Trials, tribulations and travelly tales

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Things that are apparently unnacceptable in the UK

1.   Talking about people who are within ear shot.  Seemingly most people here understand English.

2.   Belching on trains. It is no longer OK to share all bodily functions with others. People judge you.

3. Walking into the middle of traffic expecting it to stop for you.  Drivers don’t like this at all.  In fact some may even exit their vehicles to tell you so.

4. Haggling in supermarkets.  It was worth a try though.

5. Trying to initiate any form of interaction with anyone on The Tube.

6. Appearing to be in any mood other than miserable on The Tube.
Everyone else looks to be one step away from fastening the end of their £50 pure Indian silk ties to their light fittings.  God forbid they should have to share their tube carriage with someone who doesn’t dread waking up in the mornings.

7. Wearing a jumper when it’s over zero degrees.  So it might be snowing outside and the clouds may be the colour of the Apocalypse, but as soon as there is the first ray of sunshine, welcome to flip flop central.  Expect to see boys flaunting their reflectively pale arms in tank tops that appear to have been designed to fit Ethiopian children and girls sporting shorts so far up their chuffs that their ovaries are beginning to feel claustrophobic.  Prepare to be on the receiving end of their waves of scorn (no doubt caused entirely by their genitalia’s lack of breathing space) should you wear any form of sensible clothing when the temperature is anything above freezing.

8. Bowing to people.  I’m used to this being the normal way of saying hello, goodbye and thank you, but making the world’s smallest head bob will result in people slowly backing away as they assume that you’re a headcase with a pigeon complex.

I’m sure there are plenty more socially unacceptable feats that I’ve accomplished since my return, but presumably in all the other situations the spectators were generous enough to assume that I was merely mentally deranged and kindly just let me get on with my day.

My gift is my blog, and this one’s for you…

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Although I’m rather well known for my cold, black heart, this evening I lost my reputation as a hard ass when I said goodbye to my Chiang Mai gang.  Good Lord did I weep.  Chiang Mai has been good to me, and I experienced it with a group of rather stupendous people (I will deny this complimentary side of myself if anyone asks).  Who knew that I would be able to generate such a marvellous group of pals when all I do is mock and abuse everyone within eyesight?  But by Jove I did!

These people:

  • taught me to drive a motorbike (and told me to shut up when I screamed on the approach to every bend)
  • plied me with tequila on a regular basis
  • laughed at me when I drank coffee instead of locking me in a cold, dark room and running away which is what anyone else would have done
  • embraced the fact that I like to punch
  • had the patience to repeatedly try and teach me to cartwheel even though they know full well that I will NEVER EVER accomplish one
  • share my love of beards
  • appreciated my love of meat
  •  were never embarrassed by my constant obscenely loud and out of tune singing
  •  forced physical contact upon me (which, yeah, I’ll admit it – I kinda enjoyed)
  • composed one of the world’s finest handshakes. WOOF.
  • shared my ridiculous dance moves
  •  stuck with me while I played in mud for hours because it just felt SO good
  •  introduced me to a whole new world of facial hair
  • tutored me in the art of golf (which is a ‘sport’ I am still less than enthused about)
  • put up with me constantly correcting their ‘English’ when they were speaking American
  •  labelled ‘The Clam’ and shared my turmoil over its comparability to the Gobe Desert

and

  • are just generally incredible.

Thank you wonderful people, my time with you has been a true adventure and this is NOT the end!

 

I’m writing this blog to make it look as though I’m busy doing something very important.  It’s midnight and I’m sat in my apartment feeling very awkward as two decrepitly old Thai men are sat scraping away at my flooded bathroom.
There are multiple reasons as to why this is so particularly awkward:

1.    I can’t communicate with them.  Maybe this is because my Thai is pathetic, but I feel that it’s also at least partially due to the fact that their ears probably stopped working about the same time that the meteor wiped out the dinosaurs.

2.    My ipod is on shuffle.  They’ve been here all of 10 minutes and have already heard Aqua and Justin Bieber blasting out my speakers.

3.    I definitely left yesterday’s knickers on my bedroom floor.  They’re not there anymore. Hmm.

Hey man, he’s like totally mugging you off. Like. Dude. Far out.

On one of my last evenings in Bali I’d arrived at a bar just before its free drinks hour ended.  As a result I successfully upheld the unfortunately accurate stereotype of a British binge drinker and necked four cocktails in five minutes.  It was then that I heard it.  The unmistakeable drawl of a like totally gnarly Aussie surfer dude.  Considering that this bar was almost entirely populated by this intelligence-deprived sub-group of the human race, it was a surprise that this one dribbly voice managed to catch my attention.  But OH! The joy it brought me.  Just imagine my expression (which combined a sense of shock, disbelief, pity and the squinty tooth sucky thing you do after a shot of tequila) when I heard this special, special young man pipe up: ‘It’s weird sometimes I just get so hungry, but then, like, I eat and I’m full.’  Thank God that there are people like this.  It gives me confidence that I could lose all my brain cells and still not be the most idiotic person on the planet.

Yet karma was soon to strike again, and the intense pleasure that I garnered from this lesser life form and the smugness I took from assuming that I could never get so stupid was to backfire.  Dramatically.

As I began my meander (the road was straight – it was my body that was swerving) back to my room, my attention was caught by a headlight that was coming directly for me.  As I bounded out the way in the unladylike fashion for which I am well known, the motorbike slowed down just enough so that the passenger could lean over to wrestle my purse from my arms.

As I let out a string of expletives in three different languages, I gave chase.  This involved running down a cobbled road in flip flops for half a mile with some far flung notion that I might have suddenly gained super powers and that my chunky little sausage legs would be able to catch this vehicle whose entire existence is based on allowing people to travel faster than the human body can possibly manage.  I like to think it was the realisation of this notion that resulted in me giving in, but in reality it was the fact that I was wheezing like a chain smoking dog that had run out of cigarettes so swallowed its squeaky toy for want of something to do.

After responding to a couple of valuable comments from far out, floppy haired, flip flop bearing folks which went along the lines of ‘bummer dude’, I contemplated what had actually been stolen from me: a brown purse that was once white, around £10 in cash and a snotty tissue.  Well I can only hope that karma will play its part and ensure that they both get a REALLY BAD COLD.  Yeah – I said it.

He’s got some dog-gone bad intentions.

After spending three weeks in Burma rushing around seeing hundreds of very interesting, cultural spots, I flew to Bali where I spent three weeks doing lots of nothing.  There is not a great deal to report about here, as I was so horrifically lazy that even making it to the beach only happened twice in those three weeks.

So instead, I shall relate to you the finest chat up lines that I collected during my time there.  In reverse order:

5. Is it OK if I visit you in your dreams tonight?

4. You really remind me of my ex-girlfriend

3. You’re beautiful, but I think it’s because of your nose ring.

2. Your roommate will be back in ten minutes? That’s long enough.

Wait, it gets better….drum roll please (or maybe pepper spray would be more suitable?)…..

1. If I didn’t have a wife I’d rape you.

I’m really not sure how I managed to meet so many charmers, but I have discovered one response that works like a charm, no matter how horrific the chat up line:

‘One time I had sex with a dog’.

You are all welcome to use this one yourselves next time it is necessary, on the condition that you give me a blow by blow account of the reaction to it.

N.B. I have never had, and do not ever intend to have sex with a dog.  Unless it’s really labradorable.  But seriously though, no.  No.

Broomin’ Marvellous

With the monk no doubt making his own way to a different temple, I left the station and set out for the huge golden stupa of Shwedagon Paya, getting lost a mere hundred million times.  After ogling at just the outside for five minutes, I began the climb to the inside.  Halfway up I was stopped by a tiny Burmese lady who asked me for the entrance fee (I must admit that I was quite grateful for this interruption as it allowed me to stop and let my lungs stop rasping without doing that far too recognisable ‘Ooooh this unidentifiable heap of junk looks pretty interesting, let’s stop and contemplate it for 8 minutes, wheeeeeze, wheeeeeeeeeze [looks cautiously around to ensure nobody has figured out that I couldn’t care less about that haggard looking pointy stone, but I just want to stop so that that I don’t end up dying on the steps of a temple where four Burmese men half the size of me will have to labour in carrying me to the bottom of the stairs where I will no doubt be sold for noodle soup ingredients, the consumers of which will complain and demand a refund because there were too many chewy bits] ’.  I asked how much the ticket was and the woman suddenly stopped – I thought she was trying to think of the highest number that she thought I would pay (cynical? Moi?), but after a couple of seconds she just let rip with the most almighty belch before nonchalantly telling me five dollars.  Through fits of giggles, the root of which the woman simply couldn’t fathom, I handed her over the pristine notes and continued with the climb.

 

 

At the top, the stairs opened out to reveal a huge gold pagoda in the centre of the courtyard.  I arrived just as the sun was setting and the effect was really rather stupa-endous (ha).  I walked around the pagoda watching the sun’s rays gradually turn from yellow to red as they bounced off the golden surfaces and women chatted with each other whilst simultaneously sweeping the floor before they stepped.  Though this seemed pretty pointless from my perspective, as they were plonking the brooms down so hard that any creatures that might have avoided being trodden on would have been unable to escape the wrath of the brooms and would have undoubtedly have been smashed flat into the shiny sacred ground.

With sadness that I would likely never bump into the buddhiful (not sure if this pun works too well, but it is now done, so deal with it) monk again, I dejectedly boarded a bus which would take me over night in the silver light on the road to Mandalay, HEY (if you don’t get this reference then I’m afraid we can no longer be friends…and let’s be honest, I probably didn’t like you before anyway).  Five hours into the journey the bus stopped for a toilet break in the middle of nowhere.  I practically teleported myself outside, but alas there were no bushes.  Unable to contemplate the idea of another five hours without a toilet break, I ran behind the bus, checked there were no cars coming, and simply pretended that the exhaust fumes blowing into my face were some form of luxurious steam bath.  Unfortunately I soon noticed headlights rounding the corner and two cars got the enchantment of seeing their lights reflecting off my shiny white bottom.  Coincidentally, screaming does not make it any easier to pull your trousers up…

(I’ve just realised quite how many stories about my wee I have related to you over the past ten months.  Sowee! HAHAHA).

Once we’d got to Mandalay, McBeige and I took a local bus to Amarapura where it was a short stroll to the world’s longest teak bridge.  We arrived at 8.30am before any of the tourist buses or hawkers had arrived.  This allowed us a very serene 30 minutes of watching monks peacefully wandering over the bridge whilst children sat fishing below.

 

 

Anyone who has had the misfortune of experiencing McBeige and I collectively will verify, serenity is not something that lasts long when we’re together, and we had taken all of five steps before we both simultaneously spun round in confusion having heard someone singing Shakira.  We spent the following 29 minutes skipping along the bridge with two small Burmese boys, all repeatedly singing the only line of the song that anyone actually knows – the rest is just warbling and bum wriggling right?  Yay!  Let’s take our clothes off whilst we sing about how much we hate being objectified.  Good one Shakira…

Buddhism, Belches and Baskets of Eggs

Arriving in Yangon, I set out on foot with a sense of naïve optimism that I might reach the train station without getting lost.  It didn’t take long for me to realise that something about this city was different.  There were no motorbikes.  No dogs barking from baskets, no babies sitting on handlebars, no fridges strapped onto the passenger seat.  It was unnerving, but I continued with sceptical caution.  As I passed lines of monks collecting alms and women selling corn for feeding pigeons (surely outside of Southeast Asia the only thing people would buy for pigeons would be bullets) I noticed something else odd about the roads.  In Myanmar, cars drive on the right hand side.  For some reason this put the absolute fear of God into me and I found myself completely incapable of crossing the street.  As it turns out, I was soon to discover that my fear was totally justified when I looked right instead of left and stepped out in front of a lorry.  The sound of the lorry’s horn resulted in me jumping up and down as though I was having a tantrum at the prospect of being run over and I simultaneously screamed at a pitch that Boyzone fans would be proud of.  Fortunately common sense finally kicked in and I managed to make it to the other side of the road, still in an entirely 3D form.

Some miraculous turn of events meant that (hooray and hoorah) I did finally manage to make it to the train station, where shy smiles and giggles followed me as I made my way to platform seven for the circular train which would take me on a three hour loop around the city.  As I made my way down the steps onto the platform there was a rather bizarre sight awaiting me – about 30 people all dressed in longys (the traditional floor length skirts worn by both genders) and Chelsea FC T-shirts.  This was so peculiar that I found myself sitting with my head at a jaunty angle with half of my face frowning while the other half grinned (in the style of a school kid who has just realised that he’s wet himself but then realises this means he’ll get to skip maths).  After a few minutes, the train pulled up and people started appearing from thin air, all making a mad dash to get on board.  Each of the carriages was wooden inside with simple holes for windows and doors and enough wooden benches for about three percent of the passengers to be able to sit down.  As we began to rattle away from the station I wedged myself up against the wall to lessen the chance of falling into one of the buckets of fish or baskets of eggs that were lined up along the floor.  Crammed in beside me was one of the Chelsea-clad people, so I thought I would enquire about his fashion choices:

Me:     Hello
Him:   Hello
Me:     Why are you all wearing Chelsea shirts?
Him:   Confused expression
Me:     Why are you wearing a Chelsea T-shirt?
Him:   Confused expression
Me:     Do you like Chelsea?
Him:   Confused expression.  Cocks head to the side.  Are you heavy?
Me:     Confused expression
Him:   Give me presents

Baffled by this brief exchange I gave up on the conversation and, as the train had almost emptied, went and sat down opposite a monk.  Gazing out the window as the train rumbled on, I watched women bent double as they worked in the fields, boys playing football in longys that they had turned into shortys and men sitting dribbling red drool and chuckling to themselves – the inevitable outcome of chewing betel.  As my attention returned back to the monk, I proceeded to spend the rest of the journey contemplating the moral dilemma and religious consequences that would come of the fact that I found this spiritually pure human mortifyingly attractive.  However, my daydreams were soon cut short as I realised that I was back at the station where I started and I had to make a graceless dash to jump off before the train started moving again.