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Sunday, May 27, 2012

ESCAPE FROM THE MOUNTAIN OF DOOM

ESCAPE FROM THE MOUNTAIN OF DOOM

Darjeeling wasn't all bad. The good thing was "I saved a bit of money" over normal India. I was renting a nightmare of a room for 250 INR. The ever wet squat toilet and the scary outside showers weren't too appealing. The room was interesting for it's collection of flying insects.

Because everything in Darjeeling is a climb up or down a steep hill, it wasn't a city I really enjoyed kicking around in. Fat, smoking people dislike hills. Yet another bout of 'traveler's tummy' didn't help either. Not wanting food at all because you are jumping for the toilet every few minutes does make for a great weight loss program. Screw exercise and eating healthy - just eat everything until something pulls the plug! It's like a wonder drug.

There was a great restaurant there named Sonam's Kitchen. The food was pretty decent but what I really liked was how little seating there was. This forced people who didn't know each other to sit together. As a result, I met a lot of great tourists. Also, the people who owned and ran the restaurant were great. I got an opportunity to hang out with both locals and tourists there.

Because of the nightmare that is Indian Rail, I got stuck longer than I anticipated in Darjeeling. The town is not nearly as cool as it looks on paper. I'd personally not wish to travel back there and would advise many places over it. I'd rather deal with the heat of the low lying areas than the extortionist prices people have begun charging to get up and down the mountain. Naturally, it costs more to get off the mountain than onto it. If you're wanting to go there to see the wonderful mountains in the distance, just forget it. The weather alternates between overcast and foggy.

Due to the influence of Ellen and Jonas, two tourists I met, I did indeed visit 'Happy Valley' tea plantation. The tea plantation I visited in Georgia was more interesting and the guide didn't hit you up for a tip afterward. We picked up another lone tourist named Eemay and went off to watch Jonas painstakingly taste tea. I recorded this and when I can get access to wifi, will upload it.

Getting train tickets in India is very complicated at times. Since all of the Indian tourists flooded into Darjeeling it became one of those times. Rather than wait for hours in line and need to bribe the officials at the train station (yes) I decided to just pay four or five dollars over the normal price and get someone else to do it. In retrospect, he did a nice job.

Because I would be traveling for thirty or forty some hours nearly in a row, I decided to go the best possible class. In India, this is 2AC. That means the bunks are two high and it is air conditioned. Below that is 3AC then 'sleeper' and after that is 'the huddled masses'. Anyone who travels last class is either desperately poor, insane or stuck with no alternatives.

I followed the advice of my travel agent. Although the train I would be taking after arrival in Calcutta left four hours later, I had my ticket booked for the following day. Trains which are four hours late are not really uncommon in India. It turns out I need not have bothered but it was a good precaution and I'm sure that sleeping at the shitty rat trap didn't hurt.

Getting off the Mountain of Doom (where Darjeeling lies) was a lot more challenge than I had thought it would be. Due to the masses of Indian tourists desparate to escape the heat of the low lands, other Indians figured it would be a great time to jack the prices of transport up. These costs are supposed to be fixed by the government but hey - this is India. Judging by how many people are constantly trying to sell me drugs, there doesn't seem to be a lot of law around. So they jacked the prices. After wandering around for a while with a young gentleman from my travel agent (who was carrying the backpack - yes he did get a tip because he didn't ask for one) it started to look like I wasn't going to make it off the mountain. Everything was full. Fortunately, I ran into two people from the Czech Republic who were even more desperate to leave than I was, Ivetta and Radim.

Sadly, they had believed their travel agent when he told them lies like leaving at noon for a five PM train would be more than enough. I first met them standing forlornly at a very crowded queue for the jeeps down. It wasn't moving because everything was full. After checking out the situation, I suggested we split a jeep. It was 666 INR each. Yes, Satan lives in TJ. Oh - I shouldn't have put in those last two words. Anyway, that got us off the mountain but was a bit more pricy than the standard 150 NRS to get up. Turns out that Ivetta was great company. Radim couldn't speak any English. Oh, it would so suck to travel without speaking English. Radim, if you're reading this, bless Google Translate and study English!

After all of the hard driving to get off the mountain and rush to the train station we discovered their train was running three and a half hours late. Yes, three and one half hours.

While we were hanging out waiting for our respective trains, I was leaving my bag in their care. I told Ivetta "If I'm not back, avenge my death!" She responded "Maybe you'll have some nice things in bag." Sounded just like Jana when she said that. It was a bit spooky - like Jana was in the train station with me, planning my doom. Maybe it will become a standard thing for all women from the Czech Republic - plotting Logan's doom.



CALCUTTA

So I took a twelve hour train ride from NJP to Calcutta. The train sleep wasn't good at all due to the crappy, irregular tracks. I spent most of the time listening to my audio books.

Calcutta was a bit more green than a lot of the cities I'd been in. But you can't polish a turd, as the saying goes. The beggars were memorable. They don't really have a 'tourist area' - it's just a normal street with a couple more hotels than average.

Most of the hotels were full but eventually I found a craptastic room for 350 INR that made me wish I had mosquito netting. There were no screens in the large windows though they had sturdy bars. I left the lights off and the fan blasting high and hoped the bugs wouldn't find me. The room was just big enough to hold two beds and a table. I had to dust off crumbs from gods know what before getting on a bed. The horrifying bathroom was right across the hall. The walls were of the "we're too cheap to build all the way to the ceiling" variety. For 1300 INR I could have gotten a double air con but again no wifi. I can say 'dump'. On the upside I discovered I really don't care if it is a cold shower when it is that hot.

I questioned Indians on why they have 'foreigner only' guest houses, hotels and such. Apparently, the foreigners complain about the Indian guests playing loud music and shouting at each other all night with the TV's blasting like they've all gone deaf. It's nice to know it's not just me.

In case you didn't guess, yeah, I was the only foreigner at this particular hotel. If you'd like to stay at a very depressing place, be sure to check out the "Tourist Inn".

The only place of some interest in the 'tourist area' is the 'Blue Sky Cafe'. It was packed with tourists. I don't know if it was because of the decent food or the air conditioning.

I did some wandering around the part of Calcutta I found myself in. I even picked up a local guide who guilted me into a 'donation for needy kids' after he had gotten me thinking he was just a friendly helpful man. Bzzt! Wrong. Welcome to India, bitches.

The British left the Indians a lot of public parks and the Indians stocked them with annoyingly persistent beggars. I have no idea why there are so many Indian tourists here, especially given the heat.



LUXURY TRAIN

Because I'd been willing to shell out extra money for comfort, I was on a pretty exclusive twenty four hour ride. I had the luck of sitting with a very cool, educated and friendly Indian family. Even the two twelve year old boys (cousins) were pretty smart. I wasn't that smart at age twelve and some of the unkind might argue I am still not. Because India is a mix of good and bad, I also had the bunk above me occupied by someone I named 'naughty monkey'. This amused the crap out of the twelve year olds. I'm pretty sure they guy spoke English also but he was wise enough not to say anything or I'd have ripped on him to his face instead of just clowning around for the kids. Yes, he was mildly rude to me at the outset so he became marked for messing with by Logan. I was thinking about Johnny Chimpo. It's Afghanastanamation!

The eleven or twelve person family group had booked their train tickets three months in advance. Since that time, the fares had gone up so the conductor collected the difference. I asked if the fares went down would they be refunded the difference? In theory, yes - but in practicality no I was told.

This was the kind of fancy train that sent by people to spray lemon scent on the floors and curtains periodically.

On all long train rides, there is usually a secret smokers area. Since it is illegal to smoke on the train, there is some sort of outlet - often the conductors room. When I inquired about it I was encouraged to smoke in the bathrooms.

Near the end of the journey, teams of railway guys began coming around with a small bowl of mints on a large tray decorated with one hundred rupee notes. This is to show what they were expecting to get as tips. Naturally, my white skin screamed 'ATM' to them and they hurried over to me. The first group got thirty rupees which they weren't happy about and put into their pocket so other people wouldn't get the wrong idea and start shelling out anything less than one hundred rupee notes. Sure, giving them sixty cents might be seen as cheap but it is most of the one dollar I've received in donations from the paypal account I linked on the main page after the readers encouraged me to go through the chore.

In my stress, agitation and urgent need to get off of the train I forgot my 'butt blanket'. This makes me sad as I've wasted about $8 USD. Bummer.



MUMBAI

I was in a foul mood due to both my twenty four hours of confinement and being shaken down for tips when I got to the sweatbox known as Mumbai. I poked around there to see what sort of lodgings were available. While it is true that a place could be gotten for 200 INR it was the kind of place you'd want to bring your own booby traps for added security to. The less throat slitty places seemed to range above one thousand for a fairly crappy place. For a decent place, you're looking at two thousand on up. It amazes me that anyone would spend that kind of money when they could be staying in Europe for that. Yes, I think Europe is better than India - especially if you have to spend the same amount of money in either.

This would go a long way toward explaining why I didn't see any other tourists in Mumbai. It is India's most expensive city. There were some interesting looking buildings and such there but since the cost of a room exceeded my total daily allowance I decided to take a pass. Unfortunate because Mumbai is the last place that has many of the consulates I need when I figure out which country I'm wanting to head for next.

Given the choice between sleazy or completely out of my price range, I chose to immediately flee and head to Goa hoping it would be better. Sure, I'd just gotten off of a twenty four hour train ride and was going to be going for another twelve but what the hell.

Something that deeply shocked me was the wild differences between prices at travel agencies ten meters apart on the street. The first was 800 INR, the second 1500 INR and the third 1200 INR. Baffling. Nothing special was offered in any of the cases other than the 800 INR bus was scheduled to leave at 7PM (which, in Indian tradition became 8PM). The really surprising thing was when I went back for my ticket they told me it will only actually be 650 INR. This shocked me. I kind of expected them to just pocket the difference. I wrote down the name in case anyone needs to book a ticket through them: Konduskar Travels Pvt Ltd. Not a great name but I was impressed. The bus itself was average but on the newish side.

The ride was a hellish twelve hours but unlike Nepal, I actually managed to nod off a few times.



GOA, LAND OF CHEAP BEER

Unlike the rest of India which taxes the crap out of the beer, Goa has chosen not to. That means the beer here is less than a dollar as opposed to over two dollars. The architecture is nice as well. I've dubbed most of the architecture in Asia as 'box of utilitarian crap' but this architecture has a bit of flare to it. And there are a lot of plants.

Since I've managed to score a room with AC and hot water, I may spend several days investigating this city as well as looking for affordable places that offer wifi. For those curious, the initial price was around 700 or 750 INR but I managed to get it down to 630 INR. I tried and tried for an even 600 INR but just couldn't do it. When I did the bargaining, I was hanging out with an English tourist named Karen. She isn't into the whole bargaining thing but seemed surprised that I got the price down. Remember, if you're not into bargaining in Asia you are into getting ripped off. Your choice.

Another note on Goa - due to the Jesuits, pretty much nothing is open on Sunday. Really - it was rough to find an open restaurant. But I did - the belly always can find food. I was chatting with the owner of the hotel who thought that in America nothing was open on Sundays. Maybe when I was a kid this was so, I informed him, but the home of capitalism always is open for business now. These days, you either have to be living in the buckle of the bible belt or some sort of backwater hicksville to not have things open on Sundays.



DEATH OF THE BAG

The strap broke. I managed to do some makeshift repairs with the cord I always carry but it is looking like it's pretty much dead. I am currently checking out new bags for a replacement. I may end up taking one I bought for 150 INR (down from 350 INR) to a tailor for some custom work such as replacing the zipper and adding pockets. I'm going to wait to see if I like it or not first.

Yes, I am sad that the bag is dead. No, I couldn't bring myself to throw out the corpse of it yet. I've had that bag for over fifteen years and I just wore it out through constant use.

Funeral services are yet to be scheduled.



WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO

I need to do some research to see if Sri Lanka is cheap and has anything I would like to see. The place I am definite about wanting to go is Indonesia. The tricky bit will be to find out where I wil pick up my visa. If you get a visa ahead of time, you get two months and it can be extended a further four months. Should you get a visa on arrival, you get one month extendable by only one month. And I need to see if I want to go to the Philippines. I know I don't like the cooking I've had from it in the past. What's up with all those jagged chunks of bone in stuff any way? It's like they beat the animal to death with a sledgehammer and stuck it in stew. Yech. All of my nightmares about Filipino food aside, I need to research and find out if I can stay in these countries cheaply. I don't think I'll ever be visiting northern India again but I'd like to find out where I can stay cheaply at a nice or at least decent spot. For some odd reason, I'm thinking I'll eventually end up back in the Republic of Georgia. In addition to great folks there a 360 day visa and the possibility of a job there are hard to beat. But I want to see a bit more of Asia first. I might work on getting an Indonesian visa in whatever country I end up visiting. Then again, I might just go for the visa on arrival. If I want to stay more than two months, duck out into another country to visit then get it there. I may have been (again) making it harder than it needs to be. I would feel silly working on getting a two month visa if I feel ready to leave after a month.

And I'll need to find out if it is possible to go by ship or if I'll be stuck flying in.

Something else I will have to keep an eye out for is Ramadan. This year (2012) it is July 20th to August 18th. And don't forget the week of festivals and clogged travel after it is complete! I hope to be in an extremely touristic area with my rent already pre-paid for that time and just sit still. Eating, drinking or even smoking in public during the day time are frowned deeply upon by the devout as they are going out of their minds from lack of food, water and nicotine.



MY IMPRESSIONS OF INDIA THUS FAR

In regards to the places I've been, "I Never Do It Again" (I.N.D.I.A.). It was interesting but I can live without the needless noise. It is possible to live very cheaply in India but I would like a bit better 'quality of life'. Aside from a few cool people I've met, the food is the only other thing which I love. We knew that before I came to India.



LOGAN'S PSYCHIC PREDICTIONS

When I was in Kathmandu, I prophesied that the people making the new constitution would ask for another extension. I was told this would be impossible - they were required to complete it on the date assigned after four years of extensions. None the less, I said wagging my finger, they will ask for another extension. They will do this because the people who set up the committees for making the constitution were not as clever as I. In the original contract, they'd find that their pay would keep getting reduced until they owed the government money after a few extensions. When people are faced with not getting paid much they will suddenly get it done.

In the "Indian Express" (May 25, 2012) the people working on Nepal's constitution asked for a three month extension.

HA.

Sadly, for the people of Nepal this will mean a lot more strikes. I also predict a 20% chance of a civil war. This percentage may rise if the people start other things which will provide markers they are building up to it. As to what this will do to Nepal's tourism, the phrase 'no lube' comes to mind.



LANGUAGES

I wish to god I was smarter and could retain more but these are the languages I can still remember two words or more in. Note the only one (aside from some English) I can have a bit of a conversation in is German. If I could speak all of these fluently, I'd be a happy camper. And I'd have 'badass' printed on all of my t-shirts.

Arabic
Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (all the same language but with different names)
Cambodian
Chinese
Czech
French
Georgian
German
Hebrew
Hindi
Japanese
Korean
Nepali
Russian
Thai

The truly sad thing is that there may be others I forgot I can speak. When I get into the country (or speak with it's people) some of it percolates back up. But actually learning a language is rough. A bit too rough for me but with the useful languages (ie spoken in three or more countries) I do try to put a bit more effort into it. I decided to make a list more for myself to look back on.



PRICES

Happy Valley tea, 100g 225 INR on up to five times that price, depending on which 'flush' and so on.

Vegetable au gratin (yum), 175 INR
Plain rice, 48 INR
Soda, 18 INR

Shared taxi off the Mountain of Doom (Darjeeling, Land of Thunder, sits atop it), 2000 INR. Wowza.

Lunch for three at a decent air conditioned restaurant in the train station including sodas, 460 INR.

Tuk tuk charge for about half an hour of riding, 180 INR.

Friday, May 18, 2012

DARJEELING

NARRATIVE

While I was in Dharan, I met up with a bright young man named Ashok who I spoke of in the previous blog entry. He warned me to be careful of which man I chose for the rickshaw. If the man looks slick and has earrings and such, he is to be avoided as he may try to rob me en-route.

Damned if it didn't happen.

I had flagged down some rickshaw driver and another slicker younger man tried to muscle in on it. The old guy looked pretty whipped by life and just kept his head down hoping to be able to eventually feed himself. I was starting to wonder if yelling 'Look, just fuck off' to the young guy was needed when the creepy guy who did my laundry at the guest house popped up. Damned if he didn't make good. He got rid of the young guy. I rode with the old guy without incident. Pretty happy about that.

It was a long, twisted road I took traveling from Kathmandu, Nepal to Darjeeling, India. I don't recommend making that trip.

On the way to the border, I had to take a rickshaw from Dharan. Normally, that would be a quick and easy taxi ride. Since there was a strike, nobody wanted to risk having their taxi set on fire for violating the strike.

I met up with a Christian. There is nothing that is more of a menace than a convert. He wanted to take me home to pray with him, his wife and child they were working on brainwashing. I turned it down. "Have you heard of Jesus?" No, I've managed to live all of my life in America without once coming across that name. What the hell is up with these religious Zealots?

After a lengthy series of rickshaws and microbuses I made it to within four kilometers (an easy rickshaw ride) of the border to India.

For those curious, my route was Bivatnejar to Jogbani to NJP to Siliguri to Darjeeling. Yes, you can bitch about how they're spelled but the towns are often spelled differently depending on which map you look at and so on.



REFLECTIONS ON NEPAL

After Rajistan India it was a welcome and most needed break. The vast majority of Nepali people were friendly and good humored. I like that. That being said, they have a very fucked up non-government government which is full of - if the people I spoke to are to be believed - a lot of people busy lining their own pockets. That sort of behavior does fit in with what I call the 'Asian business model'. It's sad. I'd have stayed around and gotten some more visits to towns were it not for the impending failure of the constitution to be done by it's latest deadline. There are a lot of 'pre-clusterfuck strikes' which will be happening. After the constitution, a lot more to follow is my guess. It's not a good time to visit Nepal.

The strikes make it extremely difficult to travel. Personally, I don't like traveling out at night when I can help it and the strikes have shut down transport during the day. It feels a bit like the original 'Terminator' movie in which the humans could only go out at night because the evil human killing robots never discovered thermal imaging. (If Skynet goes on line, don't tell them.)

If you as a tourist are thinking about going to Nepal, go for the outdoor activities. If you are not into things like hiking, paragliding, bungee jumping and so on, Nepal isn't really for you. Be advised that none of this stuff - even the trekking - is not cheap. Yes, there is nice scenery but they charge you to see it and everything costs more as you increase in altitude.

Kathmandu has plenty of 'creature comforts' but little 'tourist candy'. Three days should suffice. Bhaktapur is worth a visit. For white water rafting, be sure to visit the folks I mentioned earlier in previous blogs for the most safety stuff.

For my experiences, Nepal costs about the same as India.

Would I go back? Only for the people. The rest is either meh or I didn't visit initially due to either lack of interest or cost.



BORDER TOWNS

Border towns are generally scabby places and the one I was in was no exception. The part of Nepal I was in had become 'south east Asia hot'. Go outside, boom, you're covered in sweat.

Since my Indian visa states that I have to be out of the country for two months before I return - and I wasn't - I thought reentry would be more difficult. It wasn't. In fact, I ended up having tea with the superintendent of the security guards. Yes, one of his subordinates not under his watchful eye did make a hand gesture for wanting a small bribe but since he'd already given me the paperwork I needed to take back to his boss, I acted real dumb and he had to either spell it out or give up. He gave up.

The superintendent was super nice to me. He even assigned one of his men to take me over to the currency exchange I'd missed on the way there. That was great since I needed to exchange a fairly large amount of cash. I'd recently made a withdraw in Nepal so had what amounted to a small (very small) fortune on me. I wasn't at all happy to be doing this business at a counter on the street. I think I'd have felt better letting the man just examine my penis rather than have all of the other customers look at my wad of cash and think "If I just kill this fat man, all this wealth could be mine!" At least if they were looking at my dick they'd think "No threat." (If you didn't think the Logan's Voyage blog would stoop to dick jokes, be sure to read the back issues.)

The man who got sent with me also helped me weed out dubious bills to make sure I got only the best bills. This is important when changing money. If a bill doesn't even look like the others, reject it and get a new one. Same if there is any damage to the bill.

I got a picture with the superintendent and he got one with me. Sadly, getting a picture with his other men was prohibited though I'm not sure why.



INTO INDIA (AKA 'ONCE MORE INTO THE BELLY OF THE BEAST')

Trains in India are much better than buses in Nepal. Sadly, just like some of the buses, you often end up near someone who smells like they shit themselves. There is always the asshole who thinks you want to hear their music. I must admit that I wish I had a recording of cats having sex I could put on any time I hear Indian or Nepali music. It sounds as appealing to me. I'd have liked to pay more than 17 IRS for a seat but it was what was available - general third class seating. You never want anything other than 'AC' which is how they say first class. Ever. Really.

So the twelve hour journey I thought I was on stretched into more of a seventeen hour journey. For most of it, I had no food at all. Eventually, I wound up in a town and had a small meal praying not to get 'traveler's tummy'.

After the train, I had to take another train. I asked for 'first class' (mistake - ask for 'AC') and got third class general seating. I don't know if the guy just didn't understand, didn't care or there was no good seating left. Fortunately, I was taken in by a kindly Indian family who was crowded into the seats already. They made room. No English but I was grateful. I passed out my Nepali maps and some small (useless to me) Nepali notes (money) and they seemed happy about that. The conductor came by and they told him they were OK sitting with me. He looked at me with a look that said "Ah, an idiot tourist. No problem." I certainly felt like one.

Eventually, I got to Siliguri. From there, the only way to Darjeeling is by private (read as expensive) vehicle or by the cheaper bus. The buses had stopped running by the time I got there. At this point, my obsessive personality got the better of me. Rather than deciding to just tackle it in the morning, I decided to push on. Big, big mistake.

The normal ride crammed into a jeep is 150 IRS. For this, they toss your luggage onto the roof and get as many people into the jeep as possible. You then sit wedged in together for the next three plus hours. I'd had quite enough of being wedged in with everyone else. After over a dozen hours of constant travel I needed a break. It was time to bargain.

"I want the entire front seat. Nothing in there but the driver, my backpack and I. How much?" The man said 1500 IRS. I laughed at him and told him he was smoking crack. Eventually, he said "This is my last offer." After taking him down from that, we settled on 400 IRS.



DARJEELING, DAY 1

I had heard that "Jammu Kashmir is the Heaven of India." Believe me, when I first got here it was the opposite.

Within the vehicle, we went through a massive amount of scary switchbacks as we alternatively sped and crawled up the mountain. The road was usually wide enough for one lane of traffic. Hence, traffic moved both directions on the road even at that (for India) late hour. I'm just surprised people didn't block off parts of the road with stands selling crap. Perhaps during the daytime.

I've been into more towns than I care to remember and never had as much problem finding a place to stay as Darjeeling offered.

Everyone is at a huge disadvantage when trying to find lodging at night. Avoid it when at all possible. Eventually, I found a manager at a hotel who spoke excellent English and took pity on me. He took me to a hotel.

I stayed at Hotel Chandi, 500 IRS, that normally just housed Indian guests who could put me up for one night. If, I was to vacate by ten AM despite their normal noon checkout. They didn't even have any cold soda stocked despite having a restaurant in the hotel. If you don't stock cold drinks - at least cold water - you are (to use an American phrase) 'leaving money on the table'. In other words, if you sell it people will buy it.

I seemed to have arrived during the two month 'high season'. Everything is booked by groups of Indians. I found out later that there are two different kinds of hotel/guest houses here. The first is 'normal' and the second is 'foreigners only'. Apparently, they don't want Indian business. Nobody seems to know why this is and I don't ask.

At 6:21AM, I was awoken by a couple of bitches who wanted to know if I wished to purchase a scarf. Only to strangle them with and leave their corpses outside of my room as a warning to others... The really sad thing was that they were only the first of the salespeople selling useless shit door to door there. I've never encountered anything like that aside from the house call whore in Laos who at least had the decency to knock softly. I woke up feeling very violent.

Since I was now wide awake (still feeling violent) I went and found a new hotel and had my stuff in it all within a half hour. Quite a difference from the previous night when I was walking around dragging the heavy pack for god knows how long.

This is "Hotel Long Island". There are several huge disadvantages. There is a common shower which is a bit of a screamer (new term - if you see it, you may run off screaming). The hours for this horrifying place are 8:30 AM till 8PM. Otherwise it is locked up. Why, I do not know. There is a squat toilet in my room and flushing is done by dumping water down it manually. Worst of all, there is no internet. It has a minimum booking time of two days so I paid for it and will spend my time looking for something else. The one and only advantage of this place is it is fairly cheap at 250 IRS per night.


My initial impressions of Darjeeling are both good and bad. It is much cooler as advertised. Joy. Some of the clouds are below where I am. The downside is that rather than build on a relatively flat area in the mountains like Kathmandu everything is built on very hilly terrain. Lugging my fat ass up and down hills is not a joyful experience.


Oddly, Darjeeling does have something called a 'mini-train'. This is a very narrow gauge train. They have little joy rides set up with it. This train is apparently nifty enough that it has been designated as a 'national heritage' thing and is given money both by the Indian as well as foreign governments. Despite this, maintenance has failed and part of the route is now inaccessible. Yes, big surprise. Anyway, you can go pretty much nowhere useful on it. It would have been a neat way to get off the mountain when the time came though I'm not sure if I'd enjoy sitting on a mini train going ten MPH for several (3?) hours.



DARJEELING, DAY 2

I'm still waiting for this town to grow on me. Thus far, I haven't found a lot of things that make this a 'comfortable' place to stay. Like a room with wifi. Reasonably priced laundry facilities. Yes, they do have plenty of wifi here but it is all in internet cafes. Not a lot of help with uploading the masses of pictures and videos I'm starting to accumulate. There are lots of warning signs around saying 'due to water shortage, doing laundry is forbidden'. Well, they're close to that though usually misspelled and badly phrased. But this is a moist climate. My 'quick dry' towel doesn't.

It's been overcast here since I've gotten here which means no spectacular mountain views. Just climbing up and down unnecessarily steep hills.

I think I'd prefer SE Asia hot.

It appears that escaping here is going to be a pretty expensive nightmare.



DARJEELING, DAY 3

Have done some exploring. It's not an easy town to learn due to the hills and all of the interesting stuff being far away from each other but I'm finally getting to know it. Although there are no mosquitoes here, there are a whole lot of flies. Because the people are Hindu, they don't like to kill things. I would but I can't catch the bastards. I am talking about flies here, not the Hindus.

The town has not grown on me.

I paid a couple nights more for my 'close to camping' crappy lodging because hey - it's cheap.

I went to check out the train station. After going up and down a few more huge hills I eventually found it. Naturally, it was open though they had 'link failure'. In simple terms, this means that although everyone else in the town is able to get the internet, their link is broken. This happens often enough they have a permanent sign for it. Not joking. When the link is down, nobody knows anything about anything. In fact, they don't even bother to sit behind the counter - they just go on very long breaks. No help. Had to turn to a booking agent. I don't like going to a travel agent for anything but this one came recommended by the locals. He even showed me the online booking prices and his mark up was pretty reasonable - 200 to 300. While this may sound to some like I am blowing a few extra dollars on tickets, the Indian rail system is a mess. They have to bribe people to give them the tickets or the employees claim there are no tickets. Things like that. Very corrupt and disorganized. Makes me wish that they'd just bring in the Germans from Deutsches Bahn to run it. Hell, they'd probably enjoy the challenge and probably put on enough extra trains to handle the huge loads. If you are booking more than one person the difficulty goes up remarkably due to the strange booking system.

After a lot (at least ten minutes) of soul searching, I decided to go first class across the country. It's going to be a couple days of hell (literally, pitchforks and everything) in the train. Don't even talk to me about the bathroom situation. For those interested in the itinerary I've paid for, I'll be going from NJP (whatever that stands for - it's a town nearby) to Calcutta. That's about twelve hours of fun and I'm arriving at 4AM. Once I arrive there, I need to find a taxi to take me to a different train station (Howah). This will be anywhere from half an hour to an hour drive. Then, I am boarding what is suppose to be a very posh train called the 'Duranto Express'. Everything including my food is covered. I then will have a wonderful twenty six hour ride. That puts me in Mumbai. The bus station is close to the train station. I will have to ask the locals where it is and get ones who will admit that it hasn't burned down, been taken over by terrorists or closed. I will then have a bus ride of unknown length and duration into Goa. The cost of the two trains totals to 4675 IRS. Pricy but about a quarter of what a flight should cost.

On the upside, the bus ride is suppose to be scenic. On the downside, I don't know if I'll be in any condition to appreciate it.



NEXT?

If I can't find what I am looking for in lodging here, I may head down to hot, hot Goa while it is well out of season. Sweat my ass off there (my visa expires 29 JULY) then go to Sri Lanka to again sweat my ass off.

I've heard a lot of conflicting reports from people. Some people are saying Goa or Sri Lanka or both are expensive. Others are saying they are not.

I'm going to go there and check for myself. If I can't find a place that I like in Goa and is cheap, I will push on to Sri Lanka. After that, the plan is Indonesia then the Philippines. After that, who knows - maybe head back to Cambodia to stew for a bit. Maybe press on somewhere else. I am running low on cheap Asian countries to hang out in. For all of the people in the Republic of Georgia, yes that is still on the menu!

I spoke to a German gentleman who lives in Bali and he said that the prices were quite low there. Good deal.



WEIGHT

Despite how much I sweat, yeah, I'm still fat as hell. Should I ever lose weight, I know a certain Dutch girl who will be thrilled. Yes, very, very thrilled. She'll be in line for some very disappointing sex.



IDEA FOR INDIAN WOMEN'S T-SHIRT

"If my parents knew I was a girl, they'd have got me aborted." Yes, sad but true. This t-shirt would provide good biting social commentary.



INDIA - COUNTERFEITING

I spoke with someone about the problem with Indian counterfeiting. According to him, the problem is caused by Islamic fundamentalists who want to undermine the economy. The counterfeits are extremely good - usually of the 500 rupee notes. They include the watermark, silver strip in the bill and so on. It is not some guys with a color copy machine. Sometimes, counterfeit bills come out of the ATM. Should you take one into the bank, they will tear it up and throw it into the trash. You've just lost that money. It is a far cry from the USA where such bills are sent to the secret service for investigation.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

"This is my lowest price." or "This is my final offer." This is my translation. "You have finally gotten them down to their first serious offer." If you don't bargain them down from this point anywhere from 10-50%, you are fucking up.


When you are carrying water during travel itself, the water will also be needed when you actually arrive at your hotel. If you are in Asia, do not trust the water out of the spigots for pretty much anything other than showering.



PITHY SAYINGS

"No pockets in shrouds." Country of origin unknown. For those unfamiliar with the word 'shroud' it's what they put a corpse into.

"Life is short - live wide." - Unknown.



REVIEW - RATNA HOTEL PVT LTD (restaurant)

The first thing I did was bargain away the 13% VAT. "I don't need a tax bill." Does anyone actually try to get reimbursed from the government for that shit? Is it ever actually paid from the smaller places? I doubt it. It's just pocketed. Yes, everything is negotiable if you don't mind walking away. The food was OK but not great. I wouldn't go back but it was a decent last meal in Nepal.



REVIEW - SAM'S FOOD CORNER, DARJEELING INDIA

Good, basic food cheap. If you are a non smoker, you won't like the ashtrays and faint aroma of lingering smoke but since I am a smoker, I did my bit and added to the ambiance. The price range of food is about 20-100 IRS.



PRICES (NRS = Nepal Rupees, IRS = Indian Rupees)

Nepali border, 24 hour internet pass, 250 NRS

Baubles from a train vendor, 10 IRS

One liter of water, 25 IRS

Laundry, 20 IRS per shirt or pants. Yes, I think they're on crack after I was having it done in Kathmandu for the equivalent of 30 IRS per kilo. I'm still working on finding a new laundry place.

Xerox of my passport to get a copy of my photo for the police, 5 IRS. Yeah, the place I am staying in is just that petty.

Transport via shared (read as packed) jeep to a town called 'NJV' or something close to that where I will have to go to catch the bloody train, 150 IRS.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

GLORY HOLE GUEST HOUSE

MAROON RESTAURANT

One last story about Maroon Restaurant. Pretty much every place in Nepal is 'smoking'. There are a few restaurants that are non-smoking but the majority are firmly smoking.

My usual table at the Maroon Restaurant was near the front door. I was smoking there with Shaun and drinking a couple beers when two girls walked in. As they walked by our table, they did the prissy hand wavve and forced cough that showed how upset they were to have entered a smoking establishment.

Fuck you.

Kathmandu is a city where the natives - not tourists - the natives routinely wear dust masks because of the high amounts of pollution and dust.

Walking into a restaurant that not only allows but encourages smoking and throwing a hissy fit on the customers? Why did you ever leave your own country.

Yes, sadly I'm going to bet these cultural ambassadors were from the USA. That's the only country I've seen that kind of shit.



LEAVING ON THE BUS

All over the world, I've found bus stations to be dirty, crowded and depressing. Nobody who is there wants to be there. They all want to be somewhere else. The bus station I found myself at in Kathmandu was no exception.

I'd booked this bus at the urging of Nawang who had used this company before. They don't have 'tourist' buses out to where I was headed. The bus I got was a lot closer to 'local POS' than I would have liked.

The journey 12-16 hours out east promised to be exhausting and dangerous and in this I was not disappointed. My arms hurt eventually with the effort of bracing myself so I wasn't catapulted unexpectedly out of the seat every couple of minutes. The only people that could get any sleep on that bus are deaf narcoleptics. Even then, it would be dangerous as you'd be tossed into something or someone else.

The bus driver piloted with the reckless abandon of someone who owes a lot of money to loan sharks and knows he will never be able to pay it back. I had thought it was the usual insanity of the bus drivers but they were trying to beat the kick of time for yet another strike.

Matt had intensly disliked his three or four hour bus ride and this was over twelve hours of hell. Travel in Nepal sucks. Between the hideous condition of the roads and the frequent strikes, I'm not seeing a lot of the civilized parts that are 'comfortable' to stay in. I'm sure that if you are paying insane prices for things lugged up mountains you wouldn't notice the strikes.

I'd purchased a ticket to Dharan, way out in eastern Nepal. When I disembarked I was assured that is indeed where I was. Found out shortly after the bus left that I was in fact in a town called Itahari, 20KM south of my target. There was nothing to see there and the only guest house which was open at that early hour (6AM) sucked.

A micro bus jam packed with people took me most of the rest of the way for 35 NRS until it was stopped by a strike roadblock. Unload all of your passengers or get torched. We left the bus.

On the long walk to Dharan I met up with a bright young man named Ashok. After a lot of persuading, he got my bindle to carry. I bought him a sprite. He then went completely out of his way to help me find a guest house.



GLORY HOLE GUEST HOUSE

I am staying in one of the arm pits of the universe. My new term for this type of guest house is a 'screamer'. It is the kind that I think many of my readers would run screaming from. Weird bad stuff like a condom floating in the toilet bowl, a worker who not only comes into your room but locks the door behind him when he does (I've no idea why), I don't think it's been cleaned or painted since construction - stuff like that. If you think that is sad, here is what makes it worse: This is the one I'd picked! It looked better than the competition! Oddly though, it is close to a free wifi pickup. The actual name of this is "Hotel Nava Yug". No relation to Yig, sadly.



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF DHARAN

I'd come here because several people said "It's pretty." After walking around a couple hours and seeing nothing but 'standard Asian crappy architecture' I'm wondering what they were seeing that I'm not.

Reading the wiki of it, it appears to have been written by a Nepali who really wanted some tourism. This place is all potential though.

Potential means you haven't actually done anything.

We'll see what happens with the kind Ashok and the strike. Those two factors will determine when I move on. Right now the only novelty of this town is getting stared at like the only black kid in a small Midwest town. Joy. I know what it feels like.










COSTS

Shitty guest house, 500 NRS
Different shitty guest house, 600-1000 NRS

Spaghetti with meat sauce at the 'Hungry Eye' restaurant, 210 NRS, decent.

Friday, May 11, 2012

EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH MIDGETS

FOOD POISONING

On the third day Matt was here, I got more ill from food poisoning than I ever had before. It wasn't just the explosive diareah, it was the hot and cold flashes and the shaking while lying in bed praying that I could get sleep yet spring off it quick enough not to soil it in an instant.

Yeah, I went and bought medicines. Imodium and anti-bacterial medicine. I got it from the pharmacy in the tourist area which meant he probably charged me two or four times what the medicine should have cost - but when you are sick as hell you really don't care. Give me my pills and off I go. I should probably get some of those for my bag but I'm thinking it is the first time in a year I've gotten that sick.

For the normal 'oh crap' type of food poisoning, the packets of dust with one liter of water work just fine. The Imodium and anti-bacterials are just for the 'big shit', so to speak.

My buddy Nirgel over at the Maroon restaurant told me that I should go to a witch doctor. He said he would likely throw rice in my face and hit me with a broom. Matt said he'd grab a metal pole and join in with the Logan Beatdown. This may cause the witch doctor to say to mat "Are you studying witch-doctoring too?"



BHAKTAPUR

After I got healed up from whatever horrible crap successfully ambushed me, Matt and I went to Bhaktapur. I wwas a bit wary of it because you get hit up 1100 NRS to go visit the place. For fucking 1100 NRS, it had better be worth it.

Surprisingly, it was.

There were a lot of very nice temples and places to see. The city was pretty clean and less crowded than many areas of Kathmandu. The architecture was appealing although I wouldn't want to lean on anything.

Matt said: "Really nice. If I ever came back here, that's where I'd stay. You're surrounded by nice people and the location is just nicer. Temples and ceremonial gardens float my boat more. Anything you're wanting to do in Kathmandu will set you back 500-700 NRS. It's got it's ups and downs. Less hustle and bustle. I'm done with all these people trying to run me over."

Logan quote: "I think it would cost more to stay there but it might be interesting for a few days."

While we were wandering around, Matt got a blister on his foot. Does this foot look like a hideous shaved apes club foot or is it just me?

Wearing footwear you aren't used to walking miles and miles in. Don't think that the water from the showers will clean the wound.



THE KNIFE SHOP

Matt wanted to pick up some sort of knife so we went into a knife shop. A couple of Chinese girls decided to get my opinions on some kukri knives they were going to purchase for their boyfriends. I was trying to find out the purpose of the knives - ornamental, killing, etc. By their laughter I think they believed I was joking. Although I wouldn't call myself a knife fighting machine, I have had some training so I know what to look for in a knife. Eventually, they made their purchases and left. Matt found a very unusual purchase - a meat cleaver - and got that.

The meat cleaver has a leather sheath.

I don't know about you, but I think anyone who wears a meat cleaver in a sheath is a bit frightening. It's like saying "I don't know when I'm going to need to dismember a couple corpses - I'd better carry this around." It kind of implies that sort of thing happens frequently.Frequently...



GANGSTER RESTAURANT

Normally, we eat all of our breakfasts at the Maroon Restaurant. The food is good, the staff willing to put up with all of the weird bullshit I inflict on them, great people, get the word on the streets - all of that sort of thing. But, Matt said one day he'd like to try a different place for breakfast. OK, fair enough. I took him over to Kavreli.

This turned out to be what I'd call 'a bit of a mistake'. First, the people that usually worked there - the ones that could speak some English - not there. The guy that was there as our waiter spoke more English than the rest of the staff combined. The actual amount - about as much as my Arabic. Not good. And the waiter was slow of mind. Really slow.

When we rolled up, there was another tourist who was just getting up to leave. He asked for, got and paid his bill. After he left, a manager type realized the waiter had undercharged him and gave the waiter a good hard slap.

This was a bit awkward for Matt who was sitting with his back to the room. He heard the slap and later the waiter came and sat right behind Matt in order to have a good cry. This made Matt a bit uncomfortable. The atmosphere in the restaurant was decidedly grim. When eight guys pile in to see one guy get a verbal dressing down then slapped around you begin to wonder 'what's going to happen next'.

The food we had ordered by pointing at the menu came and it was not only horribly prepared but completely wrong. When I say 'horribly prepared' I mean that we mistook the bacon on the plate for mushrooms. After receiving sunny side up eggs instead of the simple omelet I'd ordered I have to confess I was thinking about slapping the waiter on the way out as well.

In western countries if you get the wrong order you can simply storm out. You don't have to worry about them sending a ravenous pack of armed guys after you to get the money you 'cheated' them out of back. Since we didn't want to eat our breakfasts we just tossed down some money and left.

I've seen the waiter several times since on the street and his face says "I still don't understand why you left without eating." I still want to slap him. My tolerance for the overly stupid has not been enhanced by my experiences traveling. Matt's comment was "Worst restaurant ever." I thought the service was approaching Czech standards (miserable service there is standard) but I've never seen anyone slapped around.

When Matt ordered juice, here is what he got. No, he hasn't drank any...



GANGSTER POOL

Not having enough of 'gangster life' we decided to go play pool at a gangster owned snooker/pool hall. The final score was Matt 4, Logan 3 though I must confess every game I won because Matt screwed up with the eight ball somehow. De-Fault! The two most beautiful words in the English language!

An example of 'Nepali gangster fashion'.



MATT'S SHOPPING SPREE

I'm going to put the costs under here because I want to illustrate just how much money can be saved by learning to barter. Usually, when a merchant gives you a price they will do so psychologically. A bowl might be 1250. The stupid tourist asks for a 'better price' and the guy might go down to 1200 or with what the tourist sees as 'serious persuasion' down to 1000. This is really bad bartering. The actual price is 300-600.

When we were shopping, Matt and I introduced these guys to duo person tactics. Matt would play the 'sort of interested' customer. I was the asshole who was certain he had seen the same thing better and cheaper elsewhere and was trying to extract Matt from the shop.

The merchants were not thrilled with these tactics and would whine we were getting 'Nepali prices'. I think we could have gotten them lower but Matt wasn't interested in spending an extra hour to save a pound or two. (That's British pounds sterling.) So here are the asking price -> selling prices of some of the stuff he bought as gifts.

Singing bowl, 1900 each, -> two for 1600.
Cloth poster, 2500 -> 1000.
Chaugner Faugn type statue, 2200 -> 1300.
Stone elephant, 7000 -> 2500.
Pants, 1800 -> 900.
Three prayer wheels, 1950 -> 1000.
Other pants and tops, 3000 -> 1700.

In short, the original asking price was about 22,250 and he ended up at 10,000 NRS. Not bad for some speed bargaining. I was actually impressed with Matt's bargaining skills.



THE STRIKE

I made some videos on the strike but honestly, it was all fear and rumors with no sign of the actual strikers. A strike pretty much locks up the country. If a group goes on strike, merchants are told to close their store or it will get trashed or burned to the ground. The businesses have large metal shutters they play 'peek a boo' with the strikers. If they think the strikers might be coming, down go the shutters. If they think they are safe for the moment up the go to open the business. It is watching the war between fear and greed.

During a strike, if they capture your vehicle they will torch it.

They also have a lesser strike which I've heard referred to as 'wheel jam' or 'wheel lock' (in Nepali, "chaka jam"). During this, people are allowed to have their stores open but any vehicles are torched if caught moving.

During a strike, the price of taxis triples. Restaurants that choose to brave it can make a lot more money but after the strike the business slumps for the next week or two since all of the tourists flee.

During the strike, naturally I went out to explore. The atmosphere was more subdued than normal but this was to be a brief strike - two days. Yeah, they publish the duration in the newspaper. Not like riots in the rest of the world where they go on until everyone has had their fill of looting and murder. I've heard reports of vehicles being torched and even people being shot but I suspect it was wild exaggeration and heresy. So I wandered around for a few hours.

Didn't see shit.

According to locals I spoke with about it, there are two castes which like to run the government and seem to spend their free time sewing seeds of discord in the other castes. They tell them things like 'every caste should have it's own state within Nepal'. Apparently, they haven't looked at the map. Hundreds of states within a country as small as Nepal, each with autonomous ruling would be rather silly. Since Nepal sold off it's own natural resource to India (water power) and the heavily corrupt government is working on mopping up everything left there just isn't enough money for this sort of thing.

But people still want to believe.

Before I came to Nepal and India, people had told me that the caste system was something from years ago and it really wasn't around these days. What a load of crap. It's in full swing. Anyone who tells you differently either hasn't lived here or has taken a big denial pill.

There are reports of strikes in the western part of the country that have been going on for a couple weeks. The hospitals have run out of lots of vital medicines and things like oxygen cylinders. Lets hope the patents can hold their breath until the strike is over.

Officials within the government have been working on the constitution for the last four years. It is suppose to be done within this month but I'd be happy to bet even money that they will ask for and get yet another extension. This will lead to yet more strikes.

Politically, Nepal is a country with revolution waiting to happen. I'm not sure if it actually will. The Nepali people are pretty chilled out - but all of the elements are there.




WHAT NOW?

Today, I'm going to head to the eastern part of the country. I've heard that not a lot of tourists go there. For some people, that is a plus. They dream of seeing interesting stuff without the press of other tourists. When I hear things like "Not a lot of tourists go there" my first thought is "There is probably a reason for that." But I'm headed toward Darjeeling, India and it's on the way. Plus, it is something 'different'. I'm not sure if they'll have internet and such because 'few tourists go there' but I am hopeful.

After Darjeeling, the plan is head south through India to Sri Lanka but we'll see how that works out.



RESTAURANT REVIEW - THE LAZY GRINGO
No, I don't know what a Nexican is either...

Owned by a nice family from the USA. They've owned this restaurant for a couple years. If you need to get some Mexican food into you, this is the place to go.

Matt described this as the best Mexican food he's had since he lived in America.

The downsides of the restaurant are pretty much summed up as cost items. Everything costs extra - sour cream, etc. If you wanted to go with the 'assemble your own burrito', it will cost you quite a bit more than a steak. They also charge you the 13% VAT and 10% service charge that I loath.

The average meal will set you back 300-500 with a drink (plus the taxi ride there and back). If you are craving Mexican in Kathmandu, this is the place to go.



RESTAURANT REVIEW - FIRE AND ICE
Looks better than it tastes...

Everyone in Kathmandu knows Fire and Ice. Wealthy Nepalis go here to drop big money to impress their girlfriends and such. It was 'meh' pizza. Matt said "OK, but nothing magical." The cost is the same or more as steak dinners from the Everest Steak House.



NEPALI CUSTOMS - SERVICE CHARGE

Whenever you hire eleven or more guys, they form a union. They then demand you tack on an extra 10% service charge which they can then pocket.



WEIRD STUFF

I recently noticed Blog2Print that is to turn your blog into a book. Twenty pages at an extra .35 cents per page thereafter? Holy crap, Logan's Voyage would cost a ton. I have no idea whose blog is only twenty pages out there but I'm guessing they aren't as prolific as I!

They had a 'print your blog' feature you could do for free to see what it looked like. I tried it and got the message "This book exceeds our maximum size for a single volume. Please contact Customer Service to help prepare this book at support@sharedbook.com or 1-888-212-3121."

Fail.



LOGAN AND MATT EXCHANGE

Logan: "I could make a lot of money off of the mentally handicapped of the world."
Matt: "That's not a good comment."



TRAVELER'S TIP - BARGAINING

Throwing in a 5 NRS cigarette to the deal sometimes can get you the 100 NRS off you were looking for.



PHILOSOPHY

If you wank off using sun tan lotion, does it keep your dick from getting burned?


Everything is better with midgets...



VIDEOS

Riot Coming?
Looking for a Riot
Rickshaw Races
The Aftermath of the Riots
Working on the Sewers



COSTS

Taxi to Bhaktapur from Thamel, about 800 NRS.

Room in Bhaktapur at the Siddhi Laxmi Guest House, 800 NRS/night. No idea of the quality etc there.

Kukri, two for 4500 NRS (decent for display).

Meat cleaver, 2000 NRS starting, 1600 NRS bargained down to.

Cheap travel alarm, 450 NRS bargained down to 350 NRS.

Zoo, 250 NRS; pretty horrible zoo. Don't go.

Pool at gangster snooker/pool hall, 120 NRS/hour.

Street tea, 12 NRS.

HOW MUCH TO KILL SOMEONE?

THE WHITE WATER RAFTING TRIP

Neither Matt nor I had ever been white water rafting before. I wanted to have at least one activity that he could look back on and say "That was something completely new!"

Since I'd had plenty of time to research, I'd found the right place to go. Lots of safety gear and I spoke to the person (Del) who would actually be in the boat with us. Booking through an agent is stupid - you never know what you'll get nor who you'll be dealing with.

As directed, Matt and I showed up at 5:30AM to the business. Del met us there. In America, when someone's fly is open people feel awkward about pointing it out and make roundabout references to it. Not Del. He grabbed my zipper and zipped me up. I thought Matt would hurt himself laughing. I hoped he would. Del thought it was funny. I was in too much shock to really register it.

Having another guy unexpectedly 'zip you up' is one of those experiences that is tough to write about. Describing it to someone who hasn't experienced it is tricky. I do know that sits on a shelf of "Matt's cherished memories". Wanker.

The rafting itself was a lot of fun. We had two Israeli tourists in the boat we called "King and Mayor". Del guided the boat. Compared to the five of us in the boat other rafts had 6-8 people with no safety boats. We had one other large raft and three kayaks just to keep us from dying. The tourists were outnumbered by the safety team in our raft. Note that the rafting trip we had cost around the same as the competition. We just got a lot more for our money.

The people in kayaks and such weren't duffers either - all of them had won awards for kayaking. Everyone was very polite and hard workers. These guys have great jobs and are paid in money, room and board - so they take their jobs very seriously.

Halfway through the rafting trip, we got served a simple picnic lunch that was pretty tasty and prepared right in front of us on the beach.

I can definitely recommend Adventure Aves Nepal. It is in the NW part of Thamel.

For those who know about rapids, we did several grade 3, 4 and 4+ rapids. Lots of fun though I did fall out of the boat once. It was a bit shocking just how fast Del got me back in. Whether it is zipping up your fly or yanking you out of the water before you've registered the fact you are in the water, he is your guy.

Matt described the rafting as one of the best days of his life. Matt said "White water rafting is like taking out your cock and slapping nature in the face!"

The bus there was pretty standard and pleasant. The bus back was an absolute nightmare for Matt. He had the back hard bench with seats in front of him stuck in the fully reclined position pinning him to the seats. He wasn't a happy camper. Combined with the lever action of the bus causing him to 'catch air', it was miserable.

More on Matt's vacation in the next blog!



NEPALI CUSTOMS - WOMEN

One of the tribal groups of Nepal is the Newa. The women get married three different times. The first marrage is at age 3-4. They get married to some sort of big green fruit called a 'dell' (some call it an 'eyah fruit'). This is not a pickle or bell pepper - it seems to be unique to Nepal and India. I have no clue why this is done. Maybe the eyah fruit is lonely.

Before the girls have their first period, they are kept in a dark room with paintings of devil ghosts for 10-12 days. Only women go there, no males. Sometimes, the girls die within this room. Their bodies are not allowed to be burned. Instead, a hole is cut in the floor around the bed they died in. The entire bed and floor are then lowered to the ground floor. A hole is then dug into the ground directly below where the girl died and the corpse is placed in there. During this time, the body can't use the stairs nor see the sun. If the girl dies angry, she then becomes a ghost called 'barah see'. This is a 'super bad' ghost. The family then must get a witch doctor to deal with it.

If the girl survives two weeks indoors, they are then married to the sun.

The third marriage is to a man.

This is a very old tradition dating from a god (?) known as 'Ram'.



NEPALI CUSTOMS - TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS

If you hit someone with your truck and they are injured you have to pay them some money and then help support them for the rest of their life.

Should you accidentally kill them, you have to pay the widow (etc) between 50-100 Lac. One lac is 100,000 NRS. Hence, should you accidentally kill them you owe half million to a million NRS. Depending on the circumstances, you may do a year or two in jail.

Because of this rule it is common after hitting someone to go back and run them over again to make sure they are dead. It costs a lot less money.

No, I'm not making this up.



NEPALI CUSTOMS - MALLS

If all of the clothing and shoes stores mysteriously vanished from the mall, the building would suffer a cataclysmic structural failure and collapse. Oddly, I never see anyone actually buying anything in these shops so it is a mystery how they stay open.



NEPALI CUSTOMS - DEMONSTRATIONS

Within their government, they have 'Maoists'. Lots of red flags with hammers on them advocating becoming communist. Since it worked so well for the USSR. (For foreign readers, that last sentence was sarcasm.)



KATHMANDU AIRPORT

It is remarkably easy to find someone from international flights. All of the passengers are channeled down a single hallway. They are observed from the other side of a glass partition by people waiting for them.

Like many other airports in the world, a taxi from here is more expensive than one off of the street as the taxis have to pay a small surcharge to get in (or out?) of the airport. The charge for the one we took out of the airport was 30 NRS.

If you are paying more than 300 NRS to get to the Thammel district, you're getting horribly ripped off.

As with all airports travelers should ignore everyone in the airport as well as the 'pre paid' taxi stand. It is amazing how many people would jump tourists to funnel them over to that booth or for other crap and the tourists would just go with it.

Remember, only rich or stupid people shop at an airport. [The only exception to this rule I've seen was the 7-11 at the Bangkok airport in Thailand. They charge the same low prices as all of the other 7-11's.]



WITCH DOCTORS

(See costs, below).

The witch doctors of Nepal are not the kind that many westerners think of. They seem to fall into two main categories - astrological and non. The astrology ones will want to know all of the usual crap astrologers want to know and presumably tell you the same kind of crap astrologers tell you.

Despite new planets being discovered and debunked.

The other kind may do things like instruct you to fully sweep your business for an entire year and bring them all of the collected dust from it so they can analyze it.

Female shaman (aka 'witch') is a 'gurma'. A male witch doctor is a 'gruba'.



NEPALI MYSTICISM

Get a black female horse. Take horseshoes from it and cold forge (no fire at all) them into a ring. When worn on the index finger it keeps most supernatural things away from you. The ring is especially powerful on Saturday and Monday, for some reason.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

The hiccups given by the rotten quality of the alcohol in Nepal can be prevented by not drinking it 'neat'. Vodka and sprite isn't bad.


T-shirts with an actual photo on them are crudely glued. Avoid them. The quality was so poor that the middle man actually refunded my money - an unheard of practice in Asian business.



RESTAURANT REVIEW - KOREAN KITCHEN PICNIC

Note, they don't speak Korean there.

The food is excellent and for 300 NRS you get more than either Matt or I could eat. Finding it will be tricky as it is down an alley near the 'Garden of Dreams' on the same street as the restaurant 'Fire and Ice'. I've eaten here several times and the food is consistently good.



RESTAURANT REVIEW - ELECTRIC PAGODA

If you've never eaten proper Mexican food before and only seen it in books, you'll have something in common with the chef here. The portions are large but not very tasty.



MOVIE REVIEW - COWBOYS AND ALIENS

3/10. Wow, this movie sucks. I was bored to death during most of it. I have no idea how they got Harrison Ford to be in it and play such a crappy stereotypical character. Amazingly poor showing.



VIDEOS

Exploring KTM
Light B & E
KTM Conspiracy
Surprise Kingfisher
God Costs Money
Natural Temple
Hidden Temple Crouching Stupa
Stone Rat
He Aint Paying
Peaceful Walk
Hawk Man
Did You Get The Snakes, Billy?
Chaugnar Faugn and the Tcho Tchos
Pungi Pit
Dodge Death
Reaction Shot



COSTS

Everest Steak House Cheeseburger (with chips aka fries), 400 NRS
Ruslan Vodka bottle, 600-750 NRS
Witch doctor, average, 50-100 NRS
Movie, 3d, 320 NRS
Wicker stool, 300 NRS
Lac (unit of measuring money), 100,000 NRS. Note 'lac' is pronounced as 'lack' as in "I lack funds".
Rafting, 3000 NRS/day (after bargaining)

Sewage fixing, 700 NRS per manhole. This funds a crew of four or five guys without appropriate tools to come out and remove stuff people have flushed down their toilets that shouldn't be there. Like plastic bags. What kind of idiot flushes a plastic bag down the toilet?


Cost breakdown of a movie ticket:
Entrance fee, 246.25
Film development board (15%, no idea who they fuck they are or if they actually do anything), 36.94
VAT (13%), 36.81. Total, 320 NRS. The 3d glasses must be returned or you pay 200 NRS more. They do have a personal and bag search when entering the movie theater though they felt awkward about searching my bag so they didn't. Which is good because I had illegal outside drink hidden in it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

THE COMING OF SETO BHOOT

SETO BHOOT COMMETH

I've known Matt for about nine years now. We met back in some guy's basement over a gaming table of some of the crappiest gaming (D&D) I have ever been to in my life. We did (much better) RPG's together. Later we shared a flat (apartment) in the states. Neither of us knew that in a couple years we would be meeting up in Nepal.

If anyone had said that then, we'd have said "You're nuts". Well, actually it would have been phrased more rudely but you get the idea.

I decided to make Matt's arrival to the Kathmandu airport special. I made him a sign and held it up for him:[Definition, wanker].

Needless to say, Matt was delighted I had made him a sign.

It took him a couple hours to realize I was also wearing a "Matt L. is a tosspot" shirt.

You've got to love a country where you can get cheap custom work on a T-shirt.


While Matt was in England it was stormy. The day he left for Nepal the sky was clear. The day he got here some rain coupled with extremely strong gusts of winds heralded his coming.

The phrase 'White Devil' came up. Since Nepali don't have devils but ghosts fulfill that same job function, Matt became 'White Ghost". The English pronunciation and the Nepali one can be seen on this T-shirt.
PIMPS HIDE YER HOS!


More on the exciting adventures of Seto Bhoot in the next edition of Logan's Voyage! [Note, in this point to get the 'spinning newspaper' effect you should twirl your monitor.]



FLASHLIGHTS

I have a small but very bright LED flashlight. The reason I don't have a hand crank - usually larger, heavier. LED's don't suck much juice. Even with the crappy quality batteries you get in Asia you don't go through that many. I'd suggest the brightest possible because it is a potential weapon to temporarily blind someone. Mine is fist sized and could be used to reinforce a punch. Despite my strenious attempts to avoid physical conflict I try to plan for the worse.

Having a flashlight you can hold in your mouth is a good idea because you'll be doing that a lot. If you have one of those head lamp flashlights and are anything like me, you'll misplace it soon.

Crank flashlights also make noise. Not cool to use when you're trying to dig out stuff from your pack in a hostel with a lot of sleeping people around.

Since my personal philosophy is "If you don't have a working flashlight on you at all times you are stupid and will probably fall down a hole and die." I recommend 'small, light (weight) and bright'.

Thanks to Jamas for asking about this initially.



NEPALI WITCHES

I was talking to a couple of guys in Nepal about ghosts, zombies and UFO's today. Yeah - this is what happens when I get too much time on my hands. According to them, in Nepal they have a certain type of witch. One of her feet is on backward. Other than that, this type of witch looks like a completely normal woman. They are suppose to be extraordinarily beautiful with very long hair and well dressed. What happens is when a man has sex with them, they get thinner each time and will eventually waste away.

I regarded the man across the table and said "Let me get this straight. These witches are beautiful women. They have a relatively minor physical disability, like to f*** and I would get thinner doing so? Where can I find one?"

But they didn't know. Crap.

Later, I found out this was a ghost. Trickier...



RESTAURANT NOTES

"Yak Restaurant". Stopped by, didn't stay to eat. Looks like 200-400 NRS plus 'service charge'.



NEPALI NOTES

They don't have a big tradition of stand up comedy here in Nepal. I've been told Asians take themselves pretty seriously.


I remember in Bosnia they were proud to tell me about their three different religions closely co-existing. Here, there seem to be a lot more.


Within even the capital city (Kathmandu), there seem to be a lot of unexpected shortages of things like gas (for cars), cooking gas, water, electricity and so on. This seems to be pissing off the locals.



HINDUISM NOTES

Disclaimer: This is all gathered from conversations with people.

You have to be born a Hindu - conversion is not possible. This means that all of the tourists who dress in the 'look I'm a Hindu' costumes are merely playing dress up.

Hindus have 'puja' celebrations. Some of these are public, others are extremely private - families only. It is possible to get excluded from these family ones by a multitude of sins. Marrying a foreigner, marrying outside of your caste, missing one without a good reason and so on.

During a 'puja' they sacrifice and eat some animals. Things I approve of.

Hinduism is a more strict religion than first thought.



EXIT STRATEGY

Well, I've got a tentative 'exit strategy' for Nepal. I'm going to go visit a couple places in east Nepal which are outside of the 'you pay us big money whitey' zones then further east back into India while my visa holds out to a place called Darjeeling. They have tea there. From there I can figure out if I need to extend my visa or just head south to Goa.

Once I'm in Goa it becomes a question of Sri Lanka airfares. If they aren't too much, I can head down there (possibly by sea) then over to Philippines or Indonesia.

Well, it's a plan of sorts.



HOME?

One of the things people have asked me a lot is 'when will you return to the USA'?

It brings to mind an episode of 'House M.D.' I saw. In this episode, the normally partially crippled House had his leg miraculously get better. He became an exercise fiend. He jogged everywhere. He played sports. Joy in moving around.

Same same.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

It is much easier to get change in Nepal than it is India. Whether the shop keepers are more affluent or simply better prepared is unknown.

When in Nepal, pick up 'Shaktijal'. It is a small packet of powder. One packet plus one liter of water, mix and drink the whole thing. Within half a day this gives relief from minor 'travelers tummy'. For the bad food poisoning with things like the cold sweats, go pick up medicine from the pharmacist. The 'Shaktijal' seems to work within half a day - a minor miracle.



TRAVELER'S LORE

Bali may not be as expensive as first thought. I spoke with a lady about it. From what she told me, it was pretty affordable if you avoid anything imported.



PHILOSOPHY

Skype has a huge advantage over normal phones. Namely, free calling. The biggest disadvantage is that you can't 'drunk call' someone who isn't logged on for free.


The Asian mentality toward business within the countries I have visited is summed up as 'money now'. Things which do not generate money right at this second are ignored as long as possible. We've seen some of this in the USA with such things as moving all of the jobs out of the country then wondering why everyone is unemployed and not purchasing your stuff. What is interesting in both Asia and the USA is that everyone looks to the government to solve their business woes. I haven't heard of any government doing anything useful that affected my life nor the life of anyone I've known in their businesses, but I've only been here for a short time.


I say a group on Facebook called "If you can't afford to leave a 20% tip don't eat out". Would this count as an 'entitlement' thing?



TRIBUTE TO FIREFIGHTERS

You know, in the states people say that firefighters have it pretty good. They have some job security, a decent amount of time on and off and they get to ride a huge red noisy truck through the streets to their destination which they get to douse with water.

Not bad.

But what I've always thought of firemen is that they might have to die in a horrible manner trying to rescue some moron who isn't smart enough to operate his stove without burning his house down.

So that, to me, more than makes up for all of the good stuff firefighters get.



MOVIE REVIEW - JOHN CARTER

IMDB gave this a 7/10. I'm going with a 6/10. I thought that the scenery was stunning. What they can do with CGI these days is amazing. And it only cost them $250M. The 'M' is for 'million' for readers unfamiliar with that 'gosh I'm rich shorthand'. The movie looked damned good. The acting was fine - it didn't detract from the film. Four armed guys - yeah, I can deal with that. They even had a couple moments of great humor where I laughed out loud (literally, not the stupid LOL thing) such as the head slap. But there were way too stereotypical elements. The lovable, loyal dog like creature. The woman wanting to get married against her will to the villain. Mind you, the original story is one hundred years old. Maybe all of these elements which are now blase were still new back then.

There is an easy formula which usually tells me if a sequil will be made. On the IMDB site, it tells you what the budget was and how much the movie made. If the movie didn't at least equal the budget, it's pretty hopeless. And a quarter of a million bucks is a hard number to hit. Right now they have well under $200M. Sadly, I feel chances are against us seeing more of these.

Overall, the movie was watchable but had a few spots I found boring. And anyone that has to work day and night for ten years for a solution - that's just poor writing. Hell, that is almost as pathetic as wandering aimlessly around in the wilderness as the narrative also meanders around because someone has switched from author to movie maker too early.



MOVIE REVIEW - UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING

6/10. Some good action. Talking around it as not to give away any plot points to those who haven't seen it. It reminded me of a couple different movies. Something about time, family (the steriotypical kind) and missing the big twelve of what the humans were up to felt like they'd shoe horned the story. The big twelve (is it a basketball reference?) is something that I think it a more interesting part potentially. This has been threatened in many movies and books but never has it been really explored. I think there would be a lot of interesting points dealing with say 'religion' in that context. [Sorry for this, it will make sense once you watch the movie - assuming you paid attention to the movie.] Overall, decent. The gross doesn't make me think there will be another but we'll see.



VIDEOS

Nepali Parade in Kathmandu

Death by Rickshaw
Giant Prayer Wheels
Tibetian Music
Loud Horns
Matt Missing Monkeys
Bhatkapur Arrival
Useless Tour Guides Info
Amidst Bhatkapur
Kiss The Goat
Innsmouth?
Smell O Vision
Maintenance
Thirteen Upcoming Deaths
Matt Fixes Matt

Garden of Dreams
Farting on Peoples Dreams
Matt's What?
Boring Picture Gallery
Tranquillity Sucks
Worst Zoo Ever
Zoopert
White People On Display
Monkeys With Guns
Nepali Language Quiz
Escape from the Worst Zoo Ever



COSTS

Travel pants I think they're made in China but the regular ones might be made there as well. One pair starting price was 2850 NRS, bargained down (hard, long) to 1700 NRS (20 AUD) for two pair. They roll up small, don't weigh much and have the zip on off legs.

Guide, 10-15 USD/day
Porter, 10 USD/day

Shaktijal (for travelers tummy), 10 NRS per packet. Very cheap. Note, the pharmacist will usually try to sell you more expensive medicines that may do the same thing but this is the one locals I've spoken with recommend.

Flaffel wrap, 175 NRS
Chicken wrap, 210 NRS

Water, 1 liter, 20 NRS
Mt Dew, 600ml, 55-60 NRS. (Note, diet soda is available only at very inflated prices and rare).

Money pouch that can be worn under the shirt, 100-300 NRS depending on materials it's made from.

Traffic tickets, 200-1000 NRS depending on how much 'sucking up' you wish to do. Note if you work for the government or are (seen as) rich, you may not have to pay.



DAILY COSTS

For those who have wondered how much it costs to live somewhat comfortably in Nepal, here is a breakdown. Note, this is for days I am 'being good'. By that, I mean not drinking beer, riding a Harley up and down the streets dragging chained old people and all of those other things women like in a 'bad boy'.

Breakfast, 170 NRS
Dinner, 285 NRS
4 juice boxes (200 ml each), 80 NRS
Cigarettes (20, local Nepal brand), 100 NRS
3 bottles of water (1 L each), 60 NRS
2 packs of cookies (10 cookies each), 30 NRS
Lodging (private room with shower inside and fast wifi), 500 NRS

Total, 1225 NRS - approximately 17.50 USD or 9.17 GBP. It looks even cheaper in British Pounds Sterling.

It is possible to live even more cheaply if you strip away more comfort and live in a dorm - but I'd like to have some degree of comfort. This does not include the visa charge (about 1 USD per day) nor my medicine (no clue but it's not optional).

Sunday, May 6, 2012

TRAVELER'S TIPS - THE REST

CLOTHING

Sweatpants are not good clothing for travel. They can retain a lot of water, quickly look like crap, disintegrate quickly and so on. In America, I enjoyed wearing them due to being extremely fat.

Quick drying clothing is a solid bet. They are great when you have to do laundry in your room, get rained on, sweat profusely and so on.

For warm clothing, cotton.

Remember, modest clothing is always sensible. While you can dress how you want when you travel, you'll get in less trouble with the locals and be allowed into more sites with extremely modest clothing. For those who have no idea what that means, it is everything down to the wrists and ankles covered and a bit baggy. Dress sexy where you are more secure.

For footwear, always plan on being able to walk five kilometers or further in what you have on. The stupidest thing you can say is "I'll break these shoes in on the trip." Comfortable shoes you can walk forever in are the key. While heels may give you more height, the quality of sidewalks and roads can easily give a twisted ankle. Poor choices in footwear can make the difference between seeing amazing things or the inside of yet another hotel room.



GEAR PACKING

Any gear you don't want wet or that has any potential at all to leak (like pens - trust me on this) stick into clear plastic bags. You don't want to waste a lot of time trying to remember what color bag holds what or opening up a lot of bags to find something. Clear plastic bags will also allow various security personnel to more quickly root through your stuff without opening the bags and scattering the stuff. The gallon size zip lock heavy duty freezer bags are nice for this as well. If you're traveling long enough that those start to disintegrate, you can find clear plastic bags at many shops. Plus, for you eco friendly hippy tree huggers out there, it gives you a chance to show you 'environmentally conscious'.



ELECTRICAL GEAR

Most rooms give you one often inconveniently located power source. An extension cord and power strip can make a lot of difference in getting more juice out of those penny pinching landlords.

Be sure to turn off roaming for smart phones and such before leaving or get a huge bill surprise when you return home. Sim cards are available almost everywhere.

These days, electrical devices are made to be able to do different currents and such but you still need plug converters. Bring extra plug converters as they are small and easy to lose.



RAIN DAYS

A lot of guide books suggest museums. Another option is to ride street cars and such around to get a layout of the city. Or sit in coffee shops and talk to the locals. Or, sit in your private room and furiously masturbate. Anything to get out of going to a museum...



SECURITY POUCHES

The ones that velcro to your leg are about as secure as you can get. Unless you are in a cold climate they will make you think soiled baby diapers are a better smell.

Buy extra security pouches. I recommend the ones you wear under your clothing. They will start to stink and need to be washed - you'll need to wear different ones in the meantime.



SLEEPY TIME

I'd suggest having a couple of tracks of white (pink, whatever) noise on your MP3 player. By comparison, other countries are extremely noisy and this can make getting to sleep difficult. If that doesn't appeal, ear plugs. Remember, in most countries there is no such thing as 'zoning laws' and people think nothing of setting up a noisy 'disco' next to a hostel.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

TRAVELER'S TIPS - RESTAURANTS

RESTAURANTS

Never order without seeing the menu unless you have extra money to burn. Personally, I like to demand my check with the food. If something is brought to the table, ask how much it costs and send it back if you didn't order it. Otherwise, you will get stuck paying.

There are three ways of handling this:

1. Gladly part with your money for whatever they feel like putting on your table you didn't order.
2. Argue about it afterward. This is an uphill battle and you won't always win it.
3. Go through the question answer session with it.

Customer: "What is this? I didn't order it." [Note, don't just ask what it is, they'll just say 'bread' and leave it at that.]
Waiter: "It is bread."
Customer: "Since I didn't order it, I must ask is it free?"
Waiter: "Ah, no sir."
Customer: "Then take your bread and fuck off with it." [Note, if your food is still in the kitchen you might want to phrase this in a polite fashion or your food will have interesting 'extras'.]

You can scale your own variant to your personality. I dislike getting cheated and it shows. This can go for pretty much anything - bread, rice, wet naps, and so on. It is mostly a European restaurant rip off scam but I have encountered it in Asia. It is always better to preempt them doing this rather than thinking the police (or some sort of code of ethics) will pull you out of it. In most parts of the world the police are extremely corrupt and useless.




VAT TAX, SERVICE CHARGE TAX

These may not be charged to you regardless if you find them on the menu or not. Together, these can add a whopping 25% onto the bill. The restaurant may or may not pay VAT to the government. They may or may not pay the service charge to the staff.

Essentially, it is all a big scam to get more money out of you, the customer.

The only time it makes a big difference is when you either have an expensive bill or are poor.

Arguing it afterward is an uphill battle that has the potential of having the corrupt and useless police called in and even if they aren't, they may still try to get you to pay. The only real options are to check in advance by asking "Do you charge service charge or VAT?" Asking in other manners may get you a less than honest answer.




MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO

Eat where the locals do. Other tourists simply don't count. Most tourists will be eating at this restaurant for the first time. Locals eat where the food is cheap and good. Tourists eat where the food is expensive and may give them diarrhea.




REPEAT BUSINESS

Always take a business card for whatever restaurant you are offered. You can always throw them out later. Not taking a business card may mean you are unable to easily find that restaurant again.

PICTURES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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