A Travellerspoint blog

2015: Year of the Hotdog

Surprised Seattle, Visit to Vietnam and prepping for the Great Mongol Rally

sunny 3 °C

So 2015 was a pretty crazy year and most of the time I found myself too busy or exhausted to do much blogging. After the trip to Lithuania, I decided to concentrate on studying for my TEFL course...by which I mean procrastinating like a bitch for months. In between procrastinating, I found time to make a surprise visit to Seattle to see my friends, secure a 2nd place at Douglas soapbox, walk half of the Parish Walk, complete Tough Mann, take my brother to Vietnam, and (saved the best til last) .... began planning for the GREAT MONGOL RALLY. Needless to say, I never completed my course, however the work I've done is not lost and I can resume my studies later in the year when there is less fun to be had.

The surprise visit to Seattle was a difficult one to arrange and equated to about 23 hours of travelling to actually get there, with only 4 and a half nights with my friends. The second hurdle occurred when Amber (who knew nothing of my visit) decided to get drunk after her shift and not return home until about 4am. What a bitch. When she finally returned, she stared at me like some kind of deranged psycho for about half an hour before going to bed. The rest of the trip was naturally a success, even in spite of the usual obscene amount of fannying on their part. What did we get up to? Well, we drank a lot of bloody mary, went thrift shopping (naturally), bought the infamous hotdog suit, baited some Canadians at a baseball game, snook into a music festival, went whale watching, managed not to capsize a canoe, smashed a full bottle of gin, ate sushi, swam in a lake, and spent about 2 hours deciding not to get a massage. All round, fab trip. It almost seemed my bad luck had finally ceased - I mean, I even managed to get back without any cancelled flights, without anyone being hospitalised, and without getting completely lost. It was extraordinary.

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Returning back to the island, my focus was on pole position. I wanted a win at the Douglas soapbox. Being pretty much completely inept at anything remotely mechanical, Daddy Russell (aka The Ronnie Monster) made his vision come to life and built an absolute beast of a soapbox. On the night, we took it in turns to fly at speeds approaching 100mph down the track, in between beer guzzling, and secured a second place and highest jump award. Perfecto.

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Viking longboats closely followed the soapbox and The Rovers team, 'Everything is Oarsome' as usual took the fancy dress prize and had an epic day as per usual.
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By September, it was time to jet off again. This time I was flying out to Vietnam for 2 and a half weeks, and taking with me my darling brother. How ironic that my favourite travel companions boil down to my brother, and my good friend Yvette who is also Will's exgirlfriend, and who I visited India and Lithuania with. The last time I travelled with Will, we skydived (skydove?), bungeed, imitated elves, swam with dolphins, got drunk a lot, and did the Haka, so my expectations were high. It didn't disappoint. Will was overwhelmed by Vietnam from the word go. Its hard to describe so I'm going to let a couple of pictures do the talking. We met up with a good friend of mine in Saigon, and a famous swaggering policeman took us for fried duck embryos, tripe and cheap beers. We moved on to my 'old home' in Nha Trang where we met my surrogate Daughter, Babyduck, and my VGBF (Vietnamese Gay Best Friend) Bi, along with Vy and new friend Kiwi Chris. Together we visited an orphanage with rice, milk and noodles, drove motorbikes, went to the beach, and yep, you guessed it...got drunk a lot. Here's a pic of Will enjoying a beach party a bit too much:
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We eventually left by way of an overnight sleeper bus which almost got the better of Will, who did NOT enjoy it at all, and was probably left feeling further frustrated by the fact that I managed to grab about 14hours sleep!. We moved on to stunning Hue (mucho pagodas, temples and ruined cities) before heading to Dong Hoi where after a great day driving through beautiful countryside, trying not to get mowed down by bat-shit crazy drivers, disaster finally struck and I got ill. We still managed to enjoy a night of...well this:
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After an obscene amount of fannying about with trains, we finally escaped to Hanoi where we had an absolutely ace time. Unfortunately we had to miss out on Halong Bay but we did chance a getaway to Mai Chau, visited museums, saw the water puppets, and yep, you guessed it, DRANK A LOT OF BEER. Unfortunately I once again got ill and almost shat myself in the airport and on the plane. I mean, really guys...it was so close.
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By the time I got back from Vietnam, I managed to round down my search for a Mongol Rally partner and pay a deposit with some random guy from the internet ;) WHAT!!! Its fine!!! It's been several months since then and said co-pilot is now due to visit our lovely island in less than 2 weeks time. How exciting. We have got our car, The Purple Turtle which was purchased for a bag of crisps, raised over £500 for charity so far, appeared on local radio, in local newspapers and are generally just having an awesome goddam time planning the bastard trip! 17 countries. 10,000miles. camping. parties. shenanigans. camels. And the best news today...Ankit (our Indian Internet friend) has finally FINALLY secured a place on the rally, after a seemingly endless mission, including a lot of pleas, to get himself onto a team. See you at the start line Ankit!
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Posted by Lady-K 06:43 Archived in Isle of Man Comments (0)

Beaver Baiting in Lithuania

Culinary Grossness, Lesbians, Kalashnikovs, Polygamy and Manx Invasians

sunny 17 °C

So after the success of mine and Yvette's trip to India in October last year, with minimal damage to ourselves and those around us,I thought it only fair to give 'us' a second shot to see if the curse has well and truly been broken.
If you're reading this as one of my regular readers, I don't really need to explain the travelling curse. And if you're new, just take a look at Seattle 2013, The Only Way Isn't Tenerife, and any of my India blogs. Then you'll know.

So anyway, things went pretty smoothly in Lithuania (I'm alive aren't I?). Why Lithuania you may ask? Well the answer is simple; I discovered you could quite literally eat a beaver in this country.

The day before our flight, I made the monumental mistake of eating smelly chicken and 6 days out-of-date eggs. Needless to say, I was pretty ill and it was a few days in before my stomach settled. We arrived in Vilnius before lunch time and walking through the gate, were mobbed by a crowd of camera wielding paparazzi. We naturally assumed they were there for us but in hind sight they were probably there for the Olympian looking woman with all the medals standing just in front of us. Exiting the airport, I was in my element delighting at the sight of the taxi drivers milling around in all their stereotypical henchman-like glory. All wore the same grim expressions, leather jackets and cigarettes protruding from their lips.
Our drive took us 10 mins to reach the city centre and whilst the views on the way in weren't much to write about, the old town in the centre where we were staying was very cute. But eerily quiet. We were dropped off at the hotel, and shown to our apartment by a little old Lithuanian lady who knew no English. The room was incredible...massive and with a balcony overlooking a cobbled courtyard.
I was still feeling a wee bit haggard from the food poisoning but we ambled out for a walk around the city and got lost almost immediately. We stopped to inspect the map at a coffee shop playing death metal, but still couldnt figure it out. We were exited and hungry and desperate to try some local food so followed our noses eventually stopping in a little cafe on what appeared to be the main street. There were lots of interesting things on the menu however we were disappointed when it later transpired that we were in a Greek restaurant.

The old town is actually really pretty and almost medieval looking, and is built around a massive green mound complete with ye olde castle on top. The hill looked incredibly steep and I lacked the motivation to climb up it until I saw a spiral cobbled walkway slinked around it. Since the weather was so nice, Yvette and I clambered up for a stunning view of the city. Approaching the castle door, I (hilariously) knocked loudly and shouted ‘HELLO!’ on what appeared to be an old wooden door, but was actually the entrance to a very quiet museum dedicated to the city’s early history. A sour faced man opened the door displaying an unmistakable expression of distaste for what was probably a regular annoyance. Oops. Inside, we paid the pricey sum of €2 and climbed the vertigo inducing staircase to the very top of the castle where we made out with a suit of armour and did legcocks on canons etc. Standard.

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After further wandering around the city, photographing monuments, photobombing tourists, drinking beer, and judging people by their clothes, we returned to the room to freshen up before hitting the town for a ‘crazy’ Wednesday night. Woooo. We weren’t disappointed! We began our reign of terror in Snekutis (roughly translated to ‘Chatterbox’), a small wooden crap shack on a residential street to the east of the city which took us 4 attempts to find and almost resulted in us breaking and entering someone’s home. We decided to come here following a review which recommended the place for home-brewed beer and local dishes. We ordered a plate of smoked pigs ears and some of that intoxicating beer to wash them down o.0.. We continued our crawl around a few other pubs and everything got rather messy when we recruited a chatty Irish man in the Dirty Duck. Moving swiftly from lovely cheap Lithuanian beer, to large measures of gin, we were soon ready to move elsewhere. Our Irish guy, Donal, seemed thoroughly amused by the two over-chatty lasses from the Isle of Man and decided he couldn’t miss a night out with two such distinguished individuals. He accompanied us downstairs, and to our delight we discovered a nightclub in the basement of the complex we were already in. Pushing through the doors, we entered the club which was not unlike how The Venue used to look. It was also complete with all the cheesy pop classics from The Venue era, including Spice Girls, N’Sync, 50 Cent etc. After goofing around on the dancefloor for about 2 hours, we decided to leave. Yvette mentioned something about offending Donal (which sounded about right to me) and that he’d buggered off.

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We somehow got home and to bed and woke up with hangovers dying to be rectified with some lovely traditional Lithuanian food. Yvette wasn’t quite ‘all there’ yet so I nipped out to get much needed water and cans of coke etc. I waltzed into the nearest convenience shop around the corner and was instantly confused about what the etiquette was supposed to be. All of the stock was on shelves behind a counter that went around the entire store. Only 2 women were working this counter, and all of them intent on ignoring me. There was no queuing system but people were coming and going, and I was still standing there. My headache couldn’t deal with it so I barged up to one of the women and shoved my wad of cash right in her face, and repeated ‘COKE! COKE!! GET ME SOME F**KING COKE!! Until coke was brought and I was made to leave. Back at the room, I surveyed the other items I managed to wheedle out of the gormless assistant and realised I had bough a Danish pastry, and some chicken soup croutons. This wouldn’t do at all. It was time for proper food.
Over a questionable breakfast of gelatinous meat filled zeppelins that smelled like warmed up dog food, something I would later regret, Yvette filled in some of the missing pieces of the puzzle from the night before.
It seemed our lovely wee Irish guy Donal, was actually some kind of depraved sex pest and was offended - to the point of being upset - when Yvette confirmed we would not be joining him for a threesome in his hotel room!!! So annoyed was he, for putting so much time and effort into laying the foundations on which to build up to a polygamous relationship with both of us, that he stormed out of the nightclub never to be seen again. I don’t even know why I was surprised. Just another normal day at the office…

Stodgy food eaten, and stomachs complaining, we decided in our bastardly state, there was no other option but to find H&M and do retail therapy. Anyone that knows me knows I do not take kindly to shopping, but on this occasion, I was happy to wander around one shop. I couldn’t feel I could stretch to any more than 2 so H&M it was, and I must admit, the therapy worked! After emptying half my bank account, we breaked with some frozen yoghurt and wasted about 20 minutes trying to work out toilet etiquette which was just as confusing as supermarket etiquette. Dumping our purchases all over the room, we got ourselves ready for our next endeavour.

Let the shooosting begin! We hailed a cab to take us to a shooting range which we found was a dilapidated building just outside the city centre. We wandered aimlessly through deserted corridors until the smell of gunpowder penetrated our nostrils. We were at the stop of a staircase, staring at a heavy metal door with a buzzer next to it and a sign in Lithuanian. I pressed the buzzer a couple of times and pondered what type of place this was. I half expected to be greeted by gun wielding Russian gangsters, prostitutes and crack dealers. Eventually a man came and ushered us inside. He insisted on walking behind us down the long wooden corridor which unnerved me slightly. What I initially mistook as rudeness was actually just a severe lack of English…he was actually a pleasant enough fellow. He led us into the range room, floor littered with empty shells, Kalashnikovs and shotguns stacked haphazardly in open lockers. Ear muffs on, the chap showed us how to lock ‘n’ load then BAM! Bullseye! First shot. Oh yes. We shot a glock, a Wesson, and a Kalashnikov….the Kalash being favourite. Watching Yvette on her go, I laughed at her scared anticipation of the recoil; every time she shot, her eyes were slammed shut and body rigid…it was a good experience and we left happy :)

Because we sort of knew roughly where we were, we didn’t want to take a cab back into town, so we began walking until we reached a bus stop where people were queuing. Again, we were lost on the etiquette when we jumped onto the bus as nobody seemed to be paying but some people had scan cards. We waited until we saw something familiar and jumped off about a 20 min walk from Castle Hill. We jumped off and walked closer to the apartment. We enjoyed a lovely meal, then stocked up on snacks for the following day, face packs and nail varnish for a pampered night in (due to horrible hangover and lots of money spent in H&M).

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The following day we were due an early start as part of a day long trip to find the legendary Hill of Crosses. We took a cab to the bus station and managed to find our first bus which was around 4 hours long. We drove through bleak Siberian looking countryside dotted with Soviet inspired buildings and run down shacks with chicken coops and and vegetable patches in the gardens.The only sight that broke up the neverending farmland was the thick piney forests. It was crazy to think about the sheer number of people who had to hide and survive in forests like these during the Soviet occupation. Pulling into the first station, we got off the bus, and sat down to our packed lunch before jumping on a smaller second bus which would take us to the Hill of Crosses. We wondered how we would know where to get off but given how everything always seems to always work out for us, left it to fate. Thankfully the bus driver shouted at us to get off in the godforsaken middle of nowhere...I mean literally, I look in every direction and all I can see is flat flat fields, and a single road with a single bus stop. And 2 confused lookin white bitches. Oh thats us. The was one single track dusty lane branching off from the road (again going on seemingly for miles) so we took our chances and followed it. After about 20 minutes of walking, we finally saw it. It looked tiny! However when we got up close, and waited for the Japanese to leave, we had the place to explore by ourselves and most impressive it was! Millions and millions of crosses, many of them memorial crosses, planted by Polish, American, Lithuanian, German amongst many others. The story is that during the Soviet reign, Poland and Lithuania used the spot as a place to plant crosses and crucifixes for loved ones lost during the Uprising. It became a place of Catholic pilgrimage and was bulldozed a number of times by the Soviets, but people continued risking their lives to come here and plant crosses. It was eerily quiet as we walked around, and even more chilling when Yvette started reciting hail marys :)
We were so glad to have made it here despite it taking around 5 hours. The way back was a bit of a nightmare as there were no buses but thankfully there was a small tourist office who called us a cab into the nearby town. Upon arrival, we got some ice cream and waited for our bus.
We didnt get back until late, however somehow found ourselves eating crepes in an outdoor restaurant, and loading up on beer for another hectic night.
I had seen a bar the night before that seemed popular with the 'alternative' crowd, so we made our way there and immediately caught the eye of a stunning local girl who upon hearing our 'English' accents, insisted on us joining her and her friends. They were all very interested in WHY we were in Vilnius? Could I tell them the real reason? Probably not as I was pretty sure they were lesbians and didnt know if they would think I was making a euphemism if I admitted we were there to eat Beaver. Anyhow, they couldnt understand how we even knew about Vilnius! We laughed at eachothers ideas of stereotypes and they then offered to take us to an amazing viewing platform overlooking the city. I have no idea what time it was but it was completely dark, and the view was amazing, homeless bums aside.
We parted ways with our 3 beautiful tour guides, and made our way to an English themed bar with a phone box in the doorway. We had stowford press then moved back down to the main square. We finally hit one of the bars we had been intending to go to on our first night, 'Who Hit John'. It wasnt particularly our style but naturally we made a few friends in there ;) First up was a lechy old Irish man who could not get enough of yvette and her beautiful eyes and hair...there was also a Scottish man (Yeah I know how the joke goes) and ....unbelievably....A MANX MAN!! Yes thats right, we were sat at the bar, knocking them back when I was tapped on the shoulder and asked why I wasnt in the Rovers! Oh there is no escaping that place! One of my locals....of course :)

The night progressed and we hooked up with some Aussies and a yank who were there on work. Back in 'The Venue' we went, only this time no sex perverts trying to guilt us into orgies. After another great night boogeying away, I did my disappearing act and waited for Yvette to catch on and meet me outside. Whilst I waited for her, I entertained 5 Nigerian men who were either religious fanatics, homeless, or taxi drivers...I cant be sure. I think there was also dancing? Anyway, Yvette finally emerged and we staggered home around 4am...whoops :-S

We were no good to anyone on that last day and simply wandered the city, went back to H&M, and did a sightseeing bus which ended with a tour of the Museum of Genocide Victims - an amazing museum based inside the old jail. Very VERY good. Would definitely recommend. 10/10. A*
No seriously, the exhibitions were absolutely amazing and I would recommend it to anyone visiting :)

We saved one of the best things until last, and celebrated the last night of our holiday with the grand finale...BEAVER. Oh Yes. We booked a table in Loki's restaurant and ordered beaver stew on a bed of mash and I have to say it was mighty tasty. The only thing spoiling it was my hangover which didnt want me to eat a beaver. We were back at the apartment fairly early on to get packed and ready for leaving the next day. As you may or may not already know, we knew at this stage we had a problem.
All the clothes we bought at H&M. There was no way everything was going to fit. There was nothing else for it. We would have to wear most our clothes.

The next morning, we finished cramming and Yvette ended up wearing 4 or 5 tops, whereas I opted for 2 pairs of pants and 3 tops.We made it though!
SACRE BLEURGH WE GOT HOME!

And that's the end of that story :)

NEXT TIME: Seattle July 2015 :)

Posted by Lady-K 08:25 Archived in Lithuania Comments (0)

Life Changes & Upcoming Quests

Switching Digs, Planning Trips, and Tackling a Letterbox Phobia

overcast 6 °C

I rarely blog when I'm not travelling but I know one day when I'm old, haggard and losing my mind (I know. Like that's not already started harmph harmph.) I will look back on these stories and wonder about all the things that must have happened in between.
I like the idea of blogging. I don't use twitter, or vine, or youtube, or even have my own website. That shit's too much effort even though more people would see it. Blogging is my diary, and if other people can find amusement in all of my ridiculous, mostly unfortunate and somewhat inexplicable tales, then why not.

So....okay I had a pretty 'shitty' ;) time in India for all of October. That was ages ago though. The run up to Christmas and New Year was as eventful as ever. Mattie and I were to move out of our flat at the end of January. Something I really wasn't looking forward to considering we had spent the best part of 3 years living together. I implemented the ostrich approach and buried my head in the sand for as long as possible until we really had to start taking responsibility for our irresponsible lifestyles. My brother opened a bottle of red wine with a knife at some point, spraying a lovely jet of scarlet jizz all over the kitchen walls. Over time, this had developed into more of a lilacy hue, something I felt really tied the kitchen together. The landlady didnt think so and I had to repaint the whole thing. She was also left unimpressed by the smashed oven door, particularly when she found out that spare parts were non-existent, and had to order a new one out of our deposit money. The hole in the wall and broken blind (which coincidentally fell onto her head) were other annoyances we had to deal with, all of course with lashings of guilt that we were made to feel by putting off potential tenants who weren't so turned on by Mattie's humongous teddy bear collection, or my giant inflatable whale. Or the rocking horse in the kitchen.

By the time we finally left the place, we were overjoyed at not having to worry any more, however my anxiety wasn't diminished. Not only was I moving into a flat with a dude from my office I barely know, I also had to move in whilst he was on holiday and y'know...make myself at home. The first day didnt go too well at all. I locked myself out, set the fire alarms off, and got scared by the letterbox. I've settled in a bit better here now though and I'm happy to report all is going well (apart from the letterbox. still scares me)

Savings too are going well, and since I had been pining for a new bike (and the fjords of course), I treated myself to a 600 Fazer which goes like the ABSOLUTE clappers!!! The bike was a temporary fix to keep me amused whilst here.

Last month however, I thought, enough is enough...one cannot possibly go on without a holiday, it's been far too long since India. My new favourite travel companion - Miss Yvette - was more than happy to accompany me on a journey, which at the time was originally Russia, more specifically Moscow. No sooner had I set sights on Moscow however, some Russian opposition leader gets brutally assassinated outside the Kremlin and all hell breaks loose. I won't even go into the shit with Ukraine. Anyway, second option was Lithuania and it is now booked (just). Being my typical self, I of course forgot to book some of the trip, which Yvette gently hinted about for a couple of weeks until I finally got it. She knew all along that wiley woman. The local dish in Lithuania is beaver stew, and what better thing to gnaw on than a smoked pigs ear, when one is drinking mead and other such ales. I do declare, this trip is doomed!

In other news, I am finally returning to Viet - F**KING - Nam this September!!! Jesus shitting Christ it's been too long. But it gets better. I have my other favourite travelling companion.. my bruvva....Will has never been to Asia, however we got on famously in New Zealand and had the time of our lives. I can't wait to introduce him to old friends in Nam, and to show him everything Vietnam has to offer. Which in my eyes is basically paradise on earth. But with lots of Asian people and motorbikes.

Wish me luck in Lithuania and hopefully I will have some crazy shit to blog about on my return ;)

Posted by Lady-K 13:25 Archived in Isle of Man Tagged vietnam motorbike ostrich brother lithuania letterbox beaver phobia broken_oven Comments (0)

Abandoned in Kerala

An Indian Boyfriend and my Neighbour David Beckham

sunny 35 °C

IMG_4144.png so we just arrived in Kerala (Cochin)...Yvette got out at her hotel, and not knowing where the hell I was going to stay, I jumped out too and said goodbye for 4 days. Even though it was only 4 days, I felt all emotional (kind of like a woman) and wondered what I would do without my partner in crime. I went through all the stages of grief whilst I meandered around in the baking heat; shock and denial that my friend had deserted me, guilt that I had in fact driven her to it literally), anger at her cold hearted flippancy (all I got was a hug and 'goodbye!'...not even a gift.) and finally acceptance. Life must go on. And onwards it went. Straight onwards just opposite the lane leading to Yvette's hotel. I stumbled across a family homestay offering rooms for $7 a night. It was a large family home but with 4 extra bedrooms and I was shown to one with a balcony overlooking Yvette's hotel. It made a perfect pining post when I suffered bouts of loneliness.
Having not slept much on the god-awful night bus, my first stop was to get food, but more importantly was to return and get into bed for a couple of hours.

Walking around fort Cochin town to see what it had to offer in the way of eats, I was pleasantly surprised. Very small and quiet, with cute little streets and shops & cafes dotted about. It reminded me a little of Galle in Sri Lanka. I got some grub and returned to my room for a few hours sleep. When I woke up without even so much as an impression of Yvette's form in the bed next to me, it hit me all over again and I slumped off to the closest internet cafe to skype my parents. We talked for a while and I caught up with a couple of mates. By the time I left it was dark out and food was on my mind again.
Meandering around town, I stopped in a courtyard restaurant only to discover that I was the only customer. Thank God I brought a book. It started to rain. After the waiter took my order, the whole town was plunged into all consuming darkness, broken only by cracks of purple lightening which illuminated the skyline around me and left me feeling pretty uneasy at being all alone in this terrifying place where only the sinister looking waiters could hear my screams for help. The power went off and on numerous times and I was forced to eat my spicy noodles in darkness.
It soon became obvious that tonight was Divali - I had forgotten - and since I had nobody to celebrate with and not knowing if this place was safe at night, I began walking back to my homestay. I sat on the sheltered balcony in the rain, listening to the insects and frogs going crackers, and the intermittent explosions of fireworks from the small community celebrating Divali here. It was bliss :)
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I had a fitful night sleep on the crappy mattress and got up at 10am to have breakfast with my homestay mummy. She made me toast and chi. OM NOM! I decided to do my own walking tour of Cochin and set of with my Lonely Planet book in hand. First stop was the Chinese Fishing nets (google it) down by the seafront. A busy area with a fair amount of tourists and people mingling around, I continued walking alongside the sea until I became aware that I was being followed. Eventually I turned around to face my stalker and was met by a gorgeous Indian dude. Hmm...my brain was telling me to tell him to do one, but my hormones were telling me 'hnfkjfsifofofhoweijfowejfsfmkfsdlfcmdslknsjn!' His name was Nas and he was 26 and keen to speak with me in English. What the hell is he selling I wondered...we talked and walked for about 15minutes and just when I was about to ask him to get to the point and give me the punchline, he must have sensed my unease and assured me that he wasn't selling anything and wasn't going to make me book any trips. He was a rickshaw driver / guide but he had a couple of hours to kill before work. Okay it was the middle of the day and loads of people around so I allowed him to keep me company for a bit. We went to a shit museum full of crappy artefacts where an over-enthusiastic ticket officer told me all about his birth stone (peridot) like I gave a damn. After that we went to get chi. It turned out Nas had had a Canadian girlfriend which is why his English was so good. 'Do you like me? You think I'm handsome?' he asked. 'Yes very much so, but you're still Indian and I dont trust Indian boys' I said. And with that, in true gentleman form he kissed my hand and said goodbye and for me to enjoy my day.
I spent forever in an awesome book shop selling all manner of India inspired books in English, before enjoying some humongous grilled prawns for lunch, then heading on foot into Jew-town (Jewish quarter) where the spice merchants and antique dealers were all out flogging their goods. It started raining so I hailed a rickshaw and spent an hour in my room before heading to the Kathakali centre. Kathakali is a traditional Keralan story told with dance and crazy costumes. I went to the theatre early to watch them applying their makeup and clothes. The whole performance was bewitching.

I went out for dinner again and once again found myself alone in an otherwise unoccupied restaurant. A thrilled waiter came over to serve mem (or so I thought). 'Madam what your name?' oh here we go....'kirsty' ...'where you from?'....'England.' ... 'You know David Beckham?' what the holy shit was this?! 'Err....yes I know who David Beckham is.' (proceeds to show me what I can only describe as numerous homoerotice pictures of DB in his undies) 'He your friend?'....Yes dickhead. Because there are only 9 people in England and David Beckham lives next door to me. Seriously?! Can I get some food here!!! It turned out, those were the only English phrases he knew as he then had to go and get his mate who took my order then asked me for my facebook name. I wrote down 'Regina Falange' on a piece of paper and he seemed chuffed to bits. Heading home after that crazy encounter, I was then followed by some idiot with an afro on a bike who wanted to give me a lift. LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

At 8am I got up for a Keralan backwater cruise. My ride was 45 minutes late and I was still only the first person to be picked up. Once everyone was on board, mostly Brits, we drove 1 hour to Alleppy where we were ushered onto a typical looking Indian house boat, apart from lots of flourescent orange chairs. We all sat down and introduced ourselves - there was a nice Geordie couple around my parents age, and a solo Kiwi woman in her 40's who I palled on with. Unfortunately a hoard of asshole Indian's came on board and spoiled the tranquillity with their mobile phones constantly going, loud voices and screaming undisciplined children. The guide, an Indian man himself, had to politely ask them to shutup several times because we couldnt hear him over their ridiculousness. One man actually retorted back to him that why should he take orders from him, did he think he was a dictator or something? No, he's the f**king guide asshole so listen to what he is telling us.
The cruise itself was beautiful...hundreds of tropical islands and mangroves everywhere. We stopped at one island and were given steamed cockles in spices in a banana leaf to sample. Delicious. We also went on a jungle walk where we identified numerous spice and fruit plants, and even saw a snake.

We then jumped in 2 canoes, and unfortunately me and Sharon(kiwi gal) got lumped with the family with the bratty kids. We just laughed at them taking their stupid pictures and allowing their kids to run riot which soon ended in disaster. When we got dropped back in Cochin later, I went to a fancy hotel for a few beers with Sharon...it was most good and we shared our best travelling stories. Sharon had just left Nepal and one week after she had trekked Annapurna, another trekking group were lost, and some killed in one of the worst disasters on Annapurna that year (2014).
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I left sharon and went to meet Nas who I had seen again and given my number to. I waited around for him but he was a no show so bed it was. The next day I was up at 7am to experience morning ragas; meditation with the sitar (an Indian string instrument). I was the only person who showed up. I entered a stage and sat on the floor with the man and his sitar. He began playing it, and chanting like a mad man whilst I closed me eyes and focussed on my breathing. A young boy joined us and played bongo-like drums with the quickest, most deft fingers I could imagine. One hour later, morning ragas was complete and I thanked the man and headed off for brekkie. Nas met me and apologised for the night before but he was tied up with work. I told him I'd catch him later and went to a pre-arranged cooking class recommended by LP. The course was great. I was joined by an English man travelling solo, a german couple, and a weird pair I had actually previously seen in my guest house in Hampi on one of the occasions where I'd left the safety of my toilet. The girl, from NZ was young, around 23, and the dude she was travelling with was a 60-something Indian man (though no Indian accent) who had the look of a mental patient. It turned out they ran a health retreat in Picton, NZ, together. I still pondered over there relationship.
Anyway the cooking was amazing and we got to eat everything we made afterwards, and much to everyone's amusement, I couldnt handle the obscene amount of chili in one of the dishes and my face literally dripped everywhere. Noiiiche.
Around 5pm I met up with Nas again and he took me to his place for a couple of beers. There were other foreign folk there hanging with his mates so it wasnt too intimidating. After our beers, he walked me home and we said our goodbyes. I was leaving the next morning.

At 5:30am I met Yvette outside her homestay...YVETTE! I almost forgot about her ;) We spent the taxi journey catching up on the past 4 days. Unfortunately Yvette had further bother with her gut trouble and had to seek medical advice, but otherwise was an absolute trooper and enjoyed all of the wedding antics from buying saris, to dancing and partying the night away.

At Kerala airport there was the usual ridiculousness going on. Having to go through not one, not two, but 3 bag scanners at different areas before even checking in. Finally on board, I don't remember much of the flight but we landed in Mumbai and checked into the most famous hotel in India. The Taj Mahal Palace. All the rich and famous stay here, and it even has its own documentary. It's absolutely stunning. We forked out a fair amount for the night and were met by a beautiful woman who put garlands around our necks and showed us to our plush room, complete with minibar, downy bed covers, air con, flatscreen tv, sofa, balcony, and stunning views. In our room we indulged, and looked down at the chaos below us and laughed at being nowhere near it.
We met a guide downstairs in the hotel who took us on a tour and told us all about the history of the hotel. He was amazing. His English was perfect, he was cute, intelligent and funny. I would happily have married him.
We did venture back out in Mumbai again on a quest for food, and some street henna. We picked our henna artists and squatted on a filthy pavement whilst a young boy painted our hands for a small fee. My boy even gave me a card with his number on afterwards and suggested he could service me in other ways at my hotel room. I still have the card! Unfortunately on the walk back through the busy streetts, Yvette and I were bumped and bashed by people and our henna was slightly smudged. Back at the room, we decided to order room service to experience fully what the hotel had to offer. A knock at the door came, and in stepped the cutest little old Indian guy, complete with white gloves n everything! He wheeled our table in and unloaded our food, tucked our napkins in, seated us, and even opened mini jars of ketchup for us. It was the cutest! We gorged ourselves and a while later the little man came back and we thanked him with a nice little tip ;)

Getting to bed early, we were up around 3:30am I believe, and bundled into a taxi to Mumbai International. We got there far too early really but you never know this Mumbai traffic. We had a sleep and boarded our final plane home.

For once, I didn't give India the middle finger.

Posted by Lady-K 06:36 Archived in India Comments (0)

Rage Against an Inexplicable India

sunny 35 °C

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So where were we...ah yes. We'd just been woken up at 6am by some serious pumping Indian disco music, and thought enough is enough, Mysore can suck it and go to hell. We checked out and walked to the local bus station and hailed a bus to Kushalnagara (a 2 hour journey, and just 85p). The bus was packed, smelly, uncomfortable and 100% male, us aside. We almost missed our stop, and ironically wished we had. We jumped off and did a quick scan of the main street, I spotted a couple of signs for hotels and we made our way over to one that looked kind of nice. It had a restaurant below it and we enquired about rooms at the desk. Our questions were met with utter confusion and much head shaking. 'No rooms madam'....'but the sign says hotel?'....'no not hotel madam'....well that's f**king handy. Again, there's another fine example of the idiocy in this country.
At another hotel, we were taken up some stairs and to a magnificent view, but with a room that wouldn't have looked out of place in a grisly horror film. We were both desperate for a shit and for that reason, we told the young lad we would take the haggard room for the pricey sum of £5 for the night. The boy for some inexplicable reason thought 2 beds werent enough for us and began offering us 3 beds? WHY!!!
Looking around the dusty, dingy, room with the somewhat questionable stained mattress, we got the hell out of there to look for a laundry place. Asking a couple of lads on the street, we were directed to what appeared to be a disused chicken shed. Out of the filthy shack came an even filthier man, wearing filthy rags, and behind him, a rogue filthy chicken. It wasn't exactly looking promising. The man understood no English but we had somehow unwittingly acquired a translator who spent several minutes discussing what we wanted (simply, our clothes washed). The man's head wobbled violently and continually, and was still going as we walked away, never expecting to see our clothes again.
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Back on the road again we took a rickshaw to the nearby Bylakuppe - a small Tibetan community which was our sole reason for visiting, and a pretty much Kirsty-influenced idea (something I now feel responsible for given the crapness of this part of the trip). I wanted to visit to remind me of my time spent in upper Dharamsala 3 years ago. I had read that many of the Tibetan monks in Dharamsala would migrate to Bylakuppe for the winter, for the climate. Yvette and I were also both looking forward to being somewhere a bit quieter and more peaceful. Our rickshaw assho..I mean, driver, confusingly dropped us off at the side of a dirty rode, where plucked chicken carcasses were being hacked up. Well this didn't look like a golden temple. It seemed he had thought we wanted to go to the outskirts of Bylakuppe, rather than the more central touristy area the region is famous for. Logical.
Anyway, we got there in the end and walked around this amazing golden temple, which becomes the Dalai Lama's residence for a small portion of the year. It was absolutely stunning and brought back floods of memories of Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj and all the beautiful ornate temples in the North. We also got to watch on as young monks were chanting and playing Tibetan instruments...it was a hair raising, moving and almost eerie spectacle. After we saw the main sights, we spent a good couple of hours walking through 8km of the 'Tibetan' countryside. It was just what we needed...the only passerbys were delightful smiling monks, walking in groups, alone, or occasionally on motorbikes, robes billowing behind them. Monk-on-a-bike monkeybikes.
I began feeling the all-too familiar rumbles and told Yvette to keep eyes peeling for stray rickshaws. We managed to get one, and with utter disdain climbed the stairs to our awful awful room. We opened the door and before even stepping inside, turned to eachother and agreed that this was no place fit for human habitation. We would have to leave. We were concerned about offending the young lad by going to another hotel and told him he could keep our £5. The thought of staying there was unbearable and we had earlier that day clocked a big shiny multi-storey hotel offering a/c rooms for just £10 a night. They had to be better than this. We began walking over and realised the hotel was just next to the 'laundry place', and as we got closer, to our absolute horror, noticed all of our clothes, delicates and all, were strewn across barbed wire fences, walls, and even roofs!! Well our natural reaction of course was to run. And run we did. We ran away into the nice shiny hotel and tried to forget about the horror. The room was actually amazing and one of the nicest hotels I have stayed in. We jumped straight for the shower, and got into the lovely clean bed, and watched lots of tv and read books n stuff. It was great. The toilet was also fantastic. We decided to eat on the rooftop restaurant that night, as it saved leaving the safety of the hotel and we thought we might be able to get nicer food. On first glances, it seemed like a USA style menu so we ordered chicken wings and fries. Unfortunately when they came, they were both coated in chilli sauce. Not ideal for an upset tum! After a couple of beers, and laughing at the sight of monks playing games on their iphones, we called it a night.
Poor Yvette had another bout of trotty botty during the night, but by morning it was my turn again and after 9 consecutive toilet visits, I sucked up the energy to go to the local shop and see what food I could buy. I bought peanut butter, jam, shit bread, olives, crisps, and even ice cream. I unloaded it on our coffee table and we sat on the sofa gorging ourselves. It wasnt until Yvette noticed a lump of mould in the jam, that we discovered literally everything I had bought was at least 1 year out of date. What actual hell was this!!? I mean....HOW!
We spent all day in bed watching tv and eating out of date food, until 5pm when we were due to collect our laundry. OH GOD. Nothing could have prepared me for this. We turned up and whilst the filthy man fannied about in his shed, began inspecting our clothes that lined the alleyway. Yvettes skirts and shirts now had new stains, complete with holes and poke marks from being hung on F**KING barbed wire! I mean really...
We peered inside the crap shack and saw that the man was painstakingly folding each of our items with about as much efficiency as a sloth. By this point, Yvette was a well and truly getting pissed off now. We signalled to the man that he didnt need to fold our items, as they were pretty much ruined already and what difference would it make. But the stupid knobhead just wasnt getting it and continued this excruciatingly slow process. I was torn between laughing hysterically, sobbing, or just punching the wall. Instead I turned around and spotted my demin shorts on a nearby roof which I then plucked down. Yvette basically lost it when they tried to ask us for around $7 which was normal for that amount of laundry, but far too much considering our clothes were now about as much use as Anne Frank's drumkit. We stuffed our clothes into a bag and stormed back to the room where Yvette continued her seething. Admittedly it was annoying, but I was secretly enjoying Yvette's rage as I didnt think she had it in her and it was most heartwarming to know I was wrong. We had some calm time in the room before checking out and meandering over to the bus station for a 6pm bus.

We tried unsuccessfully to get a bus for about 30minutes. The process, quite frankly like everything in India, was ridiculous. The empty bus would pull up, and then there would literally be a surge of people, frantically struggling to scramble inside, the desperation showing on all of their faces. People were literally being squashed into eachothers armpits, asses, you name it, in their struggle to board the bus. The bus would then sit there for 10 minutes before leaving, and there was space for everyone provided you didnt care where you sat. So basically, the whole process was completely unnecessary. We tried 4 different buses, but short of having someones ass in my face, there was no chance of getting on the bus. My irritation only grew when I was approached by some guy who began reeling off the usual barrage of now boring-as-shit questions. 'Hello madam, what your name? Where you from? What your job? How much you earn?' Finally we managed to get on a bus after a lot of pushing and shoving, and were thankfully seated together. I'd like to laugh about that journey and only need to comment on the general scruffiness and stuffiness of the bus, however, it was truly awful. It had started getting dark, and being the only 2 women on the bus, with more and more men pushing through the doors at each stop despite not having anywhere to go, it was getting very very intimidating. Trying to look away, it was hard to avoid the gazes of so many dark unsettling pairs of eyes. I had various different men sat next to me during the 4 hour journey and I was very aware of each of them being so close to me, given my past experiences in Sri Lanka. I was virtually on the point of tears for the last hour of the ride, as terrifying thoughts (probably instigated from things I had read in the news) plagued my mind. It didnt help as well that we passed at least one deadly road accident.
By the time we got back to Mysore, I was holding myself back from kissing the goddam ground. We lugged our bags to the local dominoes and tucked into a peperoni (chicken) pizza...probably the only food we had eaten in days that wasnt out of date. It made a nice change as being so off-and-on-again ill during the trip, it was hard to keep eating spicy food all the time, regardless of the deliciousness.
Finally we were ready to get on our bus which was around midnight. As the seats didnt go back, and as we were in India, driving on Indian roads, with other Indian motorists, it was difficult to sleep at all, and I spent much of the overnight journey pining for bhang lassi.
I 'woke up' early and hoped that we'd either arrive soon, or at least get a pee-stop somewhere. I was wrong. Poor Yvette was absolutely desperate for a toilet and told me around 8:30am that she was starting to get pains. The poor lass had to hang on for 2 further hours before we finally arrived in Kerala. What a champ. I told her to run to a cafe and I would follow with the bags. The first cafe she tried simply said they didnt have a toilet - to be fair, they were probably telling the truth and shitting in a gutter. We struck gold at the next one though and I sat with some drinks whilst Yvette enjoyed her 30minute toilet trip ;) Feeling much better, and much more positive, we hailed a rickshaw and got taken to Yvette's hotel. Yvette's main reason for coming to India was because her friend was due to be married here in Kerala. The bride-to-be's friends were all staying together, but not knowing them, and also wanting to do my own thing, I was to find my own place and hang out on my todd for a few days whilst Yvette got caught up in some wedding fever. Thankfully I didnt have to wait long before I made a little local friend :) .... more next week.

Posted by Lady-K 14:44 Archived in India Comments (0)

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