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Thursday, December 27, 2012

AUTO-EROTIC ASPHYXIATION

WHY DON'T YOU WRITE MORE?

Honestly, I'm just sitting around the hostel most of the time.  Nothing really much to discuss.



PHILOSOPHY

Some people I've met display all of the competency of Chernobyl nuclear safety inspectors. Hopefully, they will die of auto-erotic asphyxiation dressed in Batman suits. As is the style of the day.




NERO LARP, stories of FA

I had put a request of Facebook for stories of the land of Fa.  Here is one from Kevin DeJaynes:

My first visit to FA. Jeremy Kennedy and I are going through a gate that Lumsie is going to open for us. he has prepared a guide to take us to King Nusmba to meet with him.

Lumsie gives us a two hour lesson on the etiquette of meeting the with king. We forget almost all of it before we even go through the gate.

Once we arrive in FA we are led past feild upon field of undead planting crops. We have no idea why they are planting crops because everyone in FA is dead or undead.

We arrive at the temple and our guide takes off running screaming "Your gonna die, Your gonna die." The door opens and group of Death Knights come out and surround us. We are then relieved of all our weapons, mystical energy, alchemy, scrolls and even some of our gold was taking as a "Fine for carrying weapons to the Kings Castle."

We are then instructed to follow the lead guard but after each step we must place our hands together and bow in a show of respect, the progress to the kings court is painfully slow. Once inside his chamber we have to assume the position of respect, one hand held out in front of us and the other curled up behind our heads, it was to prevent us from taking any actions.

The king is no where to be seen, soon we here a toilet flush and a door opens and a Lich comes out zipping his pants and takes a seat upon the throne.

We are instructed to kneel and bow and lick the floor. Licking the floor is a time honored tradition that basically means if the king wants you dead they put deadly ingested poison on the spot you are to lick. Next the king ask us for our names and demands his gift.

Opps Lumsie forgot to tell us about that one. My buddy JK looks at me and I look at him and we both shrug. Once again Numsba demands his gift and the Death Knights start chanting and moving in closer.

JK speaks up and says "You can have my death knight as your servant. The king accepts the gift and we begin talking. After a while we are told to leave and we stand and begin to bow and walk backwards to get out.

As we reach the door I ask JK, "Where did you get a Death Knight?

His only response was "Im sorry I panicked"

As we reach the door, the guards grab my shoulders and hold me as JK was escorted out, It then dawns on me, HEY IM A DEATH KNIGHT.

That was our first of many trips to FA.



VIDEOS

Some old videos I hadn't been able to upload yet - here they are...

Siem Reap Balcony
Bus Service in Istanbul
Driving Through Istanbul
More Driving Through Istanbul
A Little More Istanbul
Tbilisi
Tbilisi Skycar

Saturday, November 24, 2012

THE BATTLE AGAINST TOOTH DECAY

Here's another story of Logan's pain and suffering to make your day a happier one...



SHINE DENTAL CLINIC

After getting to see the look of complete surprise on my face when a tooth fell out, I decided a trip the next day to the dentist was in order.  Putting off anything to do with your teeth has always seemed stupid to me.  As anyone who has read much of this blog knows, going to the dentist is never a good experience for me and is usually filled with pain - but it's still the smart play.

Nino is a Georgian girl who works here at the hostel.  When she came in, I requested she call the Shine Dental Clinic for me.  This is the same dental clinic that the third employee of Friends Hostel, Brigid had been to and recommended.

Nino booked an appointment for that very morning and Brigid gave me foolproof directions to get to the dental office.

Shine turned out to be reassuringly clean and staffed by three women dentists and one man whose job it was to operate the x-ray machine.

The only strange thing to happen was that the man had me hold the card in my mouth with my finger while they took an x-ray of the tooth.  He also didn't leave the room for it.  I've been told they have directed x-ray machines which don't spread radiation all over but this is Georgia.

I'm thinking he doesn't want children.

One of the dentists worked on me while the other mostly watched and translated into decent English questions and such.

They gave me a choice between simply pulling the tooth or attempting to put the part that fell out back into my head.  Their facial expressions told me they weren't at all confident about being able to get it back in nor how long it would last.

This was the same tooth they had attempted to fix back in Cambodia.  I figured that the tooth really didn't want to 'play ball' and get along with the rest of my mouth so I opted for the option to just yank it.

The procedure took over a half an hour.

Even with the shots they put into my gums to deaden the pain it was remarkably painful.  They used my other teeth to try to apply leverage and it often ended up with my lips between the unyielding teeth and the metal tools.

Teeth have three roots.  I found this out because each one ended coming out separately and painfully.  Various clamps and drills alternated for what felt like a month.

They didn't cheer when they got each root out but did have a mixture of elation and relief every time.

The dentist told me it wasn't the most difficult tooth extraction she'd ever had but it was in the top ten.

This came as no surprise.  Nothing with me ever goes easily.

After they had finished removing the tooth and I'd spit up a lot of blood they told me they felt removing it was the better option.

I'm glad they didn't say they should have left it in.

Yes, I realize that you can get implants but not at that dentist.  I'm also not sure what sort of quality they have here in Georgia.  Dentistry seems a bit...basic here.



COSTS

Getting a tooth pulled, 40 GEL (for the lazy ones out there, that's about 25 USD).
One X-ray, 5 GEL.


















Tuesday, November 20, 2012

MORE HEALTH FUN FOR LOGAN

MORE DENTIST FUN

When I lived in the USA, a saying I heard stuck with me.   "Only floss the teeth you want to keep."

Last night while I was flossing, a molar fell out.

No warning, no loose tooth, no pain.

It just fell out.

Hence, today I will get to bring you a report on the Georgian dental system.  Woohoo.




Sometimes, bears come into the city of Tbilisi and eat random people.  The only defense against them is cha-cha.

For those who haven't heard of cha cha before, it is a clear alcohol.  This is normally brewed by individuals and sold under the counter.  If you've ever had moonshine, this is similar.  It has enough alcohol that you can light it on fire.

The taste ranges between 'drinkable' and 'ass'.

Bears don't like cha cha.

They prefer rum.



PHILOSOPHY


Any time I hear people conversing in a foreign language and they often switch into English because their language does not have the vocabulary, the same thought comes into my mind.

"Abandon your native language.  It has failed you.  Import more native English speakers at once!"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

BARBERS

THE BARBER STORY

When looking for something, I always play a game of "Twenty Questions".  It is different from the normal game in that it is the same question spread out over twenty people.  This is a frequently played game for people visiting foreign countries simply because half the people you ask have no idea and want to be helpful by lying.

Interviewing the older members of society who actually know where things are.  As they possess know knowledge of English but make expansive hand gestures which can be as difficult as interpretive dance to understand.

Eventually, I found myself at what I always think of as a 'manly barber shop'.

Since the 1980's these have not been seen within the USA.  Within them, you can get a straight razor shave while terminally nicotine addicted men lounge about.  These are extinct within the USA having been replaced by either 'fu fu' salons or chain barber shops with their revolving door staff.

In a fairly run down part of town was the barber shop, it's presence being marked by a highly stylized pair of scissors you could only see from the sidewalk in front of it though looking into the barred windows was easier.  After wandering around the building a bit, I discovered the only entrance was through a shop selling eyeglasses.

The sixty year old (he told me) barber was finishing up with his previous customer who sported a fair amount of blood on his neck.  Undeterred, I got a chair.

We spoke in a mixture of English, Georgian, German and sign language - the latter being the most useful.

Shave and a haircut, 10 GEL - half the price or less at a chain store in the USA with a lot more care and quality.

Sadly, the quality part didn't rub off on me, but the barber did the best he could with what he had to work with.

Since I only get a shave and a haircut once a month, my appearance is usually midway between 'basic trainee' and 'terrorist in training'.

Unexpectedly, I found myself back in the Elvis restaurant.  Certainly, I did take the subway there and walk to it but it was the siren call of hamburgers that brought me.

Because I am a perverse person, I instead had a very mediocre steak burger while being freaked out by the numerous statues and pictures of 'the King'.



NERO STORY

The cabana boy story:  Once upon a time, Derek and I went up to Canada.  I don't remember which chapter.

We found some young guy and hired him to be our 'cabana boy'.

Any time we would call out "Oh cabana boy!"  He was to loudly and immediately sound off with "Yo ho ho sir!".

He did literally everything for us - fetching drinks for us, doing our dirty dishes, being ambushed by monsters if we thought there might be a trap.

If we saw him sneaking up on monsters, we would call "Oh cabana boy!" just for the hilarity that would ensue.

Note, for those that are reading this thinking "So you abused this poor low level newbie for the entire event, yes.  Yes we did.  But we did promise to pay him well.  We didn't.  We paid him obscenely well.  We may have left him the richest guy in his chapter.

I consider him a crunchy because he would die very quick.  I have a very broad view of 'crunchies' - they include low level players.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

HIP PLACES TO EAT IN TBILISI GEORGIA

MCDONALDS

Love it or loath it, McDonalds seems to be a fairly accurate representation of American culture.  Though not the best food by a long shot, falling woefully short in anything approaching 'nutrition' and packed with enough calories that a single meal could suffice from the day, all McDonalds serve approximately the same crap and that attracts people in droves.

Years back, someone had submitted a paper stating that no two countries with the McDonalds restaurant had ever been at war.  Guessing he got paid a lot for this but how he padded it out to an entire paper as opposed to a memo remains a mystery.

McDonalds is so prolific if we had a real space program it would be interplanetary.  Perhaps it is the fear of gaining several unwanted kilos keep alien races from first contact with Earth.

The McDonalds in Tbilisi has quite a veneer of hip on top of the normal Georgian business practices which I term "WTF business".  Fashionable chairs, a wooden paneled curving staircase and American street music contrive to give the art deco look to this McDonalds.

The Georgian part comes in with the hiring of four extra pretty women in tight skirts.  Two sit behind a desk while the other two roam the floor of the restaurant.  Their purpose in the restaurant is mysterious - probably just to give the owner more status by employing extra people.  The trendy bathrooms do not include paper towels and to get even ketchup, you will shell out .7 GEL per packet.  BBQ sauce is cheaper at .55 GEL.

Many people habitually eat fast food without apparent side effects, but a resistance can be built up to iocane powder as well.  A bit of sickness and mopery dog me the day after ingesting this processed crap.  It must be done to touch base with the American roots.



ELVIS RESTAURANT

I've always been wary of people who still celebrate Elvis.  Too much Elvis paraphernalia gets my Agent Orange up and I start feeling stabby.  They were rumored to have a tasty burger there and since no 'Big Kahuna Burgers' were around, off I went.

Lots of Elvis stuff around though they didn't play Elvis music over the PA.  I counted myself lucky and figured that the staff would go postal at the 1083rd rendition of 'Love Me Tender'.

It was stylish and clean, an unholy combination of a 1950's diner and 'art deco' stuff made possible with special lubrication.

The burger was alright but nothing to get too excited about.  Sure, it was better than McDonalds but what isn't?



HEALTH WATCH

Logan is up to 125 KG.  Forced inactivity combined with blisters from distressed footwear have moved the weight up a bit though I still look thinner in kilos than I ever did in pounds.


Since Georgian bandages (plaster) contains some sort of acid.  I've had bandages from several countries but these are the first which seem to dissolve the top layer of skin and peel off the second.  It is pretty disgusting.  Hence, we're no longer using those.  Now, I have a giant piece of gauze wrapped around my waist several times, pulled as tight as an overweight girls clothing with my blubber hanging out of the top and bottom.  The spherical surface the wrap is on causes it to roll to lessen the protection.  The doctor did say to keep it covered and that's what I'm trying to do.

The doctor also said not to get it wet from the shower.  In this I have been less successful as this country doesn't stock large sized water proof bandages so as a compromise, showering has become an every other day ritual for awhile.  Can't wait until this scar heals.  I feel like an American football.

Tomorrow, perhaps, the stitches come out.  The second set of stitches, that is.



GEORGIAN HEALTH

Georgia has never been bitten by the 'diet bug'.  Healthy food and exercise have never really caught on here and if someone was so inclined they would have to be rich.  The cheap food to eat is bread and everyone who knows about health knows bread is not your friend.  The average Georgian consumes a staggering amount of bread daily.  Call it a loaf or two.



PRICES

McDonalds or Elvis, 10-15 GEL, depending on what you order.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

POST APPENDIX BLUES

POST APPENDIX BLUES

To set up my latest "WTF is going on in my life" moment, I am going to need to set the stage a bit.

I am working at a hostel in Tbilisi.  The owner and his wife are off touring western Europe.  The owners mother comes in to do things at the hostel while he is away.  There is also a South African girl (the sturdy, competent type named Brigid) who has been working here for months.

As mentioned previously, I had told Brigid I was heading to the hospital.  She was not worried at all.  "You're a big boy" was all she said.

The owners mother went...the other route.  She freaked out.

Freaked the fuck out.

I thought she had just called a bunch of hospitals.

No.

She called the Georgian police.

They looked for me.

On Facebook.

Go take a look at the picture of me on a camel.

Yeah.  The one on my profile.

According to other Georgians, that picture made an appearance on Georgian TV.

So.  To all of those people who make "FML" posts, I think I can say I have one upped you.  Sure, it would suck more if my computer blew up - but having the Georgian police airing a picture of you riding a camel and saying "Have you seen this man or his camel?" on TV is at least a tad more interesting.





TWO DAYS LATER

I was just sitting around.  I'm spending even more time than normal doing that because I don't want to aggravate my wound.

I had brushed my hand over my shirt where the wound is because it was feeling a bit moist.   Behold, my scar had popped back open.

After a brief photo op with a reluctant and grossed out cameraman (Brigid) it was back to the hospital with me.

A local, two stitches and crappily put on band-aid and I'm back.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

FUN AT THE GEORGIAN HOSPITAL

THE BIG HOSPITAL STORY

[Disclaimer 1:  If you are easily grossed out, be advised that this may be as hard to stomach as mongoloid porn.]

[Disclaimer 2:  This is written a bit disjointedly.  I apologize for that.  However, I am still a bit out of it and in considerable pain.]

Throughout the day, I had diarrhea.

No big deal - I am in a foreign country, eating foreign food.  It happens.  I carry anti-bacterials on me for just such an occasion.  I popped a couple and just dealt with it.

This time was different.

I woke up to discover I had 'sharted' myself.  For those not in the know, it is what happens when you thought you'd fart, but shit came out.  This was unusual because I'd done it in my sleep.

OK.  Off to the bathroom to change my pants and clean up.  \

These things happen I suppose but this was a first.

Then, I woke up to discover I had truly messed myself in goo.  And  I had a bit of stomach pain.

Since I had no other clean clothing, I washed these off, put them back on and went downstairs to wake Bridget.  She has been in Georgia for a year or two and might have some useful information.

I asked her to write 'doctor' in Georgian in my notebook.  Since it was 5:30AM, she wrote it in English.  Not a lot of help but she tried.

I went down the hill feeling a bit like a sieve to the small square near the hostel.  There are usually a couple of taxi cabs there.  The drivers didn't understand the words for 'hospital', 'doctor', 'help' or 'sick'.  I should really learn more Russian.  Eventually, I found a friendly Georgian here on vacation from his new home in the USA to translate.

They got me to a hospital.  I had no clue which one.

This was a hospital out of horror movies.  In most hospitals, the emergency entrance has some doctors or nurses loitering around just in case someone pulls up spurting blood.   Although it wasn't blood I was spurting, it would have been nice to see someone.

Instead, there were darkened corridors and closed doors.

The cab driver was nice enough to come in with me and made noise to wake - yes, wake - the staff who were asleep in various rooms to explain my situation to them.

A team of doctors were eventually summoned to deal with this foreigner.  They spoke no English.  Surprisingly, they did speak very bad German.

It amazes me how often that language comes up.  It makes me feel a bit validated for all that time I spent studying it.

Eventually, it was determined that I was American and a couple doctors who spoke very bad English were summoned.

So it became a three way linguistic ho down  - Georgian, English and German.  Yee haw.

After doing a bit of pushing and prodding on my stomach, three different people announced it was my appendix.    Since I know that an appendicitis is an expensive, painful and expensive operation I asked if there was anything else that could be done to make sure.  They smeared goo on the hurty area and rubbed a wand on it so they could see what was up.  Was it an ultrasound?  An MRI?  Magic?  Didn't care.  The results told them it was time for them to cut me open.  It was explained that the diarrhea is a symptom as well.

Cost naturally came up.

I explained to them with great difficulty and only gradually that I have no insurance.  Statements like "Who travels without insurance?" came up.  Well, poor people.

The head of the hospital (nicknamed 'the professor') and five others showed up to argue about the money part.

The price was disclosed to be $600.  Goodbye, savings.  I did get them to agree that this was the 'total price' because they wanted to keep tacking on other crap in the great tradition of hospitals everywhere.

Spending lots of money is worse than accidental death.  Poverty is the gift that keeps on giving.  With death, you're only fucked once.

They brought me paperwork to sign.  It was all in Georgian.  I don't read or understand any of it.  Rather than signing, I just wrote "I don't understand Georgian" in English at each place they wanted me to sign.  This seemed to satisfy the guy and he went away.  Yes, I know that in sue happy America they won't treat you unless you sign their crap but this is a whole different world.

It was the first time I ever walked into a surgery before.  In every other hospital, they stick you into a bed with wheels (possibly a gurney) and wheel you in there.  Here, I walked in.

It might be worth noting they did not give me any other clothing.  I was still in my literally shit stained clothing.

Yeah - I was operated on while still wearing these clothes.

After I laid down on the table, everything started in flashes -

Blacking in and out
In so much pain my teeth were chattering

Eventually, I came around in my very basic room.  There were two gurneys in there with blankets reading "US" on them.  I got one.  This is their idea of a private room.  Unfortunately, the walls were so thin I'm not sure if it actually helped.  These beds were very narrow and about as comfortable as hostel beds.

There are no 'nurse call' buttons.  If you want something, scream for ten minutes.

No food is permitted on the first day.

They had no straws.  Weird - and really a pain in the ass to those who trying to sit up causes them a world of pain.  Heck, there wasn't even any soap or toilet paper in the bathroom.  Bring your own.

With nurses so difficult to summon, I was very curious to see what would have happened if I had to crap or pee.  In retrospect, I'd have probably just had to lie in it.  Glad I didn't need to.

The whole medical  system is set up on the premise you will have your family with you.  Should you need anything one of them is dispatched to get a nurse.  This includes food.  The hospital doesn't serve it.  You have to give a nurse money - she runs out and buys something from the market for you.  Better still, your family brings you food.

The nurses didn't have any monitoring equipment hooked up to me and checked on me only infrequently.  Honestly, the hospitals in India were more modern.

The first day gave me a lot of really vivid drug dreams as well as convincing me that 'Intelligent Design' is utter bullshit.  Not only is the appendix completely useless but if you've ever bitten the inside of your cheek while chewing you have to doubt the competency of any deity you are 'made in the image of'.

One of the things which went  through my head is 'what kind of food would I love to have right now' - assuming eating whatever I wanted wouldn't cause me to die or explode.  The surprising answer was Bert Isla's Thanksgiving feast.  Yeah, that was awesome and all home made.

On the second day, I was permitted bread (cracker crunchy type) and tea.

I spent the entire day lying around in the clothing I'd shit in, then had surgery in.  I smelled fantastic.

The hospital seemed to me very 'USSR style'.

The only cleaning done was by one of the old women wearing all black.  She came in with a mop and did a very perfunctory sweep with it then left.  If something was spilled (it was) on the floor later, tough.  It doesn't get cleaned until the next scheduled time.

One skill which seems pretty basic to me for nurses is how to run an IV.  They had a lot of problems doing it.  At one point, it just leaked out all over the bed instead of going into me.  They shrugged and took off the IV and removed the needle.  Perhaps they figured I was full.

Because I didn't have any phone numbers on me, my only visitor was some old lady who wanted to sell me stuff.

Speaking with the sister of a lady who had the same procedure it turns out that I got charged the same as natives.  That makes me happy.

Somehow, I don't see Georgia becoming a 'medical tourism' destination.

Eventually, it became time to pay.  The best thing to do after really painful surgery is walk for several blocks because the hospital doesn't take credit cards.  No kidding.

After paying, I departed.  I'll have to go back in a week to get my Frankenstein like stitches removed.



RETURN TO THE HOSTEL

Something I totally didn't expect was the reception I got.  The owners mother was freaking out as though I'd been shot and carted off to an unknown hospital.  Bridget, the lady I'd worked with was  completely neutral.  She knew I'd be back when I could.

The funny thing is that the owners mother had gone through my gear trying to find my name and such to give to the police.  It wasn't in the gear.  Logan is a cautious and suspicious person.





Monday, October 1, 2012

CAMBODIA TO GEORGIA

LEAVING SIEM REAP

The torrential rains of the night before seem to have mostly drained away.

I arrived about forty minutes early to the bus station.  The people at the Siem Reap hotel I'd been staying were very sad to see me go.

Even at 7:20 AM, the day was getting very sweaty.

An Aussy dressed in poofy pants, a cowboy hat and a bed sheet in place of a sheet met me at the bus station.  His name was Joey and I spoke with him a bit as we went.  When asked about the bed sheet, he explained that all of his shirts had gotten wet in the previous nights downpour and it was the only dry thing he had to wear.   Instead of purchasing extra shirts as he had intended, he got drunk and bought three different hammocks.  Funny ole world...    



ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK - AGAIN

It was a dark and stormy night when I finally arrived in Bangkok.

During the storm, Joey wanted to hang out under an awning.  Since I was getting soaked along with my gear it became time to part company.  The bindle was getting heavier and heavier as it absorbed more water.

After diving into an Indian restaurant to eat the best mutton curry ever, I bargained down a tuk tuk from his wildly optimistic 500 THB to 300 THB and took the uncomfortable ride to the Sukhimvit district.   Because of the rain and the time of night, I'd considered just staying in the Khao San Road area.  On their price cards, they usually have one reasonably priced 'simple' room and several other very high priced options.  The 'simple rooms' - if they ever really existed - are always full.

Stopping twice to argue with the tuk tuk driver that he should actually take me to my destination rather than dropping me off in the middle of nowhere and one other time so he could ask someone more competent where it actually was that he claimed to know, I got dropped off at the hostel.

This is the same hostel I had met two people I'd seen in different parts of the world.  Yes, I met someone else I'd seen in a different part of the world there.  Kind of an interesting vibe to that place.

The hostel was - with three notable exceptions - filled with the usual foreigners who liked to alternate between partying hard and sleeping.

Two of the exceptions were an old couple staying at the hostel.  Possibly in their eighties, I thought they were someone's grandparents who were meeting them at a hostel.  They said they had been vacationing and staying at hostels for the last four decades.  Their only complaint was that the young people pretty much ignored them.

Ignoring the old couple, I went to bed early.

Since I knew the partiers would be inconsiderate and definitely wouldn't be carrying flashlights, I just left the light on when I went to sleep.  Easier.

The air conditioner was blasting cold enough it gave me a new cough for a couple days.  Despite that, my body was still hot in that room.  Odd.  I punished the young people by sleeping only in my underwear.  They avoided me after that.

The next day, I awoke early and talked to the third exception at hostel.  He  was an old redneck named Mike.  He has inoperable lung cancer and a two pack a day habit.  He spoke of perhaps quitting smoking.  Since the doctors told him he only had six months to live I said "Smoke up.  Enjoy your remaining time how you want."  He had come to Thailand to live on a beach till death takes him.  That way, he can enjoy himself and not be a burden to his family.

Sounds like a plan to me.

We talked about having both served in the same town in Korea although a decade apart.

After that, I took my leave of him and headed to the airport.

On the way, a couple cops told me to go stand over there, possibly due to my jaywalking.  They were then distracted by several other people jaywalking.  During their distraction, I wandered off.  I didn't feel like paying bribes to the police just then.

After a couple blocks, I recalled I'd left one of my locks attached to an empty locker.  Didn't feel like going back to see if the police were upset with my earlier disappearance and reasoned that buying a new lock would be cheaper than buying two cops.

Off to the airport.

Arrived eight hours before my flight, five hours before I could have even checked in.  Some people would say I could have left my bag at the hostel and gone around Bangkok.  Been there so often there is absolutely nothing I want to do.

The big back is up to 17.9 KG.  Possibly something to do with the new business cards printed in Cambodia.

The Bangkok airport has one of those new 'controversial but accepted because we are more scared of terrorists than keeping our rights' body scanners at the airport.

As readers know, I wear a couple of pouches inside my shirt for money and ID's.  They insisted I put the pouches through the xray machine.  Despite the machine being able to see through my clothing to look at my pathetic little cock, they wanted my security pouches off.

I stripped off my shirt and the pouches and dumped all of that into the xray machine.  Going through dressed in only my shorts, I raised my hands and said "If you need to frisk me I totally understand and am happy to comply."

The Thais stared in horror as the waves of fat rippled like currents in the sea.

A couple other tourists goggled at me and I said "Yeah, they're a bit strict on their security here...  It's almost as bad as in the USA.  At least here I don't have to get naked and have a cavity search!"

My goods were quickly returned aside from a bottle of water and my beloved mosquito killing device.  These were taken away.  Sad.

The best thing about the Bangkok airport is a cheaply priced 7-11 within the airport.  This is a good place to eat and drink while living in the airport.

If I eat fast food, I feel sick for a day afterward.  Not sure why - possibly the low food value and toxins within the food.  Despite this, I did look into the prices of Burger King at the airport.  Drink, burger and fries - $13.  Screw that.

Security and customs took about two hours.   I was told that my bag would next be seen in Istanbul.  I was hopeful.

The lady at the Malaysian Air counter interrogated me about my length of stay in Istanbul.  Started having bad flashbacks about the Philippines fiasco where I had to trash the ticket due to having no 'onward tickets'.

She seemed satisfied with my explanation I'd be taking a bus immediately out to the Republic of Georgia.  I exhaled.

While waiting on the plane, someone else got hauled off for not having 'onward ticket'.

Super.

The flight was one of those 'good news, bad news' things.  The layout of the chairs was two, aisle, five then two.  I got lucky and was in one of the two.  The bad news is that it was a 'screaming baby' flight.

During the flight, some cross eyed kid kept staring at me.  Then again, maybe he wasn't.



WELCOME TO TURKEY

Going through Turkish customs from the airport was dead easy.

I found the line marked 'visa', handed them my passport with $20 USD and got a visa.  No questions at all then a new line to get a stamp and off I went.

The airport in Istanbul is one of those which has a subway under it.  Figuring I'm eventually going to need to head back to Turkey, I hit an ATM rather than getting raped by the money changers.  Figure I'll play the Jason Bourne game with currency.  Since the ATM only gives 100 lira notes, I went to a money changer and got some change.  The currency exchange guy thought that was a good idea.

When I got down to the subway, lo, the machine accepts only 5, 10 or 20 denomination notes.  Go team.

For three lira I got a subway ticket and went ten stops to the 'autogar'.  This is the main bus depot.

When I arrived, it looked like a big open square surrounded by various transport agencies.  Like the center of a flower.  Around this like the pedals and screened by buildings are the actual buses.

Turkish for 'bus station' seems to be 'argument'.

Since plane tickets were selling in excess of 300 euros and going through either Munich Germany or Kiev and a Russian prison term for no visa bus seemed a better choice.  On the plane, a Turk was telling me that a plane would actually be the better option but it turned out he had wildly over estimated the cost of a bus ticket and horribly under estimated the cost of a plane ticket.  Bus wins.

A guy asked me where I was going then took me on a long walk to one of the sellers.  This is a mistake, I should have just sought out the Metro bus office.  Metro is a good line and cheaper than the others.  After taking me to the office the guy seemed to be expecting a tip.  I gave him 5 lira.  He grumbled but took it.  Figured that meant it was about the right amount.

While in Turkey, I couldn't find any Turks who spoke English any better than I speak Arabic, French or Korean (aka 'poorly') but due to the number who have dealings with Germany, it was again German for the win.  I was able to use that at a restaurant.  I suspect they heaped my plate a bit higher as well as forcing a free tea on me because I knew German.  Excellent.

One nice thing about the buses in Turkey is that unlike other parts of the world, they keep them quiet.  Everyone gets their own little TV and headphones.  With the exception of a couple hours near the end, no idiots played their music over the speaker.  I know we have that sort of thing where people are subjecting others to their music in public places but it is hoped that people outgrow it by the time they are done being teenagers.

For Logan, a quiet bus is a happy bus.  I can listen to my MP3's and sleep.

The Turks gave up trying to communicate to me in anything other than Turkish since I seemed to understand them.  Go go body language and voice inflection.



INTO GEORGIA

Compared to entering Turkey from the airport where the 'well heeled' (rich) guests come into the country, crossing land borders is always a bit of a 'cluster fuck'.  Daily laborers going back and forth, people hauling goods, lots of trucks, whatever.

To go through the border, we had to dismount the bus leaving our stuff.  We walked to the place to get our passports stamped out.  After getting our passports stamped (eventually) we waited for the bus to make it's way through the onslaught of trucks.  When the bus arrived, we retrieved all of our possessions so we could go through the Georgian side.  I was carefully told by a border guard who I don't think spoke English "Welcome to Georgia".  None of the Turks were told this.  Perhaps they like seeing an American passport.

If you are coming via the border from Turkey into Georgia headed to Batumi and wanted to save time, you could grab everything off of the bus immediately, walk through both borders and immediately catch a taxi.  That would save perhaps half hour to an hour.

After crossing the border, it was eight more hours (of my 26 total hour bus ride) to get to Tbilisi.  Most of the distance between Batumi and Tbilisi is twisting and winding roads.  I know they have night buses and such but no clue how anyone could sleep on them.  I'd have to be passed out from exhaustion to do so.  There are some pretty scenic parts  to see.

Having traveled without cease or shower, I got pretty ripe after three days.



ARRIVAL IN GEORGIA

What I had expected and what I got were remarkably different.

When I left, the hostel had lots of the owners (multiple owners) friends hanging out here, drinking, partying and so on.  As I understand it, the hostel is now owned by just one of the original owners.  The others have gone off to do other jobs.

There were no excited Georgians around to greet me and chat with.  I was disappointed and miss them.

There is a nice lady from South Africa named Bridget who I will be getting to know well as we'll be working closely together for several weeks.  I also got to go out to have some food and wine (very cheap at 4-5 GEL for a liter) with so I am not complaining.



TURKISH CHARACTER

Compared to SE Asia, the Turks I witnessed seemed extremely aggressive.  I'm not talking about violent or hostile but much like Indians who will cut in front of you in lines and so on.  Their body language and demeanor also seemed to suggest this.



NOTE TAKING

Whenever I pull out my notebook and take notes I get curious reactions from the natives.  Some look at me in amusement, some in amazement and some in horror as though I am making notes to pass along to the secret police on their behavior.



VALUABLE LANGUAGE TRAINING SKILLS

Turkey dubs the American movies they get.  This is why the people there don't speak much English.  Dubbing deprives people of valuable free language training as well as making the movie crappy.



REFLEXIVE ACTIONS

Do you remember when you were young and a doctor took a small hammer and hit you near your knee?  Do you remember how your foot - void of any conscious action on your part kicked him square in the testicles?  How the doctor doubled over and began to vomit?  All of these things are what I am terming 'reflexive actions'.  If you were someone like Travis and pulling out a gun and saying "Try that one more time..."

But I digress.

Reflexive actions.

The next time someone tells you there is a difference between normal heat and dry heat, the reflexive action  should be to backhand them.

Either way, you are miserable.

I've lived in Asia now for about a year and am happy to be moving on tomorrow.  I've been to 'non-hot heat' and dry heat counting at least three different deserts.

Miserable and I am tired of smelling Logan.

Tomorrow, should all go according to plan, I will spend a day in Thailand then heading back to Turkey to make the trip to Georgia.

[As a side note, the last person to slap Travis was the doctor when Travis had just been born.  Travis is still looking for him.  In the doctors defense, as all doctors dealing with newborns they say the slap on the rear is to give  them a general idea as to what they should expect form life.]



MP3 PLAYER

Mysteriously, my MP3 player began working again.  This makes me quite happy because in Siem Reap, you are given two basic Chinese knockoff choices - 2gig for $35 or 4gig for $45.  This seems a fairly unreasonable price to me as they have 8gig for $30 on Amazon.

Who needs so much storage room?

Music can be uplifting, relaxing and inspiring.  However, I usually find it after enough repetition to be dull and trite.  Music teaches me nothing.  Books on  the other hand, can offer much.

Books take significantly more room than a few crooned melodies.

We'll see if better offerings present themselves in Georgia.



INTERESTING  ARTICLE

The Five Best did a nice article on beer drinking.  The number five company surprised me.



SHOE STORY

Yet another sandal has broken.  Sadly, it is always the left one which breaks.  Were it otherwise, in addition to my badly patched clothing mismatched sandals could complete the ensemble.



CAMBODIAN BUSINESS MODELS

There is a restaurant close to the hotel.  It is a pretty pricey place on good real estate.  Looks very nice.  The place can hold about a hundred people.  

There are three outdoor cooks, more in the back - and about ten wait staff.

The owners are opening another restaurant within the even more valuable 'Pub Street'.

What confuses me is that this restaurant rarely - if ever has customers.  I've been there several times in several different months and this is always the case.

How the heck do they make money?



STORY IDEA

Hookers, Ho!

A story of dirty pirate hookers through the ages.  Follow these lusty beauties as they ply their trade upon the Seven Seas pursued by an evil Englishman who is intent on making them all disappear!



LOGAN MEDICAL

127 KG.  I can't recall if that is up or down from previous.  I'm guessing up due to Mexican food.  So good.




CAMBODIAN PRICES

Sandals, $10.  Note, prices before bartering can start as high as 150%.

Bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok, $10.



THAILAND PRICES

An excellent meal in the Khao San district of Bangkok of Indian food, $10.

Travel from Khao San Road (the cut off from the rest of the tourist district by intent so the cab drivers can squeeze the tourists for money) to Sukhimvit district by a filthy smelly tuk tuk, $10.


Sukhimvit to the airport via 'sky train', about $3 USD.



TURKEY PRICES

Plane ticket from Istanbul to Tblisi, around 300 euros or more.
Bus ticket of same, 100 Turkish Lira.   Note, "Metro" is only 90 lira.  Go Metro!

Access to a filthy squat toilet, 1 lira.

Cup of tea, small, 1 lira.

What is claimed to be 'Turkish Fanta' and isn't as good, 2 lira

Saturday, September 22, 2012

FOUR DAYS TILL LEAVING SE ASIA

NARRATIVE

Still hanging around Cambodia eating Mexican food.  In about four days unless everything goes to hell a plane should be winging me rapidly toward Istanbul.   Since enough of this town has been seen to  be ignored, books have been read and a pretty awful free MMORPG called 'Crystal Saga' have been my only indulgences.

It will be nice to return to the Republic of Georgia.



SHOE STORY

Since making the extremely minimal effort at health known as 'walking around', shoes have begun to be demolished as rapidly as cheesecakes in times past.  Not only have my Czech walking shoes moved into the irreparable category but yet another pair of sandals has been lost.

Only the left shoe of the sandals seems to get destroyed.  Apparently left handed is indeed left footed as forensics has taught and the strain upon the primary foot greater.  This has ruined yet another left sandal.   Should it have been the right, perhaps mismatched sandals could have been added to patched and sewn shorts and - regrettably - tee-shirts.

Asia has become synonymous with a vast over abundance of shoe stores.   Should all shoe stores be forced to close and give their stock without charge to the inhabitants of the country, every person would be ten pair of shoes to the better.

Sadly the fashion of these shoes is regrettably Asian.  Shoes made by the same culture that thinks multicolored lights within a mouse which twinkle incessantly does not make the sort of unobtrusive goods I prefer.  Not being a teenage girl nor redneck, these sorts of overenthusiastic products are made to attract attention.

Better if my shoes made no sort of statement than quiet and competent.  Gaudiness pulls attention from where I'd prefer it - my face and my words just as the  overenthusiastic mouse draws attention from the computer screen with it's needless incessant carnival light show.

Knowing that any pair of sandals I purchased with the shoddy workmanship endemic to Asia will perish within a couple months, I went for low price and managed to ruthlessly bargain a poor lady down to $10.  Given that I may have been her only customer for the day it eludes me how she and others are able to keep their stalls open.




BOOK REVIEWS

John Keegan, "Winston Churchill - A Life".

Long have I had an abiding interest in Winston Churchill.  Arguably the greatest Englishman ever and certainly one of the most determined people to have lived.  Long conversations chiding my friend Matt Lunn that he wasn't nearly as cool as Winston Churchill come to mind.  His retort that I wasn't all that cool fell of deaf ears as I wasn't even English.

Reading this book helped dispel some of the illusions about W.S.  He was a great man - but a deeply flawed.  He was extremely smart but prone to many poor choices.

Overall, an excellent book.  It was detailed without becoming dull.  Unlike some of the other biographies of W.S. I've read this one kept things moving along at a fast enough clip you could listen to it without either nodding off or slitting your wrists.



Stephen Fry "Moab is My Washpot"

Prior to listening to this, I only had three thoughts on Stephen Fry:

1.  He is a 'treasure of England'.  This is the guy whose sonorous voice did the wildly money generating 'Harry Potter' audio books.  And, he just seems to be a 'treasure of England' though I'm sure that many people - including Stephen Fry - may disagree with that.

2.  He is a very smart person.  I've seen him on QI - 'Quite Interesting'.  I know that they feed him a lot of the answers and such via an ear piece, but this guy strikes me as very smart indeed.

3.  He is funny and has been in several comedy TV shows and movies.

After listening to the first twenty years of his life in autobiographical terms, my opinion of him is the same as of Winston Churchill after listening to a biography of him.  Both men are deeply flawed individuals, very human and it would be very nice to know them personally.  They are interesting people.

As to the book itself, Mr. Fry is very easy to listen to.  Much of what he says is interesting though he goes off onto huge tangents and a bit of rambling.  Since it is his autobiography, I feel he is allowed to do so.  Glad I heard it though it won't become something like the Discworld  series that I like to listen to again after a period of time has passed.


The Fry Chronicles - an Autobiography

This book picks up where 'Moab' leaves off and covers the next decade.

Although it is an interesting look into the rapid catapulting into fame, it wasn't as endearing as Moab.  Also, he makes  quick reference to many names, businesses, products and such that - not being English - I've never heard of.  For his countrymen, these probably bring a quick whiff of memory.  For foreigners, they become tedious lists of no consequence to the overall narrative.

Interesting but not as poignant as Moab.


Stuff White People Like


Currently listening to the book "Stuff White People Like".  As the philosopher Homer Simpson once said "It's funny because it's true."

They even covered an experience I've noted earlier in my blog about how upset other white people get when they are traveling abroad, in an obscure place and spot a fat white guy lounging around.  Since this destroys both their 'unique experience' as well as the 'authenticity' and they no longer feel like some sort of explorer, they become sad and upset.

Wack jobs.

The book itself is ironic and humorous.  Reading it immediately brings to mind many people who are white and middle class I know.  Disturbingly, I myself have done many of the things listed there.

More disturbingly, various directors and such listed are completely unfamiliar.

I don't feel like I am being a good white person.  I didn't even get a liberal arts degree.

I recommend this audio book.



LUMSIE STORIES (NERO LARP)

Lumsie loved the undead. Being a necromancer was great. Story: I was up at a chapter in Canada. It was dark and foggy out and all of the PC's were hiding in their cabins. "What's up?" Oh, I was told, there are loads of undead out there. We're going to stay in here till the morning. "Bugger that." So Lumsie wanders out of the warded cabin. Immediately two death knights jump out of the shadows. "Take me to your leader, beotches!" One is into it, the other makes lots of threats. I am taken to the leader. He rants about how it is his town, everyone is his subjects and he will crush everyone. Including me. Then, he asks who I am. "Brother Lumsie!" The guy playing the NPC and the NPC himself were both of one mind at this point. "Oh my god!" He gushes. "I have always wanted to meet you!" Big hand shakes and back slapping all around. Lumsie points to one of the death knights. "He was mean to me." Glower and a growled "I will deal with him...later..." The death knight shifted uneasily. I was then taken on a tour of the town and given armed death knight escort back to my cabin when tired. Upon gaining entry "Were you OK?" "Yeah", I responded. "Pretty quiet out there..."

Lumsie was hanging out in the woods.  There were half dozen ogres wandering around throwing up.  Their blood had apparently been tainted.  Tempest (Seth Warfield) wandered up and screeched in the high pitched dragon voice "Lumsie!  What happened?"  Lumsie, looking panicked said "Plague!  Real sudden like!  Best I should go!" and scurried off.  Tempest glared after Lumsie grunting "Uh huh..."


Big I'm not sure but one that comes to mind:  Lumsie has undead for parents.  'Not consorting' is simply not able to be done as it would be 'rude'.  So, it is Lumsie's birthday, Oct 31.

There were only a few people in the tavern.  Lumsie's mother (played by Amy L) - a very nasty vampire - swoops into the tavern with several minions.  Everything stops.  The people who are there are either unwilling or unable to take on this level of Fa King undead.  Plus, to do so might start a really nasty interplanular war.  They just sit, riveted to their seats.

Amy had baked me a chocolate cake.

It got very 'upper class English' after that.  "Lumsie are you being good?"  "Yes mummy!" and so on.

She would alternatively threaten and speak at the other people in the tavern.  Whenever she had her back turned, I stuffed as much of the chocolate cake into my mouth as possible.  When she looked back, sit up straight and attentive - with huge chunks of chocolate cake falling out of my mouth.

She utterly failed to notice - by design is my guess since my face looked like I'd eaten out a chocolate golem.

"Yes mummy!" I'd say in stereotypical upper crust English to whatever question she had or statement she made then back to the face stuffing.

The thing I remember most about that whole scene was the frozen looks on the witnesses faces, halfway between humor and horror.  It was a nice birthday for Lumsie.




Wednesday, September 12, 2012

GOD IS ANGRY WITH YOU

While I wait for my flight back to Istanbul, here are a couple things that have been going on.  Wanted to publish this fast because thunder just went off that was so loud it sounded like Siem Reap was getting shelled.  It is only a matter of time before the electricity goes off.



SHOE STORY


Managed to find yet another thing not to do.

My ratty, many times patched up Czech walking shoes had gotten wet at some point in Trat, Thailand.  Since I had to  move locations, the shoes were sealed into a plastic bag.

And forgotten about. 

For two weeks.

Upon opening the bag a quite memorable smell drifted out.  Rather than keeping it to myself, I put the shoes out in the hallway to sulk from neglect.

The choices were clear - either buy new shoes or find some stuff that kills bacteria.

The anti bacterial spray is the better option.  Less money and the shoes are as broken in as they can get without removing the soles.

Six stores later and it is becoming clear that Cambodians don't know what 'bacteria' are.  Nobody has any sort  of antibacterial spray.  Some rub  on ointment but that really doesn't seem like a good idea for sneakers.  Not only would I feel like a tool sitting around massaging old ratty shoes but walking would be...squishier.  

Option two is new shoes.

Asians seem obsessed with shoes.  If all of the shoe stores were instantly teleported out from malls, the buildings would collapse from structural failure.

Looking closer at the shoes in a couple stores I am uncertain which are better - the falling apart held together with miscellaneous patches and uncertain stitching ones I've already got or the ones in the stores.  They were that bad.  

Perhaps tomorrow I'll go look for other shoes but honestly, I'm uncertain as to what makes a 'walking shoe' as opposed to other types of shoes.  Since few people around speak English there probably won't be any help from that quarter.




Thought for the day:

Back when I was living in the USA, one of the flavors of ramen I ate was 'oriental'.  I've lived in SE Asia for about a year.

I have yet to come across 'oriental flavor'.

What the fuck is 'oriental flavor'?

[Note for the Americans so overwhelmed by political correctness they consider 'oriental' to be a 'bad thing'.

Get over yourselves.

The people of SE Asia use it in advertising.  The have places called the 'Oriental Hotel' and such.  They don't think it's a 'bad thing'.  If you ask them if they are 'oriental' they would just be confused and say "No, I am Thai" or whatever country they are from.

Only the USA has gotten fucked up enough where it considers it an 'insult'.]



LARP

Lumsie story

Fond memory from NERO Kzoo:  I was in the tavern and saw three guys getting in the 'lets kill this bitch' position on a fourth guy.  I think he was accused of necromancy or something.   Nothing that violated Lumsie's personal ethos.

After watching for a second, Lumsie yelled "Hey look at me!"

He began dancing around and such.  I didn't think the guy would take the hint but after a second of gawking, he noticed the other three guys were gawking and made his escape.

What made it really funny was that one of the guys went to Seth to cry about it.  I listened in on Seth Warfield's conversation with him:  "It is not Logan's fault that Lumsie is extremely charismatic and distracting.  You just have to ignore him."

The guy continued to prattle on about how unfair it was but Seth shut him down in a much nicer way than I would have.   Probably because Seth had two factors I do not:  a) respect for all people, regardless of how whiny they are and b) knowledge that this person was a customer.

I can't remember what I did but I think it was something extremely immature, like dance around distractingly every time the guy looked in my direction.



MOVIE REVIEWS

MOVIE REVIEW - PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Finally watched "Phantom of the Opera". Couple decent songs and a whole lot of fast forwarding. I think Pratchett in his Discworld book Masquerade did a better job of capturing the freaked out spirit of Opera but they did pretty well in this movie. I just enjoyed the tongue in cheek humor of Pratchett more. Some great scenery in the movie as well as people who are clearly out of their mind. I suspect from not eating enough.  I would like to say that if you see this movie, do so for the amazing sets and stuff.  Very nice.  Not enough to carry the movie but if you're being forced to watch it (probably by a girl who thinks it is romantic rather than that the heroine is a selfish, stupid whore), the scenery will give you something to look at.


MOVIE REVIEW - I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL


I had tried to listen to this book.  Not as good as his second "Assholes Finish First" (second book) and deleted it.  The movie wasn't very good.  I give it five out of ten though I must confess I fast forwarded through chunks of it.  Not really worth watching, nor listening to the first book but I did get some chuckles out of his second book.  Apparently, he got better with experience.




GOD IS ANGRY WITH YOU

Why?  Because he's a vengeful bitch.  Now, go make him turkey pot pie!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NEW TERM - DITA

LEAVING TRET FOR SIEM REAP

When traveling overland in Asia, you learn to expect a certain amount of DITA from various problems incurred while traveling.   This is due to an unholy mix of poorly (non) maintained gear, general incompetence, poor driving skills and few driving rules.  [If you think this is harsh, I watched the bus driver nearly kill some guy on a scooter because he'd let his gaze wander out the window to the side of the road and linger there for over 8-10 seconds while traveling at speed.  That was just today.]

Although I did get some DITA, overall it was a very smooth trip.

Term:  DITA

The more clean minded of you can think of this as a frustrating situation.  The less clean minded think about rectal pain and build up from there.

To my extreme shock, the mini van was on time, nearly to the minute.  The discrepancy (being on time) was made up by the vehicle needing some sort of repair work.  A couple stops en route were made looking for the needed part but nothing was found.  Thought we were going to make it all the way to the border but a French couple wanted them to stop for a bathroom break.  This was thirty kilometers from the border and the vehicle died there.  Not sure if it also needed more gas but we waited for a mere half hour before a new vehicle showed up that took us the rest of the way there.

Since I already had an e-visa, the transportation company didn't try to scam me into anything else.  They figured I could have a clue and left me alone.

The border itself was quite a nightmare.  They didn't seem set up to be able to deal with even half the people that stood in lines.  There were a couple of old Israeli guys in line who reminded me of some other people.  It wasn't until they were nearly to the front of the line they realized they needed to fill out a bit of paperwork.  Since they didn't have their glasses, guess who got asked to do it?

Fortunate I did as I ended up sharing a cab from the border to Siem Reap.  The last bus had already left but the company told me I'd be riding in the cab for free.  The old guys - who had made no plans and apparently just somehow shown up at the border (possibly airdropped in by the Mossad) and decided to follow me around.  Fair enough.

Normally, to rent a cab you need four people paying - one up front, three in the back.  Everyone pays $12.  My fare was free, that left $36 needed from the back seat.  They just split it.

We'd have made better time but the cab driver was trying to plump out his earnings by stopping to pick up other packages and such on the way.

Fortunately, we didn't get stuck with any music at all.  Happy days.

Got dropped off in Siem Reap part way between Angkor Wat and the airport.  The places there are not only reportedly three times as expensive but are out in the middle of nowhere.  In Siem Reap, if you're not near 'Pub Street', you're in the sticks.  Better to stay near Pub Street and get a tuk tuk to go to the sticks.

Immediately after checking into the usual hotel it was off to the Mexican restaurant.



LOGANISMS

Famous quote

There are a lot of great quotes out there.  It is not only a good idea to read other people's to gain wisdom but to perhaps pass on a bit of the wisdom you have gained in your life within a short quote.

The quote should be very short - easier to remember and understand.  It should also have a bit of instruction and perhaps even a nugget of truth within.  And the quote should help to tell future generations what kind of person you were.

The only quote I've come up with so far is:

"Happiness can be as difficult as convincing women your semen tastes like chocolate." - Logan Horsford.

[Which - if you think about it - could be true in more than one way.]



MOVIE REVIEW

Iron Sky

Pretty much the only good thing I can say about this movie is they speak a lot in German with English subtitles. After twenty minutes, even that no longer kept me excited enough to watch it.



PRICES

Bus from Trat to Siem Reap, 500 TBH
Evisa, tourist (only), Cambodia, 1 month, $25.  Note, word is that they are crooks at the Poi Pet (border town) and will charge closer to $40+.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

TRAT AND KOH CHANG, THAILAND

RESEARCH INTO TRAT

Ticket Guy:  "And the price includes the boat out to Trat."
Logan:  "Trat is an island?"
Ticket Guy:  (Stares hard)  "Yes."
Logan:  "Huh!"

[Note:  Later it was discovered this was not true.]



JOURNEY TO TRAT

When you cross over the border from Cambodia into Thailand, prepare for what the military has termed 'a clusterfuck'.  

Because Cambodian buses do not have the correct license plates, paperwork or permissions, all of the passengers are disgorged from the large comfortable buses and squeezed into mini vans.  It is surprising how many people with luggage can be stuffed into a mini van.  The mini vans will show up when they are able to and leave when they have filled for various destinations. 

This means a lot of people sitting on the sides of their road with luggage.  They tend to find where to sit by chance as there was no one to direct them to the area about half a kilometer from the border itself.  



OFF TO  THE ISLAND  [KOH CHANG]

While on the bus ride was talking to a guy who has an interesting job.  He makes movies and music videos and had just gotten back from Russia or Republic of Georgia (not clear on which) making a couple music videos.  Chatting to people who have interesting work - and are passionate about their jobs - is always interesting.  There were also a couple of girls traveling together who seemed happy to hang out for a spell.

Sometimes, changing plans to accommodate new situations is a good thing.  Sometimes not.

It turned out that rather than heading to Trat, they were going to a nearby island.  Since the people who were doing the transportation seemed to have only a loose grasp of where we were bound, tagging along to  hang out with the three seemed more interesting than proceeding directly to Trat.

The island itself was nothing special.  Unless you have rented a motorbike, much of  the island is accessible only on the infrequent 'bhat bus taxis' which cost between 50-150 THB.  

When we were dismounting the ferry upon the island itself, the lady from the transportation office attempted to hard sell  tickets through fear for 100 THB.  Since she was in transportation, it is assumed that anything out of her mouth was by definition a lie.  This turned out to be correct.  The 'bhat buses' were only 60 THB.

As soon as we reached the island on the car carrying ferry, the girls ditched us by taking the last two places in a 'bhat bus' and drove off never to be seen again.   A bit disheartening, but not a huge loss.  They seemed to not need others for a conversation.

In the wind, rain and dark of night Tailor (the film producer) and I eventually reached the beach side hostels.  He stayed in one that only had one room left and made sure I got lodgings in another called  'Independent Backpackers'.



INDEPENDENT BACKPACKERS

This place seemed to be organically 'grown' rather than built.   Any time you create something on the side of a hill or mountain, the architecture seems to get more interesting and treacherous.  

The rooms themselves weren't terribly clean.  The space between the corrugated roofs and walls allowed plenty  of insects to make their way in.  The frayed and torn ancient mosquito netting seemed to be more of a marker for a feeding zone rather than a barrier to entry.  

In addition, the amateurishly made wood, stone and concrete steps of varying heights and widths became amazingly slippery in the rain.  The hand rails were ornamental.  Quite surprising nobody had ripped them off while avoiding falling down the side of a very steep hill.  

Not the kind of place you want to go when you are feeling sick.

Would it have been more enjoyable if  not sick?  Honestly, only if you are interested in playing in the water.  The same water that is alternatively marked 'no swimming' and 'danger rip tides'.  If you only go in waist deep there are plenty of waves to splash around in.   Not really worth returning.  Although the places to stay are pretty cheap (down to  $10)  there are better affordable beaches elsewhere in the world.

On the plus side, not many other people seem to think the beach is all that grand and it was a very deserted sand beach.  Some natives playing in the water and occasional tourist women in their twenties who were under the belief they were fifteen again gathering up bags of small and not very interesting shells were most of the traffic.



ILLNESS

For the last week, conjunctivitis had been rearing its ugly head.  For those unfamiliar with the symptoms, it can first feel like you have a piece of grit in your eye.  This intensifies.  The eye becomes bloodshot and you get an amazing dose of pain after a couple days.  Sensitivity to light - never handy on a beach - also causes additional pain.  Reading and perhaps seeing with the afflicted eye becomes impossible.

I had it in both eyes this time.   Arrival at the island seemed to give the signal for a massive 'flare up' and the condition worsened.

Due to the heat, massive pain and hordes of mosquitoes sleeping became quite impossible.  Being able to fight back a bit with the electronic tennis racquet did make me feel a bit better.  

After two days there it was time to resume my journey to Trat and find a hospital.   The Scottish woman who  owned the guest house (Fiona) told me of the two different options - a private hospital or the public hospital.  



TRAT HOSPITALS

Being sick, sleep deprived, confused and heavily burdened with baggage is not  a good way to  arrive in a new town.

The private hospital seems to be set up to suck the most money from "traveler's insurance" possible.  To even see a doctor is $100 USD.  None of the specialists were in.

Decided to check out the public hospital.  For a bit under $10 USD got to see a specialist though his grasp of English seemed dubious as well as issued two tubes of eye drops.  They were horrified at the prior use of 'Pred Forte'.  They seemed to regard it as trying to kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer and ordered it was not to be used for this flare up.  [For foreign readers, a flare up is what American doctors call it when some ailment you've got gets suddenly worse.  It only applies to certain medical problems.  For example, if you have a small cut and suddenly begin to spurt blood across the room, nobody would call  it a 'flare up'.  They may call it 'unintentional redecorating'.]

The public hospital was a good deal cleaner and more professional than many I'd seen before.   In some of the public hospitals, they seem either awed or freaked out to see a foreigner.  Because of either this or just being really nice, the foreigner is often bumped to the head of any line.  Not the case in Thai hospitals.  You are treated as any one else.  While it means waiting longer,  it is less embarrassing than being  'queue jumped'.



SETTLING INTO TRAT

From the main street of Trat, the tourist area is not obvious.  Most of the literature says 'south of the market'.  The market is also not obvious.  Questioned instead a fellow backpacker who gave directions to a place called 'Residang Residence Guesthouse'.

Since seeing was not possible, lying around on an extremely large and comfortable bed listening to audio books became the major preoccupation.  There was occasional staggering around in the bright light, protected by sunglasses.  If I don't walk around a few hours every day the body goes into yet more pain.  Since it was already enduring conjunctivitis, a cold and "traveler's tummy" we opted for the walking.

Trat itself doesn't seem to have any of the normal 'tourist candy'.  In fact, most people are here for a day at most.  The people are a good deal friendlier here than in other parts of Thailand - since they see less tourists.  You don't get hassled to purchase anything.   Trat isn't a popular town.

For just hanging out, it is fine.  There are some nice streets for walking, city type stuff and 'Asian crap architecture' depending on where you go.  They have a decent food block though no larger restaurants.  Apparently the low tourist population won't support them.

The 'food block' is a market place of food.  Find the stalls with chairs and tables first - otherwise the food will be put into small plastic bags rubber bands shutting them forever.  This is how takeaway is done.



CURRENCY EXCHANGE

Since it looked very unlikely that Malaysian Ringets would be needed in the near future tried to exchange them at a bank.  They have some crazy rule they only accept 50 and 100 denomination notes though they couldn't explain why.  It sounds like one of those silly rules that is followed and nobody knows why.  

This would not be a concern but no currency exchange places have yet been found.



VIDEOS





PRICES (ISLAND)

Beer (300ml or so) $2 (60 THB)
Meal, 80-100 THB for simple stuff or Thai dishes
Taxi on island, 50-150 THB
Ferry to island, 60 THB



PRICES (TRAT)

Hospital including seeing an eye doctor and two different eye drops, 263 THB
Shave, 60 THB
330ml beer, 50 THB
Thai meal with rice from restaurant, 50 THB
Main with rice (Thai cooking) from food block with rice, 20-25 THB
16 GB thumb drive, 450 THB - way too much.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DOWNTIME IN SIEM REAP CAMBODIA

BACK IN SIEM REAP

Arrived in a bus station outside of Siem Reap.  A Japanese tourist offered to share a tuk tuk with me.  Why not, it saved us each a dollar and gave some nice conversation on the way into town.

Had been planning on checking out a new place to stay but the rain was just pissing down.  'Rainy season' means something here.

Decided to go back to the normal haunt.   We pull up.  A girl recognized me and produced an umbrella and the desk guy ran out to snatch up my bags and bring them in.  Both were very happy to see me again.

Because I'm stuck with Logan's brain, a list of options immediately presented themselves for this overwhelming greeting:

a) begin to masturbate wildly and erratically
b) play it cool, like I'm the president of the world and this kind of shit happens to me all the time.
c) break into spontaneous song.

Went with B.

This time.



SIEM REAP

Back here for the second or third time.  After my little fast jaunt around Cambodia I have assured myself that yes, this is the place I like better than anywhere else here.  I haven't been to absolutely everywhere but most of the towns I don't want to go to.  The major towns have more to see and do but the atmosphere of Siem Reap is very laid back.  Unfortunately, it is also a bit boring to me after several weeks here with not a lot to do.

In a country where I could learn the language (or had any desire to do so) I'd be working on doing that and hanging out with the natives and such more.  Here, meh.

This is a pretty 'family friendly' town.  I've seen a lot of tourists with kids and such wandering around it it looks like 'a good time is had by all'.

Also taken the opportunity to wander around and investigate the prices of other guesthouses, hostels and such.  Generally, they aren't a great value or are extremely remote.  Where I am currently staying is literally next door to pub street and it is very quiet.  Everywhere is quiet here after ten at night.  The words 'night life' have no real meaning here.



WHAT I'M DOING NOW

Biding my time, drinking some beer and eating mainly Mexican and Indian food.  I really dislike Cambodian food.



FUTURE PLANS

Getting from Asia back to Europe isn't real cheap.  It's looking like about $500 any way I go.  I'm going to do some research to see what I can shave off that.  My plan is to get back to Istanbul and from there take a very long bus ride to Georgia.

In doing my research, I've come across a lot of really badly designed sites.  Glad I don't have to pay to bail those airlines out.


On the 18th of this month it's off to Trat, Thailand to try to live cheaply for awhile.  After a couple weeks there (unless I hate the place, get bored etc) then it will be back to here.  Or Malaysia if I can think of something more clever.



RESTAURANT  REVIEW - "PIZZA $5", Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Seriously, that is the name and what they sell are twenty three different types of pizzas - all for $5.  Free delivery if you are so inclined.  It is run by a somewhat neurotic and extremely high energy guy whose goal is to get back to China to live 'once a little visa problem is sorted out'.  The pizza is probably the best I've had in SE Asia.

#81, Street 130
Sangkat Pshar Chas
Ph: 08989 5555

These are 30 cm pizzas.  That's a big pizza with expensive ingredients on it.  The normal price for a pizza that size is $7-$10.  I asked the owner "How are you able to sell them at this price?"  He responded they sold a LOT of pizzas.  Extra ingredients (anything - including meat and cheese) are only half a  dollar each.  I can heartily recommend it.



MAD RANTING

If I could easily travel to other dimensions (after getting rich) I would find one in which Firefly hadn't been cancelled and get the DVD set.  Where would the stories have gone to by the fifth season?

The lived in appearance of the space ships are a huge contrast to 'Star Trek' empty corridors and stark living.

Comparing the show to a PNP tabletop RPG game though, well perhaps the players I had were a lot more cautious and had the cynicism of people who were say a thousand years old.


Also, there must be several other dimensions where Sir Terry Pratchette didn't get Alzheimers.  Authors tend to get sharper with age and reading more books from him would be nice. 



VIDEOS

Asian Building
OK Guesthouse



LINKS WORTH LOOKING AT

Though it is done in a humorous way, I believe this link illustrates the huge difference in thinking between men and women.  It may be hundreds of years more before true 'equality of the sexes' is reached - if ever.



COSTS

Case of beer, 24 cans, $11.20.  Here, we call this 'cheap entertainment'...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

PHNOM PENH MEDICINE RUN

MEDICINE TIME

I was sitting around Siem Reap.  The name means 'Siem Defeated'.  What a great name for your town.  Anyway, I decided it was time for me to get out of there.  After two weeks there was starting to feel pretty restless.  And five dollars would get me to the capital, Phnom Penh.

I've been to Phnom Penh two or three (I forget) times and I have a basic understanding of the city.  From the central market, you can either go south to some sort of tourist ghetto that many of the better known tourist guesthouses are or straight toward the river to get to the places I normally stay.

Naturally, I messed up when I got there - again - and was in the tourist ghetto.  Why anyone stays there is a mystery to me.  Not much going on there as far as restaurants, bars and other things tourists like.

I was going to go check into a new place but I was told that a room would open up at noon and to check back then.  Since it was eight in the morning, that gave me some time.  I got a shave and a haircut ($3) and then found out about the 'French pharmacy' that allegedly had 'everything'.

A half dozen other pharmacies were trying to convince me that one of the medicines I am on was the same as ibuprofen.  I had told them it wasn't but they still wanted to sell me...anything.  I tried carrying around the boxes of the medicines I was actually trying to get.  This worked better as it seemed to prove to the pharmacists that lo, they actually exist but still no luck.  A visit to the 'French Pharmacy' which I wasn't smart enough to get the business card to finally ended my hunt for the medicines.

And then I figured 'why stay'?  I've spent a lot (too much) time in Phnom Penh and it really didn't thrill me so I went to the bus station, bought a ticket and hired a tuk tuk to drive me to the hotel then return with me to the bus station ($2).

When I burst into the hotel, I grabbed five cigarettes out of the case and said "I want to make a gift of these cigarettes to you for keeping an eye on my stuff but I won't be able to stay tonight - I've been called to Kampot."  Remember, bribe before you need to.  Had I not done that, chances are good they might have demanded money for gear storage.  Even if they didn't, I figured it was the 'classy' thing to do.

Either way, a win.

So, I went to Kampot.  They said it was a four hour bus ride.  Naturally, that means a six hour bus ride.  I found out later that it is possible to get a shared taxi where you sit alone in the front seat for $10 and it takes two and a half hours.  As Adam points out though, I do have plenty of time.  I can't help but fantasize that for a bribe of a soft drink I could demand no music for the entire trip though.

It wears you down to watch these god awful Cambodian music videos.   They film people doing karaoke and line dancing and make a music video out of that.  Horrible dancing, horrible music.  I've never been tortured before but if I am, I pray they don't find out about my hatred of these sorts of videos.  I'm sure that they would put them on, loud.  I'd rather just hear the sounds of my own screaming and begging for death.  Really.

So, I got to Kampot and allowed myself to be persuaded by one of the annoying touts to go see a guesthouse.  It is called the 'Cozy Elephant'.  I'm not sure who would name their guesthouse thusly, but it has been done.

After I specified I was looking for a room for $10 per night, the Belgian owner said his was $12 per night and I wouldn't be able to get anything in Kampot for $10 per night.

I looked him dead center and said "Want to bet?"

So, I am staying at the Cozy Elephant, $10 per night.  It has hot water and air conditioning but no mini fridge.  In deference to the cost of electricity, the lighting is so dim that I am worried about going blind here.  Not cool. It does have a balcony.  No view to speak of but there is a place to smoke.

The neighborhood it is in is extremely poor.  We're talking corrugated metal roof type of poor.  But, it's away from the regular tourist area and - aside from the noisy packs of half wild constantly barking dogs allowed to flourish in poor countries - quiet.  I may stay for one or two nights.

The problem I ran into was when I was walking down the street, I said "Fuck, does this look familiar."

And it was.

You see, I am both an idiot and forgetful.  I am forgetful in that I forgot I have been here before.  I am an idiot for not checking my own blog to see if I've been here before.  Ah well.

After doing some research on other towns within Cambodia and seeing the prices of their rooms (alarming) I'm thinking stay here for a couple days then possibly go to a place called Koh Kong.  It looks like a small and possibly shitty border town that Thais go to for gambling.  Or I'll just go back to Siem Reap.  Not sure.

The big problem I have right now is that I need to burn time until the Georgians are ready for me in October and try to spend as little money as possible in the meantime.

Unfortunately, the only countries really cheap enough for hanging out in give me a choice of Thailand and Cambodia.

My possible plane route would go through Dubai (very expensive city) then to Istanbul.  Turkey is fairly expensive.  My plan is to basically bus through it unless I find very cheap airfare to Tbilisi.

So, I'm stuck in Asia.  If I wanted to stay longer than two weeks in Thailand (not sure if I want to) I'd need to buy the plane ticket to show 'proof of onward travel' when getting a visa.  Otherwise, I can just do a land border crossing in and get two weeks.  That will take me up to September.  Spend September in Cambodia and then head off for Georgia.

Who knows?  I may just buy the plane ticket if my research can turn up other cheap places to go hang out in Thailand.

Either way, I'm looking forward to getting out of SE Asia.  If the Georgians were ready for me, I'd go there tomorrow...  Well, as soon as I could procure a cheap ticket that is.



WEIRD SHIT

Basic Celsius for Americans.

Many Americans become confused about Celsius vs Fahrenheit.  They normally try to figure out the conversion from one to the other.  This is frustrating and time consuming.

May I instead submit this easy to follow chart:

0   You may freeze to death.
10  Oh my god is it cold.  Bundle up.  You may be in Canada, eh?
20  Comfort.
30  Really hot.  You will try to find air conditioning if possible and sweat if not.
40  You are in a desert.  Your camel may complain loudly.
50  You may melt and die.   Your camel is already dead.

That's how easy it really is.  These are not absolutes.  Some people will  say "Actually, I find 18 C is comfortable.  Just slap them.  These are general readings so that you have an idea what is up.


Chris will especially enjoy this.

Years ago, several people were sitting around the table during a table top RPG.  One of the people decided to make a disparaging remark about someone who was not there.  I can't remember the person's name so I will call them X.

The person said "X is book-smart, but not street-smart."

I asked the person if they knew where to go in downtown Chicago right then to buy a fully automatic weapon.  They said they didn't know so I said "I don't consider YOU to be 'street smart' either."

"Oh, like you do."  said the 'disparager'.

I smiled at the person as everyone else around the table assured the person that 'yes, I did'.

In a new update, I have recently learned which country to go buy an atomic bomb in.

I do have doubts if I could actually get it into the USA.  In a country where they have you take off your shoes to get x-rayed (the only one BTW), I'm thinking that I might have trouble getting that in.

Sure, I could claim it was for 'home defense'.  I guarantee that if it were set off there would be no living beings around alive to actually burgle my home.  But, I don't think they would like such a large 'kill radius'.



COSTS

In both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap if you are paying over $10 (or possibly $12) per night you are either desperate, gullible, silly or living at a higher social standard than I.  For this amount of money, you should get air conditioning, hot water, wifi in your room and probably a mini-fridge.  If not, seek better lodging.

Beer cost:  Siem Reap has the cheapest beers at $.50 for a draft beer pretty much everywhere.  The 'happy hour' cost in both Phnom Penh and Kampot is $.75.  Not very happy by comparison.

Motorcycle ride - can be to multiple destinations $1.  Tuk tuk (also can be to multiple destinations), $2.  Note, it wasn't a long wait - it was 'take me to the pharmacy, I will buy something then take me home and I'll give you this shiny dollar.'  Yeah, it worked.  Yes, they did try to convince me it was that amount each way but when I said "Let me go check with the other guys to see if they'll do it."  I got waved into the vehicle.

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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