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Monday, June 25, 2012

BLIND IN INDONESIA


LEAVING BUKITTINGGI

Eventually, it was time to leave the lovely people of Bukittinggi and head off to a different noisy town.  Armed with a map drawn in to my book by a wandering German jewelry maker lady, I set off to tackle Kuta, Bali.

40,000 IDR got me into the front seat of the van to take me to the airport in Padang.  This elicited an angry squak from the lady who had been there.  She may have been irritated but didn't speak English so I didn't have to hear her grumble.

The ride there is suppose to be two hours but took three or four due to traffic.

As I've noted in earlier blogs, the person who starts as your driver may not end up being your driver for the bulk of the journey.  It seems to be a senior person - or owners - job to drive around within town and collect up people to take on the journey.  They then switch drivers.  A junior person within the organization does the driving.  This person usually has limited or no English speaking skills.  Somehow, I'd managed to forget this and bribed the original driver to have no music for the journey.  Fortunately, he passed on the instructions to his subordinate.

The rule of smoking in the van is this - if the driver feels like it, smoking will be done.  If not, it won't be.  If the air conditioning is on, there is no smoking.  If it is smoking time, the windows will be rolled down and AC shut off.

During the journey, I saw a woman walk by with a dozen uncaged geese lying on her head.  No clue how they were affixed there.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a picture of it.



PADANG AIRPORT

This is a tiny airport.  My gate number wasn't printed on the ticket.  Not to worry, there is only one gate.  Though the airport is small, they do a brisk local business.  Not very many tourists.

Within the airport itself, they stopped all of the other announcements to play the call to prayer very loudly over the public address speakers.  It seemed to go on for quite awhile.

Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to ask where my bags were bound.  Only as far as Jakarta.  Once there, I would have to claim them then give them over for the connecting flight.

As I always do, I'd arrived a couple hours early for my flight.  I was sitting around at a table waiting.  A lady with a kid and a husband in tow came up and did the 'mind if I sit here' gesture.  Naturally, I indicated that would be great.  They sat down and were joined by her two brothers as well.  We fell to a bit of chatting.  There was a bit of a language barrier but everyone seemed very friendly.  They then pulled out the rolled up packages which contained a banana leaf wrapped around rice and various other things.  If I got the word correctly, this is called 'rice padang' - or they were saying they got it here in this city.  I am not sure.  I told them I wanted to go buy some and asked if they could watch my 'travel bindle'.  For new readers, this is my very ugly cheap bag which doesn't contain anything worth much aside from water, toilet paper and such.  They told me to remain seated, they were happy to share in their bounty and fed me.  They wouldn't accept any money for this.  It was a full meal that (at the airport) cost 10,000 IDR.  Lovely people.

Since I didn't have much to offer in return, I produced my cigarettes.  I didn't offer one to the lady.  I'm sure women here smoke but if they do it is always in secret.  I gave one to each of the men.  I should have offered one to the kid but I wasn't sure if the language barrier would prevent the joke from being as funny.  Or if the kid would light up.

It seems that around 70% or more of the men I have met smoke.  Those that do smoke tell me they smoke 2-3 packs per day.  I feel like I barely smoke in this country though I'm sure I am smoking a little more than normal.  Relax, health nuts - I am working on regulating it.  I can feel your concern for my health through the computer and it warms my heart.  But let us keep your concern secret.  Better that way.  Warm heart already - don't spoil it.

Naturally, my flight was delayed by a half hour.  Since I had a five hour lay over in Jakarta, this didn't bother me at all.

Part of me feels it will be a bit of a disappointment to go to Kuta.  I am sure that I will see Indonesians not on their best behavior as I am seeing in Bukittinggi.  [Later note:  Being right all of the time is a huge burden.]  I am happy I got to experience some of the 'rama tama' (hospitality - and a fun word to say) before going there.

Once the time for your flight is closer, you can make your way through the second luggage check into the waiting room.  For domestic flights, the security is a lot more lax.  In my travel bindle, I've been lugging around a tennis racket shaped mosquito zapper I've not gotten to use yet.  This delivers a powerful electric jolt to the bugs frying them.  The jolt is also enough to make a human yelp.  Waved through with no problems and a few cigarette lighters.

Avoid the waiting room as long as possible.  It is overcrowded with noisy TV's blasting horrible Indonesian programs.  All of the seats are taken either by people or luggage.  I went and found an unused wheel chair and took a seat.  For fun, I wheeled myself around the waiting room a bit in it.  Eventually, a member of the airport staff wanted it.  "What kind of person takes someones wheel chair?" I demanded.  Then, I asked for - and got - her seat behind the counter.  Indonesian people took pictures of me lounging behind the counter.

Within my week in Indonesia, I've been invited to several meals, served a lot of free coffee, judged a poetry contest, appeared in the local newspaper and now at least appear to work for the airport.  And tourists ask me if I am bored not doing tourist stuff.  HA!



ON THE PLANE

Reading the card in the seat back on the plane.  The stewardess comes over and tells me she would like me to read the 'your sitting next to the emergency exit card'.  I flap it in her face and say "You realize you have just interrupted my reading of that very card."  She continued to prattle on about it, on auto pilot.  I resisted the temptation to roll it up and hit her with it because I knew it would delay the flight and probably get me kicked off the plane.  I dislike people that are robots.  I don't mind robots that are people, however.

The flight itself was so brief they made the announcement that drinks and such would not be served.  The entire staff hid during the short flight.  Whether it was to avoid doing any work or to avoid explaining to people they could not serve drinks I am uncertain.



JAKARTA AIRPORT

When we landed in Jakarta, they had a 'connecting flight desk'.  Since indeed I had a connecting flight, I went to check it out.  Their English skills were abysmal.  Through trial and error, I eventually decyphered that I should take a yellow bus over to terminal three with my bag.  My new flight would leave from there.  I thanked them and retrieved my bag.

Once outside, I was assailed by taxi drivers.  I ignored them and went over to stand next to one who was smoking.  If a local is smoking somewhere, chances are better of getting away with a smoke myself.  While I was smoking with the amused taxi driver, another taxi driver came and asked one of the three questions they have been trained to ask in English.  "Where you go?"

"Yellow bus."  I said.  He shoook his head sadly.  "Yellow bus stop running at eleven."  It was 11:30PM.

I grinned at him exhailing cigarette smoke.  "I don't believe you.  Not even a little bit."  The taxi driver I was already smoking with started laughing and translated.  The other guy stomped off angrily.  This had apparently earned me street cred with the first taxi driver who then offered to take me there for 3000 IRD.  Since the yellow bus was free and I wanted to avoid the "I know I said 3000 but meant 30,000" bullshit tricks, I politely refused.  I then caught the yellow bus over to terminal three.

There is quite a bit of space between the terminals.  You should definately catch the yellow bus.  Walking is not practical, especially with your luggage.  The terminals contain a lot of western crap - A&W, Starbucks and so on.   Bangkok still has the coolest airport, however.  They have a train that if you know about it can get you cheaply into town built into the airport itself and they have a 7-11 which sells for the same prices as all others.  Their business is brisk enough they don't feel the need to gouge for being at an airport.

Within terminal three, most of the stuff was closed.  Only the 24 hours 'Circle K' was still open.

Wandering around within the airport during my five hour layover turned up only one thing of interest - an ATM with a 2,500,000 limit.  Since I get screwed out of a significant portion of money per transaction with my bank this was a little better than the normal 1,500,000 limit.  The bills I got from the machines were 100,000's.  I've not seen bigger bills than this and don't know how much trouble the 100,000's will be to spend outside of tourist areas.

Even though I was in an international airport in the capital city of Indonesia and not doing any bizarre behavior (thought I should specify that) I was still an object of fascination by the locals.

When it came time to pay my airport departure tax of 40,000 IDR, the man at the desk 'forgot' to give me 10,000 of my change.  Sure, it was only a dollar but it is still irritating.  It makes me wonder how much extra money he collects from gullible tourists.

Within my passport pouch, I keep a spare key.  The metal detectors at Jakarta are really cranked up.  In order to take off my pouch I have to remove my shirt.  Since they are going to want to frisk me on the opposite side of the metal detector anyway, I just leave my shirt off and carry it through.  The belly terrifies them into submission.  Usually, their reactions range between confused or amused but one guy seemed irritated I had my shirt off.  He, however, did not have any English skills.  So I stood there repeatedly offering him my dirty shirt until my passport pouch had made it through the Xray machine.  I then put back on the pouch and my shirt.  He just stood there shaking his head.  Lucky for him I don't have a groin pouch as I have no sense of decorum.

I think it is the airport's fault for not requiring the employees speak the international language at their 'international airport'.  If you can't direct people to do what you want, it makes you a less effective security guard unless you jump to physical violence - and that can be an international incident.  Hell, if they were to ask for tutors and supply a barraks for them to live free with free cheap food, they'd be flocked with English speakers.



KUTA

I arrived in Kuta.  Per the German ladys instructions, I told the driver to take me to the monument in Kuta.  I'd bought a prepaid taxi ticket.  Despite wikitravel saying this would cost 50,000 IDR, it was 60,000 IDR.  Meh.  Naturally, the driver wanted to know what hotel I was staying at so he could sadly inform me that it had burned down, had bed bugs or been taken over by terrorists.  That way, he could take me to another place he knew of that was cheap and clean and he got commissions from.  In some areas, I have used the taxi drivers advice but the street I was headed for has tons of guesthouses.  I just kept repeating 'the memorial' then slunk into silence.  He wasn't too pleased but dropped me off there.

The memorial itself is an easy landmark that everyone knows.  From what I've heard, a bomb went off in a hotel a couple years ago and killed a bunch of people so they set up a memorial.  I haven't bothered to read the details.  From the memorial, it was an easy walk over to Poppies Lane II.

Here, I began the arduious process of trying to find a place that was within my price range and doesn't suck.  The prices vary wildly.  On top of that, I'd only had an hours sleep in the last couple days on the plane.  Unfortunately, the pack got heavy enough that I took a room that was pretty sucky.  After some desoltory wandering about, I slept for twelve hours straight.

Even with the disco they have in this area, no mosque means this city (on that night at least) is much quieter than the one I left.  I haven't yet met a tourist who was a devout Muslim.  I am sure they exist but not met one yet.  For all of the other tourists out there, keep away from mosques.  Period.  They are noisy as hell.  The romance of being immerced in a foreign culture will fade when you are woken up at five in the morning to hear all about how great Allah is in Arabic.

The tourist area itself is littered with all of the usual crap.  Lots of bars, clothing shops, shops that sell nicknacks.  There are a lot of 'dirty' things you can buy such as bumper stickers saying things like "I (heart) cock" and "Bob is gay".  Wooden penises and such are also popular items.  Since these sort of things aren't popular in the local culture, I can only presume that Australians like to buy them enough they have gone into mass production.  There are also a lot of surfing shops.



CHRISTOPHER

The next day, I met up with a fifty year old English teacher born in South Africa named Christopher.  He is also a perpetual traveler (and worker while traveling) who has been doing it for about thirty years.  He told me that unless I was here to learn to surf (as he was) or lie around in the sun, I've probably come to the wrong spot.  He took me on a walking tour of some of the more interesting things within the town, including the place he is staying.  It is only 60,000 IDR per night.  Two beers, in local slang.  Much better than my three and a bit shithole and close to half the price of the nicer place I'd found.  He also showed me some of the places off of the beaten track.  He was an excellent guide for someone just now arriving in town.

Within the tourist area, it's like being assailed by carnies who have learned to never take 'no' for an answer.  They offer everything - rides in buses, vehicle rental, women rental, massages, music, tours, sunglasses - a lot of shit I have no interest in.  Outside of the tourist areas, you are left completely alone.

According to other tourists I've met so far, the reason this place is popular with Australians is simply due to location.  It is a cheap, short flight here.  Makes sense though I'm wondering if on beer alone they end up spending more money than they would be Cambodia.



THE TEN K

After I'd gotten my original crappy place, I dropped the bag off and went looking for a better place.  I knew I'd have to spend the night there.  Getting back your money once handed over is just not something that will happen.  But, I wanted to set myself up with a better place to stay.  I found a place that has wifi in the restaurant area and a much nicer (and more secure) room for the same price.  If I wanted a hot shower, +10,000 IDR.  I've missed hot showers so  I gave the proprieter 10,000 IDR as a deposit.

Later, I got shown the 60,000 IDR per night rooms.  This is nearly half the price of the 'nice place'.  After securing a room, I went to inform the proprieter I would not be staying with him.

"The ten K is yours."  I said.  "I won't be staying here tonight, but I wanted to come let you know so you wouldn't be holding the room."

The proprieter kept trying to explain to me that the ten K was gone, even should I come stay with him later.  I told him I realized that but wanted to let him know so he wouldn't hold on to the room needlessly.

He seemed impressed with this behavior and thankful I didn't want my dollar back.



LOSMEN ARTHAWAN

The new room I am staying at isn't as nice as Christopher's room.  It is pretty dingy.  If I want to take a dump, I have to wedge myself in.  This may result in the destruction of the toilet seat.  Won't be the first one that has fallen to my ass.  The sheets here are brownish from either being old or washed in cold water.  The fan makes a bad noise to punish you for using electrictity.  There is no wifi on the premices.  But for $7 per night (60,000 IRD) in Bali, I can't really bitch.  Hell, they even promise some sort of breakfast.  Not sure if I will want to eat it or not but I'll give it a try tomorrow.

The security isn't great here.  There are wooden bars on the windows but the lock looks pretty easy to jimmy.  When I leave, I use my pacsafe to keep things secure.  The sink isn't in the bathroom so the U-bend is now used to lash my stuff to.  Yes, they can jimmy the lock, destroy the u-bend and steal the pack but it is the best security I can devise.  The pac safe does at least give me the illusion of security which I like.

Since this place is so cheap, if it doesn't suck (I'll know after a night of sleep) I will make it my base of operations for exploring.  Bali is pretty small so it may even be possible to take day trips to other places should I grow bored of this town.  We'll see.  I am going to need a lot of time to do a lot more research before moving to a new location.  If I can control my costs (read as 'beer intake') I will be able to sit here for quite awhile.  There is a big difference between getting to go out and have a couple of beers with cool tourists you meet and sitting quietly in your room sucking down a bottle of water both in cost and 'quality of life'.



BLIND IN INDONESIA

No, it wasn't from mastrubating.  Here's how it happened:

I decided to take a day trip to recon Ubud with Christopher.  It is only two or three hours away so I figured 'why not'.  Since he was moving to Ubud, I immediately pounced on his slightly better room.  This moderately annoyed the hotel staff.  They wanted to play the 'just leave your gear in your room and we'll get it cleaned so you can move in later, oh gosh sorry we already rented the room.  We only had to clean one room instead of two.'  I got around this by letting them know my gear was already moved into Christopher's old room, please make sure it is cleaned.  It was cleaned just a little but since my gear was literally chained to the bed, they didn't have anywhere else to go.

Enroute, we met a couple tourists from Slovenia who were headed in the same direction and joined forces.  Christopher knew about a brand new bus that would take us part of thhe way there to a place called Batubulan.  Since the bus was new, it was free.  Why this is baffles.  Perhaps it is to try to drum up business.  The bus itself has huge windows and a powerful AC.  We even got tickets that said 'gratis' on them.

Sitting in the bus and making notes in my log, there was a pop and the frame of my glasses holding in the lense broke and the lense tumbled out.  I have no idea why this happened but Marius, the male Slovinian tourist thought it may have been the radical temperature shift of the air conditioner.

This is possibly a repairable break but given the generally shoddy craftsmanship within Asia I've encountered, I'd expect it to break as soon as I left the store.

So now, I am fucked.

My vision is 20/400.  That means that something a normal visioned person can perceive at four hundred feet, I must be standing a mere twenty feet away from.  That's pretty close to blind.  When I was a kid, my parents couldn't understand why I was always sitting just a couple feet from the TV set and never thought to have my vision checked until a school eventually did.

I'm sitting on a bus, headed to a completely unfamiliar town without my gear, blind.

We dismounted the free luxury bus at 'terminal Batubulan'.  There, we needed to catch what the locals call a 'bemo'.  I call it a rusted out shitbox converted for passengers ready to fall apart van.  According to Lonely Planet (AKA "Liar Planet") the bemo fare from 'terminal Batubulan' to Ubud should be 5000.  Nobody thought to tell the drivers.  We got quoted crazy amounts in the 20,000 to 50,000 range by the greedy bastards.  Christopher believes in the principle of things and was upset to be horribly gouged.  Eventually, we talked Christopher up to accepting a 10,000 IDR fare.  It was double the going rate locals paid but only fifty or sixty cents US more.  Since I was blind and everyone else was lugging their bags, he agreed.

To say Ubud went by in a blur for me would be a literal truth.  The other two tourists went on their way, I got fed and Christopher and I sought an optrician ("optik").  We found one that was happy to do the repair for 35,000 IDR - but the glasses wouldn't be ready until the next day.  They were intractable in the amount of time it would take.

With some sadness, we left and returned to a guest house we had passed on the way.  It is completely off of the beaten path.  The only noise that place will probably get is from roosters.  Christopher was originally looking for extremely cheap accomodation - 50,000 to 60,000 IDR.  My research into Ubud said that wasn't happening.  This was proven by his research while I was eating.  From what he told me, 100,000 IDR seemed to be the average price.  Christopher had managed to find a greasy matress on the floor - but they wanted 75,000 IDR for it.

There is little rhyme and reason in the pricing here.

The garden of the place told me the cost would be beyond Christopher's alloted budget so I hung out downstairs smoking while he looked at the room.  To my surprise, he returned and announced he would be staying.  He invited me up to come and see the room.  Enroute, he told me the initial asking price was 150,000 IDR but he'd gotten it down to 100,000.

The room suite with it's huge balcony, kitchen, refrigerator and white marble was nicer than the room I'd stayed at in the palace in India.  I started shouting he had a fridge and he hushed me.  I immediately went to talk to the owner to lock in the same deal Christopher had just gotten.  The owner showed me a couple rooms but they were not as nifty as the one Christopher got.  I told the owner I'd be around to stay in a room but as soon as Christopher left his, I'd be moving in.  Immediately.  He said that was fine.  That room could easily be a $50 to $200 room, depending on where you are.  Fuck yes I'm going to stay there.  When I get a video of it, I'll post it up.

The only thing the hotel doesn't have is wifi.  That one fact keeps it from being perfect.

Yes, it includes free breakfast.  How about that shit.  It's got to be better than the 'what the fuck is this' breakfast served to me today at the crappy cheap place.

Since I was still blind, Christopher kindly helped me get onto the right bemo.  Spotting them had become quite a challenge.

Once back in Kuta, I got a ride to an optrician on the back of a scooter from a friendly security guard.  Some really nice people here once you get the hell out of the tourist areas.  The optrician told me they couldn't repair the glasses but could get me new frames for a very reasonable 75,000 IDR.  They were cheap because they felt they were an old fashion, no longer in demand.  Naturally, the lenses wouldn't fit so they have to attempt to grind them down and hopefully not break them and they should be ready tomorrow.  In the prices below, I've listed out glasses and frames as given here.  I'm thinking I can get them cheaper for sure in Cambodia and probably in the Philippines.

I staggered blindly back to my hotel and got on my scratched up, partially broken secondary set of glases.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Always have a secondary place to stay just in case things go bad where you are staying.


Disregard any 'free breakfast' when making plans on where you want to stay.  Usually, the breakfasts are completely shit and the price of a better one is minimal.

Keep your secondary set of glasses in a hard case.  The glasses should be wrapped in soft cloth, then sealed in a plastic bag.  Wrap the glasses case itself in another bag and seal it.  Since these don't see much action (hopefully) you'd be amazed at what can happen to them.



BIG BAG

At the airport, the big bag weighed in at 18.4 KG.  Another very experienced traveler recommended I get the weight down to 15 KG.  For many flights when booking on the internet, there is a pull down menu that allows you to choose 15 KG rather than the normal 20 KG.  This gives you a cheaper ticket cost.  I'm not sure by how much.  I'd like to get the weight down just to have less crap to carry.   Side note, Christopher checked it out and having less bag weight doesn't decrease the cost of the ticket much - but god help you if you go over the limit - they charge a bunch.

I may eventually dump my Kindle.  I am loath to do so but can honestly say I haven't used it enough in the last year to justify lugging it around.  I know a lot of people would scream 'sell it' but actually finding a place to sell it is problematic at best.  I doubt I would see much of the $400 originally paid for it.  Should my entertainment stocks ebb, it would be nice to have the option to read books - and I can't read for long on the laptop before eye strain claims me.



HEALTH STUFF

I am also needing to get new glasses made.  The strange green 'anti-glare' stuff on one of them has been permanently scuffed somehow despite my efforts to be very careful with them.  When I find a place that makes perscription glasses made, I'll note the price.

Before leaving the USA, I'd gotten a pair of glasses made and carefully put them into a very tough case.  The tough case didn't work and the glasses - which I hadn't looked at until now - are pretty much destroyed.  They can be worn but need to be replaced.




RESEARCH

Some people may be curious as to how I research where to go next, so I thought I'd make a quick post about it.  Since my current goal is to save money rather than 'see stuff', it would be nice to get to a place I can stay at for a month or two.  Unfortunately, my tendencies work against me in that regard, but I do try.

Anyway, step one - go to wikitravel and find the areas in the direction I am headed.  Look to see if they have any budget accommodation for about $10 or less per night.  Local food is always fairly cheap.  If they jack the price on that, they lose the local business.  Places to stay can be jacked up high because it's only tourists - and they are walking ATM's.  If a place has a few places at $10 or less, it goes on the possible list.  If not, I plan for other places.  After finding all of the places on the list, I research to see if any of them are actually of interest to me.

It's a bit in the reverse of how normal tourists do it.  This is probably not the best way, but I'm still refining my technique.




VIDEOS

Until I get to a more 'civilized' place, I won't have access to wifi in my room for the extremely long time it takes to upload videos and pictures with any regularity.



COSTS

I checked on the medicines I usually take.  Although these are not uncommon medicines, the ones they had in stock seemed to be about double the cost of India.  I decided to hold off buying them until my supplies have dwindled.


Airport costs:

Cup of instant noodles, 12,000 IDR
Can of cold Nescafe, 15,000 IDR


Kuta costs:

Bali Dwipa Guest House, 100,000 IDR, 110,000 IDR with hot water.  Free breakfast from 8AM-11AM, internet available in the breakfast area.

Bali Manik, 100,000 IDR - complete shithole.  No bugs.  Due to exhaustion I did sleep surprisingly well there, however.

Hamburger (decent), 50,000 IDR
Beer (Bitenburg), 22,000-30,000 IDR (Note, spelling on name might be wrong - beer isn't that great but it is cold, wet and alcoholic)

Pineapple drink (blend pineapples up), 6000 IDR (off tourist roads)

Shoe repair, 50,000 IDR.  Note, I told them hell no since the shoes new cost about that.  I'll wait till I get somewhere more reasonable should I choose to fix them.

Local food in tourist area, 10,000-22,000 IDR.
Foreign food in tourist area, about 60,000 IDR.

Frames - current style:  75,000 to 247,000 IDR
Lenses - basic thickness:  500,000 IDR
Lenses - thiner:  800,000 IDR
Lenses - uber thin:  1,800,000 IDR
Turn around time, a bit over 24 hours.

3 gig, 3 month modem card in the tourist area, 650,000 IDR.  I've been informed it is around 240,000 IDR in 'the market'.  Still a pretty high expense for wifi that is free in most coffee shops.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

DAMN YOU BEAR GRYLLS

CURRENT LODGINGS

The place I currently have is fine except it doesn't have wifi in the room and it has a COLD shower.  I personally HATE cold showers.  I have to brace myself before going into them.  So I thought "What would Bear Grylls do?"  I immediately stripped off my shirt, urinated on it and wrapped it around my head.  It didn't help.

Damn Bear!

This is not a great town to try to sleep in late.  At around 7AM or earlier, they have public announcements go off over the PA system.  There are parades with a lot of drum beating.  I'm not sure if it is a celebration or people just being dicks.  The mosque, of course, is noisy as hell.

And this is DAILY.  You're pretty much fully awake by 8:30 AM whether you wanted to be or not.

Nearby is a restaurant called 'Canyon'.  It is just twenty meters from where I'm staying.  They have free wifi and cold (over priced) beer at $3 a pop.

The city itself has a little tourist candy - WW2 tunnels the Japanese made the locals build and a canyon - but nothing I've wanted to see.  I'm happy just wandering around.  I've spent a week chatting to locals and tourists.  Both have been a lot of fun.

I'm going to skip Padang - other tourists have told me it's a dump.

Tomorrow, it is a long trip off to Kutai (Bali) - home of the drunken Australians!



ACTIVITIES

A couple of days ago, while lost I happened across a roadside cafe with eight or ten old men hanging out there playing dominoes.   I ended up staying there for several hours playing that game with them.



LAUNDRY IN BUKITTINGGI

The laundry is fairly high priced here.  To get it done at the hotel (Orchid) is 10,000 IDR per kilo.  To get it done at the place across the street is only 6000 IDR but that has a two day turn around time.  Other laundry places like 'Super Clean' laundry charge by the piece.



INDONESIAN CUSTOMS

Nobody in this country is interested in haggling the cost of anything.  It is possible to haggle over secondary things - like getting the front seat and such.  Concentrate on these things as the price seems 'fixed'.  Since it is 'fixed', shopping around is a great idea.



TRAVELER'S LORE

Skyscanner.com  According to other travelers I've spoken with, this is a handy resource for purchasing tickets. I personally haven't used it yet.



BUYING PLANE TICKET FROM LION AIR

Buying tickets from Lion Air (the domestic flights for Indonesia) is a complete nightmare.  You can't buy a plane ticket with a foreign credit card.  You can get an "ATM code".  I had the delusion you could just go type in this long code at an ATM and voila!  Your ticket was purchased.  Wrong.  The ATM's aren't set up for it.  Find out the price, go to a travel agent, have them buy the ticket.  If you pay in cash at Raun Sumatra Tours and Travel they only hit you for an extra 3%.  If you pay in cash, they charge the same as the website.  Nice.



VIDEOS

Taste of Indonesia



PRICES

New bag, 125,000 IDR
Van from my hotel to Padang airport, 40,000 IDR

Sunday, June 17, 2012

LOGAN - POETRY JUDGE

ONWARD

When you switch countries rapidly, you have two choices.  You can either rapidly accumulate a wad of different sourts of money and play the Bourne Identity Game or get raped by te local money changers.

After getting my taste of sodomy, I headed over to try the local speciality in Malaysia - chicken and rice balls.  I even found a restaurant named after it, so I figured that would be the place.

Cold balls of rice with cold chicken.  Whoopie.  The wildly over taxed (hence over priced) Carlsburg beer was the highlight of the meal and it is not a good brand.

Overall, Malaysia is a good country for those who want to make a gentle approach into Asian culture without the massive culture shock.  They do many of the same stupid things as their western counterparts there.  Like have a ton of stuffed animals in the rear window of their car.  [If you are thinking "But *I* have...  Yeah, it's silly.  Sorry, but everyone who is over fourteen is thinking it.]  If you want culture shock instead, join the hordes of tourist flying into New Delhi India and "open wide for Chunky!"

I didn't see a lot of tourists (people who looked like tourists) in Malaysia.  My guess is they normally go to the better known (and cheaper beer) Thailand.  If the looks I got were anything to judge, tourists are fairly rare in the areas I hit.





DOLPHINS KILL, PEOPLE

To try to convince the wait staff (and everyone else) not to serve me seafood, I've begun telling people it will literally kill me.  Dead.

Most of the time, this is effective.  Every now and then, I'm given a small hidden dose and then a waiter wanders around looking very disappointed wondering why I'm still alive.

I really hate seafood.

For all of those who wonder "Ah, but have you tried THIS?"  I've tried seafood in numerous countries and the smell and texture make me want to gag.  Really.  If it is so processed no scientist could tell it was seafood (fishsticks) it is edible.  Otherwise, no.  I wish I did enjoy it - lots more to eat.  But I don't and can live with that.

Despite what I tell people.

Although I can sell the fact that seafood kills me, I haven't been able to convince people that having bones in my food will.  Bones piss Americans off.  Americans generally want an uninterrupted flow of food from plate to mouth without all of the messing about removing stuff the cook should have.



FACEBOOK, AETHISM AND INDONESIA

I read on Facebook that (Al J newspaper) that a man was going to prison in Indonesia for saying he was an Aeithist on Facebook.  People forget there are actually very few countries with 'freedom of speech'.



ON TO THE FERRY

I arrived a bit over half an hour early to board the ferry.  Usually when I am switching countries I am a couple hours early to the train station or airport however the ferry was literally five minutes walk from the hostel.

Naturally, it was raining.  Fortunately, I'd already prepared for this by having my backpack water cover on.  I figured since I was boarding a ferry and didn't know what their set up would be, water, water cover - why not.  I was covered because I had my boonie cap and had already lost my umbrella in the previous country.

Before leaving, I exchanged the last bit of remaining ringots (MYR).  I am often still haunted by the memory of the Bosnian Konvertable Marks.

Unfortunately, I had been feeling quite ill.  The get up to rush to the bathroom several times during the night and hope you haven't soiled yourself type of ill.  I suppose it is a lot like parenting really.  Will the kids come out OK or will they be a little shit.

In addition to worrying about my bowels, I hadn't slept well.  For some reason beyond my ken, Malaysians like to indulge in karaoke from ten at night until three or four in the morning two blocks from the hostel.  It was loud enough I could have sang along if I knew the words to Malaysian crap pop.

Physically and emotionally, I had achieved just where you want to be before embarking on a half to three quarters day trip.  Note that when I say 'half a day' I am talking about literally twelve hours.  Since I'd already blown thirty dollars on a three (actually, four) hour boat ride I was damned well going to go, even if it killed everyone else on the boat.  [I've always disliked the phrase "I'll do it if it kills me."  Americans are more extroverted than that and a murder is just an extroverted suicide, hence my new and improved phrasing.  I can not even imagine what someone reading that who is not fluent in English must be thinking right now.]

Customs between Malaysia and Indonesia was prefunctory.  For those unfamiliar with my terms, that means no questions and no interest in anything your carrying unless it looks like a weapon or a bomb.  Toss your pack on the xray belt, give me your passport to stamp, move along.  Done and easy.  In fact, I would go so far as to say the easy border crossings and no entry costs were the thing I liked best about Malaysia.  Really.

Because I hadn't hit my quota yet, the cabins of the ship were set up with video monitors and overly loud speakers to blast me with more Malaysian crap pop.  I got to watch lots of horrible, unimaginative and unsmiling dancing, men and women staring moodily off into space and wondering why the person they were after didn't love them.  There is a reason American music is heard, covered and sold all over the world and none of this crap is.  God aweful and all the same.

For awhile, I had my own cabin with fifty seats and tortorous music.  I figured everyone else was getting packed into other cabins to keep them clear of the strange foreigner.  They were - but eventually five or so drifted in.

The ferry was carrying approximately a quarter of the passengers it was designed to but they tried to make some money by jamming a lot of cargo into the passenger areas.

The ferry left sixteen minutes late - to me this is 'on time'.  Sea craft are tricky that way.

For those curious, yes I got to sit next to my backpack.  That is my favorite thing to have sitting next to me on any transport.  Nice people are well and good but being able to keep an eye on your crap wins every time.

I was disappointed there was no observational deck where I could escape the music and stare moodily off at the sea.  People are less likely to do stupid shit when packed into a small room and not given access to things that can cause them death.  Or so I thought.  Later, I discovered the secret smoking area at the stern (back) of the ship.  I managed to keep aboard while smoking.

As I sat on the ferry, I did wonder if buying a plane ticket would have been cheaper than ferry plus all of the buses I'll end up taking toward Bali.  Doh.  Well, I can always tell myself "I'm seeing more of the countryside."

I've heard a lot of people who are traveling across the countryside tell me how great it is.  For me, this is not the case.  After about a half an hour, most people lose interest in the countryside generally.  If there is something interesting (landmark), they will pay attention for the first say five hours.  After the fifth hour of overland travel it takes something really major - like an asteroid hitting the earth and wiping out all life - to get your attention.  The mind can only absorb what the ass can endure.

The entry customs (aside from prefuntory bag scanning) were done on the boat.  No big deal then we arrived at Dumai.



DUMAI - HORRIBLE CITY OF PIRATES

Good news, I managed to avoid getting anally violated by pirates. I have made it to the 'what the hell am I doing here' town of Pekanbaru. This is a big modern business city. From the looks I'm getting from the locals, I am either the first ever tourist here or the only one right now. Outstanding. A look at wikitravel shows that the hotels in this area are on the sucky side. I am going to try to get to a town tomorrow with the unfortunate name of Bukittinggi. According to the internet, it looks nice. According to wikitravel, it should have some decent places to stay. We'll see if any of that is true or if I've (again) been lured into a trap. And yes, I'm sure the pirates (butt pirates?) are giving chase, intent on sodomy. For everyone who has ever met me before, I'm sure the main question you'd want to ask the pirates is "How can you look at Logan's hairy ass and find love?"

When I got to Dumai, I was literally swarmed with drivers who all wanted to take me somewhere despite the obstacle of being totally unable to tell what I was saying and me not being sure where I was going.

But they still wanted money so hassled me anyway.

Eventually, I got very lucky and found a guy who had a car that was going to Pekanbaru.  This was the town people on the boat had mentioned I needed to go to if I was making my way south (ish) toward Jakarta.

It seems that in Indonesia, there isn't a lot of haggling that goes on, so I haggled for the extras.  I wanted - and got - the front seat.  Unlike in other countries, it is a regular car with bucket seats.  Instead of cramming two or three passengers up front, there is just me and the driver.  When you don't share a language this is hard to bargain and it involved me going and pointing to the front seat then myself.  After his protest, repeat.  Repeat and wave money.  When he sighs and shrugs I get the front seat.  Later, you then have to remind someone else the car owner had already agreed to it.  Huge pain in the ass but totally worth it not to be crammed in the back with everyone else and all of the weird boxes of crap they are transporting from one place to another.

When the car took off with my bag in it, I freaked out for a bit but it came back.  Apparently, they have mysterious errands they have to run from time to time.

Since the car I had negotiated for took me from the docks to the station we eventually departed from, I didn't have to pay any of the swarming masses.  And the journey to the station was free.  I am a very lucky man.

While we were on our very long journey, there was only one person in the car who spoke more than a few words of English named Danu.  This was a very helpful, friendly man.  He gave me a list of cities to visit while I am on my way toward Bali.  I'm going to research them to see which to hit.  Because the travel is so wearing here, I'm going to try to keep it under six hours per trip - but I doubt I'll succeed.



BEER

While I was in the large business city of Pekanbaru, I went looking for a beer.  I got directed to (then driven to) a grocery store inside of a mall.  They didn't have any cold so I just scoped out the prices.  For a large beer, it worked out to $2.50.  I figured $3 in a bar.  [Note, I was correct.]  Back to Thailand prices.  It's a step in the right direction but still way too expensive.



ONE NIGHT IN PEKANBARU MAKES A HARD MAN CRUMBLE

After twelve hours of travel by boat and car, I was shot.  My back was hating on me and I was out of it.  Part of the service of the ride to the next city is they drop you off where ever you want within that city.  Amazing!  Free - I was instructed not to tip for this service either.  No problem - I'm poor.

The drive through Pekanbaru had told me everything I needed to know about the city - big, modern, no tourist candy.  It wasn't what I'd come to Indonesia for (think 'drunk lying on a beach' people) but since I was here, I'd check it out if I got a comfortable room to stay in for the night.

I checked into a very mediocre room for 135,000 ($13.50 - easy conversion, eh?).  They assured me it was a quiet room but since it was right next to the check in counter I had to ask for then demand a new room.  Again, the staff was making more noise than the guests.  Kind of a recurring them.  The room itself sucked and was in no way worth the money other than it allowed me to grab some sleep despite the horrible noise the air conditioner made all night.

This gave me the energy to flee the city.

Research (on some free internet as the hotels didn't work) showed me there were no other reasonably priced places to stay in Pekanbaru but it did give me a list of places within my next town 'Bukittinggi' to check out.

These all proved to be a pack of lies.



TAXI SAY WHAT?

I managed to catch a taxi and ask how much it would cost to get taken to a bus to go to the unfortunately named Bukittinggi.  The taxi driver told me 8000.   Later, he claimed he had said 80,000.  Always use a calculator or hold up money when talking about fares.  Have several 10,000 bills to use for this.  It was the only time in my life I got stuck negotiating for a fare after getting dropped off.  This is the worse time to do it but paying someone $8 for that short of cab ride was not happening.  Despite the tarriff card on his window saying 20,000 was his maximum tarriff, we settled on 30,000 and he went the hell away.  Thus far, this has been the only Indonesian who has tried to fuck me.  I'm sure there will be others.  I'm writing about it partially as a warning but also for contrast.  Everyone else has been so 'over the top' nice to me it has kind of freaked me out a bit.  As an example, the guy who I asked where I could find beer who then drove me on the back of his motorbike to the store.  The young couple I sat with in a restaurant (the kind where you just grab a place to sit where ever it is free) I asked a couple questions about words to.  "How do I say X" sort of thing.  They wanted to buy me my dinner and seemed disappointed when I very politely refused.  So, the taxi driver we can (for now) refer to as the only 'ass clown' in Indonesia.  If he was the only one I met on my whole trip, I'd be really freaked out.



ON THE ROAD AGAIN...

Once I'd finished haggling with the taxi driver, I wandered over to the bus guys to discuss things with them.  I got the impression the price was actually fixed so I haggled hard for (you guessed it) the front seat.  Got it.  I was told there would be no smoking in the car and we would be leaving in one hour.  Once they were sure I understood, we got into the car immediately and left smoking.  It made no sense to me either, I just did what everyone else did.  The driver didn't want to have the radio turned off but when we stopped, I just happened to buy an extra juice and the bribe worked.  I heard him tell the others "We have to leave the music off.  This guy doesn't realize he is now in Indoneisa."  Yes, I can understand some stuff.  He doesn't understand that I know a small bribe can go a long way.

What I didn't understand is that was not the actual driver but the car owner.  His job is to take the car around, fill it up with people then pass it to his lacky that then drives for hours.  Him, I didn't need to bribe.  I just whined when he turned on the radio and thanked him effusively when he turned it off.  Later, I accidentally hit the gismo that stored songs with a soda bottle and it stopped working all together.  Note, this was a real accident.  Yes, I am a dick but I really hate the music.  My phrase is currently "No, I don't hate all music - just YOUR music."



WELCOME TO INDONESIA - YOU ARE OUR FIRST EVER TOURIST

I'm not sure if it was that I was off of the normal 'tourist trail' or if they just haven't seen many tourists here.  The people were friendly and seemed a bit awestruck.

Kids and adults would dare children to touch me.  I'm not kidding.

I had a group of school girls come up and want to practice speaking English with me.

Today, a lady asked me to come judge poetry at her school for her English speaking students.  [I am going on that tomorrow and will get pictures and videos - already cleared it.]

Unfortunately, I've already had the 'what relgion are you' interrogation.  Everyone wants to see if you fit within a box they can either accept or be critical of.  I've been going with 'Pastafarinism' because they have no clue what it is, it gives me an ethos to express belief in, avoids questions and any possible conversion waste of time conversations.

If the fifty or one hundred Indonesians I've met thus far are any indication, most of this country are dedicated smokers.  Not the women mind you - keep your hair covered and don't make a nucience of yourself.  But the men chain smoke.

When I write in my journel, people often gather around and attempt to figure out what I am writing.  Usually, it's some observation or the price of something.  Sometimes it is "As I write this, everyone is watching...fascinated."  Yes, really.  I'm waiting for the 'sleeper'.  That is the guy who actually understands English but pretends not to.  I found one in a car after I'd asked if anyone spoke English.  He didn't pipe up.  I made a joke to what I thought was the only other guy who spoke English and that guy started laughing.  I responded with 'ah ha!'



BUKITTINGGI

Eventually, we reached this town.  The place I'd carefully researched on Wikitravel was full (and didn't have wifi as claimed) so I hiked to a couple other places.  Several were full.  Eventually, I got into one for 100,000.  If I'd wanted a hot water shower, they'd have charged me 130,000.  Bugger that, I'll spend that on a beer instead.  The guy wasn't interested in haggling at all.  A real shame.  If the room had wifi, it would be one of those places I could see myself staying for a long time.  Since everyone in this town seems to believe it is somewhere in the 1980's instead (see their music videos for proof - wait - they are lamer than that) I will be moving on in a couple days.

I did spend my day wandering around looking at other hotels.  The only one that had wifi was 350,000 per room.  It looked a bit sleezier than where I am staying for a third of that price.  Even the biggest, nicest looking place here "The Hills" with rooms from 850,000 to 4,500,000 (yeah - four and a half million - that's $450 - FOR SE ASIA) didn't have wifi in their rooms and only a crappy illegible xerox of a town map.  You kind of expect more from a place like that...

As I was headed back to my room, a teacher waylaid me and asked if I would be available to judge a poetry reading contest.  What the hell, I said.  Sounds like a new experience.  She was very greatful.  My guess is having a foreigner at one of these lends a great deal of prestige.  I was delighted because she offered me transport there and back again and lunch.  It didn't sound like this was one of those 'donate your money as well as your time' organizations so I cautiously accepted.  [The rest of SE Asia has jaded me a bit to the concept of 'volunteer work'.  Here's a hint - if you're paying for the privilage it's not what I consider actual 'volunteer work' so much as 'give us money and you can putter around here - but mainly we're in it for the money.  The offer this teacher made was in no way like this.]



THE POETRY READING

Totally not what I expected.  Not even close.  Here is what I envisioned.  Setting - a classroom.  Children have made up poems and come to the front to read them then go sit down.  I rate them on some criteria only known to me and pick out the one I could understand and liked best.

Here is what actually happened.  We got taken to a stage.  They had hired a MC (master of ceremonies) from the government.  There were press.  Parents with lots of cameras.  Everyone dressed nice.  One other judge.  [There were suppose to be three total but one guy didn't show up.]  And me show casing the latest in 'backpacker wear'.

It was freaky.  They told me to score from 60 to 90 in multiples of five.  Due to the way the totaling up and dividing worked, this ended up not mattering at all, but I went with it.

I was told to show up at 10 AM (negotiated down from 8 AM though honestly I'm not sure what I'd have done then but sit around for a couple hours) and the show ended up starting after 10:30 AM.

For the opening, the Koran was read.  Since this is a very religious and very Muslim country that didn't take me by surprise.  What followed did.

After a couple very long and incomprehensible speaches in Indonesian we were treated to extremely cute four or five year olds in costumes dancing around to songs - including 'Barby Girl'.  ("I'm a Barby girl, in a Barby world...")  This is what happens when people can't understand the lyrics of the music they are playing.  If you watch the video, you will see they even had one little girl in a little wedding gown.  That freaked me out a bit.

Nobody had briefed me before hand, but these were not original poems.  Each kid had to memorize one of three different poems and say it with as much clarity and pronouncing the words as well as they could.  I confess that the second kid got a much lower score than the first because I thought she was just reading the same poem as the first.

For an American with the need for 'individualism' drilled into us and praised, it was odd having everyone just doing one of the three different poems.

Eventually, I got on track.  Speakers were rated and Heri (pronounced Harry - the other judge) got the places assigned.  I could tell that the teacher was a bit shocked or disappointed with our choices but we figured if she wanted a certain person to win she wouldn't have recruited judges.

We got fed lunch.  Beef, rice and vegetables eaten with hands off of a bananna leaf.  An excellent lunch.  It struck me as very odd that I was eating off of a bananna leaf in Indonesia.  I thought I would be doing that in India but it never came up.

After finishing with the contest, Heri (the other judge) volunteered to take me to his village 5KM away.  I decided to go and see what the day brought.  It was a lot of fun.  Everyone kept trying to feed me, which is always nice.  He took me to see cousins of his who ran a store and worked as civil servants.  After that, we went and hung out with some reporter friends of his who worked for a small newspaper.  Apparently, they have seen enough tourists to not feel the need to inverview me.

After getting dropped home (my hotel) off the back of the motorcycle, that ended a very long day.  Tomorrow, I'm going to take it easy and wander around the city but I suspect I'll be seeing Heri again later.



SE ASIA AND LINE DANCING

Line dancing seems to be extremely popular here.  I know they do have it in the USA but there it is kind of quirky and reserved for only a couple of songs like the 'Electric Slide'.  Here, it is everywhere - including in early morning exercise routines.  I am not joking.  People get up early and go to these things presumably to work out and possibly socialize afterward.  Naturally, there is a lot of line dancing on videos as well.

In my mind, line dancing kind of fits the whole 'lack of creativity' I've seen within the 'Asian Business Model' described in earlier blogs.



SIMPLE YET UNPREDICTABLE

I've been giving some thought to what one reader called my 'simple yet unpredictable tastes' and heres what I've come up with that I would like for now.  Note, that all of this has to be cheap because Asia is where I come to save money.

- Decent place to stay and it must have wifi.  It can also include little exras like a balcony, little fridge, western style toilet, my own bathroom, hot water showers a desk and chair.  [For those thinking 'that is too much', piss off I had it in Cambodia and yes, I will be visiting there again.]

- Cheap beer/liqour.  This paying three dollar shit for a beer (large or small) due to excessive government taxes is stupid.  [Yes, again Cambodia wins.  Yes, I'll get good and drunk there when I go back.]

- People to talk to.  Usually, these end up being tourists but that is only because of the language barrier.  As heavily demonstrated, I'm delighted to talk to anyone who can speak English.  Or German.  [I may find a hostel to stay at for a bit in Cambodia - or at least to drink in.]

- Moderately interesting place to go for walks.  Fuck hills.  It doesn't have to be 'fascinating', just moderately interesting.  I find a lot of stuff interesting, like the bazaar that sold only automotive parts I wandered for hours in Cairo, Egypt.



INDONESIA - WHAT IS A 'STANDARD HOTEL'?

If someone is talking to you about a 'standard hotel', I've been told this is one costing between 80,000 to 150,000 INR.  I'm guessing this price is flexible depending on the area, but generally it is a 'middle of the road' hotel.



INDONESIAN CUSTOMS

When shaking someones hand, do not let go and touch it to your head.  This is done by younger people to show respect to older people.  Alternatively, after shaking hands with someone, place your hand on your chest.  The latter I am thinking is also respect done by many people who have shaken my hand.  I find myself placing my fist against my chest in the American 'gangsta' tradition of 'yo'.  It's hard to stop.

If someone messes up, older women will go and yell at him causing him to feel shame.  This is much the same custom as I have heard about from Azerbijan though not seen yet.

If two people are having a conversation and you need to walk between them, duck slightly while walking.  This is body language for "I am sorry for needing to walk between you, please excuse me."

In Northern Sumatra the Batok tribe, the women work and the men stay at home to keep the house and raise the kids.  I'm not sure how that custom came about.  I haven't witnessed this but it sounds interesting.



FRESH FRUIT IS BAD

They have a spikey cool looking fresh fruit called 'durain'.  Pictures of it are within my files.  It took a cigarette to get the taste out of my mouth.  It is a cool looking, interesting fruit but I really hated the taste.



GOOGLE MAPS AND TRANSPORT TIME

For overland, multiply by 1.5.  If you're needing to make any connecting stuff, multiply by two.  There are a lot of factors that go into this.  Before departing, the 'mobile' (local word for 'mini van') will make a bunch of stops to get more customers.  They may even stop along the way to pick up more people.  In addition, your speed will vary between 10 and 100 KM/hour depending on other traffic and road conditions.  Believe me, this is often faster than it is safe to go.

I don't see a lot of realistic chase scenes done in SE Asia.



LARP FUN

The older you get, the more you ponder the past...

[Special note for non-native English speakers on this part.  These are NOT crimes I have done or contemplated.  These were done by a fictional character within a game.  Several people who have played this game read this blog and may enjoy reading about them as the character I played was well known.  Again, this part is all FICTION.]

For those familiar with NERO, this is something I was pondering on the long road through Indonesia:  Crimes Lumsie has done and actually gotten away with.  I've discounted all of the standard crimes (necromancy, murder, etc) and listed only the more interesting ones.  Also I'd like to make special mention that I do distinguish between PC's and NPC's.  People have told me it is cheesy and you shouldn't but to not do so drives off people from the hobby.  While Lumsie may butcher NPC's indiscriminantly, he wouldn't kill a PC unless left with literally no choice than dying himself.  Note that there are things worse than death (long term paralysis) and I have done those to repeat offenders.  I have also messed with PC's who didn't deserve it but messing with people is lots of fun.  They didn't lose their stuff (gear, money) or lives to Lumsie and I am happy about that.  [Exception, I did kill a PC once by accident thinking he was an NPC spy but when I found out he was a PC I gave him enough gear he got embarrassed, so I felt the debt was paid off.]  On to the crimes of Lumsie:

Cannnabilism (and devouring other sentient beings)
Sedition
Conspiracy
Treason
Regicide (though honestly with royalty death by assassination is often termed 'natural causes')
Necorphelia (and various devient sexual acts so heinous they would be considered crimes.  This could include putting entire groups of adventurers into various holes within my body where they actually had adventures...)
Kidnapping
Enslavement
Trafficing in stolen goods, slaves, etc.
Running criminal syndicates
Consorting with undead (it was mostly family, being the 'Fa-King son of a lich')
Destroying order nodes, creating chaos nodes
Creating a rift in space and time to establish a permanent gate between Fa and Tyrra (remember all of that copper Lumsie collected?  It was turned in to a plot member to do this.  The plot member then quit NERO and presumably threw away all of that copper.  The NERO plot teams then utterly failed to do anything with the gate Lumsie had been working on for EIGHT actual years.  Sad.)
Dry humping (if you don't see how this is a crime, you're doing it wrong)
Inciting several riots

Ah, memories...



PRICES, MALAYSIA

Melaka:  4 KG of laundry, 28 MYR - holy crap.



PRICES, INDONESIA

Special note for Indonesia, India rules apply here.  Horde small bills - change is often tricky to get from the smaller shops.

Gudang Garam International cigarettes, 10,000 pack of 20.
Marlboro, 14,000 INR
Lucky Strikes, 12,000 INR

Note, unless you like 'clove' cigarettes, avoid the local ones here.  Awful.  Especially 'in mild'.  Horrible.

Strip of pineapple from a roadside vendor, 1000 INR

Small piece of chicken, 9000

Huge meal (chicken, rice, some green shit and an over spiced piece of dead cow), two coffees 58,000

Coffee, 3000-5000

Juice bribe, 5000

Decent dinner, 19,000.  Food is roughly $2-3 here.  More than India or a decent restaurant in Thailand but still very affordable.

Cookie, 500

Shave, 10,000 (The barber I went to tried to save money by not changing the razor blade before using it on me.  Fortunately, I was keeping an eye out for those scheninagins.)



VIDEOS

Malaca Museum

More videos will be posted as soon as I find a town that realizes it is post 1995 and offers wifi in the hotel rooms.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

SPOT THE ASSHOLE

SPOT THE ASSHOLE

This is a fun game you can play at hostels.   

At night, when someone enters and leaves a room more than three times before going to bed...
When people are sleeping, if people are right outside the door to the room talking...
The staff - pretty much always - but especially when they keep the news on in whatever the local language is...
Anyone who uses a cell phone inside the room...
If they have unpacked their gear and it takes up a significant amount of floor space...
If they only tell stories and don't indulge in any real 'conversation'...

Yes, all of this stuff happened at the last couple hostels I've stayed at.  Most people at a hostel realize that you have to be quiet and tidy.  There are always the assholes however who don't know.  

For those who are curious, yes - there are times when Logan has been the asshole.



INDONESIA VISA

After completely failing to come up with a cover story I still got it.  With a lot of willpower, I did manage to prevent myself from rubbing my hands together and making 'bwahahaa!' noises at the embassy.  



LEAVING BANGKOK

The day after getting my visa, I took off from Bangkok.  I decided to head down to Krabi Thailand to see what was shaking down there.



KRABI TOWN

Honestly, it wasn't all that great.  I have no clue why people go there.  There was one nice scene of two rocks with trees on them.  I took a couple pictures of it then got bored.  There were a lot of awesome tourists that I met and had some drinks with - but you can meet awesome people in cheaper parts of the world where you don't have to pay three dollars per beer.  

If you go anywhere close to the river in Krabi Town, you will get hassled by the sleaziest river boat operators I've ever laid eyes upon.  I've no idea why anyone would ever give them money but it does happen.

The best part of Krabi Town (aside from the tourists who could have been anywhere) was a pizza I had.  It was 'green chicken curry' pizza.  Since leaving Illinois the home of amazing pizza it was definitely the best pizza I've had, period.  If you find yourself in Krabi, try it at the 'Blue Juice' bar where nothing they serve is actually blue.



REVIEW OF THE 'PAK UP' HOSTEL, KRABI, THAILAND

The good:  Relatively clean.  200 THB for a big single bed, 220 THB for a big single bed in an air conditioned room.  With how backpackers and their gear can smell, I'm not sure why anyone would want to save the 20 THB (less than a dollar) but there you go.  To the best of my knowledge, either option makes this the cheapest place in town.  Excellent gear storage lockers - you could get two full backpacks into each and they are located under the bottom bunk.  Bring your own lock or rent one from the staff.  Free liquids (shower gel, shampoo, conditioner) in the showers.

The bad:  They have what is potentially an excellent common room but the guests rarely sit in there.  They are driven off by Thai TV at loud volumes.  The Thai TV is on 24/7 and enjoyed by the four or five staff working there rather than anything in the common language of all travelers being enjoyed by the tones of guests that stay there.  Again, the staff stands in the way of this being a great hostel as opposed to a good one.

The ugly:  Due to their towels getting stolen, you have to leave a 200 THB towel deposit (if you want a towel) in addition to to the 100 THB key deposit.  After I returned my key and towel, the staff guy 'forgot' to offer back this 300 THB until I reminded (demanded) it.

Overall, Pak Up is a decent short term place to crash.  Two doors down is a decent restaurant to get western food at.  The hostel is located in the heart of the tourist district and it's a great place to meet other tourists.



REVIEW OF THE STARDUST GUESTHOUSE, GEORGETOWN, MALAYSIA

Shitty place to stay.  They lock up at 8 or 8:30 PM.  Nobody was awake to return my key to at 7AM.  The counter itself was behind locked doors so I couldn't even get to that.  Grim and depressing.



WELCOME TO MALAYSIA

My first impressions of Malaysia were 'modern with a crap ton of palm trees and sculpted trees on the roads'.  It looks - and is - expensive.  

I've heard from people here that despite what I was told, beer is expensive in Indonesia and that is very depressing.  If it's true, I'll be wishing I could remember who told me it was cheap so I can be angry with them.




REVIEW OF 'BACKPACKERS FREAK HOSTEL'

Run by a guy name Sean ("Shawn") who speaks English with an Ozzy accent.  He is, in fact, the only employee.  He wanted to give me the standard canned speech about the town.  I explained that I was feeling cranky and tired after the bus ride.  He warned me that he might be too busy later to spend time giving me the briefing.  I told him I really didn't care.  After a night of sleeping here, I think there may be some part of him that is bitter he didn't get to give his canned speech.  I still don't care.

I get that people who work in hostels/hotels/guesthouses see it as their duty to brief every travelers who comes through their door.  Personally, I find it invasive and boorish.  When I'd been working for awhile in Georgia (a month or two) and figured out what I was doing I shortened it to "I know a lot about this town and what's in it.  Tell me when you want to know about it.  But for right now, what do you need?  Food, toilet, a walk, anything?"  People who have worked for years haven't gotten this down yet.  Instead, it is the same plate of crap for everyone.

Back to the hostel, it's a screamer but moderately comfortable.



WHERE YOU GO?  WHERE YOU FROM?

I wish the people who asked these phrases could understand ironic and snarky responses.  I understand that many people are imagining someone politely asking and are horrified.  Think the opposite.  I've had people get into my face and yell these questions like they were mental.

Their not understanding has probably saved me from a lot of conflict.  I just look wary instead of saying things like:

"I'm from a country that doesn't ask - nor answer - questions."
"I'm from fuck off.  You know fuck off?  You should go fuck off."

And so on.

As one reader told me "Keep it classy, Logan."  He left off "...You old scumbag."   He's classy.  It is difficult to remain classy in the face of dedicated rudeness and stupidity.   But I work at it.  Every day, and in every way...



NEAR TERM PLANS


Right - after grueling research which went on for way too long, it's looking like I'll be headed first to a really rough sea port in Indonesia named Dumas.  I've been told that if I stay there over night, I'll probably get robbed.  This is less rough than parts of the world I've been to where I figured they'd continue violating my corpse.  Anywho, after escaping there I will attempt to get up to North Sumatra province and a town called Parapet.  If I can get a boat that isn't staffed by people who will rob kill and body dump me into the picturesque Lake Toba I will stay at a town oddly called Tuktuk.  This town has a volcano which hasn't gone off for many centuries but may decide to just as I pull up in being drug by a boat after being violated by several rough fish.

I don't mind a bit of adventure in getting there but if they don't have wifi I am going to freak the fuck out.




VIDEOS

Beka
Krabi Thailand
Pak up hostel

Thailand



COSTS

According to people I've spoken to, a 'fun dive' course (they don't teach you, you just dive for four days) is 1000 THB.

A ten day kickboxing course, 4000 THB.  Note, this was someone else who didn't know how to bargain that got it and I'm really not sure what anyone can pick up in ten days.  Probably better just to go to a couple matches.

Krabi to George Town (Malaysia) by van, 600 THB.  Note, it is about a ten hour trip.

Beer, 7.50-9 MYR (I've heard it is the third largest beer tax in the world.  Time to escape from Malaysia!) 

Food, 5.50-8 MYR

Apple juice from 7-11, 2.8 MYR

Smokes, 10 MYR

Bus terminal to town (Malacca, Malaysia), 20 MYR.  Here, the R is for 'ripoff'.

Amazingly overpriced Korean food that didn't impress me, 27.50 MYR.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN?

DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN?

I was talking to a twenty nine year old man who was getting ready to go have a night out on the town.  I advised him not to take anything he didn't want to lose with him.  He said I was a 'fear monger'.  The next morning, he discovered he had lost his I-phone.  And credit card.  He said he was more angry about me being right than losing his stuff.  

"It's a horrible burden I bear." I retorted.



I HATE BANGKOK

The first night I arrived in town I was pretty tired and out of sorts.  I had a beer and a very nice conversation with some other travelers.  After that night, I was sick (the dreaded 'traveler's tummy') for the next three days.  Boy did that suck.

After lying around the hostel for several days I finally got a bit better and was able to journey forth without worrying my ass would unexpectedly spray shit.  It's a happy feeling.

Bangkok is pretty much sweltering.  Even the Thais are complaining about the heat.  During the day I'm not seeing many tourists running around.  

Sorry that there aren't more pictures and videos here in Bangkok but I got most of that crap done the first two times I was here.  When I get out of Bangkok I'll make more for your amusement.


THE NEAR FUTURE

Since I messed up by not having some ports into and out of Indonesia written down, the worker at the Indonesian embassy seemed suspicious that I wouldn't leave his country or something odd.  Had I been thinking more clearly, I'd have said "Take a look at my passport.  Do you honestly think I'm going to stay anywhere?"

As I write this, it is Tuesday.  On Thursday, my passport should be ready one way or the other.  As I understand it, the Indonesian government gets to keep my $45 either way.  Bummer.  

Whichever way it goes, I am out of Bangkok on Thursday.

Thank god.

Unless things get totally strange, I should have time to grab my passport (hopefully with a shiny new Indonesian visa), retrieve my crap then taxi it over to the place I'm getting the bus ticket.  Then, it's off to Krabi Town and hopefully something more interesting than a third time in Bangkok.

My loose plans are the south of Thailand to Indonesia to Philippines to Cambodia then god knows where.  Hopefully by then I'll have saved up some money and I can GTFO of Asia.  Either Africa or back to eastern Europe would be nice.

But if you are a regular reader, you know how my 'plans' go...



LOGAN WEIGHT

Current weight, fully clothed with satchel and such, 121 KG.  (Fuck pounds - only three countries use that crap).

My 'diet plan' consisting of not being able to keep anything in combined with sweating my ass off constantly and - due to the extreme heat - not wanting to eat much - seems to be working.



PRICES

Cheap flip flops, starting price 450 TBH, bargained down to 250 TBH.

Thai boxing seats, 1000-2000 TBH.

Plate of kind of crappy spaghetti, 100-200 TBH.

Traveler's toothpaste, 13 TBH.

Big Arabic style meal to celebrate not being sick any more, 450 TBH.  That got out of hand (price wise) very quickly.

Bus from  Bangkok to 'Krabi Town', 550 TBH elsewhere or 800 TBH from the hostel.  Even with a 100-200 TBH taxi ride to get to the place I'm getting the bus from I'm saving money going elsewhere.  Always shop around.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

BACK TO BANGKOK

THE AIR CONDITIONER MAN

During my brief stay in Goa, there was a small problem with the air conditioner. It dripped. No big deal. Since I try to be a good guest, I notified the owner of the place I was staying.

He called out the air conditioner repair man and his assistant. They eventually came toward evening. His assistant was friendly but spoke no English. He also didn't know how to turn off the AC with the remote. For those in suspense about how such a thing may be done, it's the big button. It's almost always the big button.

Within the air conditioner was some sort of computer chip that had the temperature displayed on it. It was working fine. I looked up to see the repairman hitting it with the point of his screwdriver. "I wouldn't do that if I was you." He looked a bit guilty (and inept) and stopped.

The air conditioner had an amazing amount of water in it. The repairman stopped the leaking by putting some gunk in it to block the leak point. Later, it leaked from a new point. I'm just glad that water plus electricity didn't equal more trouble.



A WANDERING RANT ON THE SOUTH OF INDIA

Southern India was far more expensive than northern India. In northern India, you could get a crappy place for about 200 INR and a decent place with wifi for 400-500 INR. In southern India, you could get a crappy place for 600-1000 INR and a decent place with wifi for 1500-2000 INR. Was it worth the added expense? Not to me. The food and such is cheap throughout the country. They can't really crank up the prices on that - nobody would eat there. But they can screw the tourists on lodging as there aren't a lot of other choices.

There isn't really an 'out of season' according to the people who run the hotels and such. When the foreign tourists aren't there, the Indian tourists are. Hence, any delusions I'd had about being there 'out of season'.

For anyone wanting to visit India, here is my recommendation. Start in the south. As you travel north, the trashiness will increase but the costs will dramatically decrease. If you go the other way it's going to be some bad shock. Or maybe all of this crap was just within the fine state of Goa. That's where I hit the 'get me the hell out of here' button.

I'd spent considerable time and money taking hellishly long transportation to Goa. When I got there, it was not as I'd hoped. I went around to some of the beach towns and such to check them out. Trashy and amazingly overpriced.

I figured 'I can go further south. I've heard good things about the far south. It's only a fifteen to twenty hour bus ride away." Then, I had to go up against the Indian rail system. After being sent upstairs and downstairs numerous times by people who looked liked they'd worked there forever and appeared to still not know their jobs, I discovered that if I wanted to I could get put on a waiting list. If I waited for fourteen hours, I could find out if I could take the train. I was only number eight on the waiting list. I just fucking snapped. I'd had enough. It was time to pull the plug on my Indian adventure and good riddance.

The overcrowding combined with severe incompetence and rudeness were highlighted starkly with European prices. It was time to leave the country. Being taught to assume everyone was always lying to you, the crowding, noise, begging - it all became too much after three months. A month or two would be enough for most people I think.



A RANT ON THE WIFI IN INDIA

Some people have said "It's India, you can't expect wifi. This is wrong for a couple different reasons. You should be able to expect it. The trick is that one hotel has to have it and get successful. At that point, everyone else in town will get it. The Asian business model has nothing to do with creativity and everything else to do with ruthlessly copying the crap out of what someone else has done that worked.

When I'm able to find wifi in a room costing 400 INR in northern India and can't find it at a room costing four times as much in southern India it is just because nobody has yet come up with the idea in that town.

In conclusion, you will find that either nearly all of the town (anywhere in Asia) is wifi or not wifi. Very odd.



INDIAN CUSTOMS

On local buses, they have things written like 'ladies only', 'senior citizens' and 'twelve people standing'. These are all lies and should be ignored.


Indians love their mobile phones. On the plane to Bangkok, we'd been given announcements to turn off and put away all electronic devices. Signs were lit up asking us to keep them off.

While the plane was actually lifting off from the runway, a cell phone rung and was answered. Another was dropped and skittered along the floor toward the back of the plane.



BAG WATCH

I tossed my lovely Egyptian pants due to getting the zip on zip off legs. Tossed a couple other minor things as well. The bag weight is down to 18.9 KG according to the airport scales.



FLIGHT TO BANGKOK

Although the rest of the world now allows one cigarette lighter per person, they haven't gotten that memo in India and seized it. How the people in the smokers areas within the airport got hold of lighters I don't have any idea.

Anyway, the flight from Goa to Mumbai was about $40. From Mumbai to Bangkok was about $200. I almost missed the second flight due to incorrectly reading the gate number and falling asleep briefly in front of the wrong gate. I was just that tired by the time I got there. It was hard travel and a lot of buying tickets for 'right the hell now'. In the USA, they gouge the crap out of you to buy tickets for 'right now'. Here, they seemed to cost the same price as if you'd bought them days in advance. Thank god.



LIVING IN THE AIRPORT

During my half day layover in Mumbai airport, I met two people that were living there. Both of these people had made some sort of mistakes that caused this. One guy claimed he had his benefits cut off and became stranded in the airport. He lived there, begging off of other tourists, promising to pay them back. He told me that one French girl gave him 10,000 INR. "I could not eat or smoke (drugs) enough!" he said with pride. Why people give him money is a mystery to me. He was as wacked out of it as I imagine Hunter S. Thompson would be.

The other guy was a German I met. He was drinking rum when I first encountered him and offered me some. I took a pass on it because I wanted to keep as clear of head as I could since I had to fly out. He got drunk, missed his plane and drunkenly explained to me he'd now be stranded in the airport for a couple days.



BACK IN BANGKOK

When I was in the airport, I espied a currency exchange. Being their only customer I passed over some American money and asked for bhat - the local currency in Thailand. While the lady was getting out change a bunch of Indians from the plane bellied up to the desk and began asking questions. "I'm sorry - this gentleman was here first. You'll have to wait until I am done helping him." she said. I resisted slapping the desk and yelling "HA!" to the Indian people. Christ, I was glad to get out of India. That sort of behavior (as opposed to queuing) isn't even seen as rude. I think it is, but they do it habitually.

The first night here, I was just tired. I seem to have gotten some sort of new sir-shits-a-lot stomach virus on my first night. For the last two days, I've been mostly sitting around the guest house. Tethered to the toilet on what I have begun to think of as the 'Asian diet plan'.

So now I am staying at 'Soy 1 Guesthouse' in the business district. It's not a great hostel as far as hostels go but it has a strange interesting energy about it. It's a nice break from the usual tourist area of "Kosan Road". Oddly, I ran into two people I knew from the Republic of Georgia - Beka (Georgian) and Phillip (German). I may end up traveling a bit with Phillip down the road. We'll see what happens.



HOTELS IN CALANGUTE BEACH

Not much in the way of internet here either.

Beachway Resort, AC 1200 INR, non-AC 800
Calangute Guesthouse AC 1910 INR, non-AC 1650
The Grand, 6000 INR though they dropped the price quickly to 2700 INR.
Jerry's Place, AC 1000 INR, non-AC 800
Sunflower, AC 1600 INR, non-AC 1400
Village Nook Beach Resort, AC 1500 INR, non-AC 800 INR



HOTELS IN PANAJI

The hotels there haven't really figured out that travelers like wifi. Finding it in that town is very difficult unless you're spending big money. Some notes on hotels that have no wifi:

Alfonsos, 1200 INR
Hotel Embassy Suites, AC 1500 INR
Mi-Palace, AC 1200 INR
Oravs Guest House - avoided due to early morning construction
Popeye's Guest House, 600 INR for non-AC



FUN WITH AIRPORT SECURITY

To fascinate the man with the metal detector, why not wear a metal cock ring? [No, I don't know where these thoughts in my head come from either.]



PHILOSOPHY

I was chatting to a nice lady named Shawna. She was interested in becoming a cop in England. (Note, I think it was England - I'm writing this while suffering yet another bout of 'traveler's tummy'.) One of the things I brought up was the idea of finding mentors and making connections even before beginning college. It has always baffled me that so few people bother with this. Were I interested in training in a profession, I'd try to meet and chat with people who are senior in that profession. Eventually, you may discover someone who is happy to pass along their advice. When you've reached the top of your chosen field, having keen young people seek you out for your wisdom is a boon.

And it never hurts to get a bunch of contacts and the 'good ol boy' network working for you years before your job hunt begins. When they have a stack of applications sitting on their desk from college people who have just graduated (no experience) and the application of someone that (for example) the chief of police has been mentoring for the last four years sitting on the desk whose application do you think will be taken first? Even if you don't end up working for that particular chief, the cops are notorious gossips. Word will travel on the grapevine. In fact, your mentor may just pick up the phone and have a quiet word with someone else which gets you hired - and you'll never know they had anything to do with it.

Plus too if you are on a case in years to come it could be quite handy to have friends in the forensic labs who are happy to give an 'unofficial rush' to your evidence you need to close the big case.

Or you can wait until you graduate from college and join everyone else who is rushing to do stuff they should have been doing years ago.

The main two hurdles to this seem to be work and shyness. It does take a lot of work to remember all of the names and such, but this sort of thing is for people who are wanting an actual career as opposed to a plug in hours and get money sort of job. If someone is shy, they can choose to overcome that or stay in the lower ranks. Shyness is not a disease. "Fear is just a feeling. You feel hot. You feel hungry. You feel angry. You feel afraid. Fear can never kill you." - Remo Williams.



BURMA NEWS

A few travelers have told me that Burma has a new president who has opened up the country. I'm not sure what all is currently going on there now but I've been told big changes in regards to tourism. Apparently, now you can travel throughout and across the country. More news as it comes to me.



QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Life without internet is life in prison." - Beka.



PRICES

Using the waiting room at the Mumbai airport, 60 INR. Not joking. 300 ml fanta in airport, 1 USD.



VIDEOS

Crappy Dharan Nepal room
Rickshaw travel
Shaky Travel
Shut the hell up
Tease the monkeys Darjeeling town square
Long Island Hotel
Darjeeling railway station
Happy Valley Tea Estate
Tea Tour
Tea Obsession 1
Tea Obsession 2
Toy Train in Darjeeling
Welcome to Calcutta Bitches
Cricket in India 1
Cricket in India 2
Follow up to Cricket in India
A Pousada Guest House in Panaji

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 |

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