Donate Button



Donate a dollar. Seriously. You lose more in people's couches and don't care.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

THE ENRAGED AUSSIE

HEALTH AND SAFETY WARNING

When you hear bongo drums in the darkness, load the guns and lock the doors. Hippies are up to something.



DAVI'S FALL AKA DEVI'S FALL

Other tourists had recommended this. I took a look at a guide pamphlet someone had given me. It said "Where the Hindu religion people worship a temple of their great god Mahadev inside the cave." Some amazingly hideous use of the English language there but you get the point. I said "Why not. Matt has expressed an interest in temples and such - this may be something outside the norm. I will check it out."

It was a couple hour walk but I was happy to go stretch my legs.

There was a 100 NRS fee to see the whole thing - temple of this Mahadev guy and beyond it. The temple part was only of nominal interest to me but a couple of kind Canadians had told me that the waterfall itself had dug its way into the earth and you could see the end of it. That sounded pretty cool.

Wrong.

You are not allowed to take pictures of the temple area but even if I had been, I probably would have taken only one to show 'here it is'. It looked pretty grottty to me. I've seen much more interesting things. I've passed more interesting stuff on the streets with just a glance. Because it is in a cave doesn't make it more interesting to me.

The caves themselves are 'wet caves'. For those who aren't familiar with caves, you have wet and dry. Wet caves are made in some way by the action of water. For some geological reason they are less prone to cave in than 'dry' caves. They are also wet in a very literal sense. I recommend bringing some sort of head covering - especially if you wear glasses. Naturally, I'd forgotten my usual cap. I think it was getting a much needed wash.

The caves were absolutely crammed with locals who wanted to yell to other locals. In addition to the adults there were at least three classes of school kids loitering around. I suppose it is better than regular school work. Probably in part because they were a lot shorter than I am and didn't repeatedly get to ram their head against the ceiling. I'd really like a hard hat for visiting these friggin caves. Caves I'd been to in other places were set up like a sort of race track. You go in on one path and out on the other. All traffic flows in one direction. Not here. You get to crawl over people and school kids who are loitering hoping to stretch out a fifteen minute trip into a full day field trip.

In addition, the terminus of the waterfall I would rate as 'lame'. Imagine a dark, big shower. There you go - you've pretty much been there.

If Matt really wants to go I'll take him to the opening and show him where to buy a ticket. "See you in fifteen minutes, mind your head buddy!" I will smoke and wait for him. He won't enjoy himself.



QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Twas for the good of my country that I should be abroad. Anything for the good of ones country." - George Farmer.



THE ENRAGED AUSSIE

[Disclaimer: This is not the typical Australian I've met in traveling. In fact, on a daily basis I gave Pete H. reasons to become enraged with me but he never did.]

Wandering down the street, I espied a strange sight. There was a fat Aussie on a motorcycle. 'Riding bitch' was his large Nepal wife. The Aussie chased down a Nepali man in a car and got him to stop. Because the wife of the Aussie looked unharmed and the Aussie man kept yelling 'You hit my wife!', my assumption is that the guy in the car clipped her. I've been clipped so many times I lost count at close to twenty. A lot of people drive like idiots.

The Nepali guy didn't leave his car for the entire exchange. Since the Aussie's bike was parked right next to his door, he didn't have the option.

The biker had a good 'mad-on' going. He kept screaming "I'll kill you!" over and over again. Whenever someone repeats the same thing it tells me that they are either fixated on it, their emotions are in control instead of logic or they are stupid as hell. I am not sure which it was in this case.

In addition to threatening and ranting at the guy, the guy from Oz also grabbed the car drivers shirt and ripped it. The man just fingered his shirt and gave the biker a hurt "I can't believe you just tore my shirt" look. He was remarkably calm. He wai-ed a couple of times as a way of apologizing.

The enraged man wasn't interested in an apology. He tore off his helmet and used it to bonk the driver. Because of the angle, he couldn't get a good solid hit in, but the man did clutch his nose.

His wife kept trying to calm him down. She looked as though she would die from embarrassment.

During this time a huge crowd of Nepalese people silently gathered. I'm guessing over fifty not including the traffic from both directions which had been stopped by the fracas. Everyone just calmly looked at the enraged Aussie. It was a little eerie. Nobody looked angry or hostile - just watchful.

As with all crowds, eventually a leader emerged and went and politely asked the biker if he had gone crazy. This caused the guy to repeat all of his earlier 'he hit my wife' and 'I'll kill him' threats but he was running out of steam. It takes a lot of energy to keep up a good murderous rage. I'm not sure if he was just out of shape or if he was getting freaked out by the huge silent crowd that was continuing to form and silently watch him. The crowd leader and man's wife managed to calm him down. He relented by telling the driver to 'fuck off' and making the hand gesture to indicate he should drive on.

After some more softer talking, the bike went the other direction.

What impressed me most is how calm and gentle the Nepal people were in the face of rage. Had this been Thailand, I wouldn't have been surprised if the man (and possibly his wife) had been hauled off the bike and given a severe beating for messing with a local.

Thoughts of video taping the entire incident had gone through my head but the Aussie was looking around way too much and I didn't want to become the next target of his rage. I must confess that if I had a kukri unsheathed in one hand and the camera in the other I may have been tempted. Given the situation, I didn't want to make it worse. Well, not if the worse was directed at me in any case.

So, props to the people of Nepal to whom peace and politeness are things they have culturally embraced.



MATT VS THE MONKS OF DOOM

In talking to people from Nepal and other tourists, I've come up with a potential idea for Matt's visit. Yes, I can talk about it here because he is too lazy to read my blog often. He just checks from time to time to see if I'm alive.

How does spending a day and night at a Tibetan Monastery sound? Well, potentially pretty interesting. Unless you're a woman. Sorry but they just don't allow women. I did check for all of my female readers and got a firm no.

Since Matt is interested in religion and so on, I figured this might be something he would enjoy doing. I decided on public transport - naturally. The public transport was 25 NRS as opposed to a taxi which would have been 300-400 NRS. The bus beater (AKA 'yeller') was fun. He spoke an amazing amount of English and added me on Facebook. Cool guy and my first FB friend from Nepal.

For those who don't know, the bus drivers are paid based on the fares they collect. More riders equals more money for them. Every time I thought that the bus was as packed as it could possibly get we would stop and get another half dozen packed in. There were at least four people hanging off the bus at one point. And still we stopped for more. It was an interesting experience. If you are at all claustrophobic, I recommend avoiding this experience as you may upset the other passengers by screaming.

Once I got to the destination, I looked up and yes it was on top of a hill. Christ, there were a lot of stairs. This monastery is called "Kahukhola". It sounds like "Can cu cola". When I first heard the name, I thought they said "Can cola" and thought "This will be bloody easy to remember!"

Matt is counting on me, I thought. It took about four rest breaks to go up a lot of stairs. I am a dedicated smoker and stairs are not my friends. I can do three or four stories but after that I'm huffing and puffing. Flat land, I can go for hours. Stairs suck. Even now, I'm eating Oreo cookies to try to regain any mass I lost on those hellish things. When I was climbing up the stairs I was thinking of all the poor bastards who had to run water up there in the old days. What a shitty job. You feeling traumatized by the stairs yet? Yes? Good - we can move on.

When I got to the top, there were a couple of interesting things. Brightly colored - but modern buildings and a nice city view. I took some pictures. Since I couldn't find anyone around who either spoke English or was in charge I also made a video. Since nobody of authority was around I figured I could get away with a video - why not.

There were some 'no smoking' signs up which I eyed hatefully. Monks don't get to smoke. Irritating.

Eventually, I talked to a non-monk who was a math teacher and a monk who spoke less English who was his boss. I found out that a room there (which has three beds or so) is 400 NRS. Cheap. The room also comes with breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Nice - free food. That wasn't what really concerned me. I can get food. Anyone who has ever seen a picture of me has no doubt in their mind that I can get food. I was worried about getting bored there. Hot water is possible in bucket form from the kitchen at no additional charge.

I know a bit about monks. They work. They study. They pray. That's about it. On a daily basis they pass up a lot of fun opportunities that anyone else would jump at. For example, zip lines. You live on top of a mountain. What could be more fun than zip lines to go 'weeeee' all the way down?

But you aren't suppose to have 'fun' while seeking after spiritual enlightenment. That wouldn't be proper. If you could they might let you smoke. Or have women stay the night. No, fun is right out.

After spending ten minutes in the monastery I was wondering 'what the hell are we suppose to do while we're here?

I've known Matt for a long time. He has the attention span of a chimp. He'll get bored and set the place on fire within an hour. I have the same attention span. I'd help, possibly while smoking a cigarette.

I'm given to understand that a lot of people use the monastery as a cheap guesthouse. That strips away much of the cool mysticism from staying there.

As I was leaving, I got hit up for a donation to their 'teach monks English' fund. I reminded them I had been carefully probing for the prices. This was done because I am poor. They relented and wished me a good day.

In discussing the place with the proprietor of the Pokhara Guesthouse he told me "That is not a famous monastery." My translation, "Why would you want to stay there?"

The area around the guesthouse was what I call 'grotty standard Asia'. Nothing much to see or do.

The idea is not yet abandoned. Tomorrow - or the day after - I will go to a different monastery a French lady told me about. We were discussing it while her daughters were using me as a 'jungle gym'. This other monastery is next to a Tibetan village where they do a lot of the handicrafts and such by hand. That should be good for at least an hour of cheap entertainment and possibly allow Matt the chance to buy some bric-a-brak to take home and stick in his room.

Women from countries where they are treated closer to equal (though still often making less than men in the same job) may feel outraged at not being able to stay in some monasteries. I've been informed by the French lady that she, her two daughters and husband stayed in the other monastery. If women are not allowed in the monastery you wish to stay at, I would suggest watching Monty Python's "Life of Brian" movie and using the disguise the women therein did. Sixty percent of the time it works ninety percent of the time.

I'm hoping that the next monastery is more interesting. I'd like Matt to go home with some interesting answers to 'what did you do in Nepal'. "We stayed for a night in a Tibetan monastery hanging out with the monks. We went rappelling and white water rafting. And then..." That sounds like a good start.



RETURNING TO THE GUESTHOUSE

Given the choice between riding the public transport home or a three hour walk, I took the walk. I wanted to wander around and explore. And get food.

My bag got yet another repair from a tailor. He did a better job than some of the other people who have repaired bags in the past.

When I was eating a pretty nasty lunch of chicken nuggets with bones in them, I tried to figure out the word for bones from the people. Despite my various hand signs I got the word for 'wings'. So now I can say 'no wings'. Not very helpful. Later, I found out the word for bones.

After picking up some lunch, I played the game of directions in which I ask people for directions as soon as I'm out of sight of the other people I've just gotten directions from so I can get a general consensus of the direction I should travel. It always amazes me how people who have lived their whole lives in a city can't give directions to something basic. Like the only huge lake.

One guy who had given me directions pulled up in his overly big shiny car and offered me a lift part way. My parents always told me "If a stranger offers you a ride, you take it!" so I did. He did a lot of talking about different places he was either taking me or had to go himself. His English wasn't very good. I had no clue what he was going on about but when he dropped me off he indicated the direction I should continue. I resumed my direction game.

Eventually, I landed back in the tourist street along the lake. There, I met the French woman. She is traveling with her husband and two children. I'm not good at guessing the ages of children. I mostly ignore children because they frankly don't have a lot of interesting conversational topics. Since I look at them as - and treat them as - short 'people', kids seem to like me. A lot. They like to climb on me and sit in my lap and talk endlessly to me. Today, it was in French. Telling a kid in French that you don't speak French has no effect. They just ignore you and keep right on. Maybe that is a way for adults to learn other languages - lock them up with kids who will just babble at them till they get it. If I had to guess at the kids ages, I would guess seven and nine.

What made the kids somewhat interesting is that I had heard 'kids need stability'. Same-same, every day. These kids didn't have it. They had been traveling through several different countries for the last two years. They seemed very outgoing and not at all shy. Even allowing for the 'Logan effect' (kids aren't shy around me) these were very outgoing. Despite it being a small 'sample group', I have begun to question just how much 'stability' kids need. Perhaps if the mother and father are both there, love each other, love the kids and you spend lots of 'family time' that is enough. I really don't know. I gave the French lady (no clue what her name is but one of her daughters is named 'Africa' - really) my card. They don't use Facebook but I'm hoping they come around to it someday. It would be interesting to hear how the kids turn out in years to come.



NEPAL AND INDIA NOTES FOR FAT PEOPLE

Get use to testing all chairs before sitting on them. In America if the chair collapses under you in a restaurant and you get a big piece of wood messily jammed into your body you could probably sue the restaurant for damages. In India and Nepal they will simply call you an ambulance. You may get charged for the chair you destroyed as well.

Test the tables. It is very odd to me but not all of the tops are actually attached to the rest of the table. It is just a piece of wood lying on top, often covered with a cloth. Many fat people like to use the table to lever their bulk out of the chair. This will have humorous effects. Additionally, you will probably be charged for any dishes broken and possibly for 'destroying' the table as well.

Yes, you will still have to pay for uneaten meals catapulted onto other diners.

No, these things have not happened to me yet. I am a fairly paranoid and cautious person. Having no travel insurance will do that to you. But I always keep my eye out for other fat people doing them and hope to be recording when they do.



MORE MONEY

What would Logan do if he had more money and a camera crew following him? Well, one thing would be to dress as a stereotypical Native American and go to India. I would go to visit other 'Indians'. Oh, I would catch some hate mail for that! "How!"



INTERNET IN NEPAL

Here, the ISP providers pull the same crap as in the states. It's not us - reset your connection. It's your computer. It's your router. After all of the other possibilities have been exhausted, OK, it's us. No appology for the run around and numerous incorrect diagnosis. After a few days of being constantly wrong they will work on it. Maybe.

In the states, all of the ISP providers I ever gave someone on the phone twenty four hours a day. Here, it's normal work hours - nine to five. After that, well there is just nobody home.



MOST POPULAR POST

With over 500 hits, Africa and the Dead Hooker Problem is the most popular post. I'm thinking it is the name of it more than what is actually in it.

I'm now wondering what sort of wild, inflammatory post titles to use.



COMING SOON

I was talking to a French gentleman. He said it was 'very American' that I wanted constant access to the internet. That may be but I didn't come to Nepal to trek around and go site seeing. Basically, I just came here to live for awhile. Big difference. If I was on vacation for a couple weeks or a month with no access to internet but I knew I would be returning to the World of Broadband - yeah, I could cope. But that's not my situation. I didn't say anything about it to him. People look at the world as they expect to see it. When they are trekkers, they assume other people are as well. Hell, I don't really have that much interest in beautiful scenery after a couple days of it. It would have been nice to see the big mountain ranges but not for the kind of money the Nepal government wants to shake down tourists for.

Thus far, my 'live in a cooler climate during the summer' plan has been a huge failure but the summer isn't over. The people who said Nepal was cheaper than India - wrong. Same or possibly (in the tourist areas where I can find wifi) a bit more expensive.

Right now, I am debating going to a couple small towns vs a different large one. I honestly haven't decided which to do. I'm feeling a bit unmotivated in making up my mind. Maybe I will figure it out tomorrow. Getting to another big town is easy - the small towns are trickier due to where the buses are.

I'd like to hit some place with good internet so that I can get back to downloading a bunch of movies and such to watch. If I can't get internet - and assuming I can get some electricity - I will have to charge up the kindle and work on my reading. It's still a bit dicey with my eye being a little messed up for the reading. But I can alter the text size to "I'm old".

As far as my overall plan, I am still thinking about heading back to India and going way south. Every tourist I've talked to - and many of the Indians themselves - have said that the south has nicer people and is a nicer place overall than the north. Sri Lanka is possible afterward. Due to India's odd visa policy though I would have to either spend two months outside of India in Sri Lanka or fly from Sri Lanka to my next destination. I'm just not sure which.

Everything hinges on money. If it didn't, I'd probably be in the area of Poland for the summer as I've not hit that before. I think I will need to spend more time in exile within Asia before I can build back up my money to tackle Europe or Africa.



PRICES

Happy hour special - San Migiel beer and a small plate of food, 250 NRS.

Half tandori chicken, 600 NRS.

Fanta, 500 ml, 60 NRS.

Boat - 1 hour, 300 NRS. I tried to negotiate with them but they wouldn't lower the price at all. Oddly, few of their boats were actually out at the time. And the words 'safety gear' are not in their vocabulary. No life vests and such.

Minor repairs to bag, 100 NRS (I didn't bargain, I took his price because I wanted him to do a good job rather than a sulky one).

Chicken nuggets with bones in them, 150 NRS. Sauce was good but bones in chicken nuggets are just wrong.

Monday, March 26, 2012

POKHARA - THE ARRIVAL

NARRATIVE

Although I normally ignore or beat to death touts, sometimes a bus journey is just too taxing for me. When I arrived in Pokhara, I was feeling pretty 'done in'.

Steeping off of the bus, I was immediately surrounded by drivers yelling '150 rupees' for a ride into town. The town isn't all that far away. So then I started yelling back 'do I hear 100?'. They don't really seem to get the concept of 'auction' here. They tried telling me it was a 'fixed rate'. If you hear the term 'fixed rate' in Asia, you can be sure whoever is telling it to you is a big fat liar.

Due to being wildly inept at haggling, most tourists end up going with a fixed rate. "Can we do something about the price?" No, that doesn't ever work. Laughing and saying "Oh hell no - how many people have fallen for that crap?" - better.

So I found a guy that wanted to take me to his hotel and I made him a deal. If I liked and stayed at his hotel, I would pay nothing. If I didn't like it, he would take me somewhere else and I'd pay 100 NRS. Fixed rate my ass.

The hotel he ended up taking me too was pretty decent and at 500 NRS was within my price range. For those too lazy to convert money, that is about $6.50 USD. Naturally, the cab driver wanted to charge me 100 NRS anyway. I just laughed and said "Sorry, we made a deal. Break a deal and face the wheel." And I closed my new room door on him. He went away. Once you make a deal always stick with it - even if it is not a good deal for you. It's integrity.

I was at U&I Guest House for two days. Not a long time but I spent a lot of it looking for better internet. The internet in Nepal really sucks. The average download speed is half of Cambodia's. And yes, Cambodian internet also blows. The room was nice at U&I - kind of homely. Their laundry was over the top expensive but I bargained it way down to a reasonable cost. Their restaurant is massively expensive - about triple the normal price. I don't get that.

While I was looking for a new place to stay I stumbled upon an interesting hotel called "Fishtail Lodge". It is the kind of place you have to get poled or paddled across the lake to get to. Rooms there will set you back about $200 per night. I'm not joking. The outside of it is scenic enough that any man would be proud to take his new bride there on the honeymoon. I didn't bother to go see the rooms. The exterior I would actually call 'stunningly beautiful' and I am not normally given to hyperbole on my hotel descriptions.

So, I began to settle in. I am learning the prices of things. Sometimes when I go into a store the merchant begins to moan 'Nepali prices' in dismay. I don't know if it is actually true but it is gratifying. Personally, I'm happy to be from a country that doesn't charge natives and foreigners different prices for the same crap. That annoys me.

The day after moving to the new place (Pokhara Guesthouse) I got to spend a few hours with the owner trying to figure out what was wrong with his internet. Given that both of us knew jack about computers, it was a frustrating time for everyone. The English of the people at the call center was insufficient for a phone conversation.



HIKING IN POKHARA

Understand that the natural beauty here means big tourism money. Since this is Asia, the natives and government will exploit it. I personally have no interest in hiking but I did meet two very nice people (Erik and Pamela) who needed to go through the process to get their papers for it. I wanted to put down what you need and the costs in case people have an interest in hiking here.

You need four passport photos and your passport. Sure, it is technically illegal to wander around without your passport but a surprising number of people do anyway. Yes, you should always keep a bunch of passport photos on you at all times for border crossings and paperwork but again a surprising number of people don't bother. If you need to buy them, they had three or four places literally a stone's throw away. The photos are a modest 300 NRS for four.

You need a 'trekking permit' for 2000 NRS/person.

You need a TIMS (tracking information management system) card for $20, per person per entry. It is my belief that if you stay in for 1 day or 30 days the cost is the same but I am not certain on this. The only thing I am pretty certain on (aside from you spending $20) is that there is no 'tracking' system. It is just a way to get your $20+.



PIGEON ENGLISH

When you travel to other countries, you can't always phrase things as you would in the USA. English from the USA is much different from the English even spoken in other English speaking countries. I have developed a 'simplified' English for speaking to natives of a non English speaking country. What follows is the way the conversation typically goes vs what I would be able to say to an American.

Nepal native: "How you like Nepal?"
Logan: "I like Nepal. Friendly man. Clean street. Nice people."

What I would rather be able to say:

Nepal native: "How you like Nepal?"
Logan: "It makes my nipples hard to be here!" (Pinching nipples) "They're like little pieces of gravel they're so hard!"

It may be good for everyone that I have to use the pigeon English way instead.



SMOKING

Outside of western Europe and America, it is pretty much a smoker's paradise. You can smoke in lots of different places. When I don't see an ashtray sitting at the table (or other people smoking) I like to ask "May I smoke?" In Nepal, it gets a different answer than I am use to.

Smoke what?

At this point, I pull out my Nepalese cigarettes and watch them relax.

There are a lot of people who think that smoking marijuana, hash and other more exotic things are legal here because many people do them. It's illegal. I don't really want to go see what the inside of the jails are like in Nepal. Hell, many of the guesthouses are 'grim'. Guessing jail is a tad bit worse.



NORMAL CONVERSATION

So I'm chatting with a girl from China who is kind of traveling alone. I say 'kind of' because she's what I call a 'glomer'. She 'gloms on' (attaches herself) to other groups and travels with them for a time then moves on.

She had attached herself to one group and then later discovered a guy in that group had secretly been watching her change clothing. A peeping tom, so to speak.

Logan: "Nobody ever tries to secretly watch me change."
China: "You WANT people to try to watch you change?"
Logan: "It would make me feel sexier than when they scream and run away."



HARD ALCOHOL

For about the same price as a bottle of beer (or a bit less) you can get 375 ml of various hard alcohols including whiskey, rum, gin and so on. Regard these with deep suspicion. As in India, many are chemically 'finished'. Unsavory chemicles are dumped in for whatever reason. Like 'bathtub gin'. Just like that famous drink they can lead to death. That hasn't stopped me from sampling several.Officer's Choice whiskey. If the captain of the plane you are in is drinking this, why shouldn't you be as well? [280 NRS for 375ml.]



PHILOSOPHY

I got called 'pretty patient and easy going' today. Weird. That sent me into a bit of self reflection. How much of the change is internal vs environmental? It is much easier to be 'patient and easy going' when you have the option to change residence or even country if you don't like where you are. But if I was put back into my old situation would I revert to my old ways?



FACTOID

The first time I ever heard of the country of Nepal was here.



AN EXAMPLE OF LOGAN BARGAINING

I was shopping in the grocery store for a liter bottle of Fanta.

Logan: "How much is this? 100?" (I knew it was 110).
Shopkeeper: "No, it is 115."
Logan: "I'll give you 110."
Shopkeeper: "It costs me 110."
Logan: "I don't believe you."
Shopkeeper: "You don't believe me?"
Logan: (Big smile) "No."
Shopkeeper: "OK. 110."

Yes, I bargain over five fucking rupees.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Outside of five star resorts nobody is going to take your credit card. A better question would be 'do I want to share my credit card information with these people?' Bring cash - period. If you keep it in a wallet in the back pocket of your trousers or some place they don't have to delve inside of your clothing and work at it to get it out, you don't really want to hold on to that cash bad enough.



VIDEOS

Monkey Temple 2
Monkey Temple 3
Mush!
What Happens to Beggars

Quest for Kurtz 1
Quest for Kurtz 2
Quest for Kurtz 3
Pirates Spotted!

Elephant Breeding Center 1
Elephant Breeding Center 2
Nobody Loves Goats (EBC 3)
Elephant Breeding Center 4

Bridge of Moderate Peril

Jeep Safari 1
Jeep Safari 2
Jeep Safari 3
Jeep Safari 4
Jeep Safari 5
Jeep Safari 6
Jeep Safari 7

Croc Farm

Bus to Pokhara 1
Bus to Pokhara 2
Bus to Pokhara 3
Bus to Pokhara 4

Fishtail Lodge

Pokhara Guest House

Walk through Pokhara Riverside

Temple re dedication parade



COSTS

At 'cheap-cheap' restaurant:

Any main, 60 NRS (limited selection but for that price, really - who cares?)
Any main with fries, 100 NRS (filling)
Beer, 250 NRS. Beer prices in this country are friggin weird.


Laundry service if you're not Logan, 100-150 NRS/kilo or worse various amounts depending on the piece. If you are Logan, 50 NRS/kilo.


Map of Pokhara city 300 NRS, bargained down to 100 NRS, lost the next day. Doh.


Food at normal restaurant - generally 300-600 NRS for the meal.

Juice box, small 25 NRS

Small bottle (drink it there) soda, 30 NRS

Scooter rental I have been told is 300 NRS.

Within city buses are 15-20 NRS but if you offer them more they will not correct you.


A list of some guest house prices. Unless otherwise noted, all guesthouses claimed to have wifi and hot water. 24 hour wifi means it is hooked to a battery backup for the frequent scheduled and unscheduled power outages.

Baba Lodge and Restaurant, 500 NRS

Base Camp Resort, $50 (they are hitting the crack pipe pretty hard)

Dharma Inn, 700 NRS.

Green Park, 500 NRS, some buildings have wifi

Gurkha Lodge, $12-$15/night. Looked 'extremely rustic' (ie shitty) - no wifi.

Highland Rest House, 700 NRS. May have to hunt down a worker.

Hotel Bedrock, $10-$20. They claimed to have wifi but it didn't work and they were inflexible on the room rate. Go elsewhere.

Hotel Miracle, 500 NRS, 24 hour wifi (24 hour means it is hooked to the battery backup. You may not have power for your computer but you do get wifi). This one looked OK.

Hotel Nightengale, full when I went there. Rooms 500-1200 NRS. Slow internet.

Hotel Swiss Home, rooms look grim, 560 NRS
Mum's Garden Resort, $50 USD inc breakfast (give me a break, an expensive breakfast is $5 max anywhere). Mum is also on the crack pipe though the garden is pretty for a few seconds.

Kumari Guesthouse, 600 NRS, wifi.

Nanohana Lodge, 660 NRS

Nepal Guesthouse "Tourism is our religion" (but bargaining is not), $10/night, 24 hour wifi

Pokhara Guesthouse, 500 NRS. This is where I ended up staying. See video (above) for what the room looks like. I have (for less than $6.50) a corner room, 24 hour wifi and a balcony with a table on it. Totally nice room. The owner is anxious to please as well.

Santosh Guesthouse, 24 hour wifi, $10/night

Snow Hill Lodge, $10/night, no wifi

Stay Well Guesthouse, 700-800 NRS

Trekkers Lodge, 1100 NRS

The odd thing that I found when checking out all of these rooms is that you don't really get what you pay for. The location of these different places nor the rooms were really that much different. Sometimes, you find a much nicer room for a much cheaper price. It's very strange. Some people spend all of their time trying to research the best place to stay on various websites that rate them. I don't - I am happy to spend a day or two or three looking for the one I want to stay in. But I have the time.

The only time I don't negotiate on the room rate is when I am getting what I consider to be a steal. If the price is rock bottom and the room is wonderful, I just fork over what they ask. Mind you, I may negotiate on other things like laundry, food and such when considering the room.


10% 'service tax'

They don't really understand what it's for. The money goes to the same place that the rest of the bill does - not to the waiters and such. They just discovered stupid tourists pay it without qualm. I don't due to principle. Like everything else, you have to negotiate that before eating and every time. The threat of you walking away gets it struck before you order. I don't recommend trying to get that off after you've eaten. Sometimes they'll also try to slap VAT on there. Again, it doesn't go for what they think it does, it's just another way to get more money out of brain dead tourists. This too can be negotiated away. Usually only the pricier places will try to slap this on there. Between the two, it is usually another 25% onto the bill.

Basic breakfast from restaurant Shikhar, 130 NRS (after negotiating away the 10%). Tasty.


Prices of the kind of stuff people come here to do (note these prices are before negotiation. I can drop them by 10-50%):

Horseback riding, 3 hours - 1600 NRS, 6 hours - 2700 NRS.

Ultralight (very small airplane, illegal in many countries due to danger), half hour - 110 Euros, one hour - 195 Euros.

Para gliding (tandem), half hour - 6600 NRS, hour - 9500 NRS

White water rafting, 35-50 USD/day generally.

Rappelling plus white water rafting, 2 days, $100.

Friday, March 23, 2012

CHITWAN

CHITWAN

One of the reasons I traveled to Chitwan (pronounced 'chit-tone' which makes no damned sense) was to check into the elephant rides.

When I was in Kathmandu, I went and priced them out because I wanted to show the differences. One place - which included a bunch of boat crap I didn't care about - $110. Another place for one night out, $65. For an hour on the 'government run elephant' thing, about $12.

The problem with pricing things out even at the source with things like 'jungle treks' and such is that you can't be sure what you're actually going to get. If you just go for the cheapest price the quality will probably - but not always - not be good. But going the other way is absolutely no guarantee that you will get any sort of quality at all. I suppose that is one reason to read travelogues like this one. The problem is finding the information. There are a lot of travel blogs and such out there and some have good information hidden within them. In the case of "Logan's Voyage", well hidden.

But, chances are that even if you do all the research you can it will still be a crap shoot. Bad for people on limited time or limited budget.

One of the fixed prices in Chitwan is the national price entry. It is 500 NRS per day, fixed. Like really.



ARRIVAL IN CHITWAN

As soon as you get off the bus - touts. I said 'internet wifi in room and hot water'. They agreed - but remember they will agree to pretty much everything. Even if they can't understand it. They also agreed to 500 NRS. Sadly, I have selective memory loss about such things and a British woman I met (who was shanghaied into the same jeep) bargained and our rooms are now 250 NRS each. Her name is Tracy.

We are currently staying at "Hotel Butterfly" (Logan is a beautiful, beautiful butterfly!) and it is so so. I can't bitch much with 250 NRS. The place next door is - without bargaining - 250 NRS and looks like it's pretty much the same thing. I will test out their wifi a bit later.

Note that I went by and it was pretty much the same deal as the Butterfly - except the owner seemed nicer and the internet wasn't hooked up to the battery backup. I don't think it would have mattered - didn't end up spending a lot of time at the grotty room anyway.

Tracy was there to do all of the usual tourist stuff. She is an experienced world traveler and knew exactly what she wanted to do. She went out and priced all of the stuff with a bunch of different travel sellers in the area to find out the best prices. For a day completely packed with activities, it ended up being about 2500 NRS. I estimate that's ten to fifteen percent of what other tourists were paying. Yes, I got lazy and said "I'll have what she's having." I figured it would kill three birds with one stone. I got to hang out with Tracy a bit, experience some new stuff (see loads of pictures and videos) and do some research in preparation for Matt.

Negotiating price does have a downside but honestly, you can get bad stuff even if you are paying top dollar. When you negotiate the price down, the tour booker or operator has to cut certain corners to try to maximize their profits. Or just soak you for more money. In our case, this meant spending less time doing everything. Instead of an hour canoe ride, it was approximately half that. Instead of half an hour at the elephant breeding center it was ten minutes. Tracy was livid. Personally, I didn't care. I was happy to just sample the stuff.

I've discovered that if someone else is in control of what I'm doing I get bored more quickly. For example, if I am being rowed in a canoe, short is great. After an hour I'd probably start rocking the damned thing. But if I'm doing stuff - like the four wheeled ATV's in Cappadocia, I'm going to freak out if I don't get my full time worth. Sadly, it is the same with pretty much all exhibits. Unless the subject is one that I am interested in a lot (medieval weaponry and so on) I would breeze through even a famous place at a quick walk. While some people would stop and gate adoringly at a painting like the Mona Lisa for a half hour, I'm thinking that I'd look at it closely for under a minute snap a picture of it or me in front of it if I am able) and be off again. Now, if they had finger paints where you could try to make your own Mona Lisa, I might be there for a long time. Just one of the idiosyncratic quirks I've discovered about Logan. There are others.

For me, the 'jeep safari' was entirely too long and dull as hell. After a half an hour of being jostled around on the crappy road, I got bored. After an hour I started nodding off. After a couple hours I started to slip into my 'traveler's funk'. I had taken the front seat of the vehicle for three reasons. First, everyone else was in pairs and nobody seemed to want to leave their partner. Second, I didn't think my crappy back would survive bouncing around clutching a role bar in the back of a pickup truck over roads made entirely of potholes and large rocks for four plus hours. Third, the guide with us gave me the nod. So I took it.

The animals we spotted - a couple of birds. Hell, it could have been some rare nearly extinct bird for all I knew - or cared. When I saw them, I just said 'bird'. There were a couple of spotted deer. I've seen deer before and didn't care. These had spots. Still didn't care. Can't eat them. There were two distant shapes I was told were the rare one horned rhino. If I have to be told where and what something is I can't see it and again don't care. There was a boar. Whoopie - a big pig. Bore.

I actually had a better time talking to some of the Nepal soldiers they have guarding the national park. There are a lot of them doing that. Idiot tourists take pictures of these soldiers which will get you in trouble. I didn't. I did get to 'talk some shop' with a couple of them about their rifles which were a newer generation of the M-16 than I got to use. That was nice. The fact that they went from scowling to laughing and happy when we were talking I mark as a victory.

The soldier's job is to protect the wild critters from poachers.

For gun buffs, I believe they were trying to tell me they are using the A4 and like it. The A1 was a POS.

Concerning the elephant riding, other tourists I spoke with didn't seem thrilled by it at all. It was uncomfortable and dull to them. It would be for me if I was just sitting on the elephant as opposed to steering it. The way they steer it (kicking it on the ear canals) does seem a bit cruel to me. That doesn't mean I wouldn't be cruel but I can't be bothered. There are enough people to be cruel to without picking on something that much bigger than I am.

The rooms (Butterfly GH) we were staying in had the upside of being very cheap (250 NRS) but a lot of downsides. The mosquito netting was ripped up. Odd smells. Full of mosquitoes. The solar powered water wasn't on one of the two showers I took - and I despise cold showers. The room was dirty, dingy and the lights sometimes didn't work. The owner bitched and grumbled that we weren't booking anything through him and had kittens when I tried to get a receipt from him. Yes, I got the receipt.

Part of the motivation of getting out of that town was getting out of that hotel. If you took all of the tourist buildings out of the town, I'm not sure what would be left.



ESCAPE FROM CHITWAN

Through the same agent as Tracy, I booked a bus ticket to Pokhara, 400 NRS. The bus was an ugly pink short bus that got filled with tourists - baggage on top.

It turned out that I didn't really buy a bus ticket. It was a booking. I tried arguing with the ticket master about it but didn't get anywhere. Fortunately, I had kept the card of the place I bought the ticket. I figured it was just a scam to get another 400 NRS. It turned out that the guy who sold them has to show up every day and do some dealing with the ticket master to get the actual ticket. Fortunately, he did indeed show up and everything was sorted out.

My assigned seat sitting next to a lady who thoughtfully moved my bag and sat in it. She didn't seem happy when I pointed it out. It also transpired that we were both 'festively plump'. Two fat people do not jell well in narrow bus seats.

She was very happy when I asked about moving up front and was granted the boon. Karma came and bit her in the ass when the bus kept stopping to take on more people and someone else got to sit next to her. Most buses do that - it is their extra money. Heck, I don't know how much of that the bus company sees.



NEPAL FOOD

Sckuti - really tough, chewy meat. Apparently, Nepal people like this sort of thing.



NEPAL CUSTOMS

A lot of people in Nepal wear face masks - like they wear in operation rooms. In the far east, it was the custom to wear one when you had a cold so you would not give your germs to others. Here, it is a dust mask.


On menus, a lot of 'buff' is referred to. I found out this means 'buffalo'.



RESTAURANT REVIEW - COZY CAFE AND RESTAURANT

Although it wasn't written in the menu I got, it was in pen on a different menu. I hate it when they try to stick you with an extra fifth hidden cost because of the VAT. Do I believe the VAT actually goes to the government? Perhaps from the big places.

When the owner announced this, I became very upset and would have just left but I had already gotten a cup of coffee. I decided to negotiate and asked for him to bring me a 200 NRS breakfast including VAT and such. He did and hey, he had been trained internationally and knew how to do eggs over easy.



NEPAL BEERS

'Gatcha Beer' - pretty good. I'd rate it the new number two in my growing list of beers. As with all other Nepal beer, it is unreasonably expensive.



MATT PLANNING

My initial thought was 'see Mount Everest, mild white water rafting, jungle safari on top of an elephant.

Mount Everest got shot down almost immediately. To get to that neck of the woods, you either have to go via expensive (for foreigners) airplane for $150-$175 round trip (who the fuck would go one way?) or creep through 'Mao infested roads' that are reputed to be pretty dangerous. Not much for either option. In addition, I found that if you want to go overland there, you have to go to a town called Jiri where you get your backpacks searched. Maybe they don't want you smuggling in extra oxygen tanks. Apparently, it's under Maoist control. I don't know what that means but people say it in a negative way. I don't need a picture of Mt. Everest that damned bad.

The place I'm in now, Chitwon, does indeed have jungles and elephants. I will check it out to see if it is at all cool or if Matt will just dry hump the elephant for a minute and then get bored with it.



KATHMANDU PLACES TO STAY

These are my picks in order of preference.

Lhasa Guest House

Upside: Internet wired to battery backup so you can continue with internet even during the frequent power outages. Owner very cool - fluent English.

Downside: Very short staffed. You get to play 'find the owner' when you need him. Also, rooms are pretty booked. Be sure to get one in the back away from the noisy street.


Chill Out Resort

Upside: Very helpful staff. They even assigned me a guy to take me to the bus station as I was leaving.

Downside: Room I was in had no exterior windows, internet not yet wired to the battery backup.



Imperial Guest House

Upside: Price, wifi, hot shower.

Downside: I know nothing else beyond this.



RANDOM ENCOUNTER

A wandering street vendor was trying to sell me 'Tiger Balm'. It is a 'cure all' - in the old days style of cure all. I had no use for it so started explaining I had no tiger. The guy started laughing and tried to explain it to me. I interrupted saying that if I had a tiger I hoped he would not be sick and need balm. Who would apply it to a sick and probably angry tiger anyway? He went off laughing.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

I am compulsive about showing up very early for travel. Stuff happens. You get told what you have isn't a real ticket - things like that. Show up and wait around. Double the time or more for international crossings.



TRAVELER'S LORE

The Hungarian couple also told me that in some places in the world, the actual value of the bill is based on the percentage of the bill remaining. Logical, though tedious. Hence, if you had a $100 bill with a corner missing, it may only be worth $96 at a bank. For Americans, this is really odd. You can take 51% of a bill to a bank and presto, get a new one. Any government that can't afford to print new money needs to talk to me. So long as I can run off some extra copies (just a few mind you) for myself, I can make the project pay for itself!


More information and reports on Burma. Note, some of this may be a repeat of previously given information. The editor will sort that out.

No tourist infrastructure.
No ATM's. You have to bring whatever money you think you will use with you. They only accept crisp 'like new' 100 USD bills. Note, you can go to luxury (expensive) hotels and pay big money to use your card and such - but it will cost you plenty - eight percent.
Prices are amazingly high for what seems to be an undeveloped dung hole. $15/night rooms that you feel lucky to have found because everything gets booked up.
The numbers of tourists have increased by sixty percent in the last year and the infrastructure has not increased at all.
No wifi. $5/hour internet, takes 'an hour' to send one e-mail - very slow.
Not very safe.
One traveler reportedly blew through $800 in 17 days.
Excluding flights and visas, Tracy (lady I was discussing Burma with) blew through $300 per week by barely eating.
Whether you travel by bus or horse and cart it costs $15. That is triple the local cost due to them having to accept liability for foreigners. Note that if a tourist manages to injure themselves, the local goes to jail.
The food sucks.

That's on the one hand. The reasons to go include things like incredible scenery, pagodas and extraordinary people. Lots of people there - even in the 'tourist areas' have never seen a foreigner before.



COSTS

Bus stop lunch, 150 NRP

Bus stop bottle of soda, negotiated down to 30 NRP. Note that he was going to 'forget' my change so I pointed this out with a friendly, "Bitch!" That got me my change. I also bought one for the 'bus yeller', some young kid who wasn't asking for anything and was dressed rather shabbily.


Some un-negotiated Chitwan costs. All prices are per person and for anything you need the 500 NRS permit but only one permit per day.

1 hour canoe ride, 1050 NRS
Government elephant ride, 1000 NRS; leaves at either 8 AM or 4 PM.
Jeep ride, 1100 NRS. They claim it will last four hours - it really does as you are on a set track. Very bumpy.
Stick dance, 60 NRS. We were going to go to this but other tourists said it was horribly cheesy and not interesting so we skipped it.
Pokhara bus ticket, 550 NRS (negotiated down to 400 NRS)
Horse cart to elephant breeding center, 300 NRS. (Don't take a horse cart here - you can do it in the manner we did without renting separate transport).
Elephant breeding center, 50 NRS. To me this was not interesting but others may like it.

A lot of people were slapping down hundreds of dollars for package things - lodging, food, activities and all of that. You can get it at a small fraction of the cost if you have time and inclination to just show up and hunt for it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MO MO'S AND BEER

The power was suppose to go out at 5 PM. Naturally, it went out at 4 PM. I am typing this by candle light with two small candles stuck to the table. It is a bit... medieval. It looks like a little alter to the great computer gods. Maybe it is...



GETTING OUT OF INDIA

I managed to get a tuk tuk near the railway station for 100 RS, a price which had the driver muttering to himself the whole trip. When you get that sort of price you know you are good at negotiating and they are desperate. The operator at my final destination, "Paul Travel" was quick to let people know that 500 RS and 1000 RS notes are not only illegal in Nepal but they can be confiscated by the authorities. By remarkable coincidence, he also had a thriving exchange where you would get the moderately painful rate of 56 RS = 1 USD. He had plenty of USD's because that is the only thing accepted for the Nepal visa. Naturally, it was Sunday the day before and all of the banks had been closed. The bus would have left well before they opened. Fortunately, I had gotten a lot of my 500's changed into 100's the couple days before. I should have done more but didn't.

On the notes - if you are going from India to Nepal then back to India, just keep the 500 and 1000 notes. Yes, it is illegal. Yes, you should have been more clever and gotten them changed to 100's. But if you didn't, just tuck them deep away so you don't pull a dumbass move and try to spend them somewhere. Despite what the money exchangers are quick to tell you, the cops don't strip search you looking for these illegal notes. In fact, they didn't even ask. And no, the money exchangers are always mysteriously out of 100 IRS notes - no percentage in it.

I waited until the other tourists left, pulled out a wad of Indian Rupees and began to negotiate the exchange rate. Don't get me wrong, I still got fucked. I just got a little lube. Again, everything is negotiable.

When I purchased the ticket from the nice lady, I asked what kind of bus it was and had been told it is a 'nice bus'. Remember, when you are paying for your bus ticket, the only thing you can be absolutely certain of is that you are paying for your bus ticket. Everything else holds as much water as US campaign promises. The bus itself was filthy, the seats didn't recline at all and contrary to what we had been told, of course they stopped to pick up other passengers aside from the tourists. I figured they would - that is their 'gravy'.

You could almost take a zombie flick and replace the zombies with beggars in the way that they assaulted the bus. Even the guys who loaded the luggage tried to get in on the act claiming a "10 rupees luggage charge". I just gave him the level look and said "There is no luggage charge" in the same tone of voice you would say "There is no spoon". He decided to go sucker someone else. It's a way to distinguish the gullible. Personally, it is not that they are trying to shake me down for less than a quarter - in India everyone is constantly trying to shake you down. It wears you out after awhile and you give into irritability.

Rupees given to beggars during my two months in India, zero.

After an extremely painful all day ride, we reached the area close to the border. The 'ass mat' blanket I'd bought is a happy thing for me.

Once the bus stopped, we were assaulted by tuk tuk drivers wanting to drive us across the border. Since I'd done my research, I told them to bugger off. I know that it is only a hundred or so meters to cross the border. Nobody who knew the actual distance would ever pay for it - especially not the large rates they were trying to get. Feed off of the tourists.

The people from the bus company tried very hard to channel me into their predetermined path. Get off the bus. See our money changer. Go to our hotel. I told him 'thank you'.

At last, he got very frustrated and said "You keep saying thank you!" I thanked him again, smiled, nodded and wandered off. Fortunately, he had other tourists he could herd around rather than chase me down the street.

I took care of everything myself. I ended up seeing an 'official' money ex changer. I don't know if he was really 'official' or not - there seem to be a lot of them - but I did get a better rate changing the last of my 100 RS notes into NRS (Nepal Rupees) than the bus company guy was giving.

The bus had only been paid to the border unlike the poor bastards who didn't do their research ahead of time and paid way too much to go all the way to Kathmandu on that bus.

I went through customs ignoring the pleas of the bus people. Sometimes, claiming to be a travel writer has a downside. I had written that on the form without really thinking about it. In other countries, I'd put things like 'circus freak'. If they asked me about it, I would say that I use to be a circus fat man but lost too much weight. Or I was the thin man and developed a taste for fried food. Or I was a ballerina. Or a shaved bear. Possibly fatigue made me put down 'travel writer'. When I checked in to see if they were done with my passport, the guy looked up and said in a coy sort of voice, "So...you are the travel writer?"

Well, shit.

Now, I have to do a bit of backtracking. Tell them I do not work for Lonely Planet. It is just a blog. I also played the gushing "Oh, I'm just so excited to be here" role with as much aplomb as I could muster being that tired. I don't think it would have won me an Emmy.

Travel writers often need extra documentation and paperwork. I'm not sure if it ended up helping or not. They gave me a three month multiple entry visa. The three months I had been expecting and paid for - the multiple entries were unexpected. For those who aren't familiar with visas, multiple entries mean you can go in and come out within the time allotted on this visa. In SE Asia it means something different. There it means your visa resets for the amount of time you'd gotten it for initially each time you go in and come out. Not in India or Nepal.

I went and found a place to get a beer (175 NRS) and some noodles (125 NRS). I really wanted to have a beer since I'd gotten out of India. I tried the 'Kathmandu' brand. It had a distinctive taste. Unfortunately, not in a good way.

The hotel room I ended up sleeping in was about as shitty of room as I'd ever seen. Dead bugs on the floor, no toilet flush handle, no toilet seat, suspicious sheets - the works. But it was dirt cheap (300 NRS) and within sight of the bus ticket office.

Feeling damned gritty after a twelve hour bus ride, I asked the manager if I could get a bucket of hot water. Apparently, bucket showers had not been left behind in India. Sad. He began to ponder if he wanted to get a bucket of hot water sent up to the room. I changed his frame immediately and said "How much rupees for a bucket of hot water?" This got him thinking in a whole new way. The question no longer was 'do I want to get this pussy a bucket of hot water', it became 'how much can I make off of this foolish tourist?'. He said 50 NRS and on general principle I bargained him down to 30 NRS. Yes, it's not really 'fair' to go for people's weak spot (money).

For anyone who has never had a bucket shower before, the bucket is large enough to hold three soccer balls or so and you need half a bucket to make it work. Get a full bucket, you have extra. Add some cold water till it gets to the appropriate temperature. I think it's a miserable way to take a shower but it gets you clean.

When I was emerging naked from the bathroom, the power cut out.

Ah ha! Blog material! First thought. Second thought was a mention of the importance of carrying flashlights. The power came back on while I was rummaging in my carry bag for one. Figures.

Local sources said the bus ticket to Kathmandu should be 300-500 NRS - significantly cheaper than the 500 IRS (Indian Rupees - 1 is 1.6 NRS) the other tourists paid for their ongoing tickets. Research pays. My ticket ended up costing 470 NRS. So, I saved a little but not a huge amount. Some people would argue that convenience is worth it. This way is if you wanted to leave up to three hours earlier. And the bus I ended up on, same comfort level but all Nepal folks and the bus was still only half full.

Buses leave from the border between 4 AM and 7:30 AM, every half hour. Who knows why it doesn't leave any later. Possibly the drivers aren't quite insane enough to go over the mountain passes in the dark - but I wouldn't put it past them...



BUS TO NEPAL

After some irritating dealing with the bus driver and ticket seller, we were off to Kathmandu. There were two 'yellers' in the bus for some reason.

We made a couple unscheduled stops. One was to get the bus blessed by a priest and the other was so that the driver (and Logan) could pee into nature. There were no women on board to be jealous of our ability to do so.

The bus made several other mysterious stops. I couldn't figure out why we stopped. There were no mechanical failures, new passengers or commerce of any sort going on. We simply would stop for awhile then go again.

As we drove through Nepal, I was shocked at how clean it was even in very busy populated areas. It's not the population, it's the mentality of the people.

The Nepalese people seen thus far seem good-natured and a bit shy around foreigners.

Nepal itself is a lot like I've always imagined South America to look. Brown natives, mountains, dry dusty towns, hideous looking buildings and nice nature. Since I've never been to South America that is all conjecture.



BUS DRIVER OF DOOM

When someone passed him or was in front of him, he took it as a personal affront. By Nepalese standards, he seemed 'extremely aggressive'. The other passengers actually looked very wary and frightened at a few of the maneuvers he did. This is another good reason to sit at the back of the bus. What you don't see coming won't scare you to death. Yes, the impact will crush you to death but hopefully you won't have time to get scared.

To imagine driving here, simply make a checklist of everything you would never consider doing on very narrow, steep mountain roads with hairpin and switchback turns in heavy traffic. Now, do all of them. Blind passing uphill around a corner? No hesitation. Play 'chicken' with other vehicles when there is no where to turn off? Regularly.

We passed through a lot of landscape that would normally look pretty but in my mind said only "If the bus driver fucks this up, we are going to roll down this rocky very steep mountain. Anyone who survives that will get to drown in the river."

Doing that sort of driving while being tortured on cheese grater roads for twelve hours is stressful and wearing.

At one stop, they washed the bus. This surprised me because I didn't think these buses ever got washed. They were careful not to wash off the red stuff the priest had lobbed at the windshield as part of the bus blessing.

During the drive (between the screaming) I saw a lot of terrace farming. While terrace farming looks nifty, it screams poverty and hard work to me. It says "My family has been poor for so long that over several generations we've been doing this - and are still poor. We work so hard we had to partially level the crappy soil of a mountain to try to eek out an existence."

Much to everyone's surprise, we arrived in Kathmandu.



KATHMANDU

After some bargaining, I paid 300 NRS for a taxi ride to the Thamel district in Kathmandu. It was a few kilometers away from where the bus dropped me off. The other taxi drivers assured me this is a good rate but I assume everything they say is a lie.

The Thamel district is totally made up of everything Nepalese think tourists want. If you can't find a guesthouse here by just walking in, you are slow of mind. Even slower than Logan - which would mean you can't understand this blog. Hence, I can say that anyone reading this blog is clever enough to find a place to sleep in Thamel. It may not be the right place or right price but there are tons of places here you can crash. You can just do what I did - find some tourists and ask them. A couple of Swiss girls directed me to one nearby.

I ended up at the Chill Out Guesthouse. The girls told me they'd heard other people get a room for 500 NRS so I bargained for that. The rate started at 600 NRS so I thought I could hit that. I did, but then they sprung the VAT and service charge on me so it was back to the bargaining table. Ended up at 550 NRS. Normally, if a place asks for VAT and service charge I just leave. Honestly. It is yet another scam. It means either that you are staying at a place that is posh and you can afford to pay an extra 25% or you are not staying at somewhere posh and they are just trying to rip you off another few rupees. The better places just include all of that shit in their price. Believe me, I do when I write about their prices.

Speaking of prices, going from 1 IRS = .02 (50 IRS = 1 USD) to 78 NRS = 1 USD SUCKS. I got spoiled. It's not like everything is the same price and you just have more money. Oh, no. They jacked the prices on everything so you end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out what you are actually paying.



ALCOHOL

In India, you are not always allowed to go into the store. There are a bunch of bars and the man inside can pass you a bottle of what you want after you give him money. This may be to keep religious types from smashing up their stock. Or theft. Probably religious fanatics. In Nepal, everyone sells booze. This is strange to me because I don't think I can really afford it. Even on my self imposed limit, I have a lot more access to money than many of the natives. I wonder "How can they afford this shit?"



WHAT THE HELL IS A 'MO MO'?

A mo mo is suppose to be this famous Nepalese food. I went and ordered some from a place that assured me 'they were good'. Pot-stickers, people. That's all they are. They were reasonable tasting but if you know what a 'pot-sticker' is, you've had it. Instead of soy sauce, they give you a sauce made from ginger, garlic and tomato. Decent but not 'oh my god, this is a unique food'. Nope.



POWER OUTAGES

Tim Van Theemsche will especially like this. For those who don't recognize it immediately, these are in military times. If you don't get the 24 hour clock, sad for you. Take a look at these times:

SUN 9-15, 19-24; MON 8-14, 17-24; TUE 5-13, 18-24; WED 4-11, 15-22; THU 3-10, 14-20; FRI 3-9, 13-19; SAT 10-17, 20-24.

Note, these times are gospel. By that I mean that everyone has times which are a little different and they bicker over them.

These are the *scheduled* power outages for Kathmandu. They don't include the unscheduled ones. This is pretty rough. I think Americans would freak out if they had to endure any of these sorts of shenanigans. I feel myself wanting to freak out. I thought they had it rough in Rajasthan when they would turn off the power for two hours every day. Turns out they were in the lap of luxury.

The reason this is of special interest to Tim V.T. - by great irony, these are the times when his internet also goes out. He has 'hick internet' and he hates it very much. I'm just happy he hasn't gone on a 'spree'. Yelling things like "Head shot" and "multi-kill" would be a real downer for worker morale at 'hick internet'. I'm not saying it isn't fully deserved, mind you...

During the rainy season in Nepal when they have more water flowing, they do not have these power outages. More water equals more power. More water also equals more water for TJ to drown the employees of 'hick internet' in - so it has it's downside...

Due to these ongoing power outages, you find a lot of places with generators, solar water heaters and so on. Also, during the rainy season when they have more water hence hydrodynamic power no outages.



GODDESS ALERT

Apparently, there is a living goddess here in Kathmandu. She's currently in the form of a little girl but is presented daily for people to see and hopefully photograph. I don't know exactly where she lives and who she is but who knows, I might go pay a visit. Apparently she is found in much the same way as the Dali Lama. When the old incarnation dies, they find a kid born at about the same time, do various tests and there you go.



BEER

This is the only publication that talks about goddesses, women's roles and beer all in the same publication.

Thus far, I've tried three different beers. In order from best to 'what the hell was that' they are: Tuborg (The Borg always win), Carlsberg and Kathmandu (brand).



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Always carry $100 or more in USD. Not EUR, not BPS - always USD. Everyone takes it and sometimes only that. Besides, if you are on the euro, getting a hundred is not expensive. I also recommend a full breakdown - $10, $20x2, $50x1. More takes up too much space, different breakdowns are less useful. All $10's is fine if you don't mind carrying more bills but that breakdown is handy. This is at a minimum. If you say 'but I'm on the euro and everyone takes euros', Nepal doesn't for their visa. There could be other countries as well. This is just your 'emergency cash'.


In most countries, your best bet is to simply ignore the buses and go to the official ticket window and get a ticket. In Nepal, find out what everyone is charging, when they leave and what their bus looks like. Then, go to the ticket window and see what they have to offer.


Negotiating with a cab. [Deep regrets if I've said this before but I still don't have a competent editor. Note that if I get one and he leaves that statement in, it says something.] Find out how much the fare should be from locals. It is actually less - they tend to exaggerate. Round down if you want or accept that or more if you want a cab right now. Business card to where you wish to go in one hand, money you wish to spend in the other. I pulled this off without speaking a couple different times.



TRAVELER'S LORE

I met up with two nice Hungarians named Attila and Ancsa. They told me two funny acronyms:

INDIA:
I
Never
Do
It
Again

NEPAL:
Never
Ending
Peace
And
Love



NEPAL WEIRDNESS

The people of Nepal are short. This makes life painful in many ways for tall or possibly average height people. Knock out doorways, feet sticking off of the edge of the bed, etc. There are bathrooms you won't be able to stand upright in. For men attempting to pee - or getting up after other activities in the unlit stinky place it'll be painful.


In Kathmandu, a lot of the women wear western clothing rather than robes and such. To me, that always speaks more to equality though I am perhaps conditioned to think this. I haven't learned much about a Nepal woman's lot in life yet but they do seem more approachable than Indian women - especially the Muslim ones. We'll see as I meet more.



COSTS (don't you wish other travel literature gave you this kind of breakdown?)

Before I came to Nepal, people had told me 'It's cheaper than India. After all, you get 1.6 NRS to 1 IRS. Yes, however you get a big stack of Vietnamese Dong to 1 IRS and Vietnam is decidedly more expensive. Hopefully, after I figure out a good place to go out of the tourist area the prices will get cheaper. Right now, they aren't. In fact, a bit more pricey than some parts of India.

Ticket from India border to Kathmandu, 470 NRS

Bus stop Snickers bar, 60 NRS

Bus stop can of pineapple juice, 60 NRS

Cheese burger at restaurant Gaia. Bit disappointing. Burgers should not have cucumber on them - ever. Sadly, America still has the best burgers in the world despite our strange motivation to put bacon on everything - even on top of other bacon. Gaia burger, 330 NRS.

One liter of 'Real' fruit juice. Note, 'real' may be the brand name, 155 - 175 NRS

'Axe' brand deodorant, 150 ml, 225 NRS. I recommend the Axe brand not for the smell or whether it works or not but merely for the twist top of the can - works very well under stress in a backpack.

Cheap Swiss Army Knife, 400 NRS

Shower (body) wash, 200 NRS

Nepal cigarettes, 115 NRS. This is for Surya cigarettes. Decent, nothing special. Cambodia is still the place for cheap smokes and booze.

Booze 700-1000 NRS. This is for either a small bottle of imported stuff or a big bottle of cheap (and possibly evil chemical treated) local stuff.


Some hotel and guest house prices from my research around the area. Note that if the place didn't have wifi and hot water I wasn't interested in the price. I can do better. Service tax and VAT are in these prices. Some prices have been 'reduced' but not by much

Hotel Holy Himalaya, 15 Euros (20 Euros for a double)
Hotel White Lotus, no wifi
Imperial, 550 NRS + odd smell in room for free
Kathmandu Guest House (fancy place), $8 single common shower, $40 single with shower
Lhasa Guest House, 500 NRS (battery back up for 24 hour wifi, owner friendly)
Mustang Holiday Inn, 1200 NRS
Sacred Valley Inn, 25 USD
Shangri-La Guest House, 700 NRS

Honestly, the people that pay $40 for a single still strike me as 'wtf are you thinking'. You could be getting a much fancier room in a much fancier country for that. Even if this is your 'big vacation'. I've been in expensive rooms and cheap rooms. Many times, you really don't get that much more good stuff out of a nicer room than a cheaper one. My rule of thumb (other than use a stick the size of my thumb) is 200 IRS for a room with no wifi, 400 IRS with wifi. So, multiply by 1.6 for NRS. Under that is even better.

Prices from "Paddy Foley's Irish Pub"
Domestic beers, 340-360 NRS
Imported beers, 300-600 NRS
Shooters and mixed drinks, 350-400 NRS

Friday, March 16, 2012

SHANGRI-LA

PARENTS AND STUFF

A long time ago (in a galaxy not so far away) I set out on my trip. My parents had two requests:

1. We don't want to know anything dangerous that you've done in the past.
2. We don't want to know anything dangerous you are currently doing.

Without telling them I've been threatened by both locals and tourists they still consider anything outside of the USA as 'remarkably dangerous'. Like western Europe. India is pretty much in the 'oh my god how have you survived this long' category for them.

Fine. I don't tell them things. Anything, actually.

I'm OK with that. I've never had a close relationship with my parents.

Then today, I get an e-mail message from them asking what my schedule is. This is very strange for me. I think the chances of them traveling outside of the USA are about the same as someone mailing me a large bundle of money and it actually reaching me.

So, it makes me wonder 'WTF'...

Note, I had asked them why they wanted to know my schedule but they never got back to me.

For long time readers of the blog, this may be the first time you've heard me mention my family. For those who know me well, the whole 'Logan has a family' thing may come as a shock. I realize that many people hold the believe that I sprouted fully formed from the earth and was bitter and unhappy about it. This may be true. It is also widely believed that I have always looked much as I do now. This may also be true. There are pictures (somewhere) of me much younger but those could have been forged.

One can never tell.



DELHI BELLY

To put it in a very polite fashion, Delhi belly. Impolite, explosive diarrhea. Not a real uncommon thing in a country as dirty as India. Or Cambodia. Or Laos for that matter. Anyway, I've gotten it again.

So, I post on FB:

"Thought: trying to sleep under mosquito netting with explosive bowels is a challenge I wouldn't wish on most of you."

Chris C had the best retort:

"I piciture you getting up in the middle of the night... moaning because yiou back hurts and now the urge to shit is making you move faster than you usually do... the netting gets wrapped around you and you stagger around looking like a cheap halloween ghost in sheet... you find the door and rush through to find you have actually stumbled into the hallway... your moans and groans grow louder as you bump against the walls making a huge ruckus... the angry hippie emerges from his room to see the large ghost flailing about and screams in fright falling to the ground clutching the logan ghost monster which makes the netting drape over the hippie who is now convinced the ghost is eating him... the angry sitar woman rushes to the hippies aid to see the naked logan monster standing in all his... Splendor... she screams and looses same sanity dropping the sitar on the hippie breaking the infernal noise machine and putting her into catatonic shock for the forseeable future. Freed from his netting logan turns around to flee toward the bathroom when his clunch fails and pure consentrated evil explode from logans backside. The angry and noisy neighbors lay smothered in covered like a BAD hot fudge sundae. Logan closes his door and makes his way to the bathroom to shower and roll back into bed... karma finally catching up with evil neighbors..."

A good movie scene!



TRAVELERS LORE

From Sabine

hey.. just read some of your blog!:).. ohh and im quoted!:).. anyway have some information regarding "going to nepal" that i thought i'd throw in your general direction.. use it as you please!... just coz i saw you were writing about it on your bogg.. and i happen to have tried both methods of reaching nepal.. several times!
TAKE THE BUS!
the bus leaves in the morning, reaches the boarder generally by evening late afternoon, you then check into a hotel, and next morning catch a bus to Kathmandu.. ( this is anyway how it turned out when i did it.. time is always relative!)
this is the easy "no hassle" option ( dont get carried away by the no hassle part though.. you still have to spend a lot of time in a small bus seat!)
If you're feeling funky.. then jump on the train going north ( any
train booking wallah will know the name of the station you then want to go to, but i cant remember!).. at the end station get a bus top the boarder, and then from there get another bus to kathmandu.. the good part about this is that the train just is more comfortable.. in the scense that your not "stuck" in the same way as on a bus.. also it leaves in the evening.. meaning that you dont have to "waste" daytime sitting on a bus (again time is relative, and somehow relatively longer on busrides!)..

both options take more or less the same amount of time, cost more or less the same.. but with the bus option you yourself dont have to move as much.. just lean back (!!) and enjoy!.. with the train theres the " sleep might be possible" option..

both the train and bus option still means that you have to catch a bus from the nepaleese boarder to kathmandu.. they leave quite often and take between 8-12 hours... my experience tells me.. the buswallah will most probably insist on 5-7 hours..

If the hostilities continue at kedar guest house you should check amima lodge.. its right on Assi Ghat between the bookshops harmony and indica books.. prices are resonable and the rooms are simple and clean.. the ones ive seem at least!

Off to Kalkatta!.. Hope you enjoy the rest of your time i Kashi!..

oiii.. btw if you go from Durga Kund (rickshaw wallahs will know this place) towards Sankat Mochan there is a grey marble temple on you left hand on the way.. check it.. but most importantly go upstairs inside and to the back, pay the 3 Rps fee and enjoy some pure indian sillyness!!! one of the little hidden things to see!



VIVA NEPAL

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I am going to get to see the grey marble temple Sabine has spoken of. A combination of the rising heat, Delhi belly, general irritability and being threatened by more people than I am accostomed to in a country has caused me to purchase the bus ticket for the border of Nepal. The bus leaves at 8:30 AM, arrives at 4:30 PM. Supposedly.

Originally, I had been told that the bus ticket was 1000 RS but this was all the way to Kathmandu with a mandatory night stop over. I had read this is not the way to do it so I asked for a ticket just to the border. Turns out that is only 500 RS. I booked it through Chnnu of the "Festive Villa Restaurant". I was told it's a 'nice bus' so we'll see what I actually get. I would like to point out that she didn't try to gouge the ticket price. That is honest and sadly rare here.

For 500 RS, I'm not really expecting all that much. But we'll see.

I went and settled accounts with the lady of the house as her husband is still off buying more land. That was painless and I didn't get robbed there. Happy.

Since my belly is currently fighting with the strange pizza like substance I put into it (Pizzeria Vaatika Cafe - decent but nothing special. Normal size, extra cheese, diet coke, 260 RS) I am planning on sitting in my room the rest of the day.

This comes as quite a disappointment to all of the merchants who would love nothing better than to lure me into their shops.

Tomorrow at 7 AM, I have asked for a tuk tuk to be waiting for me outside of my lodging just to make sure I have one. It will cost nearly double what a normal tuk tuk would (80 RS) but with the heavy pack on avoiding too much walking is not a bad thing. Chnnu booked that as well. I cautioned her that if it is not there at 7 AM exactly, I would go on foot. Since I've never had a tuk tuk booked in advance ever show up on time, I really don't expect to see it.

But I could be surprised. Who knows.

So, tomorrow I shall make my way to the Nepalese border and from there catch a bus to Kathmandu. This is thought to be the mythical 'Shangri-La', but it's probably just another claim to attract tourism. I doubt any immortal beings are still alive today. If I can get a cheap, cold, non-sucky beer and a good steak it would be close enough to Shangri-La for me.

Due to travel, it may be a couple of days before I can update.

Due to the amount of fucked up things that happen to me while I am in transit, it should be an interesting read for you. Less fun for me.



MOVIE REVIEW

The King's Speech

I remember when this was in the movie theaters not too long ago. There were so many people giving me impassioned speeches on what a great film it was and so on. And on. At the time, I didn't see it because it didn't look like my kind of movie. No humor. No explosions. No humorous explosions. But, later I thought hey - this made a lot of awards and hoopla lets give it a chance. See what's up.

No humor, no humorous explosions.

It wasn't a bad movie but it wasn't 'oh my god'. It was about someone put into extraordinary circumstances overcoming adversity. Respectable but we do get movies like that all the time. The fact that it was based on true events, neat, but meh. Who really cares?

I'd give the movie a 6/10. It was good but not earth shattering. I really don't understand why people got so worked up about it.



TV SHOW REVIEWS

'Being Human'

So far, I'm not horribly impressed. They have three main people in the cast. A werewolf who is a socially awkward pussy. He doesn't seem to have any control over it or any real upside. He just freaks out once a month. They have a charming attractive vampire who is 'on the wagon'. Christ, I'm tired of 'sexy' vampires. That cliche plus the 'on the wagon' one - dull. They also have 'the prince is angry with you' cliche from the 'Vampire: The Masquerade' RPG. And last off, they have a ghost who is totally wrapped up in her ex-fiance. She had what appears to be a dull life and spends most of her time pinning for her lost love. Fair enough, that does strike me as the kind of crap ghosts get up to.

But the series thus far has been pretty dull. Not a lot going on. Some threats of menace from here or there but nothing I've really been made to care about. I'm going to try to make it through the first season. Unless it picks up, it gets 4/10. Note, I made it through the first season but it was an effort. I have the second season mysteriously (and slowly) showing up. Unless I am out of other stuff, I won't bother.

Hell, at least on the show 'Misfits' you could look forward to them occasionally brutally murdering a probation worker.



'QI'

Logan watching a game show is as strange of concept for many as 'Logan having a family'. Understandable. Most game shows are pretty much right above 'reality shows' for appealing to the lowest common denominator. This game show is hosted by the extremely clever Stephen Fry. He strikes me as the kind of person I'd love to have a few cups of tea with and chat. This game show has questions that nobody usually knows the answers to. Like Jana's tour guiding, points are not only given for being correct but for having interesting - even if completely false - answers. As a result, I consider this usually to be funny as hell. Of course, some shows are better than others; some shows get me laughing hard enough that people who don't know I am listening through headphones may think I'm completely mad. Which may, in fact, be true.

BURNING GHAT SHAKDOWN

BUMPY TRAVEL THROUGH INDIA

I decided to do something a little different today. In India, this is possible everyday. If you have money. I don't have a lot but if you know how to barter, a little can go a long way.

When I got into country, the nice man at the train station gave me a map for free. This was very nice of him. Through exploration and owning a working compass, I discovered that the Indian folks are worse at mapping than I'd feared.

I'm pretty sure that everyone has seen something like this on a map.It's on my map. The problem is that it should be upside down. My guess is that it's just another meaningless symbol that is suppose to appear on the map to the map maker and so he put it on as is.

I'm not even joking.

Hence, through trial and error and a lot of saying 'WTF is wrong with people', I've discovered that 'south is up' on this particular map. I've shown it to other tourists, pointed at the 'north arrow' and gotten some 'WTF's' from them as well.

Good times.

Don't trust maps in this country.

Anyway, I am staying in the northern part of the city at a place called Assi Ghat. It's pretty quiet aside from the violent hippies that periodically infest the region. I wanted to head south to look at some of the other ghats. In this town, it seems that all of the interesting stuff is close to the river.

I have walked a ways south before exploring but I wanted to go further south than I'd been before.

Hence, I decided to take a boat.

Boat prices are usually pretty expensive but one of the girls at the 'usual tea place' told me about paying only 50 RS for a ride.

What the hell I figured.

So I did the bargaining technique where I took out only the money I wanted to spend and put it in my hand to walk along the banks of the Ganges.

I heard crazy quotes. The highest was 400 RS. That was the 'hello, you look stupid and rich' price. No takers at 50 RS. Just whining. So, after I got free of that group of boatmen, I swapped the 50 RS for 100 RS and tried the same trick with the next group. Got a hit that time.

I had him take me to roughly the middle ghat on my list. Still a bit north of the burning ghat but close enough to walk around some more. For those curious, the actual distance is under 4 KM or so. But the boat was less dangerous than walking the chaotic streets of India. Well, it was in some ways. The last scientific facts I'd read on the Ganges showed that it was pretty much all sewage according to their numbers. It doesn't look nice. Not quite so bad that if you tossed a lit cigarette in that the river would burst into flame, but not anything you'd swim in if you had any common sense. Religion, however, trumps common sense. Many Hindus drink a mouthful of water every day. I'm sure their immune system gets a great workout. For us unaccustomed foreigners, I don't recommend even washing your hands in it.

So, I went on the boat ride. (See videos below).

After I got dropped off where I wanted to be, I got a shave right there Ghat-side (30 RS). I could have probably gotten it a lot cheaper but it's good to be nice to the man with the razor at your throat.

After that, I was feeling a bit peckish. I spied 'Dolphin Restaurant'. A dolphin sounded pretty good right then so I hiked up the many stairs to it. You can't get 'french fries' for 100 RS there. A typical meal is 300-400. Screw that, way too much to eat Flipper.

So, I made my way to the famous Burning Ghat.



BURNING GHAT SHAKEDOWN

I wasn't even on the ghat but I took a couple pics of the wood. Such a lot of wood they have.

I'm not really interested in getting a picture of some guy's grandmother getting cremated. I wouldn't say that it is because of 'basic human decency' - those who know me well may already be laughing - but I just don't have any interest.

Some short guy saw me taking pictures from a distance and came right over. He told me that this was very disrespectful of his religion. He told me the only way to make it right was to come and give an unspecified amount donation to the 'old people's' fund. I was threatened with all sorts of horrible things - seizure of passport, jail time, heavy fines.

Con Man: "Don't you respect our religion?"
Logan: "Your religion? Yes. You? No."

Then, the danger level went up as more people wanted to come over to assist this con man. I just said "Hey, sorry. I'm out." and left despite their protestations that I could not leave.

Nobody tried to stop me. The barking dog had no teeth.

I did wonder if it would come down to a bit of fighting.

The sad thing is that with a con like this, you aren't totally sure if it is true or not. People do a lot of things that - were 'religion' not assigned to it people would say is totally moronic. Since 'religion' is assigned to it, all sorts of sacred emotions get tagged on. Best just to GTFO.

First hippies, now thwarted con men. What next?



RETURN TO THE BURNING GHAT

Those who know me know that I am very stubborn. I came to see the burning ghat, I will see the burning ghat.

I worked my way around the serpentine streets to the opposite side of the ghat. I put my had I'd been wearing into my bag and donned a necklace of flowers (5 RS) and bought a juice box (10 RS). Simple changes can make all of the difference for a disguise. If I had different pants and a shirt that would have helped but as it was the disguise worked.

Making sure not to have my camera in my hand - at all - I wandered around the burning ghat some more. The con men didn't realize it was me. I did keep away from them as I have a pretty unique appearance. But I got to see it.

The best way is to probably surreptitiously photograph the scene from a boat on the water. Note that I'm not advocating trying to get close ups of burning corpses but the scene itself is pretty interesting. Grim, possibly sad but interesting. Death is big business there.

I didn't actually see a corpse. Don't care, seen corpses before. Hell, seen a live autopsy. Don't care. Some people have a lot of problems with corpses. If someone is dead, I view them as just the five dollars or so of chemicals and goo left over afterward. Not really useful.

After that, my peckishness returned.



DRAMATIC RETURN OF THE PECKISHNESS

I made my way to the more reasonably priced 'Sankatha Guest House' and spoke to the owner Malu.

In asking him about the shenanigans at the burning ghat he told me never to give money to anyone there. There are a lot of people hustling foreigners there. Many problems with it. "Fucking police do nothing." he told me. I asked why and was told they get bribed. That's kind of sad in such a solemn and very religious place.

For those interested, rooms there go from 300-900. Hot water, wifi has been broken for two days, TV and in the more expensive rooms, AC.

The food was decent, I had a main, rice and a bottle of water for 130 RS.

I enjoyed spending an hour or two chatting with some nice folks from France.

After that, I went forth to find transport back to my guesthouse.



BIKE RIDE TO THE GUESTHOUSE

In India, you are never really done with being shaken down for money. I negotiated the price for the 3-4 KM ride back to Assi Ghat. The driver really didn't want to do 50 RS but some other guy started yelling he'd do it for 40 RS so he suddenly accepted my less than generous offer.

The amount of cut throat competition for a dollar is fierce.

On the trip, he tried to beg off me. Here are a couple snippets of the things he tried and how I responded to it. I call him 'bike'.

Bike: "I am very poor man."
Logan: "Excellent."

Bike: "It is many kilometers to Assi Ghat."
Logan: "You'd better pedal harder."

Bike: "It is a hard life with no money."
Logan: "That's super!"

Bike: "Do you think...?"
Logan: "Less talk, more pedal."

Eventually, he got the hint and shut up. I played the cheerful "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves. It made him seem more happy and cheerful.

When I got off of the bike and handed him the earlier agreed upon 50 RS, he looked as though I'd just kicked him. When he gave me that look, the thought of kicking him did in fact cross my mind but I opted for tea instead. Yummie tea.

Fucking hate beggars.



SPELLING

I was just pondering spelling. Before the age of the computer, you needed to learn how to spell. They would have 'spelling B's' in school and such to try to test spelling and reward those who did well. And, of course, shamelessly mock those who didn't. Today, if someone is good at spelling you can always say "Gosh, you function as well as my spell check on the computer. So happy you spent all of that time memorizing the stupid spelling we have in the English language!"

Sorry kids, you only need to learn to spell well enough for spell check (or the internet) to figure out what you are trying to write.




VIDEOS

Boat Trip 1
Boat Trip 2
Ride back to Assi
TJ 2 Cows
TJ 4 Cows

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

For videos with a Loganesque slant, be sure to visit here. You can also Facebook Logan.

If you enjoy this blog, please donate! Help Logan keep on traveling.