'm hoping this is my last long trip in this mechanized torture device. I was remembering talking to Mustafa (aka Roy) about this twenty five years ago and I asked him if we should take a bus. He asked if I was crazy. We took cabs everywhere. I know why now.

The bus driver seems upset that all of his childhood hopes and dreams have been shattered and he must now drive a bus. All that keeps him going is the thought that the next revolution may put a gun in his hand so he can shoot up his bus and passengers.

While we were on this bus ride, I dozed off many times. I was having really odd dreams of the road and would jerk awake when the bus did something that didn't really fit in with what my dreams of the road were.

There was a big checkpoint near Suez where they brought out the bomb sniffing dogs. They forgot to look at my passport. I was really glad I didn't pack all of those dog treats I was thinking about earlier.

Regardless of the bus driver - whether it is the life hating wants to take you out with him one - or the good natured ones I got later - you want to watch them at the rest stop. When they start heading back to the bus, you want to be right behind them. When they get in the bus and sit down, they will sound the horn. The bus will be in motion about 15-20 seconds after that horn sounds. Within thirty seconds of that, full speed down the road. Yeah, I timed it. At one stop, I counted eight people who got on while the bus was in motion because they didn't pay close enough attention to the driver.

You know the netting on the back of the seats? You are suppose to be able to put things in it. Normally. Silly me. I didn't check to see if the bottom of the mesh was attached. Hence, a whole can of coke went right on through and quickly burbled out of the can. Naturally, the bus driver noticed the brown flood in his bus. Our eyes locked. At that point, I understood that if the revolution he had been hoping for happened, I'd be the first with my back to the wall.

Good times.

When we got to Suez, the word that springs to mind is 'dump'. When I looked at the internet, I found that others described it in the same way - so it's not just me. Also, there is no cheap place to say listed on the internet though there are plenty listed in Luxor.

Fortunately, there was only an hour delay in Luxor. After that delay, I got onto a nine plus hour bus ride to Luxor.

In all of the buses, it is too dark to read. They have some lights but they are pretty dim if they work. There are dark curtains over the windows. Should you open one, you will be asked to close it by the other passengers. Dark curtains keep out some of the heat and let the feeble air conditioning have a chance. Hence, there isn't really much to do on the buses except have a good shaking and your ass fall to sleep on the hard, uncomfortable seat.

Seat numbers are assigned but can be ignored by ignorant foreigners. If someone really wants their seat, you can move but normally, nobody really cares unless you are in the front row of seats. I typically avoid these and sit in the second row. I want to be able to hear the bus driver yell at me when it is time to get off.

I wanted to comment on the speed of the second bus but since the speedometer always read zero, I really couldn't say.

Normally it is a good idea to use the restroom before getting on a bus. On Egyptian buses I've seen, this is doubly so. In order to avoid needing to clean the restroom, they padlock it. I am not joking. They will offer to pull the bus over to let you piss on the side of the road, so better to torture the rest of the passengers and cause them to hate on you.

You may find that the bus will break down and stop from time to time. I've been told this is uncommon but judging by the age, service and quality of the buses I am somewhat dubious. The bus is stopped until the driver repairs it.

In America, the bus driver has only certain hours they work per day and per week to keep them mentally alert for safety. This is not the case in Egypt. Here, they substitute loud music and smoking to try to keep up. Since real sleep is impossible, everyone else slips into some sort of half waking coma.

If you are dumb enough - or poor enough - to travel by bus, keep your bus ticket handy. It will be checked repeatedly by the same person as well as by a slew of different people including some you suspect may not work for the bus at all.

As we continue to the south, the people are becoming darker and darker. Here, we have blacks. There are no 'African Africans'. Only the US is silly enough to use a term like 'African American'. Here there are blacks, whites, browns and who knows what else who all hate each other not based solely on race but a wide variety of things such as what tribe they are from, which religion they are and what the other people said about their Mary.

I was thinking about that Swiss girl's old bag backpack cover. Should I ever find one, I would like to get it Good camouflage.

Anyway, you have two main choices of seats. You can either choose to get squished in near the window or sit in the isle to be buffeted by an endless horde of portly Egyptians.

Enough about the bus - I think you get the point - it sucked. I wrote a lot about it because I had the time and was trapped.

So, I eventualy arrived in a completely deserted area in Luxor. The bus literally dropped me off in what looked to be a completely abandoned area and drove off. Fortunately, there was a military checkpoint nearby. The intercity mini bus didn't really want to stop for me - you could read that on the driver's face - but they did. I think it was the guy motioning with his assault rifle that got the compliance. It is like Al Capone said "You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun."

So, I took the minibus until they felt like dropping me off in a place that was so deserted it didn't have a military checkpoint. Even less around than the first place.

After they had driven off, the Tourist Police showed up. Tourist police are who the tourists go to to bitch they've been ripped off because they didn't know to read my blog ahead of time. So, the guy in the passengers seat talks to the driver - the driver gets out and sits in back with the other men. The highest rank guy takes over driving and gets me into the passenger seat. I show him the address in my book and off we go.

To the wrong place. They dropped me off at some fucking posh hotel on the same street. Note that Egypt doesn't have proper street addresses. Theirs are more like "Happy Street near the McDonalds". If you want to be a postman in a neighborhood, you pretty much have to be born and spend your life there. No, I'm not kidding.

So, I found a taxi who took me to the Oasis for 20 EGP. It was either twice or possibly four times as much as I should have paid but it was something like five in the morning. We managed to rouse the caretaker who was asleep in the lobby on the floor.

He took me to a room and charged me sixty EGP per night up front for two nights. After testing the AC and hot/cold water, I sent him away as he was making no sense to me and couldn't understand me either. I then paid off the cab driver by throwing money down three floors to him.

Yes, I'm on the third floor with a lot of stairs. Fuck stairmaster - I'm in a five floor building where I reguarly need access to the roof (it is the hangout place) and have to go up several flights just to get to my room.

Up next, Luxor!



POLITICS

I never bring up politics with Egyptians directly for four very important reasons. First, I don't want anyone to think I am more than a simple tourist. Second, it is a controversial subject. As Terry Pratchett said in one of this Discworld books, declaring and fighting a revolution is relatively easy compared to governing. Everyone knows how to shoot the bastards that got us to whatever bad place initially but after that, it all gets rather confused. I don't want to argue about politics because I am not a politician. When Egyptians ask my opinion, I tell them Egypt will (and must) figure it out. It is their problem. Lastly, I don't care. I don't care about American politics - I care little about other countries politics unless it is directly threatening my life at that particular moment.

I do feel that many Egyptians are torn between fearing and hoping that someone from 'outside' will come to solve their problems. Also, many Egyptians are blaming the Jews and 'Zionist Conspiracies' for their problems. I'm really not sure how they were keeping this country dirt poor but many of the people who have talked to me about politics bring this up. It is very strange to me.

We continued to drive along with the unrelenting holy music blasting in from above us. You have to be really religious to like it. I detested it. Since it may have been all that was keeping the driver from deciding to drive the bus off of a nearby cliff, I didn't say a word.

I was quite surprised at just how many military checkpoints we went through. There were three I had to show my passport for and at least that number again that I didn't. Considering what an economic mess the rest of the country is in, it strikes me as curious that the Egyptians are so worried about losing the Sinai. I think this goes back to the Zionist thing, see 'politics' section.



PHILOSOPHY

Are they called 'sandals' because they always get so much sand in them?



TRAVELER'S TIPS

As with pretty much every country I've been in, knowing some of the local lingo - especially greetings and the return phrase (such as 'salem ma lekum' and 'malekum al salam') scores high points with the natives, even those who speak English fluently.

Avoid chocolate in Egypt. I'm not sure what they do to it, but it is something bad. I'm guessing that it is to avoid it quickly melting in the hot sun. It reminded me of wet cardboard.



TRAVELER'S LORE

A buddy of mine who is another permanent traveler had something interesting to say about India. He called it a literal 'shit hole' because he said you could watch people shitting in the streets. He had quite a list of towns he had visited and he said that one month there was way too long - he should have left after a week.



COSTS

Newiba to Cairo via hellish bus, 80 EGP.

Cab rides seem to be roughly 2 EGP per kilometer.

Cost breakdown in Luxor not including 'tourist stuff': Lodging is (after haggling) 50 EGP ($10) per night. Food I can get for 35 EGP or less per meal hence a total of under $20 per day. That's roughly $30 per day - I can hang out here for awhile. If I can keep my food costs down and sit still for awhile, I might even increase my severely depleted money stash. Read some books, that sort of thing. I've got plenty to read.

At bus stop, half a chicken, sides and two cokes, 45 EGP.

At bus stop, at god knows what, 20 EGP and drank a thick mango drink with the consistency of motor oil, 7 EGP.

Bus from Suez to Luxor (hellish), 65 EGP.



EGYPTIAN CUSTOMS

You can wear whatever headpiece you want. Instead of being angry about it, people seem to think you like whichever tribe it came from.

In Egypt, they apparently don't dub movies as it irritates people. Instead, they use subtitles. Good. I may take in a movie sometime should I ever discover a theater.

Should someone open a door for you, you owe them money. Should they tell you directions to where you are going - you could owe them money. Should they point out anything of any dubious interest that you weren't looking for but were standing near enough to hear, you owe them money. Keep a lot of one point coins handy to pay off these 'backsheesh beggars'. One or two usually does the trick. If you are paying more it is because you have 'sucker' or 'stupid, gullible tourist' written on your forehead. Although some Egyptians have told me they also get charged, I have yet to see one pay another for something similar. Remember, tourists are seen as walking cash machines. Act appropriately. If you are not wanting to pay for a dubious service, do not let them perform it. If possible, just leave the area. Or act crazy.



VIDEOS

Sorry for the lateness of posting these, but internet speed in the Arabic World sucks ass.

From Amman, Jordan we have me wandering around a Roman theater: Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5

Amman shoe repairman
Amman supermarket
Bus from Amman
Wadi Rum intro
Wadi Rum
Thomas Hasselhoff
Bedo Vehicle
Faster than a speeding
The Gang
Sand Dune a
Sand Dune b
Lawrences House a
Lawrences House b
Bedo with ute
Rocks with holes
Gimme food
Trapped in Sinai

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 | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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