Archive for the ‘Duncan’s Posts’ Category

Bye (Dunc)

May 28, 2007

I started this blog back on May 23rd 2006 to record my exploits as I traveled around the world for 12 months and now some 370 days and 21,423 hits later it’s time to put this puppy to sleep.

As things turned out I only managed to travel for 9 months of the 12, but they were 9 damn fine months at that.

Highlights of my trip were people rather than places. An ugly place can always be made better with good people.

Fortunately, beautiful places and beautiful people tend to collide now and again – Nepal, Lithuania, Australia – I will be going back!!!

Things that I don’t like about traveling –

1. Becoming friends with people who you are never likely to see again in your life (the not seeming them again bit – not the making friends bit)
2. Having the shits with a hallucinating fever for 18 hours on a train in India.
3. Not having the energy to be sociable everyday.
4. Missing my family and friends
5. Taxi drivers.
6. Nepalese Visas.

The lessons I have learned –

1. Live in the now – appreciate what you’ve got.
2. You get the same mixed bag of people pretty much everywhere you go – we’re not all that different.
3. Everything in life is perception.
4. A 60p bottle of wine can taste better than you think.
5. A cocktail of salt and chlorine does not make for a pleasant swimming pool experience.
6. 12 months isn’t a long time.
7. I love my bouff more than I ever though possible.

I hope people have enjoyed reading my ramblings. I also extend my heartfelt thanks to Rory for being my partner in crime and making this blog more entertaining than it ever would have been if I’d done it alone.

The future? Well, I’m sure I’ll be traveling again sometime soon and if I do I’m sure I’ll brush the digital cobwebs off Too Many Ribs To Kiss Kojak.

Take it easy everyone and remember not to buy Nestle!

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Competition (Dunc)

May 17, 2007

Whoever can find the the best Country & Western or Blues song title wins a prize.

 A few starters for 10 –

“Baby when you leave me walk out backwards so I think you’re comin’ in”

“Most things haven’t worked out”

“How can I miss you if you don’t go away”

“If you can’t live without me how come you ain’t dead”

Bison Grass Vodka (Dunc)

May 17, 2007

I think it was my good mate Joe Clarke who introduced me to the joys of Bison Grass Vodka (Zubrowka) back in 2003. It’s basically Polish vodka which has been flavoured by a piece of “Bison Grass”. It tastes very nice mixed with apple juice over crushed ice.

I visited the Bialoweiza area where the vodka is produced and where the last European bison roam free in the wild back at the start of my RTW trip in June 2006.

So, what’s all this pontificating about? Well, I just found the Zubrowka website and thought it was cool – http://www.bisonbrandvodka.net/

 zubrowka-bison-grass-vodka1.jpg

Riveting (Dunc)

May 10, 2007

Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian inventor with a degree in electronics, science and mathematics, invented the paperclip in 1899. He received a patent for his design from Germany in 1899, since Norway had no patent laws at that time. Johan Vaaler was an employee at a local invention office when he invented the paperclip.

paperclip.jpg

The Apprentice (Dunc)

April 30, 2007

I’m not a big fan of these “Reality” type TV shows but must admit to having a soft spot for “The Apprentice” (BBC1, Wednesday at 9:00pm).

Tre” is currently my favourite nugget. He says “fuck” every second word, is offended by nudity and doesn’t believe in evolution

“She fucking may have fucking came from a fucking fish fucker but I’m fucking sure I fucking didn’t fucking fucker”.

What a complex character….

Just had a quick whizz on Google to find out what’s happened to past contestants. Last years finalist Ruth “Grrrrr” Badger has started her own business consultancy. According to her online profile:

“Ruth has very fond memories of The Apprentice which has left her with some life-long friends. We wish Michelle well. But what’s important for you, our new friends and customers, is to know that what you saw on The Apprentice is 30 per cent of what Ruth is capable of.”

I wonder how she came up with the “30%” figure? Who knows what she or anyone else is capable of? Perhaps she could have bumped this up to 80% during the show if she had smeared her own warm shit into Alan Sugars beard while dancing naked with a dyed pink Yorkshire terrier stuck up her arse.

ukapprentice.jpg

Having Your Cake & Eating It Too (Dunc)

April 27, 2007

Michelle Malkin doesn’t seem to be aware of this old English proverb.

Check out the “Students Against War” Article HERE

Nearly pub time. I’m off to warm up my elbow. 

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T10 – TV Shows (Dunc)

April 24, 2007

So here you have my list in no particular order –

10. BlackAdder – Undoubtedly the best British sitcom ever:

Captain Darling: “I’m as British as Queen Victoria!”
Blackadder: “So your father’s German, you’re half German and you married a German?”

9. Deadwood – It’s stars Lovejoy and it’s set in the Wild West but don’t let that put you off.

Al Swearenger: “Get a fucking haircut. Looks like your mother fucked a monkey.”

8. Freaks and Geeks – A little gem of a show that was axed by some corporate TV Exec bastard after just one season.

7. The Sopranos – Not as good as it once was but still wipes the floor with most of the crap on TV today.

Bobby Baccalieri: “To the victor belongs the spoils.”
Tony Soprano: “Why don’t you get the fuck out of here before I shove your quotation book up your fat fucking ass.”

6. The Wire – It’s a cop show largely about surveillance with a bunch of cop characters that on the whole aren’t too original. Sounds crap but it ain’t.

5. Quantum Leap – Sam and Al jump around in time. Perhaps my favourite show when I was a kid.

4. Red Dwarf – Low budget and geeky but still great.

 Lister: “Communicate in all known languages..including Welsh”

3. The Shield – Corrupt cops in Los Angeles having fun.

Vic Mackey: “Put your clothes on, get out of here, and change your taste in men.”

2. The Wonder Years – Spawned a great urban myth. Marylin Manson was allegedly Kevin’s mate Paul Pfieffer. Winnie was hot.

1. Columbo – Detective Columbo outwitted criminals by dressing like a paedophile/flasher.

Det. Columbo – “Just one more thing….”

Hullaballoo (Dunc)

April 16, 2007

The BBC is currently dedicating 95% of broadcast news coverage to the student shootings in West Virginia.

I’ve just been hooked to the TV for the past 3 hours. It’s like watching a very slow episode of 24 unfold. The expertly contrived tension is broken every hour or so by a smiley, Marks and Spencers clad bint harping on about “frosts in Wiltshire”.

The shooting is undoubtedly a sad event.

But Duncan, so are the multitude of deaths occurring in Darfur and Iraq everyday, I don’t see you transfixed to the TV to watch those stories?

Well, the news doesn’t put on as good a show. Plus, those people look a bit different from me, speak a language I don’t understand and probably haven’t been out on a student piss up recently.

Shucks, well that’s OK then. You just feel more sympathy for those you perceive as “your own”.

Hey, I don’t like what your implying chump! I buy the Guardian I’ll have you know and I’m a member of Amnesty International. I also thought “serves you right” when one  local student mother (student not harmed) stated she was still “pro gun” because ” I always hev bin, uh-huh”.

I stand corrected. You’re obviously a candidate for “Humanitarian of the Year”.

Yeah, yeah whatever. I bet you’re terrorist. I’m off to watch FOX News.

Rabbits on the Loose (Dunc)

April 16, 2007

I sense the Apocalypse is upon us!! 

Story HERE.

Give it a couple of more hours before people start blaming this on avian flu, Jade Goody and the CIA.

I wonder if they’re the new luminous ones?

Snorting Horse (Dunc)

April 13, 2007

I’m off to the cosmopolitan city of Huddersfield this weekend to celebrate my good mate Pete Heyes‘ 30th birthday.

Of lesser national importance is the Pritstick Grand National pony race taking place at Aintree in Liverpool on Saturday afternoon.

Failure to put a random annual bet on the National is a serious crime in the UK It’s one of two remaining offences that you can still be hanged for, the other is pissing in the Queen’s rice pudding.

I’m putting a £2 eachway bet on both MCKELVEY and LONGSHANKS. I’m gonna be rich!!

Luck Changes for 2006 Grand National Winner

horse.jpg

Being Drunk (Dunc)

April 12, 2007

Mmmmm, booze. The elixr of the Gods! 

THINGS THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO SAY WHEN DRUNK:

1. Innovative
2. Preliminary
3. Proliferation
4. Cinnamon

THINGS THAT ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO SAY WHEN DRUNK:

1. Specificity
2. Anti-constitutionalistically
3. Passive-aggressive disorder
4. Transubstantiate

THINGS THAT ARE DOWNRIGHT IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY WHEN DRUNK:

1. Thanks, but I don’t want to have sex.
2. Nope, no more booze for me.
3. Sorry, but you’re not really my type.
4. Kebab? No thanks, I’m not hungry.
5. Good evening, officer. Isn’t it lovely out tonight?
6. Oh, I couldn’t. No one wants to hear me sing karaoke.
7. I’m not interested in fighting you.
8. Thank you, but I won’t make any attempt to dance, I have no coordination. I’d hate to look like a fool.
9. Where is the nearest toilet? I refuse to vomit in the street.
10. I must be going home now as I have work in the morning.

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Climate Change (Dunc)

April 11, 2007

It’s easy to become apathetic about climate change. I draw my motivation from two places: 

  1. I know that every little bit I do contributes ever so slightly to annoying Jeremy Clarkson and Daily Mail readers.
  2. I want to shoot a wild tiger before I die.

If you’ve got time click on the link and support the UK’s “Climate Change Bill”.

The terrible impact of Global Warming

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Bastards!!! (Dunc)

April 10, 2007

http://www.slc.co.uk/

Nuff said.

Bryan Robson & Baby Campbell (Dunc)

April 5, 2007

Just nipped down to Stockport’s  Waterstones during lunch to have a gander at the books and lo and behold ex-England football superstar Brian “Capitan Marvel” Robson was in there siging copies of his book.

He refused to sign my Maradona autobiography or my recently blessed hand. Swine.

On to more important matters. I’ve found the first bonafide lookalike for my mate Neal Campbell:

neal-1.jpg

There’s no denying this one Campbell!!

Hope ya’ll have a smashing bank holiday weekend.

Kiss Kojak Turns PLC (Dunc)

April 3, 2007

Some oik has took it on himself to float my blog on the “Fantasy Blog Stock Market“.

It’s all very bizarre. I t’s probably related to those pesky bulls and bears fighting and trouble in the Middle East forcing up the price of crude bananas.

I’m waiting for my dividends to mature so I can claim £100.  

glasgow-stock-exchange.jpg
Glasgow Stock Exchange

Looooooooooooserrrrrrr (Dunc)

March 29, 2007

I played in a 5-a-side footy competition recently at the JJB Soccer Dome in Manchester. I was an incontinent part of the Stockport Council team, or “Stockportina” as we were renamed:

We didn’t win, in fact we lost. I ran into a mystic after the game and she assured me that George Best’s liver was turning in it’s pickle jar at the shocking display of football put on.

It’s reinforced my outlook in life that you should never try anything because you’ll ultimately fail.

Have a good weekend!

Soap Box (Dunc)

March 28, 2007

Michelle Malkin crops up in the latest post on the excellent “Chase Me Ladies I’m in the Cavalary” blog.

She’s been voicing her displeasure on her blog about anti-war protesters shitting on an American flag and then burning it.

After looking at the books she’s written I doubt she’ll be getting an invite from Tony Benn to nip around for tea and muffins anytime soon –

  • “Unhinged – Exposing Liberals Gone Mad”
  • “In Defense of Internment – The Case for Racial Profiling in WW2 and the War on Terror”
  • “Invasion – How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores”

I like the way the wording for the title of her”Invasion” book infers that terrorists and criminals in the US are foreign.

On a broadly related topic there was an excellent series on BBC2 a year or so ago called “The Power of Nightmares”. You can download and watch it by following this LINK.

I’ve not usually got the patience to sit through political documentaries but this is well worth the watch.

T10 – Kids TV (Dunc)

March 26, 2007

For some reason I thought about a 1980’s cartoon called “Alias the Jester” the other day. This got me thinking about TV programmes I watched as a kid. I went on the interweb found a couple of sites which gave me shudders of nostalgia as they triggered fond memories of yesteryear sitting in front of the TV after school.

http://www.toonhound.com/index.htm
http://www.thechestnut.com/index.htm

Top 10 list of my favourite TV programmes when I was kid in no particular order:

10. Alias the Jester – A short cartoon about an alien who hid his identity as a jester in King Arthur’s court.

9. Dungeons and Dragons – Great cartoon almost ruined by the smug dungeon master and his mis-information campaign – “Take the fifth road at the crossroads in order to get home”. Give me some useful advice or I’ll stamp on you, you little fucker!

8. Scooby Doo – No introductions needed. People always said Daphne was the fittest but I always liked Scrappy.

7. Willow the Wisp – A bit weird and scary. Oddly scheduled after 5pm. You don’t really get weird cartoons anymore. Hmm, maybe I’m out the loop.

6. Spiderman & His Amazing Friends – Iceman, Firestar and Spiderman mookig around doing stuff.

5. Jimbo and the Jetset – From the early days of the broomcupboard on BBC1. I think it’s the reason I don’t like flying.

4. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – I liked that guy who was a batering ram. On retrospect, what right have they got to declare themselves “Masters of the Universe”. A definite Bushism.

3. Ulysses – “Ulysseseseseseses. roaming through the galaxy….”

2. Super Ted – The best thing ever to come out of Wales.

1. Banana Man – The best theme music. Sends a shiver down my spine when I listen to it.

And of noteable mention – Wacky Races, Dangermouse and Tom’s Midnight Garden

Bob Woolmer (Dunc)

March 23, 2007

Chief Inspector Taggart of the Jamaican police has just announced “There’s been a murrrrdeerrrr”.

According to the autopsy report, Pakistan world cup cricket coach Bob Woolner died of “Manuel Strangulation”.

Basil Faulty has been taken into custody.

BOOM-BOOM-tisch!!

Conservapedia (Dunc)

March 20, 2007

Those American God botherers are at it again.

Conservapedia is “an online resource and meeting place where we give full credit to Christianity and America”. It was set up by Andrew Schlafly (Son of right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly), to counter the supposed anti-Christian and anti-American bias in Wikipedia articles.

Dinosaurs – Creationist scientists believe that dinosaurs and man coexisted based on a number of pieces of evidence rather than the evolutionary view that dinosaurs existed millions of years ago. There are a number of lines of evidence that point to dinosaurs and man coexisting. For example, explorers have reported seeing a live dinosaur. Pairs of various dinosaurs were taken onto Noah’s Ark during the Great Flood.

The Moon – There is no plausible non-creation theory of the origin of the moon at this time.

Atheism – Since atheists have no God as a physical framework atheism simply provides no logical basis for any moral standard. This has led to a large rise in crime, drug use, pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancy, pedophilia [sic] and bestiality. George H.W. Bush has previously stated that he does not believe Atheists should be considered citizens of the United States. Famous atheists include Richard Dawkin and Stalin.

The Earth – In the view of the bible the earth is fixed and the sun revolves around it.

Kangaroos –Modern kangaroos, like all modern animals, originated in the Middle East and are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah’s Ark prior to the Great Flood. There is debate whether this migration (to Australia) happened over land or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters

Bonobo Chimps – Proponents of evolutionary psychology often point to bonobos as examples of an evolutionary adaptation in which a species acquired the strategy of bartering sex to enhance social status or to resolve disputes. Homosexual activists haved cite bonobos as examples of animals who perform homosexual acts. The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a group which believes that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be cured argues the bonobo behavior is is not sexual but rather are aggressive acts to assert dominance much like when a dog mounts a person’s leg.  Pedophilic [sic] behavior is also common in bonobos.

At least they’re entertaining…

T10 – Conspiracy Theories (Dunc)

March 19, 2007

A new feature on the Blog – Top 10 lists! I’m surprised no-one has thought of the concept before.

In the spirit of recent posts and comments, the honour of the first T10 list goes to Conspiracy Theories:

10. Kentucky Fried Chicken makes black men impotent– It is sometimes claimed that the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise is owned by the Ku Klux Klan, and the chicken is laced with a drug that makes only black men impotent. Ironically, the KFC franchise is actually owned by an African-American. (www.2spare.com)

9. World leaders are lizzards from outer space – According to David Icke who also claims to be the Son of God. Smashing.

8. Microsoft sends messages on Wingdings Font– The Wingdings Font included with Windows has a history of controversy. In 1992, only days after the release of Windows 3.1, it was discovered that the character sequence “NYC” in Wingdings was rendered as Skull and crossbones symbol, a Star of David, and thumbs up gesture. This could be interpreted as a message of approval of killing Jews, especially thos$e from New York City. (www.2spare.com)

7. No ice – Ice ICE?! – There’s no such thing as ice! Ice is just a myth!

6. U.S. military caused the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami– Popular Arab news services claim the U.S. and Indian militaries deliberately caused the Indian Ocean tsunamis with electromagnetic pulse technology. (www.2spare.com)

5. Scottish Football Team – The referees of the world have joined together in a pact to prevent the Scottish football team from ever progressing to the second round of any football tournament. It’s a widely held belief that if Scotland were allowed to play on equal grounds against any other team they would never loose a game. TV viewing figures would plummet and sponors would be out of pocket.

4. God – Some suggest he may not actually exists. If he does, he’s probably from Glasgow.

3. Moon Landings – William “Braveheart” Wallace actually landed on the moon first in 1301AD.

2. No Middle Ages – Phantom time hypothesis is a theory developed by Heribert Illig which suggests that the Early Middle Ages (614–911 CE) never occurred, meaning that all artifacts attributed to this time period were from other times, and all historical figures were outright fabrications. (www.2spare.com)

1. Heroin – Some suggest it can be a bit moreish.

Music on the Interweb (Dunc)

March 15, 2007

This interweb thingy is full of good free music don’t you know. 

A little gem for Radiohead fans:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XodXYdu7qOQ

Check out “fuck was I” and “Hot in Herre” cover. Suited to bed wetting fans:

http://myspace.com/jennyowenyoungs

Some dude called Alexi Murdoch:

http://www.myspace.com/aleximurdoch

 Clap yer hands and say yeah:

http://www.myspace.com/clapyourhandssayyeah 

God Speed You Black Emperor. Ace:

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=125114977 

The Black Keys doing some rocking:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoX_VuPAARQ

Smashing. Back to work.

I Watched “World Trade Center” [sic] (Dunc)

March 13, 2007

An Oliver Stone movie (based on a true story) about, you guessed it, the attack on the twin towers.

Ultimately, the film is really about rescue workers successfully getting two chumps out of a 20ft hole in the ground. This event is used by Stone to explore themes of such outlandish originality that I was struck speechless, namely:

1. Families get upset if one of their own is stuck down a 20ft hole covered in chunks of concrete
2. Being down a 20ft hole isn’t a barrel of laughs
3. Camaraderie (verging on Brokebum Mountain) exists amongst policemen and firemen
4. How unbelievably fantastic it was to see members of the public helping the emergency services out (mainly clapping) instead of stealing stuff and making crank phone calls

Even a dullard like me can see that there are perhaps deeper topics to be explored, errr, like maybe why it happened?

I suggest you fast forward the film to the best part at 1 hr 51 mins 30 seconds. Here we see Dave, the retired marine, walking around the ruins and growling into his mobile “We must avenge this!!!!”.  We’re informed a couple of minutes later in the credits that Dave re-inlisted soon after and served 2 tours of duty in Iraq. Well, we all know the evil doing Eyerackeess were responsible. I’m also pinning Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, Vanessa Felps’s arse and my big nose on them. The bastards.

Stone is now dead to me….. I’m sure he’ll be gutted when he finds out.

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Back to Work (Dunc)

March 12, 2007

So, the circle is complete. I left work (with a broken hand) on May 31st, 2006 and now 286 days later I’m back again. Same desk. Same job. Same shit.

I had a blast travelling the world. I met some great people and had some great experiences.

After 30 seconds thought I’ve decided to continue my blog. I’ve got a busy year coming up with lots of potential for things to go wrong and the site is still getting a healthy amount of hits per day. Hopefully, Rory will get his finger out of his arse and start posting a bit more too.

Here’s a photo of my last night out in Newtown. I suppose officially the last piss up of my trip:

Thanks for reading.

I’m Bored… (Dunc)

March 10, 2007

Stitch that muggers: 

http://www.i-am-bored.com/bored_link.cfm?link_id=22242

Cartoon bunnies re-enact famous movies in 30 seconds:

http://www.angryalien.com/

 Create your own M&M (Cheers Hailey!):

http://www.becomeanmm.com/

Online cricket game:

http://www.stickcricket.com/game.php

 A funny video clip:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/29480/one_final_prank/

Another video clip:

http://www.stupidvideos.com/video/just_plain_stupid/Extra_Wheel/

Harsh… but fair:

http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=irule 

Check out the anamophic illusions:

http://users.skynet.be/J.Beever/pave.htm 

Odd Google (Dunc)

March 9, 2007

There’s a section in my blog admin pages which lets me see the terms people have typed into search engines which has then led them to pages on my blog. Usually, these terms are what you’d expect i.e. “Too Many Ribs”, “Kojak Ribs”, “Duncan Laird”, “round the world” etc. Now and again I’ll get the odd weird one like THIS. Yesterday, things went a bit bonkers –

chimps – 5 hits
fashiontv alexa chang – 2 hits
man eating bear – 2 hits
big raz mate – 2 hits
humpig dog – 1 hit
bison shit – 1 hit
fast foods are becoming normal in our da – 1 hit
animals kiss – 1 hit
how many ribs does woman have? – 1 hit

I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted about a man eating bear or bison shit come to that. Surely I’d remember?

Long Live the Bouff!!!………..the Bouff is Dead (Dunc)

March 9, 2007

The last time I had my haircut was in Mumbai, August 19th 2006. You can read all about it HERE. This is the result of such neglect:

Well, the time had come for me to say bye-bye to my bouff. We’d had some great times together travelling the world. I’m gonna miss you buddy:

Old Films Are Crap (Dunc)

March 8, 2007

I watched the “The Godfather” (1973) a couple of nights ago. It’s a film I’d amazingly managed to side step in the past given that I like mob films such as Goodfellas, Casino, etc. and of course the HBO TV series Sopranos. Anyways, I thought it was shit and nearly turned it off half way through. 

I regularly annoy my film buff mate Alan by telling him that all films made before 1975 are crap and the golden age of movies was the 1980’s. Surprisingly, I don’t just say this to irk him but genuinely believe it. 

As a general rule of thumb, the older the film the more I hate it. It turns my stomach when I look at BBC2’s weekday, early afternoon schedule full of duff 1940 and 50s black and white films. They’re always full of characters with plumby English accents over acting their way through cheesy, overly contrived scripts, with crap cinematography and a grating God awful orchestral soundtrack.  The only anomaly to the rule I can think of is “Ice Cold in Alex” (1958), and I think I just like this because a glass of beer stole the show as the best actor.

And yes, I unerstand the argument that back in the olden days they were restricted by technology and we should all be impressed with the films that they made. Meh! Why waste your time watching practice runs?

Mooking Around England (Dunc)

March 7, 2007

It all kicked off with a train trip down to London town last Wednesday. The Back Keys were playing Shepherds Bush Empire and I was lucky enough to have a ticket:

The Blacks Keys are a two piece band from the US who play gut wrenching, old skool blues. On the night they were fantastic. The drummer played like a beast and I was in awe of the midget singer/guitarist.  They’re one of the best live acts I’ve seen who make a sound much bigger and more complex than any two piece has the right to do. Highly recommended.

The night was slightly tarnished by a deeply distrubing flyer I chanced upon: 

Yup, Steven Segal and his band “Thunderbox” will soon be playing in a town near you. The choice of flyer photo is inspired. Segal looks like he’s trying to figure out what the thing in his right hand is while scratching his balls with his left. 100% cock.

 I caught the train up to Stockport the next day in order to find a room to rent before I start work again on March 12th. My friend Richard and his Nepalese wife Milly put me up at their house (and fed me lovely dhal bhat) for a couple of days while I house hunted. They both speak fluent Nepalese. I tried and immediately discovered I have forgotten almost all the Nepalese I learned in Nepal. Damn drugs. Damn beer. Fortunately, the house hunting was successful. I’m moving into a great house with two lovely girls (Rachel and Emma) on Saturday.

Jumped on yet another train on Saturday afternoon to visit my great buddy Joe and his girlfriend Bri in the Retoford Ghetto:

I hadn’t seen Joe in over 10 months so it was good to catch up. Me, Joe, Bri and her friend Lucy headed out for beers and food at their local pub. I ate one of the best pub meals I’ve had in my life. Homemade steak and ale pie with mash potatoes, peas and gray. Top notch.

Beers flowed freely during the rest of the night. The girls went home at 11:00pm but we carried on bravely into the wee hours chasing Guiness. Finally staggered back to the house at 3am and quietly crept to bed like tiny, timid mice….. Well, not exactly. Joe made Zubrowka vodka and apple juice drinks, we watched an hour of Jackass the movie 2, I played drunken guitar and we laughed and talked loudly. Unfortunately, Bri isn’t deaf and we woke her up. Ooops. Well, we only stayed up until 5am:

Felt a bit guilty on Sunday morning due to our late night antics.. The guilt wasn’t relieved any when Bri cooked us a lovely fry up. Definitley not deserved. Lounged about the rest of the day nursing a nasty hangover and watched Clerks 2.

In the evening using the magic of new technology we chatted to our mates Owen and Murv(visiting Owen) in New Zealand on webcam and Windows Live messenger:

I remember when all you could do on a computer was change the screen colour and make beeping noises. Must be getting old.

Trip to Norn Iron (Dunc)

February 27, 2007

After 12 long hours of train and ferry travel I eventually made it to war torn Belfast on Thursday evening:

war.jpg

These are the scenes that greeted me as once again troubles flared between the Islamic Republican Army (IRA) and the Buddhist Militants(Orange Men). Nasty business.

I took the risky trip to Belfast to meet up with my good mates Neal and Rory. After dropping my bags off at their flat it was straight back out the door and down to their local pub (“Ryan’s”) for a few bevies and to catch up. The beer had a strange effect on Rory:

On to Friday. My good friend Alan “Barney” McGarvey picked me up and drove me to his hometown and Buddhist stronghold of Randalstown. We had a quiet night drinking and catching up at his local and Randlastown’s only gay bar “O’Caines”.

On to Saturday and the 6 nations rugby on telly. In a most noble gesture, Scotland, feeling sorry for Italy on the anniversary of Mussolini’s death let the the Italians beat them. Wales looked good for a few minutes but then the match kicked off and the dirty English scumbags were soundly thrashed by Ireland in a historic game at Dublin’s “Coca Cola Park”. Good stuff.

On to the evening, in buoyant (pisssed up) mood me, Alan, Neal and Ali (Neal’s missus) headed out into Belfast town. Unfortunately, Rory couldn’t make it becasue of a bad back. I can’t remember much of the night but I managed to take some photos:

I can’t make up my mind whether Alan looks more like a vampire or WWF’s Paul Bearer?:

paul-bearer.jpg

For a few more photos please click HERE.

Rufus Must Die (Dunc)

February 22, 2007

It appears the American “Hearts and Minds” campaign in Iraq could do with a bit of work.

Well, they say practise makes perfect. Hopefully by the time the Coalition of the Willing get around to Iran they’ll have the right tools to end those evil fundamentalist mother fuckers once and for all. We can only hope and pray.

Selective videos you may argue? Well good for flipping you…….. Aw shucks, Im sorry.

You best click on THIS link to find out how the experts professionally cover the horrors unfolding in the middle east. They’re an example to us all.

And why the hell hasn’t Rufus Wainwright become a suicide bomber yet? For the love of God please.

Norn Iron and Happy Hearts (Dunc)

February 22, 2007

I’m very excited – I’m hitting the road again tomorrow! 

It feels like I’ve been back in the UK for an age but it’s only been a couple of weeks. I’m off to Belfast for the weekend to meet up with some very good friends – Rory (Other Blogger on this site), Neal (Mick Hucknall lookalike and prolific commenter) and Alan (Hairy chimp). Much beer, Buckfast and spirits will undoubtedly flow. I’m mentally and physically prepared to face the wrath of the beer monkey.

In a bid to stem the amount of airplane related carbon dioxide I’ve been indirectly pumping into the atmosphere in recent times I’ve decided not to fly. Instead, I’m getting the train to Hollyhead, then ferry to Dublin and then train to Belfast. It’s going to take a lengthy 12 and a half hours but I’m a tree hugger at heart and it’s always good to keep your heart happy.

buckfast.jpg

It’s What Bill Would Have Wanted (Dunc)

February 21, 2007

I stumbled across the question below on the website for an ABC quiz show called the Einstein Factor:

Bill Hicks died at the age of 32 from cancer of which organ?

Wow! Who would have thought topical cancer death questions were the meat and potatoes of light entertainment shows in the US? I’m cashing in and sending this question idea to the producers of “Family Fortunes”:

 “Of 100 terminally ill patients surveyed the most popular cancer was …?”

Channel Five is allegedly expanding the “cancer” concept with a new Big Brother type show. Viewers will be asked to vote patients “out” of the Big Brother Ward and future chemotherapy treatments. Gary Bushell is rumoured to be the front runner to host the show, a whisker ahead of Davina McCall who is shortly expecting her 15th litter of pups. TV execs feel the new series will help to improve the tarnished image of the current crop of reality TV shows.

Who am I to argue with television progress?

Ignorance is Probably Bliss (Dunc)

February 20, 2007

A friend just e-mailed me THIS YouTube video link.

Aside from the biased editing and obvious targeting of the most gullible people they could find……Well, quite frankly, it’s just not right. On this evidence I’m turning my back on Darwin and throwing my lot in with the Creationists.

I also think it’s a bit unfair constantly picking on the “Septic Tanks”. I think you’d get a similar response by targeting chumps in any country of the world. Except Scotland of course where people would be too pissed to answer, or fucked off their heads on smack or struck speechless by the painful grip of deep fried fuelled heartattacks.

Rab C. Nesbitt

Noel Gallagher (Dunc)

February 18, 2007

Noel Gallagher of Beatles Cover Band Oasis fame made a recent appearance on BBC2s Newsnight to chat about politics. Given his vast experience of the political arena I can’t think of a more worthy guest. The interview had one high point when Noel was asked to comment on the current Tory leader:

“He (David Cameron) is like a songwriter who’s eternally ripping off someone else’s song and just changing the odd line a little.”

Ahem…

noel-g.jpg

Black Keys Ticket (Dunc)

February 16, 2007

G’day.

Got a spare ticket to see my current favouthe band the Black Keys playing at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London on the 28th Feb.

Send me an e-mither if you’re interested – dlaird78@yahoo.co.uk.

My Look-a-Likes (Dunc)

February 14, 2007

This post has been in the pipeline for some time. Thanks to friends, travellers I met on my trip and complete strangers for coming up to me and saying “Oh, you look like so and so”. I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

1. Bin Lairden – Who can argue with genetic links?:

Bin Lairden

 2. That guy from the 80’s motorcycle cop show “Chips“:

erik_estrada.jpg

3. Fito Paez – Some Argie singer:

fito-paez.jpg

4. Guy Smiley from Sesame Street fame:

guysmiley1.jpg

5. Jason Gillespie – an Australian cricketer!:

jason-gillespie.jpg

6. Mars Volta. Another singer. Dunno which one is Mars?

mars-volta.jpg

7. Raul – The Spanish football player:

raul.jpg

8. Willy Mason – An Australian rugby player with fantastic hair:

wille-mason.jpg

So there you have it! I’m surprised that no-one has ever mentioned Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp to me. If anyone can think of anymore tell me via comments and I’ll stick ’em up.

Further blog updates to come. I’m still technically on holiday and I’ve got a few more trips planned before I start work again.

Snow (Dunc)

February 14, 2007

One day after I arrived back in Newtown the skies opened and dumped a hefty covering of snow:

I blame my jet lag.

I’m Back in the UK (Dunc)

February 7, 2007

To be precise in London. To be even more precise in the Britania Pub, Euston station where I’ve just sated my appetite with a full English Breakfast. Thoroughly deserved after a 22 odd hour flight from Sydney. I’m using the wizzardry of Wi-Fi to connect to the web as I wait for my train back to the Newtown Ghetto at 12:40.

 It’s friggin’ cold – minus 3!! Being back hasn’t really sank in yet. I think I’ll leave the trip summary, “best of…” and “What have I learned” update until later in the week when I’ve had a few days to think about stuff.

So, I left you poised to go out on “Mad Monday” with all the Asylum Hostel regulars. Here’s (not a very good) photo of us before we hit the bars:

To say the ale flowed after this photo was taken is by no means an understatement. We moved off and claimed our free drinks and meal in the Fitzroy Hotel (my local), back to the hostel to drink “Goon wine” then on to the Irish bar, then the World Bar and then finally the “Empire” club for free drinks. Empire is just like “Crystals” in Newtown, Jabez Clegg in Manchester and “The Raz” in Liverpool. Expensive alcohol, shite music and tarts galore – both male and female.

Coincidentally, “Mad Monday” happened to be Fernando’s 20th birthday. Fernando is a long-term stayee, stayer resident at the Asylum Hostel, is from Argentina and is a good lad with more than a passing resemblance to the “Karate Kid”:

Fernando had managed to get a couple of hanfuls of free drink vouchers for Empire. These were quickly cashed in for pints, jugs and schooners of snakebite and black. By the end of the night I had the telltale blackcurrant dribble down the front of my shirt. I was pretty  wasted as these picutres well attest.  First me with Joe and his South African girlfriend:

Lovely couple. Next me with a Canadian. Note the snakebite stains on the front of my shirt:

And finally me with Kelsey (Canada) and Amy (HongKong/England).

I’m very proud of my dirty old man leer….

In a state of severe drunkardness I decided to make it a night at 3am. On the way out of the club I spotted something that I hadn’t seen in ages. A Pacman game table:

Undoubtedly one of the finds and highlights of my trip. Too bad I was too drunk to have a go. Just thought. Another good point about Empire is that no-one can smoke – like in many bars and clubs in Sydney. As a non-smoker it really is refreshing not having to breath in clouds of smoke all night and not having your clothes stink of fags the next day.

Upon exit of da club my homing instinct served me well. Mere minutes after leaving I ended up in a kebab shop. As so often happens in these establishments the Turkish/Greek owner thought I was Turkish/Greek. I ordered a $6 donner kebab. Most surprised to find beetroot and cheese hidden in the blighter. Less surprised to find most of it down my shirt the following morning.

Ah, the following morning. Fond memories. Not really. Hangover from hell. It felt like the beer monkeys from all the countries I’ve visited had got together for one final hurrah. They’d also somehow managed to steal all my money even though drinks were free most of the night. Dirty little blighters!!

Early afternoon I packed my rucksack for the last time on this trip. Caught the shuttle to the airport and crawled on my flight to the UK. End of my trip. 246 days. It’s been a blast.

 For a couple more photos please click HERE

Still in Sydney – But I’m Coming Home Soon (Dunc)

February 4, 2007

I was due to fly from Sydney to Auckland to LA to New York to London arriving home on the 25th of Feb, 2007. My plans have changed somewhat. I’m now flying back to the UK directly from Sydney and will arrive in London on 7th Feb – basically in a couple of days time!

 I suppose I must explain myself. Fundamentally problems with my RTW ticket are to blame. Money is also becoming a issue. Throw in a bit of travel fatigue – whatever that is. Add a dash of future employment decisions that need made  toot sweet [sic] and the fact I want enough time and money to travel at least a little bit in Europe before starting work again.

So there you have it. Now on to an overdue update from Sydney.

Shortly after I posted the last update Murv left e to go up north on a kangaroo, penguin and shark hunt. Sad to see him go. We had  a reet good time mooking around Sydney drinking our livers yellow on tasty TwoBuckAroo wine!!

Not one to dwell on the past I soon replaced the empty Murv shaped hole in my life with new mates to bum around with –

From left to right – Fran from Italy, Amy from the UK and Kelsey form Canada. This photo was taken on our way to Taronga Zoo (probs would have been a better photie if I’d have told everyone I was taking it!). Murv and I had tried on numerous times to make it out there but always failed to get up in time – that is before midday.

Although I’m a big fan of animals and wildlife it had been some time since I’d been to a zoo. I think the last time was Budapest Zoo with Barney McGrumble back in the day. Well, from this day forth I’m gonna make it my business to go to more zoos. – it was ace.

My favourite animals were the chimps but alas I forgot to take any pictures because I was so awestruck by the hairy devils. My other favourites included the lions (friggin’ huge in real life!):

The gorillas (This one appears to be giving me the finger):

And the orangutans (a lot more hairy than I imagined):

Err, so basically all the primates really.

 It’s the last full day of my trip tomorrow. Fortunately it’s mad Monday here at the hostel. Ten Ozzy bucks (£4) buys you a full meal, 4 beers, a shitload of terrible wine and a big pub crawl. I reckon I’m gonna get pissed. Will update before flying out on Tuesday evening.

For a couple more photos please click HERE

Australia Day!!! (Dunc)

January 27, 2007

For those who don’t know,  the 26th January 2007 was Australia Day! Being in Sydney and all we thought it would be rude not to celebrate in the traditional Australian way i.e. drinking many schooners of beer throughout the day and getting thoroughly pissed.

Here we are in the morning cracking open the first beer of the day on a grass verge beside a busy road:
 

From left to right (Murv – Doncaster, Martin – UK, Oscar – Lithuania, Nemah – Iran, Nick – Sweden). A good multicultural mix by anyones standards.

As we walked around in the glorious sunshine it become apparent that Australia Day is a pretty big deal here. Most people were wearing some form of patriotic adornment, be it an Australian flag painted on their cheek or full body flag wearing. Parks were full of different events from music concerts to vintage car displays. The sky was often dotted with planes and paragliders writing nonsense in white smoke. It was all very festive and good fun.

It made me a bit sad to think that a “United Kingdom Day” along similar lines wouldn’t work. Union Jack waving in Britain is synonymous with nasty things like the BNP, the Tories and Alf Garnett. I’ve also got no doubt people wouldn’t behave themselves and there would be mas rioting all over the country. It’s just occurred to me. I didn’t see any policemen/women while walking around on Australia Day – they really weren’t needed.

We spent a good portion of the day in Darling Harbour discussing national GDPs(?), laughing at the English cricket team’s horrendous performance and trying (and failing) to spot additional Iranians. Nemah is the first Iranian I’ve met on my travels. He’s a dentist who flew in from Iran a few days ago. He’s planning to emigrate to Oz. He’s the nicest fella you could hope to meet – definitely not a “Doer of evil”. He only gets pissed off when people (Yanks) call him an EYE-ranian. While chatting to him I suddenly realised that bombs could be falling on him and his family in the near future if BushBlair decide they want Iranian oil. It’s fucked up that’s what it is.

Late afternoon it was back to the hostel to refuel with a selection of finely barbecued meats:

And quaffing of $2 Buckaroo wine:

Then it was back out to hit a few bars:

Sweet as a bag of nuts. 

For a couple more photos please click HERE

Sights of Sydney (Dunc)

January 25, 2007

The beautiful Sydney skyline:

Me and the Sydney Harbour Bridge:

A view of the Opera House from the top of the Harbour Bridge:

Murv and Bondi Beach:

And finally the local meal – a Chunky Steak Pie Mushy Pea Floater:

For a few more photies please click HERE

Sydney, Where Smack Grows on Trees (Dunc)

January 23, 2007

I’ve made many foolish decisions on my trip so far but catching the train form Brisbane to Sydney opposed to flying is up there with the best of them. I left Brisbane at 6:00am and finally got into my hostel at 11:00pm. I did get to see a bit of the countryside though which was nice.

After many months of chasing his shadow through SE Asia I finally caught up with my good mate Murv here in Sydney (Click HERE for his travel blog). He was waiting for me in the hostel when I arrived armed with an ice cool beer. Unsurprisingly for the last 6 days ice cool beer and Buckaroo wine (AU$2 a bottle!) hasn’t been far from my lips. He’s a bad influence.

The hostel (“The Asylum”) is pretty good. It’s in the King’s Cross area of Sydney famed for strip clubs, drugs and prostitution. Murv was offered smack in broad daylight on the main street the other day – turned out to be good stuff too. Even though the area is a bit rough it feels safe, reminds me a lot of Liverpool. The most dangerous things around appears to be the trees. We saw this big branch fall from a tree on to a couple of cars just outside the hostel while we were sitting on the balcony… drinking of course:

There’s also a nice view of the city skyline from the balcony in the evening:

Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to. Everything is pleasing to the eye, there’s no litter, no bad smells and the people all seem to be chipper. Another thing, everyone is fitness crazy. People play sports 24/7  on any available green patch and joggers swarm all over the place. No wonder they’re so good at sports. I’ve even caught the bug and have been to the swimming pool a couple of times. Unfortunately, budgie smuggling is very popular here.

Quick count of Oz animals I have and haven’t run into since I’ve been here –

Koalas = 0
Kangaroos = 0
Snakes = 0
Sharks = 3
Possums = 0
Flying Foxes = 100s
Parrots = 4
Neighbours Stars = 0

Another update from Sydney tomorrow!!

G’day from the Gold Coast (Dunc)

January 19, 2007

Last Saturday me, Owen and Rich jumped in the car and headed up to the Gold Coast for the weekend. We had booked a room at the British Arms Hostel a few minutes away from Main Beach.

In an action packed day we first headed to the beach for day two of the cricket tournament. Here some action shots:

After cricket and a quick nap it was off for a round of Crazy Golf at “Put-Put”:

Back to the hostel for the obligatory shit, shower and shave before heading off for a night out in “Surfer’s Paradise”. All the taxis were booked up so we had to get a bus into town. On the way to the bus stop we were nearly run over.

 Surfer’s Paradise turned out to be a group of bars, strip joints and takeaway food places. Lots of neon lights. Lots of drunk idiots. Lots and lots of bad haircuts. My bouff was one of the better haircuts on dsplay if you an believe that. The whole place was packed because it was the big race day on the Gold Coast.

 We hit a few bars, drank lots of James Boags beer, nearly went into a gay club and in general did a lot laughing:

Up early the next day to check out the hostel. Few more overs of cricket were bowled and we sneaked in another round of crazy golf before making the drive back.

 Top notch weekend.

 For more photos please click HERE 

It’s Brisbane you Flamming Gallah!! (Dunc)

January 16, 2007

A couple of short flights with Virgin Blue and I suddenly found myself on the other side of Australia in Brisbane. I was there to meet up with my good mates Rich Bibby and Owen Gartside.  Rich moved out to Brisbane from the UK a few months (See leaving party post HERE)  ago and Owen moved to Auckland about a year ago (See Owen’s blog HERE).

I was pretty knackered but was soon perked up with promises of beer and BBQ. After a quick trip to the local supermarket it was back to Rich’s house to fire up the barbie. On the menu was chicken, spicy sausages, beefburgers and a first for me – kangaroo fillets.. Here’s Rich doing an outstanding job at the helm:

 On to Friday the first day of the triangular series cricket tournament. The venue – Rich’s back yard. The wicket favoured the bowlers while the outfield favoured the batsmen due to the hefty amount of Milo (Rich’s housemate’s dog) poo scattered around:

On to Friday night and hitting the toon. First we met up with Rich’s workmates in a bit of a poncey restaraunt and then we bar hopped for a bit. Really good fun. Three things really stick in my mind about the night. The first was a weird coincidence involving the songs “Eye of the Tiger” and “Final Countdown” ( That’s right, I can’t be arsed to explain further). The second was a crazy chance encounter of three top quality bouffs (I’m on the right):

The final incident happened towards the end of the night. Rich was waiting to be served at a bar . There was a big vase of flowers straight in front of him so he moved it no more than a few inches to the left in order to get at the bar better. The barmen saw this and moved it back but didn’t serve Rich. A few minutes passed so Rich moved it again. The barmen scampered over, moved it back again and again walked off without serving. After a few more minutes waiting with no service (the bar as pretty much dead) Rich shouted over to the barmen for “3 bottles of beer” to which he responded in an angry tone “Be more specific” and walked off. 

“Fair dos” we thought. If he doesn’t want our money we’ll go somewhere else. We supped up and headed out the door. As we did so in a moment of genius Rich moved the vase a couple of inches back to the left when the barmen’s back was turned. We were safely out the door and a few yards down the street when the numpty barman rushed out the building obviously having just spotted the vase’s new location. He angrily told the bouncer to bar Rich from entering the establishment again. Who’d of thunk you can be barred from a pub for moving a vase eh? Must be something to do with that FengShooWee nonsense.

Strewth, I’ve Made it to Perth (Dunc)

January 14, 2007

Bangkok (Photos finally added to the post below) to Perth. Twenty-four hours of non-stop travel. Stumbled into my Hostel (The Witch’s Hat) completely knackered at 4pm. The weather in Perth was surprisingly dull and mild:

First things first – a carry out. The trip to the offy proved to be a bit strange. For the first time in many months I could –

1. Understand all of the street and shop signs.
2. Understand what most strangers were chatting about in the street.
3. Buy things without the need to point.

It was pretty refreshing to be back in an English speaking country. The one thing I didn’t like was the price of everything. After Eastern Europe, India, Nepal and SE Asia Perth seemed to be one big Harrods shop.

Only had one full day to explore before flying out to Brisbane. Top of the list of things I wanted to do was visit the Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA). It’s situated in Hilary’s Harbour north of Perth. I thought I’d have trouble getting there but public transport in Perth is second to none – everything is fully integrated. I bought my train ticket from the bus driver on the way to the station. We can only hope in the UK.

Even though AQWA was full of screaming kids I had a great time strolling around for a couple of hours. The best thing has walking through a transparent tunnel running along the bottom of a gigantic tank full big sea beasties and odd fish: 

Not quite sure how the sharks are persuaded not to eat everything else. Must be XXXX in the tank. Also saw some staff training rescued seals:

Good fun to watch but admittedly not as exciting as live seal pup clubbing.

Had a stroll around central Perth for the rest of the afternoon. It’s a really nice, clean city and I was surprised how small the city centre was. Definitely a place I want to visit again. There’s loads of stuff to do in and around Perth, especially things to do with wildlife and outdoor pursuits. I only wish that I could have spent more time there.

Caught a flight to Brisbane via Melbourne early the next morning.

Bangkok and More Travel Woes (Dunc)

January 8, 2007

After festive fun in Chaing Mai I headed back south to Bangkok in yet another overnight VIP bus with an Irishman called Barry.

Arrived weary eyed at 6am in the morning at one of Bangkok’s 3500 bus stations. The Poh-leese were out in force because of the recent bombings. We were sniffed by ladyboys trained to detect bombs. It always seems odd to me that security goes crazy just after a terrorist attack when this is statistically the time when terrrrrrrorists are least likely to strike again. 

Met up with French Tiff the next day. Over the following  few days we went out on boat briefly, got lost in Chinatown, did some shopping and ate some nice food. There’s not an awful lot to do in Bangkok other than eat, shop and drink.

At this point (Sunday) my travel demon reared it’s ugly head again.  I logged on tinternet to confirm the time of my flight to Singapore the next day. For some reason Singapore Airlines had cancelled my reservation which was perfectly fine the day before. Arse.

After trying over 5 billion different numbers I eventually got hold of Singapore Airlines call centre chump. A nice lady told me my RTW travel agent had forgotten to issue the ticket and therefore they (Singapore Airlines)  had cancelled the reservation. Arse.

Now, here’s the big problem. I had to be in Singapore by 9:10am Tuesday to catch my flight to Perth. It was 2pm Sunday. The problem was potentially even worse because I had to be in Perth by Thursday morning to catch my connecting flight to Brisbane.  Arse.

 A mad dash around travel agents proved initially fruitless. Finally, I found one that could do me a flight to Singapore at 8:05pm on Monday evening arriving in Singapore at midnight. I had to fork out 5,000 dib-dobs (75 quid) for the ticket. I should get the money back from by RTW travel agent who fecked up issuing the ticket but I’m not holding my breath. Arse.

I’m actually writing this post from a 24hour coffee shop (with free internet access) in Singapore Airport after flying in from Bangkok. It’s 3am. I’m tired. I smell. Another 6 hours before my flight to Perth.

I’ve shrunk –

Bangkok bomb –

Not really

Photos click HERE

Chiang Mai (Dunc)

January 8, 2007

Bit of a catch up post…  Spent Christmas and New Years Eve at the excellent Spicy Thai Backpackers hostel in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is a pleasant town in Northern Thailand with a feck off big moat around it. The moat causes a few navigation headaches because all sections appear to be identical, It’s hard knowing exactly where you are other than knowing your standing next to the moat. All very confusing for a simple mind like mine.

For Christmas everyone chipped in 200 local dib-dobs (Three quid) and we had roast chicken, bit of stir fried veg, sticky rice and noodles. Not very festive but the consumption of vast quantities of alcohol thereafter was. For NYE we had a bit of a quiet one. Drank beers and then sat up on the roof watching the various firework displays and hundreds of fire lanterns floating slowly towards the heavens. It was pretty cool. Better than any display I’ve seen in the UK – and it wasn’t even proper Thai NYE.

I also went to a bonafide tourist free Thai barbeque in a big warehouse. We were taken there by Pong – the hostel owner. The basic deal was that each table had a little cooking device shaped like an upturned bowl with a small moat around it. The moat was filled with some type of soup. The whole thing was heated by burning coals form below. You had to go and pick your own raw food from a huge selection of various meat/fruit and veg and then cook it yourself at your table. It was good fun (as you can tell by my face in this photo) –

Readymade pudding was also provided. The coconut and chocolate ice cream was bob on. The best  bit of the whole thing was that it was all you can eat for only 200 dib dobs (3 quid). Sweet as a bag of sugary nuts.

Also absorbed some culture by humpig up to a big temple on a hill – best in Northern Thailand apparently. Wasn’t too chuffed with the congenial welcome after climbing 500 friggin’ steps to get there –

Took some photos of golden buddhas, saw some big bells and generally got bored. In my book the he average Buddhist is boring bastard. Don’t drink, don’t eat meat, forever doing vows of silence and generally just sitting on their holes smiling. On the rare occasion they do say something it’s usually a smug remark about how great they’re feeling with their place in the Cosmos.

And finally, I spotted this on a street here –  

If ever a picture speaks a thousand words…

For a few more photos please click HERE

BBC Article Schmarticle (Dunc)

January 4, 2007

I’ve just be browsing the BBC news website to see what’s been going around the world when I came across an articleon the Saddam Hussein hanging by John Simpson. The article is an editorial on the release of the execution video (HERE) and the “appalling” behaviour of those involved. 

Now Simpson is a man I’ve got some respect for after reading his autobiographical books but quite frankly I think this particular article is  a pile of shit that weaves all over the shop with conflicting sentiments. Take this paragraph –

“Far from being a quiet and dignified business, the new video shows that several of the witnesses taunted Saddam during the last seconds of his life, chanted the name of one of his many enemies, and told him he was going to hell.”

Awwww, poor Saddam. Some big boys shouted names at him. Diddums. Perhaps it was the brother of one of the 10,000s of Kurds killed by Saddam’s chemical attacks in the 1980s. Or maybe the father of a daughter tortured, raped and then killed by his secret police. As for the “going to hell” remark. I don’t think it’s too slanderous a prediction if we make the massive assumption that the brimstone and fire is eternally burning below us.

He then goes on – 

“Altogether, the execution as we now see it is shown to be an ugly, degrading business, which is more reminiscent of a public hanging in the 18th Century than a considered act of 21st Century official justice.”

What did you expect Simpson!!! A Walt Disney sponsored affair with balloons, popcorn and a Tom Hanks guest appearance. How the hell can killing a person ever be a “considered act.. of justice”. In my book it can never be anything but pure, nasty, brutality regardless of whether the room was silent or not.

And more –

 “Saddam Hussein scarcely has an instant to collect his thoughts. He starts to mutter a prayer, but just as he speaks the name Muhammad, the chief hangman pulls the lever and the trapdoor opens…His death must have been virtually instantaneous.”

A quick death eh? With him standing on a gallows with a rope around his neck and everything. Well, I don’t know about anyone else but that surprised me. My money was on a Tom Hanks rescue. What in fact did you want Simpson? A few more hours of insults or perhaps one of those “Hangings gone wrong” that you could send to “You’ve been Framed” dictator special?

I’m against the death penalty for Joe public. World leaders, politicians and children’s entertainers on the other hand are a different bag of gobstoppers. When they intentionally do bad lots of innocent people tend to die. Perhaps the threat of hanging might make them buck their ideas up a bit and make the world and late afternoon TV a better place. 

And yes, if a few aggrieved relatives want to shout out the odd nasty remark so be it. It’s not like the person getting executed is going to need counselling for the rest of their long, fruitful lives to get over the comments. 

Back to RTW trip stuff tomorrow. I promise.

Bombings (Dunc)

December 31, 2006

I just want to clarify that I was nowhere near Bangkok when the bombs went off.

I suppose this doesn’t technically absolve me from any involvement and may in fact just suggest I’m a competent terrorist.

 Bin Lairden out.

Royal Encounter in Chiang Mai (Dunc)

December 30, 2006

Nipped out to buy some crunchy peanut butter a couple of hours ago. On the way back from the shop I was surprised to see the main road leading to my hostel was completely blocked off by Thai policemen. Within minutes a huge convoy of over 40 police cars, 10 Thai army cars, 10 blacked out Mercedes, 4 ambulances, a couple of Chiang Mai “Special Unit” pick-up trucks and a fire engine turned up along with a hundreds of policemen/army/bodyguards and one nanny.

I thought to myself “This is mighty peculiar!”.

Managed to walk halfway up the street before being stopped by a very polite uniformed fella. I then run in to an Australian couple who informed me the Crown Prince of Thailand (next in line to the throne), his missus and their little tyke (2nd in line to the throne) had decided to drop by the neighbourhood.

I though t myself “Surely this doesn’t happen everyday”.

And indeed it doesn’t. Chatting to one local revealed that in his 50 odd years of life he’d never seen height nor hair of any of the royal family. There was quite a buzz amongst the small group that had gathered to gawk.

I thought to myself “Blimey”.

At this point no-one in the crowd seemed to be sure where the prince was. His little son however was running around like an e-number intoxicated nutter in the middle of the road. He was closely followed by his nanny, a soldier holding anumbrella (no rain?) and a soldier carrying what appeared to be a box of baby wipes. Everytime the kid looked/turned in one direction all the facing policemen and guards had to salute. It was most amusing.

I thought to myself “Ha, ha”.

After 15 mniutes or so the big man himself appeared out of a shop 15 metres or so straight in front of me.  His immeadiate entourage included a couple of burly guards, an old geezer and a guy with a torch to “light the way” even though it wasn’t dark. The group headed towards us before turning into a restauraunt. After another 15 minutes or so he appeared out of the back door and walked past within a couple of metres of me.

I thought to myself “I’d probably get shot if I run up to him now”.

I didn’t do anything stupid. His missus (ooouussshhh!!!!) appeared a couple of minutes later and then they all jumped in a car and buggered off.

I thought to myself “Well, how very exciting”.

The Prince:

 prince.jpg

 The MILF and Kid:

princess-and-baby.jpg

Bangkok – Again!!! (Dunc)

December 27, 2006

Caught a “VIP” bus from Sihnoukville to Bangkok. It left at stupid o’clock in the morning. We had to get out every hour or so to cross a river on a river barge thingy. It was kinda fun. Here’s a photo of one of the crossings:

Eventually arrived in Bangkok at 8pm 14 hours after setting off. Checked in to “My House” guesthouse for the night – bit of a shithole but clean enough. Had a nice meal of BBQ’d red snapper. Here’s the BEFORE and AFTER cooking snaps.

The next morning two bits of good news. I checked into a relatively fancy hotel – Hotel De’Moc and I met up with a friend and fellow animal centre volunteer (Tiffany). Over the next 3 days we intended to do some good old fashioned sight seeing but got sidetracked and overwhelmed by shopping trips.

We spent the majority of one day looking around Pantip Plaza. It’s a big electronics shopping mall. Six floors of electronic equipment, copied software and pirated films. I bought a laptop. You start to go crazy in there after a couple of hours wandering around in the electronic buzz and fluorescent lights. The other days were spent shopping for jeans, getting lost and posting presents back to the UK. Exciting stuff….

At night we hung around the Khao San Road most of the time:

It’s a 300m long and full of shops , restaurants, bars, stalls (t-shirts, pirated CDs/films/games), massage parlours, prostitutes, street food and guesthouses all designed to extract money from poor backpackers. A women was also selling lovely balloons:

And another woman was literally selling her ass:

Some of the bars were pretty cool with live music (most were shite). Every band I saw played “What’s going on” by 4 Non-blondes. It also seems to be obligatory for every place to play a Bob Marley song on the hour, every hour. No woman no friggin’ cry.

It was a fun 3 days. Parted ways with Tiffany for the time being and caught another “VIP” bus north to Chiang Mai where I was to spend Christmas.

For a few more photos please click HERE

Happy Christmas (Dunc)

December 25, 2006

Season’s greetings and a big kiss from me and my ever expanding bouff!!

Xmas Greetings

Hope everyone has a great time opening presents, getting pissed and eating too much. I will be eating Christmas dinner and drinking Christmas bevies in a very nice hostel in Chiang Mai Thailad. It’s currently very hot and sunny.

Peace out to the world (except Nestle

Duncs’

Sihanoukville (Dunc)

December 24, 2006

After Phenom Penh I headed by bus to the seaside town of Sihanoukville for a few days of beach bumming.

There are a few different beach hangout spots – Victory Beach, Ochheteual Beach and Serendipity Beach. I headed to Seredipity, which according to the ever so useless Lonely Planet was the backpackers hangout.

On this occassion the LP was spot on. Serendipity Beach was pure quality. A 2km curved stretch of beach lined with pub shacks, restaurant shacks and guesthouse shacks:

I stayed at a pretty nice guesthouse called Coasters. It was literally on the beach. I surfed the net with my toes in the sand. I spent most of my time  hanging out at the Frog Shack with Craig(US), a guy from Germany and Joanna (Oz). Activities included playing footy, swimming in the warm sea, drinking cocktails, eating fresh seafood barbecue, sampling the local herbs and quaffing the odd cold Chang beer. Good times.

The people were all very friendly. Got a bit of hassle from kids and beggars  on the beach but even they were quite funny and laidback. By far and away the best character I met was Mr. P, the main drug dealer. It was said if you wanted any type narcotics he was the man who could provide. I didn’t utilise his services but if I did I would have done without fear of the local bizzies. Mr P. was the law – quite literally. During the day he is Sianoukvilles chief policeman.

My favourite memory is driving 5km on uneven dirt tracks on a 75cc moto in the middle of the night – with four people on it. I think we reached a top speed of 20mph.

The only dark spot on the trip was the tidal wave that nearly washed away my guitar one night as I was sittin at a beach fire watching the stars. I think I may have forgotten to mention that I bought a guitar 5 months ago in Serbia and have been hiking it around with me ever since.

Anyways, here is me on the beach with my shorts pulled up way too high:

 For a few more photos please click HERE

Murv’s Blog (Dunc)

December 18, 2006

Err, I’ve lost the link to Murv’s blog. Can someone please enlighten me…

Cheers Neal – http://broadwoodwidger.wordpress.com/ – I’ve linked it on the side.

I’m in Bangkok after a mind/arse numbing 14 hour journey from Sihnoukville. More on Cambodia tomorrow…

Just saw the cricket score. Shite.

Anyone got any good jokes?

Off to eat landmined dog.

UPDATE

Just been for a pleasant stroll up and down the famous Khao San Road. I was surprised to run into a “sadness” (collective noun) of Yank God botherers howling laments at the passers by. The cheek of it.

I like Bangkok. True, it is full of neo-hippie knob jockeys on “spiritual journeys”and endless streaks of spurting students but the city has a good vibe.

Managed to grab some food to sate my appetite. Ate nice pad thai from a street stall. I also had what I thought was a chicken kebab skewer. Turns out the lumps of meat weren’t chicken. Shaped like a 50 pence,  soft and greasy outside with a hard chewy bit in the middle. The individual lumps seemed to be whole animals or at least a significant component. They did taste a bit like chicken though but that’s no help in unravelling the mystery. Top NASA scientists have proved that over 98% of meat in the world tastes like chicken.

Off to have a beer and catch a ping pong show. Wonder if I should take my bat?

Phnom Penh (Dunc)

December 16, 2006

I spent three days doing some serious mooking around in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.  PP is a pretty big city situated on the banks of the Mekong river. It’s changed a lot since I was last here with the green berets back in 1971.

I’m pretty sure all you educated folks out there have heard about one of the most winningest dictators of all time and arguably most famous Cambodian – Pol Pot. He was leader of the Khmer Rouge when they held power in Cambodia in the late 70’s.

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were thoroughly bad eggs. During three years in power (1976-79) they managed to kill and estimated 1.5 million people out of a total population of 7 million (1975).

Not happy with killing people quietly the Khmer Rouge were rather fond of torture. To find out more about this unspeakable beastliness I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was converted in 1976 to the main Khmer Rouge torture and interrogation centre (S-21). Over 17,000 men, women and children were tortured and killed here.

In a scene that took me back to my visit to the Aushwitz museum I walked into a room which was filled with the mugshots of S-21 victims.:

It also had mugshots of the prison guards and torturers:

Kids killing kids. 

Later in the day I visited the site of Phneom Penh Killing Fields around 10km from S-21. All prisoners from S-21 were sent here to be executed and buried following interrogation.

The site is pretty disturbing. There is a large memorial pagoda which looks nice from the outside but is filled with skulls. It’s very cramped inside so as you walk around your face is only a few inches away from human bone with no glass partition. I thought it strange the number of people who were taking photos of the skulls.

You can also walk freely around the sites of the mass graves. I was amazed to discover the crunching under my feet was human teeth and bones. Scraps of clothing poke through the ground here and there along with the remains of the odd sandal. No holds barred memorial.

Here are two signs from the site:

No need really.

Temples of Angkor (Dunc)

December 14, 2006

You’d have thought I would have heard about these Temples of Angkorbefore arriving in Cambodia – me being a bonafide archaeologist and Indianna Jones fan and all – but alas no. Angkor is the site of the ancient Khmer Empire capital with over 1,000 Khmer temples and the site of Angkor Wat –  the world’s largest single religious monument! On my last day in Siem Reap I hired a moto driver for the day ($8) for a short tour around some of the major temples.

First stop was the biggie – Angkor Wat. Three things immediately struck me as I walked along the causeway to the main entrance –

  1. It’s very big
  2. The steepness of the steps people are forced to climb to get in
  3. 9.3 million Japanese tourists

Strolled around a bit stepping on the Japanese as I went. The experience reminded me a lot of walking around a big temple. Saw some wild macaque monkeys feasting on a Japanese grandmother and hid in a lovely corridorto escape the heat. Jumped back on the moto and headed off to the Bayon Temple.

The Bayon Temple was built back in the olden days to commemorate the diaganol achievement of King Duignan 15th. King Duignan was honoured for creating the first Book of Bob which secrets have been passed down through each generation of Duignans to the present day. The temple is adorned with millions of stone carved faces said to be images of the big chief himself:

I have to say Rory, the family resemblance is uncanny.

Next on to my favourite temple of the day. Can’t remember what it’s called. What’s important to know is that scenes from the Indiana Jones films were filmed here:

I like it because it’s been left in the same rundown/overgrown condition as it was when “discovered” by French explorers in the 18th Century. When I was walking around I really got the sense of going back in time. I had an eerie and exciting  feeling of how the initial explorers must have felt when they stumbled across the temple in the middle of a jungle. That was until I was literally run over by a Japanese tour party. Why does it always have to be tourists. I hate tourists.

Went to see a few more temples but blah di blah. Headed back to Siem Reap. Packed my bags and set off to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh early the next morning.

For some more photos from Siem Reap and the Temples please click HERE

One Dollah (Dunc)

December 12, 2006

Spent four days mooking around in Siem Reap. It was nice to relax a bit after the Wildlfie Centre, specifically not getting up at 6:15am every morning was nice.

Siem Reap (Translated to Siamese Defeat in English) is a bit of a tourist trap. It’s the main base where people stay to explore the world famous Angkor Temples. More on the temples later.

In Siem Reap everything that is worth less than $1 costs $1. If someone were to set a stall selling individual sheets of toilet paper then each sheet would undoubtedly cost $1. A tuk-tuk or moto trip anywhere in the city, whatever the distance, costs $1. I asked the price of various items in an open market. They all cost $1 or more. I think there’s something funny going on – I bet it would cost me at least $1 to find out what.

A few notes of interest –

  • As I was perusing the many shops in SR full of tourist crap I happened to come across this gem of a book –

Don’t worry Rory, I’ve bought you a couple of copies for bed time reading. It amuses me that he’s placed between Jesus Christ and Brian Lara – subjects of the same series of books – “The Luminous Life of ……..”

  • The three most popular careers for Siem Reap natives appears to be moto/tuk-tuk driver, masseuse (happy ending variety) and street beggar.
  • One night, while quietly slurping the Lord’s fine beverage in a Siem Reap pub (this particular drinking establishment had strange writting on the walls)  I had the misfortune of hearing the following bile spew forth from the mouth of a Yank trying to impress a girl at the next table. He appeared to be yacking about his previous bint – “When we were phasing out our relationship she became OH so incredibly ant-EYE-social”. It bothered me greatly. I wanted to stab him in the eye with a spoon.
  •  As I walked along a SR highway I saw the sign below. I can’t decipher it. Is it advertising a zoo, animal supplies or restaurant? Suggestions welcome:

  • The food here is absolutely delicious. Everything from the stuff they sell on the side of the road to “cuisine” offered at decent restaurants. Here’s my latest local meal – Cambodian Green Curry with rice:

Update on my trip to the Angkor Wat Temples tomorrow.

Cha ‘am to Bangkok to Siem Reap (Dunc)

December 10, 2006

NOTE TO JOE CLARKE: Send me an e-mither you arsehole.

Bid the Wildlife Centre a tearful farewell on Wednesday morning. Caught a taxi with Hester (Holland) and Jillian (Canada) to Bangkok. 

I intended to spend the next few days hanging out with Jillian in Bangkok before she flew back to Canada. A visit to the Thai Immigration office but a spanner in the works. A 7 day VISA extension cost 1900 dib dobs (30 quid) opposed to 500 dib dobs quoted in the Lonely Planet. The Lonely Planet is shite.

 So, I had to high tail it to Cambodia the next morning before my Thai VISA expired (the  bastards weren’t gonna sting me again!!). Bought my bus ticket to Siem Reap through my hostel for 800 dib dobs and off I went the next morning.

 The bus ride was one big rip off. We had to pay double the price for a Cambodian VISA ($40 instead of $20), we were given a horrendous currency exchange rate for Cambodian dib-dobs and the trip took 15 hrs when it should have taken 8 or so. The reason for the long trip is explained in the Lonely Planet as the “Bangkok to Siem Reap Bus Scam”. If the bus arrives in Siem Reap late with tired passengers and stops outside a specific  guesthouse then the passenegers will more than likely stay at that guesthouse. The guesthouse is always owned by the bus company. How very convenient.

There were a few bright spots of the journey. There was a great thunderstorm and I watched a golden moon rise from really low down on the horizon.  Also, a really annoying Aussia guy and his girlfriend moaned for 4 hours over the fact they were getting conned as part of a bus scam. Fair enough to moan for a bit but 4 hours was a bit much. Spilt milk and all that. He told everyone to stand firm and not stay at the bus company’s guesthouse when we arrived.

I was most surprised when we reached Siem Reap at 9:00pm that he was first through the door of the bus companies guesthouse. I heard hmm muttering “It won’t hurt to take a look”. What a tool. I hailed a tuk-tuk and scarpered to the “Popular Guesthouse”. Smack bang in the middle of town, $6 a night with en-suite bathroom and TV.

More from Siem Reap later.

Adios Wildlife Centre (Dunc)

December 8, 2006

NOTE FROM DUNC: A bit of a post log jam today. All you good people scroll down to Rory’s post below and read it/add comments before this one otherwise I’ll murder you all.

First of all a happy belated birthday to the King of Thailand. He reached the grand age of 127 on December 5th – a good innings by anyones standards.  On the big day there were lots of fireworks, human sacrifices and people wore yellow all day. The locals constructed a neon birthday shrine to King Dudley down the road in the village. Good show. Buckingham Palace should invest in some regal  neon lights….

Sadly, my time has come to an end at the Friends of Thailand Wildlife centre. Things started off a bit shaky but I can honestly say I spent a really fun 4 weeks here. Who would have thought scrubbing bear shit could be so much fun. On that very subject here’s a photo of us scrubbing one of the Sun bear’s (Oompoom’s) swimming pool:

Here’s a quick run down of my favourite animals at the Centre.

1. Gilbert the Gibbon

Gilbert is one of the friendliest gibbons at the centre. He likes it when you scratch his back and returns the favour with a big gangley (sp.?)  hug. He’s prone to searching pockets for various items which he then tries to eat. He likes to suck on ice cubes.

My fondest memory of Gilbert happened when I was feeding his neighbour –  a particularly irksome white gibbon. The white gibbon attempted to literally bite the hand which fed him. Gilbert took exception to the attack and threw a well aimed right fist through the cage into his neighbour’s face.  Stitch that white gibbon.

Click HERE to see a video of Gilbert singing his little lungs out.

2. Alpha Male Pig Tailed Macaque

This monkey has a severe attitude problem. He’s governor over a troop of 10 macaques which live in a large field. Everytime  I walked past his field he would confront me with a display of dominance. This basically involved him sticking his nose up in the air, running up to me, staring into my face sternly and then turning away while grabbing his back leg.

Click HERE to see a video of him with his attititude turned all the way up to diva rap star. It’s funny.

3. The Langurs

Ridiculously cute little monkeys. They remind me of the Gizzmo thing in the film “Gremlins”. They like to groom my bouff (which by the way is getting quite big now).

Click HERE for a video of one of the blighters chowing down on lunch.

Honourable mentions must go out to the otters, elephants and Miaow the tiger.

For a few more photos from the centre please click HERE.

Day Out At The Seaside (Dunc)

December 4, 2006

Went to the seaside town of Cha ‘am with my friend Tiffany on our day off from the wildlife centre:

Cha ‘am is full of ex-pats and old white geezers with young Thai brides. It was a really fun day with really nice weather to boot. Saw the world’s biggest Budha standing 3,145 metres tall amd lots of live fish and crabs in tanks at the fish market.

On the subject of Thai brides and old geezers I’m having trouble forming an opinion either way on whether it’s bad or not. It’s kinda weird/gross seeing it in the flesh – a 60 year old ugly fat bloke with a 20 year old beautiful Thai girl. Then again, why is this so different to all the rich blokes in the world with trophy wives? Heff, Stringfellow, Branson to name but a few…. Their exploits with younger ladies seems to be more socially accepted. Please discuss.

Here’s a picture of a Cha ‘am road at night. How very exciting:

Err, so that was that really. More about the animals in the next post I promise.

For a couple more photos please click HERE

Stuff, Things and This and That (Dunc)

December 1, 2006

I’ve been getting in the the swing of things here at the centre. I’m having a really good time despite not sleeping very well and having to get up at 6:20A.M. every morning. I saw a big 7 ft long copper brown python slither across my path the other day. It made the monkeys I was feeding at the time go crazy (bananas even). I’ve seeen more wild snakes and scorpions in the last two weeks than I have done in my entire life. Hope I don’t get Steve Irwin-ed.

One of my favourite jobs at the centre is feeding the bears. This involves cutting up a variety of fruits vegetables and the odd supplement of meat, heading down to the bear enclosure and errr… feeding the bears. The enclosure is split into two sections. The trick is to get all ten bears into one secton, lock the partition gates and then go in and put the food down in the bear vacated zone. The only skills you really need are the ability to count to ten, use a lock and key and to recognise what a bear is. I just about qualify:

We try to make it hard on the bears by placing the food in difficult to reach places. I usually dump a load outside the cage where the bears can’t reach it. Stupid bears.

Another fun thing to do is enrichments. People are paired togther to come up with ways to entertain the animals and enrich their lives. My enrichment partner (Jim from the UK) came up with a sweetcorn and vine idea. Here I am helping him to prepare using the Joe Clarke Tea Drinking method of working:

The idea involves tying a piece of sweetcorn to a vine. The non-sweetcorn end is then handed to the monkey/gibbon/macaque. In order to get the treat the afore mentioned critter must pull on the vine reeling it in through it’s cage. HERE is a video of a successful macaque in action.

Sad news this week – Camille left the centre. We went out in Cha ‘am for a few beers, a meal and a piss up on the beach to wave her off in the correct fashion:

 

I wish her all the best in her travels through SE Asia and I hope I bump into her again sometime in the future.

And finally some doggy news. Meet the puppies Daisy and Scrappy. They live at the centre. They mostly fight, bite and lick. Everyone a big awwwww:

For a few more photos please click HERE

“The Resort” (Dunc)

November 25, 2006

Crappy internet connection so only a short post. 

When the volunteers here want a nice relaxing break they often head to “The Resort” for a night of pampering. It’s a small hotel complex with restaurant on the banks of  a river in the middle of the Thai countryside. Very beautiful and relaxing.

On Thursday evening me, Max, Chris, Camille and Tiffany headed to “The Resort” for a most pleasant evening. The cab arrived bang on time at 6pm sharp. When I say cab I should really say pick-up truck. We all jumped in the back and braved an insect splattering for the 20 minute journey:

Click HERE for a short (and pretty dark) video of the trip in. (Turn the sound up).

The meal was pretty good. I had some sort of chicken kebab with satay sauce and a squid and tiger prawn salad with nuts. The salad was friggin’ hot a spicy. My dirty balloon knot certainly knew about it at the following morning’s board meeting I can tell you.

Here’s a photo of us pre-meal and cocktails:

After the meal we headed off to a bridge and looked at the stars. I farted – on the bridge.

And HERE is a video of the trip back in our cab. Again needs sound or perhaps even deleting.

For more photos of the night please click HERE

Off to Hua Hin tomorrow for more partying with the volunteers, ho’s and ladyboys. Nice. 

Hangover in Hua Hin (Dunc)

November 21, 2006

Currently in Hua Hin enjoying my day off. A pretty big group of us travelled here last night for some good old fashioned drinking. The drinking took place mainly on the beach at a chilled out bar with deck chairs strewn around in the sand. My tipple of choice was Tiger beer followed by numerous mint mohijto cocktails. The stars were out. I noticed the constellation Orion is the wrong way up here in Thailand. Bloody foriegners.

Hua Hin kinda reminds me of Benidorm. Lots of elderly ex-pats walking around with tanned leather skin. Lots of “Irish” bars and unfortunately a “Celtic FC” bar which I had the mispleasure of visiting:

The observant among you may have spotted the Chelsea flag on the wall. Bit of a faux paux made by the management there me thinks.

There are a few differences between Benidorm and Hua Hin. Primarily the lady boys, prostitutes and lack of Spaniards. The prostitutes sit at tables outside bars  and heckle you as you walk past. They’re at it 24/7. I was heckled at 10:00am this morning. “Hey Sunglasses, come sit by me”.

Went to look around the big mall here. Bought a football and some new trainers to replace my hiking boots that were half-inched in Nepal. Did a spot of bowling with Max (A Canadian volunteer) and Chris (A Dutch volunteer). Amazingly, I scored my personal best of 179. I’m “Dirty Ballon Knot” on the scorecard below:

Went for sushi and I’m now waiting to get the taxi home.

Some other bits of news from the past week.

Went to the “Hilton Hotel” club with sandals on. A crazy band was playing.

Drew a very accurate map of the USA in the volunteer house to educate the American’s:

Went to the local market and bought popcorn.

Was most surprised when I ran into Mr. Miagi and his Gremlin breeding program. Better not get this little critter wet or feed it after midnight (but in which timezone?):

And finally, I spotted Jose doing some advertising moonlighting in a magazine here:

 For a couple more recent photos please click HERE

Dunc “Rolf Harris” Laird (Dunc)

November 17, 2006

For the past week I’ve been volunteering at the Wildlife Friends of Thailand rescue centre near the seaside town of Cha ‘am. The work involves a lot of shoveling animal shit and feeding the ungrateful critters. Some of them are cute and cuddly and some of them will have your arm off as soon as look at you – mainly the gibbons and macaques. My bouff seems to be drawing a lot of attention from the monkeys – they all want a handful. Obviously jealous.

The cutest monkeys are the langurs. If you stick your head against the cage they’ll groom your hair for lice and bugs. Would have been a very useful addition to some of the orphanages in Nepal. They also like holding hands as do some of the friendlier gibbons. There’s also a disabled tiger (called Miaow)  here which is pretty cool. It’s nervous system was severly damaged because it was fed mainly crisps and sweets growing up. Even in it’s beat up state it’s still beautiful and a lot bigger than I expected a tiger to be:

Although I’ve been having fun at the centre a number of things are pissing me off. Some of the longer term volunteers remind me of call centre middle management and team leaders I’ve been unfortunate to work with in the past. They have a little whiff of power for the first time in their lives and really revel in dishing out “advice” and criticism for the pettiest of things. I’m close to snapping. I paid to be here. Show me some God damn respec’ bitches. I’m a race car in the red. I’m a mushroom cloud laying mother fuc….

 We’re also not allowed out the compound until 5pm and only have one day off a week. Only three volunteers are allowed off on any one day so it’s tough to get a good group part together. We’re also stuck in the back of beyond and it costs a fair bit in a taxi to get anywhere. Oh yeah, and the centre director is a complete and utter prick. He constantly likes to tell everyone how important he is and recounts his heroic (yawn!) stories of animal rescue every ten minutes or so. Arsehole.

Sorry for the moan but I’ve been having a bit of a tough week (relatively speaking of course). I’m a little bit travelled fatigued (I’ve been travelling for over 160 days now) and I’m missing family anf friends. Also, my perspective on a few things has changed after my experiences in Nepal. Why spend so much money on animals when it could be spent on helping kids? I think we get our priorities mixed up sometimes. Why can’t we all just get along.

Well, enough of that. Check out the photos below and at this LINK

Oh yeah. I’ve received my first ever bitchy comment from a stranger (Miere Buna)yesterday. It’s on the Bucharest post I wrote back in August. Here’s the LINK. The comment doesn’t really make sense, however, I am grossly offended at being mistaken for an American.

And another thing. For all of you who don’t own a Tom Waits album go out and buy one now – preferably “Mule Variations”. The man is a friggin’ genius.

You scratch my back…

November 16, 2006


 

Nepal Tidy Up (Dunc)

November 13, 2006

Couple of things to finish off with Nepal before moving on to my second Thailand update.

Here are some photos from what was supposed to be my last night in Kathmandu but unfortunately, due to well documented VISA problems, wasn’t. How about this for a triple hang loose:

And this is a photo of a steak meal I had in Pokara after nearly dying kayaking. The apple and banana combo clearly breaks Pete Heyes’s rule of mixing savoury and sweet foods and I’m sure Mary Whitehouse wouldn’t approve of the copulating arrangement:

A truly classic local meal!

So the verdict on Nepal….best place I’ve been to so far. Had a fantastic time and met some fantastic people to boot. They only slight cloud was the VISA debacle but it years to come I’m sure I’ll look back on it and be pissed off.

Top 3 Weird things in Nepal

1. Dhal Bhat: Twice a day. 365 days a year. You’ve never lived until you’ve eaten dhal bhat. Go on. Do it. Just once. It’s what all the cool kids are in to. It will make you fell good inside. Get the pure stuff not cut with any other crap like peas or noodles though.

2. Israelis:They’ve got a bad reputation here. I really don’t like believing in national stereotyping, however,  from what I’ve observed it seems to be pretty much deserved. I’ve never met a nationality of people who whinge, moan and aggressively bitch as much as the Israeli’s do. Having said that I did meet one or two very nice people from Israel.

3. Bathing:The majority of the population do it outdoors with a cold tap. No need. Get some hot water. Even more pertinent when it gets down to freezing during winter. It’s even more crazy for women. They have to wear a full body garment (lugi) while bathing and wash themselves through it.

Bangkok – The first 4 hours (Dunc)

November 8, 2006
  • The brand new airport is poo. An internet machine stole 100 dib-dobs (1 quid 40)  from my MASTERCARD and people hounded me to jump in a limo to Bangkok centre for 8oo dib-dobs. Grrrrr.  
  • Taxi drivers here – like everywhere in the world – are James Blunts’. Pity the IRA didn’t blow up/kidnap/kneecap more of the buggers.
  • Banglok smells, but not as badly as India.
  • The street food is good. Tad Pai and spring rolls. Mmmm.
  • The Thai beer – “Singha” – is tasty.
  • Yet to spot a ladyboy. I’m looking under every skirt but to no avail.
  • My hotel room smells.
  • It’s hot and muggy.
  • There are way too many friggin’ posh English students here for my liking.
  • I’m still a bit pissed off about the VISA thing. I’m thinking Creegan should reimburse as he thinks 250 quid is nothing to worry about. I’m surprised at his words given his frugal nature.
  • I’m missing my chums from Kathmandu already, especially my FT.

Off to my volunteer placement in Cha ‘am tomorrow.

Disaster Strikes!!!! (Dunc)

November 7, 2006

So, I turn up at Kathmandu airport on Sunday (5th Nov) with plenty of time to spare to catch my flight to Calcutta. I needed to be in Calcutta on 6th November to catch my flight to Bangkok as part of my Round the World ticket schedule. Everything was going to plan until while waiting in the check-in counter I glance at my Nepali tourist visa. Can anyone spot the significant problem?:

Arse. They wouldn’t let me board. The immigration office was closed. I mopped back to my hotel to headbutt a door.  

$110 for a flight from Kathmandu to Calcuta down the shitter.

The first thing I did was to e-mail/call my Round the World ticket travel agency to rearrange my flight from Calcutta to Bangkok which was due to leave the next day. I couldn’t get through. They didn’t reply to my e-mail.

On to Monday (6th Nov). I went to the Nepali Immigration office to renew my VISA. The sign on the door said “Prosecution for late VISA application – 50,000 rupees to 5 yrs in prison”. Ahem. Turns out that sign was lying. I only got fined $16 plus $30 for new VISA. Wasn’t an enjoyable wait in the queue though I can tell you.

$46 for VISA extension and fine down the shitter (TOTAL: $156)

Still no contact with my RTW travel agency. My flight leaving Calcutta was mere hours away. To compound the problem even more my Indian VISA was due to expire on the 10th November. Any flight rearranged by my RTW travel agency would need to be arranged to leave before then. I’d also have to somehow get to Calcutta from Kathmandu in time to catch the rearranged flight. Arse. Decided to go to a travel agency to book a flight direct from Kathmandu to Bangkok and forget about catching my RTW connection in Calcutta to Bangkok. Only one seat available on Royal Nepal Airlines leaving 13th November. I booked it. Unfortunately, it means I’ll miss the start of my volunteer stint in Thailand by a week.

$253 for Kathmandu to Bangkok flight down the shitter (TOTAL: $399)

On to today (7th Nov). Called into the travel agency in the morning to pick-up my ticket. They had somehow managed to arse something up. No ticket. I was told I now needed to buy a Thai Airlines ticket for the 8th or 9th November. Cost $329 minimum.

$76 additional fee for flight down the shitter (Total: $475)

So it’s now 15:20 and I’m in an internet cafe. I need to call into the travel agency at 16:00 to pick up my Thai Airlines ticket. Failing this another travel agency has told me there is a seat on a flight leaving on the 15th November but this is going to eat even further into my volunteer work in Thailand.

Please deposit all laughs, “Ha-Ha’s” and smart arsed remarks in the comments section.

Will update progress at 7pm Nepali time (Around 2pm UK).

UPDATE

Got a ticket to Bankok tomorrow with Thai Airlines. Price $332.

$3 additional fee for flight down the shitter (Total: $478)

TOTAL = $478

I don’t even want to know what that is in sterling. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned here. To be honest I’m not interested in learning it.

Please visit this blog again for further fun filled VISA disaster stories. I’m off for a drink.

Annapurna Base Camp Trek Pt3 (Dunc)

November 6, 2006

Day 7 – Annapurna Base Camp to Bamboo

Again woken up by Yubraj before dawn. Again it was well worth it for the mountain views. Annapurna 1 (8,091m):

Annapurna South (7,273m):

I also took another “fake”photo of myself but here’s a bonafide real one:

At around 10:00am after breakfast of milk tea and Tibetan bread with honey we packed up and headed back down the mountain. Passed lots of porters on the way. Definitely not a fun job. It’s about time they opened a helipad and adjoining McDonald’s up here.

That reminds me. One fat American hired three porters to carry him up to ABC two weeks ago. He drank and smoke as they took turns to carry him on their back. Not really in the true spirit of trekking.

Made really good pace and reached our guesthouse at Bamboo in mid-afternoon. The owners had some interesting “pot” plants scattered around:

Unfortunately, no hairdryers around. Satisfied myself with lovely Daal Bhat a fantastic hot shower (first for 4 days) and hot chocolate with rum. Slept soundly.

 Day 8 – Bamboo to Jhanu Dada Hot Springs

Woke up feeling ill. The squits had struck big time. Hard going trekking today. 10,000 odd steps up and down and up and down really were tough:

Fortunately at the end of the day we pulled up at a thermal hot springs resort. It was a bit of a hike down to the thermal baths from the hotel but well worth the effort. Stone lined pools of steaming hot water were strung alongside a river bank:

After a hard weeks trekking sinking in to the hot water was just the best feeling in the world. Coincidentally a number of people I had met over the course of the trek turned up at the springs at the same time. Fun times in the pool:

Nepali dancing at night but I missed it because I went to bed early ill.

Day 9 – Jhanu Dada Hot Springs to Naya Pul to Pokara

The last day of the trek!! Going up to ABC was definitely better than coming down. Felt pretty ropey all they way back. It took us a long 7 hours to reach Naya Pul. Didn’t take many pictures. Only this one of rice paddies of any note:

So, the ABC trek ended in a whimper really. Caught a taxi back to Pokara and that was that. I thoroughly recomend trekking in the Himalayas for anyone that travels to Nepal.

For more pictures of Part 3 of my trek please click HERE.

Annapurna Base Camp Trek Pt2 (Dunc)

November 3, 2006

Day 4 – Tadapani to Chhomrong

Yubraj woke me up at 6:00am. I would call him an arsehole but he did it for good reason. I was treated to a spectacular sunrise and mountain views:

The day soon got even better. Five minutes after setting off we literally run into a troop of langurs pissing about in the trees:

After travelling through the jungle we went up and down the sides of a large river valley. Climbed loads of steps. We walked through thick clumps of beautiful smelling Camoline flowers. Yubraj got sucked at by a leech. Reached our guesthouse in Chhomrong at noon. Met some Israelis (Raki and Atna) and a nice French lady (Patti) at the lodge.

It turns out the Israelis have got a really bad reputation for being arseholes on the trekking circuit and amongst guides. Lodges regularly turn them away even if they have space. I was told they often won’t pay the bill or demand free stuff and would get drunk, aggressive and violent. Many of the Israeli travellers are fresh out from national service which may explain this. In defence of the Levantine travellers all the Israelis I met were pretty nice, even those right out of the army.

Day 5 – Chhomrong to Deurali

Had a chat to Yubraj in the mornig and told him I wanted to shorten the trek because I wanted to do more walking during the day. I was getting kinda bored sitting around the lodges all afternoon and evening.

We had to leave early (7:00am) to catch up with the German girls who had went ahead to the next village the day before. We also met up with a Chinese girl we had met earlier on the trek – Rebecca. We really hiked hard and reached Deurali in late afternoon. The path got a bit tricky in places (below) with some crazy bridges thrown in:

Fortunately we were helped by the odd useful sign.

I felt sorry for the porters we kept passing carrying 50 odd kilos of stuff in crappy baskets:

Had a good time in the lodge at night. Found a guitar. Played some Jose Gonsalez and was taught how to play Hotel California by the owner:

Day 6 – Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp

Had a pretty shitty nights sleep. Lots of weird dreams. Yubraj told me it was common due to the altitude we slept at. Had a nice cup of milk Chiyaa and ate some Tibetan bread and felt fine. Off we headed to ABC!

Going was pretty hard all the way up. We approached along a narrow corridor like mountain valley. Shadows shrouded both sides in the early morning but beautiful mountains shone brilliant white in the distance:

Every now and then the valley wall would split to give us a glimpse of other nearby mountains:

After 2 hours trekking we reached Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC). A couple more hours trekking we finally reached our goal – Annapurna Base Camp at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Sweet:

The altitude is pretty thin at ABC given it’s at 4130m above sea level. It really is tough to breath properly. The last few hundred metres up to ABC I really felt my lungs straining.

Felt really good to make it. Celebrated in the lodge at night by drinking rum and hot chocolate with a raft guide from Colorado, Rebecca the Chinese girl, the Israelis and the German girls.

Went to bed and shivered the whole night. Friggin’ freezing cold. It was 0 degrees celcius in my room and my spring/summer sleeping bag wasn’t up to the job. The mad dreams didn’t help matters. Still, I was halfway up a friggin’ mountain in the Himalayas!

For more photos from Part 2 of my trek please click HERE.

Annapurna Base Camp Trek Pt1 (Dunc)

November 2, 2006

Right, been putting it off for long enough. Time to post about my recent trek to the Annapurna Base Camp. Here goes.

Click HERE to see a map of the area I trekked.

DAY 1 – Naya Pul to Deorali

My trekking guide (Yubraj)  picked me up in a taxi from my hotel in Pokara (The Peace Eye) at 6:30. We drove for a couple of hours to our start point at Naya Pul. I was told only to bring a daysack with a change of clothes and a sleeping bag. Only 10 kilos to hike up the mountain – the less gear the better since we didn’t have a porter. We intended not to camp but stay in the many guesthouses along the way.

Within 5 minutes of setting off from the start point in Naya Pul we hit the Maosist tourist check point. I had to hand over 1000 rupees to the young scallywags. They were pretty friendly chaps. Perhaps less so if we didn’t cough up the dough. Tourist taxes are one of the main funding streams to support their “terrrrrrorist” activities in Nepal. Specifically, it helps to pay the wages of the 30,000 strong Maoist army.

On the subject of young scallywags we soon bumped into a couple of young German girls – Sophia and Alex. They were also heading to the ABC but with no guide. In fact they were heading in the wrong direction until Yubraj shouted at them. They ended up tagging along for the day and as it turned out the whole trek.

The first day was pretty hard going since it was pretty hot and sunny. There were lots of stone steps up and down. The landscape was beautiful. We walked through lush green valleys filled with paddy fields and alongside tuorqoise blue rivers:

Just after lunch Yubraj pointed out a landslide which had killed over 30 people, many of them children, just a couple of months ago. It happened during a rainstorm at midnight:

Reached our guesthouse at Ulleri late in the afternoon. Met some nice Americans at dinner and headed off to bed.

DAY 2 – Deorali to Ghorapani

Set off form the lodge at 8:00a.m. The German girls “officially” joined my trek in the morning. They are also volunteers at an orphanage in Kathmandu  so one good deed deserves another in my book.

The main thing to note on Day 2 was the amount of animal traffic on the route. There were a flock of mountain sheep, an angry buffalo, a pissed off calf and a tarmac chomping mule.

Arrived at Ghorapani at noon and finished for the day. I was urprised that we did so little walking.  Ended up mooking around the place buying presents and whooping a kids ass at basketball:

DAY 3 – Ghorapani to Poon Hill to Tadapani

Up before dawn to climb the 3000 odd metre mass known as Poon Hill. The view from the top is spectacular. You can see a panoramic view of much of the Annapurna mountain range. That’s if the weather is nice. It wasn’t. It was cloudy:

Fortunately after 30 minutes or so as sunrise approached the clouds cleared given the 300 odd people at the top of Poon Hill a glimpse of the 6441m Hiunchuli mountain:

As we headed down the mountain we were fortunate to glimpse of Machhapuchhare (Fishtail) Mountain. A beast at 6997m.

THIS photo suggests that I wasn’t really on Poon Hill but was standing in front of a blue screen somewhere. Hopefully this photo will nip that conspiracy theory in the bud:

Back down from Poon Hill we headed off along the trail into a cloud forest and then into a beautiful river gorge and then into a jungle valley. Yubraj pointed out a plant from which a skin cancer drug is extracted. Unfortunately a large US pharmaceutical company has bought the patent and it is now grown in the US somewhere. Unfortunate because it deprives Nepal of much needed income. Arseholes.

Happier news round the next corner. We got to see some monkeys! Langurs to be specific:

Also, I think I’ve solved the Yeti myth. Take a look at this bad photo of an out of focus Langur. Look familiar to other photos of Yeti?:

Ended a long but fantastic day of  trekking at Tadapani totally knackered.  Met a nice American couple. Talked about transport key performance indicators. Definitely didn’t think I’d be doing that in the Himalayas.

For more pictures of Part 1 of my trek please click HERE

Kayaking Madness (Dunc)

October 31, 2006

A conversation a couple of weeks ago in the “Ultimate Descents” river sports office –

Me: I want to do some kayaking. I’m not very good.
Ultimate Descents Guy: Oh, you should do the 4 day kayaking course for beginners.
Me: Ah, for beginners eh? Sounds good to me. Not dangerous is it?
Ultimate Descents Guy: No. not at all. The course is designed for beginners and the river is safe.

Ahem. Skip forward a couple of weeks to a Nepali river and picture me being capsized from my kayak and hurtling face first towards sharp rocks in a class 3 rapid. Safe my arse. To quote Wikipedia’s online description of white water categories:

Class 3 Rapids = Difficult, irregular and requires expert navigation to successfully travel. These rapids are best left to paddlers with good to expert skills

Ahem! Me, Carolyn and an Israeli guy (Yarev) were literally thrown into the deep end for 3 days of kayaking down the Seti River. We were joined by two Nepali guides (Dil and Som) and a cool Canadian called Bernie.

Bernie is a 50 year old Hippie who was working with Ultimate Descents for the first time. A really funny guy who paraglides, snowboards, surfs and kayaks

On day one everything started out pretty well. We got the bus out to the river in the morning and ate dhal bhat and jumped in the boats. It was the first time any of us had been kayaking in a river. We expected things to start easy. Nope. Within 5 minutes we had to negotiate a Class 2 river rock garden. We all capsized. We all narrowly missed hitting rocks.

Things went OK for the next 30 minutes or so. No-one fell out. Then a class 3 rapid appeared on the horizon. We got out our boats and scouted it on the banks. Dil, the guide, told us the line to take. We followed him. Fucking crazy. Burst through a big whitewater hole without falling out and smashed tyhrough some big waves. Amazingly me and Carolyn made it through but Yarev capsized and hit some rocks. Felt really good to make it and my confidence surged. It turned out my new found confidence was sorely misplaced. I capsized a couple of more times (Along with Yarev) but nothing too bad. Carolyn was ace and made it through the rest of the day unscathed.

Finished paddling for the day and pulled up to a teahouse for the night. We were entertained during the night by Nepali women dancing as part of the Tihar festival, Bernie’s hippy/kayaking/paragliding stories and Yarev’s pro Israeli rants. It was a fun night.

Day Two was pretty good. Not too many crazy rapids and we saw monkeys on the riverbank. Only capsized once. Carolyn made it through the day unscathed. She even made it through a 3-plus rapid which me and Yarev decided to walk around because it looked too dangerous. We camped on the banks of the river at the end of the day. Went swimming, made a camp fire, ate Dhal Bhat, picked up a baby goat, watched fire flies, looked at the stars and then went to bed in a tent.

On to Day 3. The first 2 hours were great. I didn’t fall out. Lots of fun crashing through big waves. My confidence again was high. The next 2 hours however are a bit of a blur. We went through fourclass 3 rapids. Both me and Yarev capsized in all of them. It’s pretty scary being dragged face down along the bottom of the river into rocks while stuck in a kayak. It gets pretty tiring swimming for 100 metres through rapids trying not to get dragged under. It hurts when your feet crack against rocks.

The last rapid of the day was the biggest and longest of the 3 days kayaking. Both me and Yarev walked around due to injuries and  being knackered. Carlolyn went for it. Unfortunately, she capsized along with the Canadian guide Bernie. Bernie banged his head. Carloyn got dragged through 150 metres of white water and was dragged under by “Boogie Water”. Fortunately she made it safely just a little shock up.

So that was that. Good job to coz I was banged up pretty badly and for want of a better word scared to continue. Caught the bus back to Pokara and went for a beer with Bernie and Carolyn.  At this point Bernie decided to tell us that he was surprised that no-one had died on the kayaking course we had just completed on this occasion or when it had been run in the past. No way in hell should we have been let loose on the river with only a couple of hours practice on a lake. He also told us the safety equipment was dodgy, we were in the wrong type of boats and the guides, although good,  weren’t trained to the appropriate safety standards. He won’t be working with Ultimate Descents in the future.

Ah well. We all made it through and were still smiling at the end:

I’m definitely going to continue kayaking in the UK when I get back. Preferably in safer conditions.

Unfortunately, no photos from the river because we were told not to bring cameras. If you’d like to see some pictures of Class 3 rapids click HERE.

Pokara and Rafting (Duncan)

October 26, 2006

It’s been a busy past week here in Pokara.. It all started with beard removal. Here’s a photo of me pre-shave a couple of hours after I got back from trekking:

Because I arrived home early I was expecting to spend the next few days mooking around on my own in Pokara. Fortunately, I ran into a couple of VSN volunteer buddies (Matt and Halley) who were swinging through town after a visit to the Chitwan NP. Good times were had. We hired a boat and a fishing roa and went out on Pokara Lake with a couple of beers, a lighter and a toilet roll:

On Saturday Matt and Halley headed back to Kathmandu but fortunately for me new volunteers arrived (Jason, Carolyn and Sam). Spent the weekend chilling out. Went for a hike with Carolyn to the World Peace Buddhist Pagoda. It’s located up a ruddy big hill which overlooks Pokara. We got lost finding it and hadd to hire a local kid to show us the way for 40 rupees. Well worth the visit. The panoramic views around are pretty amazing and it is really peaceful up there. (I farted on the Pagoda):

On to Monday and white water rafting. Up at the crack of dawn me, Carolyn and Sam headed off to the Kali River with 14 other muppets for 2 nights and 3 days of white water rafting. It was great fun. The water was friggin’ freezing but the rafting was ace and scenery beautiful. We camped at the riverside during the night and ate surprisingly decent food cooked by the guides. Using my expert reflexes and super fitness I managed to stay in the raft until the last day when I was jealously thrown out the boat by the Carolyn and the guides. Here’s a photo of part of our rafting “Team”:

I didn’t drown which was a bonus. I nearly drowned today though in my first day of the 4 day kayak clinic I’ve signed up for. I swallowed a couple of gallons of Pokara lake water learning how not to die while white water kayaking. Off to the Seti River tomorrow to start the real deal.

Two other notable things of the past week. My hiking boots were stolen from outside my room (arse) and the Tihar festival has been in full swing. Main activities include dancing,  kids making road blocks and extorting money from drivers to get out of the way, kids going around singing annoyingly in shops and restaurants until the owners/tourists give them money to go away, dogs being “tika’d” and the theft of hiking boots from tourists.

Update in a couple of days when I’m back from kayaking.

 More photos click HERE.

Back from the Mountain!!! (Dunc)

October 19, 2006

I’m back early. I’m not dead. I’m in Pokara and internet is very pricey so this update is a short one. I’ll do a proper update when I’m back in Kathmandu.

Well, the trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) was unbelievable. Had a fantastic time. Only slightly marred by being ripped off by my trekking company. I paid for 12 days (guide, food and accomodation) on their explicit recommendation. I completed the trek relatively easily in 9 days but they won’t give me a refund for the 3 days I didn’t use. Arseholes.

Anyways, here’s a cheesy one of a flower and mountains:

Himalayas Here I Come… (Dunc)

October 9, 2006

I’m in Pokara after a crazy bus ride. We were airbourne about 20% of the time. I think I’ve got piles. Pokara is a very beautiful place situated on the side of a lake. A lot quieter than Kathmandu.

I start my 12 day trek tomorrow morning to the Annapurna base camp some 4130 metres above sea level!I don’t think they have internet access in the Himalayas so I won’t be updating the blog for a couple of weeks so it’s up to Rory to entertain you in the meantime.

I’ve been warned to expect armed Maoist terrorist demanding money, yeti’s and killer avalanches. Meh! Scotland have more chance of beating France at football than anythig like that turning up.

 Next time

Past Week Stuff (Dunc)

October 8, 2006

So, after Dashain celebrations on Monday it was back to “work” with Canadian Halley at the orphanage during the middle part of the week. All the other volunteers buggered off at the end of last week leaving us in charge. Luckily the work mainly consisted of playing footy and guitar with the kids and watering the brand new vegetable garden:

Some more photos of the kids HERE. They’re all as cute as chocolate buttons.

Thursday was my last full day in Bistachhap so I decided to go exploring with Halley. We headed off in the direction of the Botanical Garden in search of adventure! We found some weird stuff. Perhaps the weirdest was a Polish tourist wearing incredibly tight jeans and his Nepalese wife. This was closely followed by discovering what looked like an abandoned science lab, a sideshow Bob impersonator and a group of monks playing cricket.

For some more photos of the hike click HERE.

On to Friday and I said my goodbyes to my host family and the kids at the orphanage. Earlier in the week I had a chance to read the kids personal history files. All pretty sad stuff and in a way made it even harder to leave. I’m amazed about how much I got attached to the kids in such a short space of time. I wish I could have spent longer in Bistachhap. I’m really going to miss the place.

To help drown my Bistachhap blues I helped to celebrate a fellow volunteers birthday in Kathmandu on Saturday. Bart, from North Carolina reached the mighty age of 22.

To kick off the night we went for a meal at our regular weekend restaurant Roadhouse. Everything was going well until the bill arrived. They hadn’t taken 10% discount off we were due because we were volunteers. I complained to the waiter, he said there was nothing he could do because the bill was already written. Bunch of Nepali arse. On closer inspection of the bill I noticed they had forgotten to charge us for drinks. Stitch that waiter!!

Unfortunately, half way through paying the bill the waiter came over and pointed out his error. An argument insued. Voices were raised. I demanded to see the manager. More voices were raised. We ended up getting the 10% discount. Just shows you that moaning does work sometimes.

After the restaurant it was on to Sam’s bar for some serious boozing and a strange but rousing  rendition of the 4-non blondes hit “What’s Going On”. Good times:

Tried to get people to compliment my new “Hang Loose” t-shirt for the rest of the night. I think it’s probably the best t-shirt in the world:

Stumbled back to the hotel in the wee hours and tried but failed miserably to hide from the beer monkey.

For more photos of Bart’s b’day click HERE

I’m off to Pokara to start my 12 day Annapurna trek tomorrow at 6:00am. I’m gonna bag me a Yeti.

Bye-Bye Bistachhap (Dunc)

October 6, 2006

Said goodbye to my Nepali family, the orphans and Bistachhap village this morning. Very sad way to end another really good week. Welled up inside a bit walking away from the orphanage. I got quite attached to the little tykes and my host family in the short time I spent with them. But, as with everything in life though things come to an end and we have to move on.

As I mentioned in my last post the Nepali Dashain festival is in full swing at the moment. On Monday I was privileged to be part of my host families celebrations on one of the most important days. Baa and Aamaa put tika’s on the whole family (including me!) and exchanged fruit, gifts and money (I got socks and a selection box! – just kidding). The mood and the feeling reminded me a lot of Christmas day. Instead of turkey we ate roasted goat (sacrificed the day before)  and as with turkey in the UK we ate goat leftovers for the following 4 days. Quite a pungent taste on day 4.

My Baa preparing to tika the family: 

Me tika’d up:

Click HERE for more Dashain photos

Having problems with tinternet today so will complete the update of the past week tomorrow!

“Toilets and release of karma” (Dunc)

October 3, 2006

My blog admin page tells me that someone reached my site yesterday by googling “Toilets and release of karma”. Very odd. Someone obviously hoping that it’s possible to remove bad karma on the shitter. I’m becoming a Hindu if this is true.

Big booze up at the weekend to comiserate the fact a number of volunteers (Monica, Andrea, Lia, Trevor, Lanie, Sue, amongst others) headed home. The party spilled back to our hotel room. Big mission to get ice cubes to chill the beer (the fridge doesn’t seem to have caught on here yet). Taylor fulfilled his Kathmandu dream and went dancing:

He really impressed the girls:

We were also celebrating the completion of a couple of Bistachaap “Brighter Futures” children’s home tasks. Like painting the gate:

Building the compost bin:

And creating a rock star:

The 15 day long Dashain festival is underway here in Nepal. It’s a bit like Christmas. Everyone gets new clothes. Different things happen on each day of the festival. For instance, on Sunday over 120 goats and 15 buffalo were sacrificed in the main Kathmandu Square. Blood was spread over the wheels of nearby vehicles to ensure safe journeys. All the planes in the Nepalese commercial air fleet had a goat sacrificed in their honour to promote safe flying. Great fun. Obviously not if you’re a goat lover, or a goat.

Exciting news. Well for me anyways. I’ve booked 24 days of activities starting on the 10th October. I’m going on a 12 day trek to Annapurna Base Camp in the Himalayas followed by 2 days sightseeing in Pokara, a 3 day rafting trip on the Kali river, a 4 day kayak clinic on the Seti river and a 3 day elephant safari in the Royal Chitwan National Park. Very excited about everything. Should be ace.

For more photos click HERE

Pugyol!! (Dunc)

September 29, 2006

At last I’ve managed to get a picture of my twice daily meal of Daal (Lentil) Bhat (Rice):

The tray it’s served on kinda reminds me of primary school meal trays. The little pot contains the daal broth which you pour over and mix into the bhat. Each additional segment is filled with a tasty side dish from curried vegetables (everyday), egg omelet, stewed pumpkin, chutney, spices, rice pudding, spinach, goat, chicken, spiced beans and pulses. You mix in and eat everything with your right hand. Under no circumstances must you use your left hand (for toilet duties). Here’s a picture of the dinning room/kitchen where I sit on the floor on a small wooden plank  to eat:

When I sit down to eat my aammaa or didi (big sister) initially serves a portion of everything on to my tray (just like in the photo) and sits down opposite me by her pots. The first serving amounts to a normal sized meal in the UK. In Nepal however this is only round one. People eat like horses. Whoever is serving watches like a hawk. When something is nearly eaten on the tray another spoonful is dumped on. The more you eat the more it compliments the cook.

At first the most I could eat was one extra round of top ups but now, if I’m hungry, I can get 2 down me. It’s harder  going at morning daal bhat (9:30am). I’m sure my aamaa and didi have competitons about who can feed me the most. They both told me I’m to thin and they want to fatten me up for when I go back to my family. They also try to trick me into saying the food isn’t very nice. Typical meal time conversation:

<After 2 portions of everything> 
Didi:Bhat chahinchha? (More rice?)
Me:Pugyol (I’m full)
Didi: Daal chahinchha? (More lentil?)
Me: Pugyol
Didi: Sag chahinchha? (More spinnich?)
Me: Pugyol, pugyol!
Didi:  Tacari chahinchha? (More vegtables?)
Me:Pugyol, pugyol, pugyol!!!!
Didi: (Wth sad look on her face) Daal bhat mitho chaainna? (Daal Bhat not delicious?)
Me: No, no daal bhat mitho chaa didi!! (Daal bhat is delicious)
Didi:(Happy look on her face) Bhat chahinchha?
Me:Holy God!!!!! Pugyol!!
Didi:Daal chah…………..???

It reminds me a lot of going around to my granny’s house. She won’t let me out the door unless I take10 packets of crisps, 5 bags of sweets, 2 litres of coke and 10 pairs of new socks. Meal times would be a lot tougher if the food was bad but it’s genuinely nothing short of delicious. All homegrown, organic produce. Having said that I’m glad to head into Kathmandu at the weekend and eat something without rice. And to drink sweet, sweet beer of course.

Another update later in the weekend!

Rangi Changi (Dunc)

September 24, 2006

The beer monkey has had a busy week. I’ve learned a great new Nepalese phrase – “Rangi Changi”. It directly translates as “Muilti Coloured” but can also used to describe the state of being shit faced drunk. I like it a lot. I’ve been Rangi Changied a lot.

It all kicked off on Thursday with Monica’s birthday party in Bistachhap village. The Bistachhap volunteers and I were invited around to her host familiy’s house for a wonderful meal washed down with Nepali homemade wine. The meal consisted of coconut laced rice pudding, curried chips, fried boiled eggs (very tasty!) roti bread, chutney and big fried prawn cracker things. The Nepali wine consisted mostly of meths. 

Things started to get a bit messy when a box of red wine was opened (mainly down the wall – any ideas Jessica?)  and the Nepali peace pipe was  passed around. I got so wasted  I saw fit to divulge a few of my famous Christmas conundrums. Stopped short at getting my arse out. A great night. Pictures to follow soon….

Woke up on Friday morning with surprisingly only a light beating from the beer monkey. After working hard building the compost bin all morning we headed in to Kathmandu for Man City fan Rob’s 23rd birthday.  The party started at New Orleans restaurant. I had a tasty chicken sizzler meal and three 660ml beers for 700 local dib-dobs (Around 5 quid!). One bottle of beer here costs as much as most main courses. It’s a bloody travesty I tell you. Here’s a snap of Rob about to devour his birthday cake at the end of the meal:

At this point things begin to get a bit hazy. My Rangi Changi decline is perhaps best documented if I go through the photos on ,y camera in sequence. It all started when Haley “Celine Lavigne” (A Canadian)  took it upon herself to slyly rub birthday cake into my face after I accidentally ate her cake:

This angered me and I went looking for a fight, preferably with a mountie:

Luckily for any Nepalese mounties in Kathmandu I managed to vent most of my anger on the dance floor at “Tom and Jerry’s” club. Sweet moves:

My ability to do simple tasks such as point and click a camera evaporated I suppose just about when the photo above was taken. I’ve got around 15 photos like this in a series:

I know some of the guys made it to 007 Dance Club and were most perturbed by the fully clothed dance girls (The lack of entrance fee should have given them a clue). I headed back to the hotel for a quiet game of chess. The next decent photo was clearly taken by someone else the following morning:

A lovely snap of me and my room mate Matt (from Illinois) spending some quality time together watching HBO on TV.  I appear to be doing some sort of  Jesus crucifixtion impression (If you’re reading Mel I available for the sequel).

I felt pretty tired on Saturday due to lack of any kip the night before. Went for a tasty breakfast at Helena’s roof top restaurant (Highest in Kathmandu), ate more food at OR2K’s veggie cafe at dinnertime and then watched Sin City at Cheers bar in the eary evening. It was then back to the hotel room with Rob, Matt and Bart (From South Carolina) to watch football on ESPN and drink vodka and orange. I was also pleased to see Europe are kicking ass in the Ryder Cup. Awesome!!

For more photos please click HERE

Aammaa Sorting Rice (Dunc)

September 17, 2006

I don’t have any pretences about being a competent photographer but I think this series of photos of my Aamaa (mother) separating chaff from rice early one morning are pretty good:

Mad Goats and Botanical Gardens (Dunc)

September 16, 2006

I’m back in Kathmandu for a night to do some laundry, update my blog and most importantly drink some sweet, sweet, beer. Mmmm……

Few, well what a week in Bistachhap! Things literally started off with a bang on Monday night when I experienced possibly the loudest thunderstorm in the history of the world. The explosive activity (what a link!) continued the following night when a deranged goat wandered into our garden and caused nothing short of chaos. It was pure evil. It tried to eat my sandals (while I was still wearing them), successfully snaffled some rice and sag (spinach) and nearly trampled on my bhanni (little sister). It was a pretty surreal twilight experience. My Nepalese family took it all in their stride though. We had mutton for Daal Bhat the following day (Stitch that goat). Here’s a picture of my Baa (father), bhahinis (little sisters) and Bai (little brother):

Work at the orphanage hit a few early teething problems. We couldnt build the compost bin due to lack of wood, mesh, nails, screws and wood preserver. We couldnt buy the materials because Kathmandu had ground to a halt for the day due to Maosist “terrrrrrrrorist” demonstarations. As far as I can gather they were protesting over the fact they had hijacked 40 Nepali army trucks full of guns and ammunition on route to Kathmandu from India . Talk about having your cake and eating it.

With no hope of getting materials we (Monica, Matt, Jessica and Taylor) decided to plough on with other righteous tasks to help spread liberty and freedom to the people of Nepal. Things such as painting the entrance gate:

Clearing dirt on the orphanage access road:

And jamming with the orphans:

“Jamming with the Orphans”. Good name for a band or perhaps a sensational tabloid headline involving Matthew Kelly (“Tonight Matthew I’m going to be Badly Torn Boy” – Boom boom).

On to Thursday. Feeling adventurous we decided to go on a hike to the other side of Bistachhap valley braving leech and spider infested paddy fields, massive butterflies and VC. It was good fun Nam flashbacks aside. Much to our surprise we found a friggin massive Botanical Garden complex:

 

It contained, amongst other things, a bee keeping training facility, a psycic (?) garden and a V.I.P. plantation area. It was built in the 1950s but by whom and for what reason I couldn’t fathom. In truth, the more pressing question niggling at my mind was why was it built in he middle of nowhere with no apparent access road? It’s not mentioned in any guidebook either. Conspiracy theories welcome.

Friday was pretty quiet. We continued work at the orphanage. The highlight of my day was Kajha (snack) made for me at lunchtime by my Didi (Big Sister) washed down with a cup of Chiyaa (Tea). It consisted of toasted oats in warm milk with honey and coconut, a small dish of spiced pulses and a handful of freshly roasted peanut type things:

Very tasty.

For more photos please click HERE

Leech Attacks and Football (Dunc)

September 9, 2006

Mosquito bites I can deal with, being chased by a leopard – no problem. What I really don’t like are leeches. This little bloodsucker attacked my foot:

It managed to slither on me when I walked through a puddle on the way to the charpi (toilet). They’re lighting fast I tell you. Once it fell off I bled for 30 minutes. Lost at least a pint of blood. There are millions of the little buggers around. One of the volunteers was attacked during the night. Four of the little blighters squeezed through his mosquito net and chowed down on his neck during the night.

On the subject of volunteers they’ve all been placed here in Bistachapp before being sent off to their placements elsewhere. Here’s a group photo:

I’ll be staying in Bistachapp for the next 6 weeks with two other volunteers to work on environmental projects at the orphanage. We’ll be building a compost bin, setting up a recycling area, setting up an educational garden and building a play area.

Someone had the bright idea of organising a football match against the local Bistachapp village team. The pitch has seen better days. One side a swamp the other side a sand. In a thrilling match we lost 6-4 after being up 2-1 at half time. Not bad considering we had fewer players than them and we had a number of “soccer” players from across the pond (who incidentally played really well). I bagged a hat trick and Rob the Man City fan the other. We were always going to struggle with me, a centre back, playing the lone striker role.

It was really good fun. Here’s a post match team photo. The look on my face is priceless.

Back row from left to right – Rob (England), Mac (England), JunJu (Nepal), My older brother (Nepal), ? (Nepal), Matt (USA), Bart (USA), ? (Nepal). Front Row – Taylor (USA), Laird (Scotland). 

For more photos of Bistachapp please click HERE

Bistachapp (Dunc)

September 9, 2006

My volunteer placement has started at Bistachapp village. For all you dullards who don’t know, Bistachapp is a Nepalese village in the Kathmandu Valley, around 1700m above sea level. Here’s a snap looking down on Bistachapp from a point high on the valley wall (I’m gonna climb the big hill covered in clouds to the top left sometime):

As you can see the location is pretty stunning. I feel fortunate to be here. This a view of all the paddy fields on the valley floor just outside my house:

And this is my house (My room is bottom right):

Life in Bistachapp is pretty simple. The majority of people are subsistence farmers supplemented with a low income from selling produce. Some male members of the family work to bring in a little extra cash. For instance, my Daai (older brother) works at a chicken farm. Mostly however men hang around the tea shop and watch the women do all the work.

My host family has 14 members. They’re all very nice. My Baa (father) is head of the family followed by my Aamaa (mother). Everyday starting from 10:00 and 20:00 we sit down to eat in family hierarchy order (elder males > adults who don’t cook > kids > the cooks). Being a guest I eat with the first group, usually the elder males.

Each and every meal, twice a day, 365 days a year is Daal bhat (Lentils and Rice). The rice is plain boiled and the lentils come in a soup form which you pour over the rice. The meal is supplemented by a few side dishes from a number of things – curried veg, pickle, cucumbers, nuts, the odd bit of chicken.  I really like it but I’m sure it’s soon going to become very tedious. I’ll try and get a photo for the local meal archive.

Before every meal you’re required to wash your hands thoroughly. This is very important because you eat the food directly with your right hand. The preferred method is to scrunch everything up with the rice, scoop a ball up with your hand and then push is into your mouth with your thumb. It’s a big no no if you touch the food with your left hand because this is for “toilet duties” or as I prefer to call it “wiping my arse”. I’m pleased to report I broke my left hand in the other day. Toilet paper is for losers.

Washing is a bit of a problem. There are around 10 taps scattered around the village which people use for showering, washing dishes and getting water. The cold water is quite refreshing, don’t fancy it when it gets down to minus one in the winter.  

Kathmandu (Dunc)

September 2, 2006

A plethora of posts of late I’m sorry. I hope I’m not boring anyone too much. If I don’t write, I won’t remember!

Today is my second full day in Kathmandu. Most of my time so far has been taken up by the introduction programme for the Global Volunteer Network Nepal. For those of you who don’t know I’m volunteering for 6 weeks at an orphanage and environmental community project in a village in the Kathmandu Valley.

The intro programme has been really interesting so far. We’ve been learning about Nepalese customs, taking language lessons, learning to eat Dhal Bhatwith our hands (Lentils, rice, chapatti, pickle, paneer – Nepalese eat twice daily), learning to use squat toilets and learning how to react when approached by a leopard!

Tomorrow we head off to the training village where we will be placed with a Nepali family for two days. After this we’re shipped out to our new families and placements somewhere in the Kathmandu Valley. It’s going to be fun! We were told today that bathing will consist of going to a shared tap in the village and washing with all the villagers. Women have to wear a special full body garment and wash through, around and under it! Us blokes can turn up in our shorts. Stitch that again Germaine Greer!

Because I’ll be out in the sticks for the next few weeks it’s unlikely I’ll be able to update my Blog as regularly as I have been doing. Don’t get too teary eyed… I get Saturdays off so should be able to update at least on a weekly basis.

Spotted these in a Kathmandu pharmacy:

Pure quality!!! Very tasteful.

Bye-bye India – But I’ll be back!!! (Dunc)

September 1, 2006

One thing I still can’t get my head around in India are the stray cows. They’re literally everywhere getting in the way on roads and paths and eating all manner of crap. Anything it seems other than grass.. I’ve been told if you “murder” a cow in India or Nepal it’s a more serious offence than if you murder your wife. Stitch that Germaine Greer. However, I digress.

I left Varanasi at 5am on Tuesday morning on a bus to Kathmandu. I was due to arrive at 5pm on Wednesday night. The ticket cost 600 local dib dobs (about 6 quid) and included a stay overnight at the Nepal Guesthouse in the border town of Sunnauli. The north Indian countryside surprisingly reminded me a bit of the UK:

The trip was arse numbing on the whole interrupted only by bouts of crazy driving by the unhinged bus driver. We nearly crashed two or three times. Overtaking on bends seems to be compulsory here. Not the safest thing to do with vertical drops and ravines around every corner. We also stopped off now and then at the Indian/Nepali version of the Little Chef:

Getting my VISA on the border was pretty simple and painless process. The border guesthouse however was a dump. We were thrown in a tiny dorm room with 6 beds and 300,000 bed bugs. I think everyone of them bit me during the night.

The countryside on the Nepalese side of the border was definitely more alien to me. We seemed to travel uphill for the whole 10 hour trip. Met a nice Nepalese fella who bought me a carton of pineapple juice.

Arrived in Kathmandu at 5:00pm – surprisingly on time!Headed to the Potala Guesthouse and met my roommate (Mac from London) for the next couple of days. My first impression of Kathmandu is that it’s a lot cleaner and more Westernised than the places I visited in India. Nowhere near as many friggin’ stray cows shitting everywhere. I swear I’m gonna eat beef everyday for the rest of my life just out of spite.

A final note (for now) on India. Even though being a tourist in India is bloody hard work it’s well worth the effort. I’ve never experienced anywhere like it in my life before and I’m really glad I included it on my world tour. If you get the chance I recommend you visit. Beware of ice cubes in Mumbai though!

A Day Out In Varanasi (Dunc)

August 31, 2006

My hotel organises sunrise boat trips to view the Ghats along the Ganges and a temple tour for just 150 local did-dobs (One quid something). Bargain I thought. I signed up as fast as you can say “the squits”. Unfortunately, I failed to fully absorb the implications of the word “sunrise”.

4:30am the next morning after just three hours sleep I was rudely awakened by a requested wake up call. I got dressed and then ambled down to the meeting point at reception. One other guest (Anna) turned up and then the driver and then it was off to the mighty Ganga for a pleasant morning boat cruise.

The best thing I can say about the rowing boat we climbed into was that it floated. It’s one of the key things I look for in any boat I’m about to board. Our oarsmen seemed pretty chipper (You can see a typical Ghat in the background):

It really was a great little trip. Well worth the price. People bathe and swim in the Ganga everyday (even saw one guy drinking water!) because of it’s religious significance. I was tempted. Raw sewage is pumped in daily from 30 plants and dead bodies are regularly thrown in. It’s one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

This is simlar to the boat we took:

Even dogs can go get their karma sorted out down by the Ganga!:

After the boat trip Anna and I were dropped off at a random Ghat. What to do now? Then out of nowhere our guide appeared. A bit late in the proceedings. He was apologetic and explained he’d missed the boat. Never-mind. Spilt milk and all that. It was off to see the temples!

Prior to the temple tour I knew diddly squat about Hindu Temples. Now of course I’m an expert and must be addressed as Guru Laird in the future. I have to say my favourite temple was the monkey temple because it had loads of cheeky little monkeys running about . They reminded me a lot of Boz. Especially the one that kept on insisting to everyone that he didn’t look like a monkey version of Harry Potter. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed due to tight security. The temple was bombed by some terrrrorrrists last year killing quite a few folks.

After the temples it was back to the hotel to eat breakfast and lounge by the pool for a bit before we headed back into Varanasi again to have a look around the Ghats. It’s surprising how long the day is when you get up early. We got a lift in with officially the nicest cycle rickshaw driver in India. You normally get completely ripped off and get loads of hassle. This guy was so nice we could name the price. He even parked his rickshaw up and then led us through the tiny paths to the Ghats to the riverside free of charge. Nice fella.

After exploring the Ghats and having a conversation with a Coca Cola rep about the latest Indian soft drinks scandal we saw a pretty nifty Hindu religious ceremony on the riverside:

Then back to the hotel for a beer and say farewell to the beautiful Anna from Switzerland It was really nice to spend the day sharing the travel experience with a such a lovely person. It’s just a shame I couldn’t make it to the monastery.

For more photos of Varanasi please click HERE

Varanasi (Dunc)

August 29, 2006

I’m told by reliable sources that Varanasi is like well important and stuff for followers of the Hindu religion. It lies on the banks of the river Ganga (Ganges) and claims to be the second oldest continually inhabited city in the world beaten only by Milton Keynes.

I arrived at the station in downpour and was quickly whisked away by an auto-rickshaw driver to “Hotel India”. Stayed only a night because it was too expensive and a bit turd. It seemed to be in the process of being rebuilt. Moved on to Hotel Surya – the best hotel I’ve stayed in so far in India. A snip at only 700 dib-dobs a night (7 quid), half the price of Hotel India.

After settling in to Hotel Surya I caught an autorickshaw into Varanasi centre to see the main attractions – the Ghats. There are many different ghats (steps leading down to the river) and associated temples/buildings along the Ganga in Varanasi. Before I had the chance to go exploring on my own I was befriended by a young whippersnapper who wanted to take me to the silk shop where he worked. I had no intention of buying silk but thought I’d go for the craic.

Unfortunately (well maybe fortunately in a way), the trip to the shop turned into a bit of a sight seeing tour. This kid led me down narrow streets to the famous “Manikamika Ghat” (Burning Ghat). It’s a place where Hindu’s bring their dead to be washed in the holy waters of the Ganges and then, as the name implies, cremated. No photos allowed.

Bodies are burnedin separate wooden pyres set out in the open. Up to 200 bodies are cremated in a single day. After 3 hours of burning the cremated hips of a woman and the chest of a man are removed and thrown directly into the Ganga. Not all people/thingsare cremated. Young children, holy men, pregnant women, animals and those with small pox are wrapped in linen with a big stone and dropped in the middle of the Ganga.

The burning ghat was very interesting although a bit on the morbid side. I had a little bit of a wander around some of the other ghats for a couple of hours winding my way through confusing maze like, claustrophobic paths. It’s certainly an experience sharing a metre wide path with cows, massive bulls, goats, dogs and predatory touts and guides constantly jabbering at you. It’s pretty hard work.

Here’s a short video of my trip back to the hotel by auto-rickshaw – CLICK HERE TO VIEW OR DOWNLOAD

Jabalpur (Dunc)

August 28, 2006

To quote the Lonely Planet – “Jabalpur is the state capital of Madhya Pradesh. It would definitely win the tidiest city award for Madhya Pradesh if such a thing existed”. A typical Jabalpur street:

The English translation of Jabalpur is “Jabba The Hut”. I didn’t see the big man but I did see plenty of stray cows wandering around the shop thinking they owned the place. One cow in particular disturbed me. It had some sort disease which made it’s hooves turn into big, floppy soft, black clown feet. Perhaps it was cursed my Ronald McDonald for refusing to be a beef burger?

There are two main ways of getting around Jabalpur (and indeed most Indian cities) they are the cycle rickshaw – human powered, and the autorickshaw – diesel powered. Cycle rickshaws are slower but cheaper than autorickshaws.

In Jabalpur my preferred choice was the cycle rickshaw. I got one fella to take me to an Internet cafe from my hotel. What I didn’t realise was that it was around 4km away, a lot of the trip uphill. He was an elderly chap and his rickshaw had seen better days. I felt a bit awkward during the stretches (around 80% of the time) where he had to pull me because he was too knackered to ride:

I was begining to feel a little bit better after days of sickness so I decided to order some room service at my hotel. Behold the local meal!:


This meal consisted of lentil soup, rice and paneer rogan josh. Paneer is a type of Indian cheese. It has the same consistency and tastes a bit like Quorn. Not great to be honest but edible.

So that was Jabalpur. Not a great deal to it really. It was a nice place to recouperate for a couple of days. Next stop Varanasi!

For some more photos of Jabalpur please click HERE.

Bye-Bye Mumbai, Hello More Squits (Dunc)

August 25, 2006

Unfortunately (and what ITV football commentators would undoubtedly and incorrectly call “ironically”), Indian cities are both the most likely places for travellers to get the squits in the world and the worst environment to be suffering from the bless-ed arse vomit. Lack of toilet paper, clean air, clean water and non-spicy food doesn’t lend itself to quick recovery.

Still feeling rough as eggs I had to catch a 17 hour train to Jabalpur, the midway point in my journey to Kathmandu. Buying the ticket was pretty straightforward although, like with everything in India, I had to fill in a number of seemingly pointless forms. On the way back from the reservation office (tickets aren’t sold at the station in India for some reason) I was cheered up when I saw a woman walking a monkey on a lead. Brilliant. The walk became more interesting when I saw an albino Indian guy with a big beard selling balloons. He looked a bit like Abel Xavier.

Ticket safe in hand I waited around until the evening and my train. I didn’t feel up to doing much so mooked around the hotel. I estimated I’d be on the safe side and give myself 2 hours to reach the station (20km away) by cab. When the cab arrived, the driver looked worried. Two hours wasn’t enough!

I spent the next 1 hour and 50 minutes literally shitting myself in a back of a fume filled cab as we crawled through crazy Mumbai traffic. I made the station just in time and jumped out the cab. Because I was looking around frantically for my train I was immediately pounced upon by the usual scallies. offering to “help”.  Some were also trying to convince me that my train had already left so I should hand over my ticket. I really should learn some Hindi insults. “Stick yer advice up yer hole ya dirty fuck ant” would be a start. Translations welcome.

I finally spotted and safely boarded the train with minutes to spare. I spent the next 17 hrs shivering and halucinating in a tiny bunk bed only interrupted by trips to the squat toilet to release a horrendous quantity of gas together with my meagre liquefied stomach contents. I pebble dashed the railway tracks. If only I’d downed some blue food colouring I could have entered myself for the 2006 Turner Prize.

UPDATE:

I received a meal on the train served on a tray in little foil dishes:

 Hard to tell from this photo (I was so delirious I forgot to take the lids off) but it consisted of some lentil soup, veg curry, boiled rice, tiny carton of mango chutney, tub of white stuff, chapatti bread and a bag (eh?) of water. I managed to eat the soup. I saved the bag of water for my next marathon.

For more (not very good) photos of Mumbai click HERE

Haircut, Bollywood and the Squits (Dunc)

August 21, 2006

Although it’s pretty hard to tell from the photo below of me at the Gateway to India my bouff was becoming a bit of a health and safety hazard:

Only one thing for it, off to the local barbers.

After more than a couple of minutes of searching I found a place and dived in. I was told by the, it has to be said, ravingly camp proprietor (Let’s call him Ramone), that it would cost 40 dib-dobs for a cut. Super. Considerably less than the 11 quid I was going to pay in Camden. However, what started off as a simple haircut rapidly got out of hand.

On retrospect my key error was to answer in the affrimative everytime Ramone asked me a question even though I didn’t know what the hell he was going on about. I ended up having the following “treatment”:

Haircut– Spot on. Debouffed. No complaints.
Shave – Cut throat razor. A bit blunt but pretty good.
Aftershave –Holy God it burns. It burns. Took me back to the Sir Gallahad.
Facial (?) – Layer upon layer of eye stinging crap was applied, rubbed in and wiped off my face. The only apparent effect was that I was now blind.
Facial Pummel – Blind and helpless I hear a disconcerting electrical hum. Seconds later my face was pummelled and vibrated by… well a vibrator! It hurt. Bruises now adorned my face.
Massage – Not too bad. Up until the point he “cricked” my neck left then right and the pulled up on each ear violently resulting in a grinding clicking noise and blinding pain.
Head Massage– Foul liquid squirted and then massaged into my head. Dripped down into my eyes. Naarrgghhh.

And that was that. In total it came to 170 dib-dobs. I left Ramone’s with my eyes stinging and headed straight back to the hotel for a decontamination shower. Definitely an experience.

Later on that evening I was approched by a guy near the “Gateway to India” in Colaba claiming he was from “Bollywood“. I carried on walking thinking he was some sort of con artisit. I was a bit thrown off by the fact he was really well turned out compared to other con artists/sellers in the street and had an I.D. badge.

The day after I was looking through my lonely planet when I spotted a text box about “Bollywood Extras”. It seems that Bollywood sometimes requires foriegners to be extras in movies. The guide goes on to explain the Bollywood reps often wait in Colaba near the Gateway to India and approach tourists. Arse. My one and only chance to be a movie star flushed down the toilet.

On the subject of toilets (what a great link!) I have acquired a dose of Delhi Belly or my more favoured term – the squits. I thought I’d been really careful but obviously not careful enough. Due to illness I pretty much mooked in the hotel room for the weekend watching bad films on cable. I still feel awful.

Crazy Mumbai – (Dunc)

August 20, 2006

Touched down in Mumbai at 10:45am on Thursday. It was dull, drizzling and ridiculously muggy. Welcome to the Monsoon!

Being a well prepared traveller I decided not to book a hotel in advance and rely on the Lonely Planet to guide me. Fortunately, I ran in to a great couple from New York in immigration and decided to share a taxi with them to Colaba, the main tourist/hotel centre. The 2 hour journey only cost 350 dibdobs in total (Around 4 quid). Bargain. Ended up staying at the glorious Bentley’s Hotel for 10 quid a night, cable TV, own bathroom, no AC though 😦

First impressions of Mumbai? Well, I can safely say I’ve never experienced anywhere like it. The most striking thing is the poverty. Hordes of homeless people lying on scraps of wood on the pavement or huddling from the rain under bits of plastic. Persistent beggars, mainly mothers with little kids, asking for money.

Streets crammed with vendors selling everything from massive balloons to pirate games to marajuana, all constantly beckoning tourists as they go by “My friend, my friend, look my friend”.

The taxi drivers. Harrasing tourists every-time they stop to cross a road. “My friend, my friend. Get in. A tour of Mumbai my friend.”. I didn’t realise I was so popular over here.

The streets and pavements. It seems the majority are covered with pot-holes and piles of assorted rotting crap filling in the space between the homeless. Trigger would be here centuries trying to tidy the place up.

The noise. Constant beeping of horns. I mean constant. Add an annoying channel of cackling hooded crows. Mumbai is too hard for pigeons.

The smells. Mumbai is like a giant scratch and sniff card. Walk five paces and you’ll be hit by a waft of new aroma. Unfortunately, only one in ten is pleasant. Usually, you get a sickly sweet sick burst of rotting nan bread followed by a choking dirge of fresh human faeces and then on to the growling odour of dead stray dog.

The fumes. If you have asthma don’t even pass go. Diesel fumes constantly burn the eyes and the throat.

The heat and humidity. Walk twenty paces and you’re soaked through.

Getting from A to B. Takes forever. It’s like an obstacle course. People continually in your face. No safe crossing points at roads. Ridiculously crowded pavements.

So you could say I’ve had a bit of a culture shock.

The Flight That Nearly Never Was (Dunc)

August 20, 2006

I don’t like flying. I’m not as bad as I used to be. One method to curb pre-flight fear is to worry about something else (I bet it’s called something like “Cognitive Anxiety Displacement” in psychological circles). I find a good thing to do is nearly miss your flight.

I blame one particular numpty “helping” at the Virgin check-in desk. He told me to bugger off for half and hour because the desk wasn’t open for my flight. Turns out it was. This was 1 hour before take off and 15 minutes before boarding!!! Hmmm. All turned out well in the end. After crazy security checks I ran to the gate and boarded with 3 minutes to spare.

Flight was long but surprisingly fun. Got great views of mountains over Iran and Afghanistan (Spotted my uncle Bin Lairden and give him a wave). Being this was the first time I’d been on a large jumbojet for 15 years or so I was pretty enthralled with all the media gizzmos and films. I even thought the food was pretty tasty.

Back in the UK (Dunc)

August 16, 2006

After Bucharest it was on to Cluj Napoca in Transylvania for a couple of uneventful days of mooking and then on to Budapest on Monday to catch my flight to Gatwick. Fortunately I missed all the security hullaballoo. Good job too. Close scrutiny of my past may have revealed links with my great uncle Bin Lairden.

It’s been good to be back in the UK for a few days. It’s nice to go into shops/cafes etc. and order things in English without fear of being misunderstood or stared at blankly. On the negative side London is full of hellish tourists, at least two of which are related (and not hellish). My dad and my sister came down to see me before I head off on the next leg of my trip. They brought with them vital provisions for India including anti-malaria pills, a mosquito net and an electrified bible to beat the natives. We did the touristy thing yesterday and had a wander around the Houses of Parliment, The Big Eye, Camden Market and went for a nice meal in Covent Garden.

So that’s essentially the European leg of my RTW trip done and dusted. The last two and a half months have flown by. I’m off to Heathrow now to catch my flight to Mumbai! I’m not too happy about the BBC’s Mumbai weather forecast for the next 5 days. Sunshine and showers. Day time temperature 30 degrees. Night time temperature 26 degrees. How the hell can it be 26 degrees at night! All wrong.

Any bets on when I’ll get my first dose of Delhi Belly?

I’ll try and get more photos up soon. I’m currnelty having technical difficulties.

Bucharest (Dunc)

August 11, 2006

Hmm, Bucharest. You maybe wandering why I’m missing it out on my trip? Well, time is fast running out and I’ve been told nothing but bad things about Bucharest by other travellers –

1. It’s ugly
2. It smells
3. It’s boring
4. You’ll get ripped off
5. You’ll get robbed at gun point
6. Gypsies will eat you
7. Packs of dogs will eat you
8. Gypsy cursed dogs will sniff, lick, rob and then eat you.

To be fair in the 6 hours I spent there I didn’t think it was all that bad. A lot of con people jabbered at me at the station offering to get me free transport to my next stop (Cluj Napoca) and perhaps the moon if I wanted. All they want you to do is blindly follow them away from the station down some back alley or hand over your passport/money for “security reasons”.

Most guidebooks say smile and politely decline. I disagree. I think taking their photo followed by outcry of gross profanity and aggressive scowling is the way forward. You really do have to be naive and or stupid to be caught out by these pricks. (Make note for future humble pie feast).

The “Temptation of the McDonald’s” struck again before I reached left luggage (I blame the Jews). Fatigue was severly affecting my judgement. Luckily there was an alternative local Romanian fast food establishment to challenge the mighty MackyDee’s pull, namely “Springtime”. Here’s my chicken burger box:

Carrying on in their Bulgarain neighbours traddition of “chip hiding” my Romanian Double Chciken burger came full of french fries. Bastards.

After chowing down the burger I went for a quick tour of the main sites in the city. Most roads, squares, buildings, shops, schools, parks, litter bins, streetlights and stray dogs seem to have been named in connection with some aspect the revolution of December 21st, 1989.

The shit hit the fan in 1989 when yer man Ceauşescu addressed a mass assembly of a hundred thousand people to condemn the uprising against his rule in the Romanian town of Timişoara. He spoke from the balcony of the Central Committee building in what is now called Revolution Square.

The numerous bullet holes I saw in the buildings around the square suggest his pep talk didnt go down too well. In fact it caused a mass riot and countrywide uprising. Mr and Mrs. C. wisely fled the capital in a helicopter. A few days later they were captured and tried by a kangaroo court for being nasty buggers. They were promptly executed on Christmas Day by an officer named Ionel Boeru. He shot them both with his sub-machine-gun while they pulled a Woolworths Christmas cracker. Ionel recently sold the cracker contents (blood stained paper hat, “joke” and pink plastic comb) on ebay for $5,00,000.

Went back to the station and caught the train to Cluj. Went upmarket with a 1st class ticket.  I had a whole AC 6 berth compartment to myself for the 7 hour journey. Sweet.

On the Roadmania – Boom Boom (Dunc)

August 11, 2006

Caught the night train from Varna to Bucharest on Tuesday evening. Slightly concerned when I was told it was a Russian train bound for Moscow. Better not miss my stop. It was comically stereotypical of what I’d picture a Communist era clapped out Russian train to look like. Think Thomas the Tank Engine with a severe crack problem.

I had been allocated a bed in a 6 berth compartment. My bed number was on my ticket. Unfortunately, my ticket had been taken by the conductor as I boarded the train. Hmmphh. Fortunately the conductor was a foxy Russian lady so I didn’t mind going back for a chat and pleading stupidity. 

She quickly recognised my lack of intelligence and language skills and led me to the correct compartment much like a puppy dog to it’s own vomit. She pointed at a bottom bunk. It contained a blonde haired woman. Hmm. “Nice freebie” I thought. “Beats a mint”.

The freebie turned out to be a mardy Romanian woman. We briefly discussed sleeping arrangements. Mutual lack of understanding stiffled any chance of changing the status quo. I climbed on the top bunk. I was disappointed at the lack of mint or additional blonde haired woman to unwrap.

The bunk consisted of a plank covered with wood. The linen provided looked like it was made of Borris Yeltsin’s prolapsed stained underwear (Is he dead by the way?). It was also crawling with bedbugs the size of Lenny Henry’s testicles. I chose to crack open my sleeping bag. I climbed in and settled in for the 8 hour journey. At this point my Romanian bunk mate piped up. She wanted to get changed. I was to vacate the compartment.

Waiting outside in the corridor in my thongs and boxers I was collared by the conductor (Not the foxy lady but a young fella). He suggested it would only be polite if I moved into the next compartment with a guy from Denmark and let the Romanian women sleep soundly on her own. This seemed like a good idea. You can always trust the Danes. They invented bacon, goalkeeping and dogs after all

Finally settled in and got a bit of kip. Woke at 6:30am. The train was due into Bucharest at 07:09. Didn’t arrive until 07:30. This mean’t I missed my connection to my final destination – Cluj Napoca. Arse. On the plus side I could stick my bags in left luggage and wander around Bucharest for a few hours until the next train left.

Bye-Bye Bulgaria (Dunc)

August 10, 2006

Left Varna on Tuesday night on a night train bound for Bucharest. I’ve had a great time in Bulgaria, in particular Varna. I’ve ended up staying 10 days in a country I didn’t plan to visit at all.

One thing to moan about is the food. By and large it has been terrible. The kebab wraps have been the best thing I’ve eaten. They were still a bit odd though. Bulgarian’s insist on including chips inside of the wrap. Handy only if you’ve got one hand or no fingers.

Next update from Romania.

Still in Varna…. (Dunc)

August 7, 2006

I woke up this morning with my moany head on. Yesterday toilet visits reached double figures and stomach cramps literally brought me to my knees (I am feeling better now though). In addition. I had to pack my bag to get the train to Bucharest. I went into Varna with Jim (who is heading off to Istanbul) to buy my ticket but it turns out there is no train until Tuesday night. Great. What a bummer. Then two things suddenly occurred to me.

1. The most unpleasant thing I have to do when travelling is pack my rucksack now and then, a task that takes only 15 minutes or so. Everything else is fun or at least an interesting experience.
2. No train today means I have to spend an extra day in Varna at probably the best hostel in Europe. This is the view from my window:

Hmmm, I’m so hard done by….

Given that I’m a devious, lying bastard it seems strange that I haven’t played much poker in my life. It’s a good job too given that I’ve found out over the last couple-of days I’m shit at it. A group of us have been playing every night at the hostel. Buy into the game for 10 local dib-dobs, around three and a half quid:

Went ot the best Archaeology Museum in the whole of Bulgaria. Luckily I have no photies. I do have a photo of a local meal however. Some sort of ribs with lemon. Pretty tasty:

My last night in Varna tonight. It would be rude not to go out. I’ll just have to drink my way through the pain barrier of my tummy upset. Perhaps someone should nominate me for a “Heart of Gold” or perhaps a “Noel Edmunds Christmas Present” for being such a hero. Off to grab a beer.

 I’ve added a few more photos to the Varna set. Click HERE.

Varna – Spear Fishing (Dunc)

August 5, 2006

G’day. I’m now in Varna on the Black Sea coast. More specifically Gregory’s Backpackers Hostel. I’ve met up with my mate Jim again who has been working here at the hostel for the past few weeks. The hostel is great, a bit out of the city centre but you can get ferried in and out for free.

I’m feeling rough at the moment. Big night out on the town yesterday with a load of people from the hostel, most of them Dutch. Saw a really shit French rap act. Drank way too much vodka, tequila and lager. Alcohol is so cheap – every drink under a quid, most 50p or so. Forgot my camera so no photies. Can’t remember much apart from eating a kebab which nearly killed me. I do remember the taxi driver got lost on the way home. Stumbled into bed around 4:00am

Next thing I remember was some Geordie bastard shouting at me to get up at 10:00a.m. Foolishly I’d agreed to go spearfishing with Jim and a couple of girls (Ali & Vicky) from the hostel. Our guide, a nice Bulgarian fella call Patrick, arrived and off we went to a beautiful secluded beach up the coast:

I have to be honest, I didn’t do a whole lot of spear fishing. My hangover and the fear were causing me great distress. It turns out the Bulgarian beer monkey is a particularly vicious breed. It was really nice to chill out on the beach though and dip my toes for the first time into the Black Sea. I also got to try out my new thongs. The others were more active on the fishing front.

In between spear fishing sessions conversation flowed.  Topics as varied as beating Michael Barrymore to death with his own dismembered limbs to pondering over the age old question of why you can’t buy cans of tuna guaranteed to contain dolphin meat.

Some Canadian guy said I looked like Raul. Patrick, the spearfishing guide, said I looked Greek or Turkish. I’m getting as infamous as Pete.

For more photos click HERE