Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hue, Hoi Ann and the Russian.

Arrived in Hue in the pissing rain and set about meeting up with my Russian friend Ulgar, Ilse and her son Fabian at the backpackers hostel. This was my first encounter with the backpacker chain of hostels and apparently they’re pretty big in the travelling world. It was kind of like walkabout with beds upstairs, very trendy aussie style and lots of western food/drink available. Ulgar, bless her, was still feeling a bit ill (cold) so she just chilled with upstairs while I headed to the hostel bar to make some new friends. I bumped into Ramco and Eric, two ducth guys I was hanging around with in Goa 2 months prior who were also staying there and we cought up on some war stories and had a few beers.

The next day Ulgar, the family unit and I went for a wonder to see what Hue had to offer. The weather was still crap so it wasn’t as impressive as it might have been but was still a pretty cool city. Hue used to be the capital of Vietnam until the war and it has lots of war based history museums to appease the culture junkies. The highlight of the day was defo the KFC I indulged in. Had a pretty chilled night in playing card games and flirting with Ulgar then we headed to bed as we had a bus early doors the next day.

The next day me and the Russian headed to Hoi Ann to spend a couple of days. I didn’t really know much about the place before going but the LP recommended it as one of the best things to do in ‘nam and rightly so. It’s kind of like Bruges only a lot cheaper and with more backpackers. It’s absolutely gorgous, a really quant and romantic place, unfortunately Ulgar was STILL feeling a bit ill so spent most of the day in bed. To be fair I wasn’t complaining as we both spent most of the time in bed ;-). In the evening the hotel we were staying at had free cocktails between 6:30 and 7:30 so I smashed 5 of those and got chatting to two Canadian chicks and a French guy. Then the four of us went to a bar to play some pool before I headed back to bed to bring ulgar her diner (I was playing doctor!)

The next day Ulgar cought a bus back to Hanoi as she was heading to Thailand so I went for a wonder around the city to soak in the atmosphere and then spent a few hours updating my blog back at the hotel. Then in the evening I went back for the free cocktails, meet with the Canadians again and this Irish guy and his German travel GF. The five of us wondered up to Café 43 for 3000 dong (10p) beers and to book a cooking course for the next day. Needless to say at 10p a beer we drank a bucket load of beers and staggered back to the hotel.

The next day…..I can’t think of any other way to start these paragraphs….. the following day…. Nah that’s too similar…… why is this so difficult to come up with another way to start a paragraph….. errr….. fuck it, the next day I went off to the cooking course and met up with the Canadian girls there. The three of us joined forces with a new Zealand couple who were making slight different food so we figured we would all make something different and share out the food and recipes. The course itself cost $5 then you had to pay for whatever meal you ate (bargain!). Between us we cooked stuffed squid (amazing), chicken curry, chicken with fried veg and cashew nuts and about 4000 spring rolls! After the cooking course I wonderd around the town some more trying to get a traditional Chinese outfit made for tigger and eventually found a place that already had a baby sized outfit that they cut down to fit him for $5 all in J

Friday, 16 December 2011

Biking in 'Nam

Ok, so having biked from Lang Son to Halong bay and really enjoyed myself, the adventure turned into more of a struggle than I expected. I was trying to get to Hue by the 9th so as to meet up with the Russian Girl (Ulgar) I was chatting to on the halong bay boat trip. Obviously the roads in 'nam are pretty poor in terms of pot holes and nutty drivers, all of which I could have coped with had the weather been better. Basically I was concentrating so much on the road, the nut bar bus drivers who don't take any prisoners whilst being soaking wet from the rain and worrying about petrol, what gear I was in (the bike had neither gauges for each - which Suzi did have!) and which direction to be traveling.

On the first night I stayed at a fairly legitimate looking hotel just outside of a major city as it looked clean and safe. I got chatting to one of the hotel staff who spoke fairly good english who wanted to practise and for me to hang out with her and the other employee's. To her suprise, when she offered for me to come along to her friends 'party' even though I was shattered I thought I'd give it a whirl (carpe diem and all that). So like 20 odd employees of the hotel rode off in convoy to the 'party', of which I had no idea what I was going to. We arrived at this restaurant about 5k from the hotel and got some snails and chips to eat. The entire time I was being starred at like the elephant man by all the employees, but it was kinda cool being so interesting to them. The guys where trying to get me pissed on Vietnam Wine (40 odd percent) but I was being carefull as I didn't want to be hammered while riding in a foreign country (obviously!). After the meal we all went off in convoy to a karaoke place that didn't have any of my trusty songs that I usually call upon to nail so I ended up going with 'circle of life' from the lion king. Big mistake, that song is haaaaaard! Everytime I picked a song that I thought I would be able to do well it turned out to be by another artist (eg 'now and forever' I thought was going to be by Richard Marx which I know pretty well was actually the air supply version that I'd never heard of!). Anyway, I also did Gangster Paradise by Coolio which I did pretty well but the guys where ripping the piss out of my rapping most of the song by also freestyle rapping in Vietnamese!

The next day I managed to get one of the employees to fix my head light on my bike (did I mention that non of the electrics worked?!) so at least I was 'safer' riding at night. I was making pretty good time heading south until the road got really shitty then my chain fell off, fortunately just outside of a garage. The guy fixed it in about 20 minutes and charged me the whopping fee of one pound for his troubles! If that had happened in England they would have charged a shit load to fix that. Then about 2 hours later I was happily plodding through a village and a dog ran out in front of me, I couldn't brake quick enough and ended up hitting it and dropping the bike. Immediately I was in shock, the dog was whining and limped off to the side of the road, I got up and checked that I was OK (I wasn't wearing any protective gear other than a helmet so I was pretty lucky) and checked the bike which was ok except for the indicator (that didn't work anyway!) was smashed and the make shift luggage rack (two planks of wood held on my an empty bike tire) was bent. At this point I had a massive crowd of people around me and I was trying to get them to show me where the dog was to check it was ok, eventually found it standing up, a bit shacky, and had a minnor cut on it's head but was ok. I was trying to explain that I felt really bad for the dog (even though I wasn't doing anything 'wrong') but a guy was telling me that it;s a different culture here and basically that they don't care about dogs. Poor thing was probably their tea that night! So obviously that shook me up a fair bit and I rode for another hour before stopping in at a hotel and hitting the hay early.

The next day I rode for about 70k and when I arrived in Vinh I decided I'd had enough of biking so sold the bike for half what I paid for it 4 days prior. TBF I only lost out on 120 dollars (70 odd quid?) so fuck it. It was a great experience and I defo don't regret it but it's not something I'd do again in 'nam. At least not in the winter anyway. Apparently the roads south of Hue are much more enjoyable but the weather was shit the whole time (and has been since) so I'm glad I gave up. Got a bus to Hue from Vinh which took 8 hours and i was so happy to be in the warmth and comfort of a sleeper bus :-).

Ok, my hour on this internet cafe is almost up so tune in for my next installment when I'll be reporting on Hue, Hoy Anne and Nha Trang.


Monday, 12 December 2011

Halong Bay

Day one of the bike trip. I set off from the garage with my ruck sack securely strapped to my bike and my smaller bag on my back. The first roads I went on where an absolute dream, a fantastic mix of rugged gravel with sections of sweeping bends and little villages to pass this stage the roads where quite enough to listen to music while I was riding so I was really in my element on the first day. Also everywhere that I stopped in to get food was well off the tourist trail so not only was it really cheap and tasty but the people where also really friendly too. Now having said that it did take a lot longer to get to the Halong City.Having arrived pretty late I checked in at a hostel recommended by the Lonely Planet based on the idea that I'd be on a boat trip with other westerners and not a bunch of middle aged Asian's that I wouldn't be able to talk to. I also figured that as it was LP recommended that the tour would be a good standard and reasonably priced. I didn't do a whole lot of investigating afterwords to see how much other people had paid but I got the impression that for what I got it was a little pricey but I did speak to some people who paid more and got less so it's all good.

So the morning of the boat trip I did a little work on my blog then the rep picked me up and took me to the peer on the back of his scooter. I was bricking it as all the other westerns I spoke to at the peer where on different boats and I could see a lot of groups of Asians walking around. Then when it came to getting on the boat there was 4 russians, 2 spanish, 2 german, an iranian, a girl from korea and basically everyone on the boat spoke a different language to English as their main language! As it turned out it was ok as I met a really interesting girl (see my reflection chapter) who was great to talk to and on the first day we visited some cool caves, saw the fishing community's and did a bit of kayaking. Then we settled at the place we were staying for the night and the guide said you can swim in the sea if you like. At which point I said to him "can i jump in from the top?" to which he replied "yes" and without a seconds hesitation I threw my T-shirt off and jumped straight in from the top deck! Think that got me a bit of codos with the Russians and they where all jumping in straight after me and later that night they even called me "messiah"! Then I started drinking vodka with the Russians and got rather pissed before doing a couple of hours of Karaoke.

The next morning my brain felt several sizes too large for my head so I was straight on the Resolve to try and combat the hangover I'd earned. After a bit of hanging around and the boat breaking down for a bit we eventually made it to Cat Ba island for day 2 of the trip. At this stage I only had the two russians who couln't speak hardly any English and a German girl who was ok but the conversation was a little forced and not as flowing as with other people I'd met. Anyway, we walked around this nature reserve for about 3 hours and as the weather was shit and I was rocking the Jesus sandals I nearly fell over a fair few times. Eventually made it to the top and if it had been a clear day it would have been a magnificent view. Then we all went back to the hotel, had a bit of a snooze then went to the Lonely Planet recommended cafe on the island for some bloody amazing food and fried banana with ice cream and mango pancakes. That night we went out for a quite drink and I tried my best to chat up this Russian girl I'd met that day. It emerged that she was going the same way as me so we exchanged numbers and planned to meet in a few days...... I'll come back to that in the next entry ;-).

That was about it for the boat trip really, had it been a clear day it would have been an amazing experience but as it was a bit shitty it was a good job that the people on the boat where cool to carry the experience.

It's free cocktails between 6.30 and 7.30 at the hotel I'm staying at so I better head to the bar to get my drink on. Only about a week behind now on my blog so maybe I'll do some more tonight or tomorrow.



I realized while speaking to a really interesting girl on the halong Bay boat trip that this blog has mainly been about my experiences rather than my impressions or feelings. So I want to take a brief section of this blog for kind of a quarter time analysis of my travels so far.

In general I want to start of by saying what a fucking amazing experience this has been. Obviously there have been highs and lows but the positives have massively outweighed the negatives. The best part of this has been the people I've met along the way. I suppose I expected that the main thing I was wanting to get out of this was a bunch of new experiences and to cross off a few things from the old Bucket list but really the people I've met along the way have been the best part. Not just the fellow travelers either, I've been really lucky to have loads of authentic(ish) experiences with the locals rather than just doing the tourist shit all the time. The tourist trail is centered around all the main places on the tourist route so is completely geared up to cater for the needs (when in actuality it's the desires) of the tourists. So when you follow the 'lonely planet bus' from one place to the next you see all the same western products and tacky souvenirs on display. And that's great, don't get me wrong, but the most authentic experiences I've had have been off the beaten track and doing things on my own.

Ok, some gripes. These aren't major annoyances but just some general observations. The terms 'gap year' and 'find myself' are starting to get a bit cliche. Also everyone (including myself) seems to follow the lonely planet to the word and this tends to create two side effects, firstly if an establishment is mentioned in the LP they sometimes become complacent about their prices or level of service and take advantage of the name they've earned. Secondly it means that if you go to one of these places it often has been totally geared up to suit westerners and so loses it's character and charm. Sometimes by deliberately avoiding LP recommended places you can find real gems like the bar I found in Udaiper, the restaurant in Jaisalmere that had the best thali in the universe or the nightclub in Sanming that I had that incredible night in. 

Going back to the people, I want to talk about some of the most memorable people I've met along the way. Firstly Wade, my travel buddy in India is defo my favorite character so far. All the Aussie girls I met in India where great correctors and really nice people. The Group I met in Goa (including Log the welsh nutter!) where hilarious fun and utter piss heads. Also Billy the 60 year old dude from Goa was an absolute hero, I hope to stay in touch with him. Most of the people in the Kungfu camp where great, notably Pierre the nails Shaolin long term-er, Jackson the Aussie motorbiker who was genuinly a really stand up bloke, Dan my ever reliable and lovable room mate and Simon the Doctor who was really funny and easy to talk to. Also special mention to Jack and Samir who where inseparable and although they where only 18 where actually really interesting and mature despite having the roles of entertainers. Also I've been traveling with this Russian Girl called Ulgar and even though she hasn't been functioning at 100% as she's been ill she's still a great person who has a great attitude towards life despite some pretty big knock backs.

As for the Vietnam girl who inspired me to write this reflection chapter, she was probably the most deep and interesting person I've met in my travels. For the life of me I can't remember her name but she had done a shit load of traveling and had some really deep theories on the interconnections between people, the beauty of the world and the greatness of traveling. She really got me to open up about why I'm traveling, what I've experienced so far and what I want to do in the future. She had this theory that the world was one big 'intergalactic soup' and everyone's spirits are connected. She lost me a little bit towards the end but she had some really interesting thoughts on why people travel. I started to talk about my mates back home and how they're all settled into some sort of long term plan, be it career, marriage, mortgage, kids, whatever but they all had something tying them into not being able to travel. She believed (and arguably this is a bit arrogant and self indulgent) that anyone who travels is an eagle and "you can't fly with chickens". Now that may be a little strong but having met a dutch women in her 30's who was traveling with her 4 year old son and doing all the same things and staying in all the same backpacker hostels as us 'youngsters' I kind of think that sometimes the ties that keep people from traveling could be severed if they really went for it. But then again I'm going to return back to England with no money, no possessions and nothing material to show for 15 odd grand I've spent on this trip so maybe I'm the idiot.  

I suppose if I'm being completely honest with myself the main reason for traveling was impress and suit Hayley's plans. But the more time I spend traveling the more I can see myself doing this for a long time, maybe for a few years. The current thought is that after I've finished my round the world ticket I'll live and work in Australia for a year then apparently you can extend your visa by an extra year so long as you've done 3 months of agricultural work. Then I'll be 30 so maybe I'll go and work in the middle east for a couple of years to take advantage of the high income and no tax. Or maybe I'll try to get some sort of qualification and work as a scuba instructor in Thailand or teach English in China, who knows, but at the moment I'm not sure I can see myself going back England to spend the rest of my life now that I've tasted what the rest of the world has to offer.

I'm trying to think of things that I miss from back home, the things that immediately spring to mind are my family and friends. Big family get together's at Mum and Cathy's, Macmillan special occasions, weddings/birthdays etc. In terms of day to day things I defo miss Sunday night football at Crowthorne and house piss ups at challs, Rob+Nat's, hobbs house, Debbie+Steve's etc. I also really miss Rob and Lillerz and wish I could somehow magic them onto this adventure with me.

At this stage I love the fact that I have no specific plan but whatever happens I'll be back in October for a while to see everyone and save up enough money for the next adventure. I hope that this section doesn't offend anyone back home I know that everyone has their own drivers in life and traveling isn't everyone's bag. After all, if you'd asked me 3 years ago if I wanted to go traveling I'd probably have told you it was a waste of money and I'm too old for that sort of thing!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Guangzou to Vietnam – the long way round!

14 hour bus trip from Sanming to Guangzou and met up with pete and John. First of all we sorted out my journey to vietnam, or what we thought was the right journey! Turns out there are two places in China called “Pingxiang”, pretty much equidistant from Guangzou, and in pretty much the opposite direction! The only difference is the pronunciation (the most subtle of differences) and sure enough I went to the wrong one! So when I arrived in Pingxiang North and asked a taxi driver to take me to the border of Vietnam he was very confused, took me to the train station and it took a further hour and a few phone calls to Pete to work out the error. There was nothing else to do but laugh about the situation, no point in getting annoyed about it. So the helpful chinese rail staff, who I think felt really sorry for me made sure I got on the right train to Nanning (which was a 16 hour journey) then made sure I got on the right connecting train to the correct Pingxiang on the Vietnam border… for free J. On the train I got chatting to 3 sisters who couldn’t really speak any English but one of them had a train station app on their phone so we managed to get by. Then in Pinxiang I was told that it would take a further 2 days (no matter how much money I threw at it) to get my Vietnam Visa so had to spend two nights there! The first night I went to a KTV place and serenaded the bar staff with a few songs then headed to the only bar in town. On arrival at this place it was like something from a movie, everyone in the place was starring at me from the moment I walked in and didn't stop starring until I sat down with a beer in hand. And speaking of the beer, it was 2.50 a pint so I left after one as I wasn't prepared to pay that sort of money in Asia!

The following day was a complete waste of time, I tried getting a Vietnam map and a phrase book but failed with both of those missions. killed a few hours before heading to the hotel room armed with a cheap bottle of red wine. Turns out this cheap wine was actually really nice so I was chuffed with that. After watching Avatar on my ipod I decided I'd go back to the 2.50 pint place and nurse a couple of beers. As it happened 2.50 was all I needed as I almost immediately was invited over to drink with a group of chinese guys, then after they left I drank with another group of chinese guys and all the while they kept filling up my glass with their own beer rather than mine! Got a bit merry and did some podium dancing for a bit (not sure what possessed me to do that but fuck it!) then sent myself home pleased with a really cheap and fun night.

Next day I headed to the hotel to collect my Visa then grabbed a taxi to the border. It was really weird simply walking over a border (obviously passing through the various passport control stations) then suddenly being in a different country. Got a motorbike taxi to take me to the nearest town where I planned to buy a bike. I was told by a few people there (in a combination of broken English and make shift sign language that I needed to go to the next bigger town to buy a bike. So off I went to Lang Son and was dropped off at a new bike dealership. I was shown various 100cc peds and a couple of second hand bikes and decided on one that cost 400 dollars. So they went off to do the service on it and get it ready to go and meanwhile I sat down with the dealership owners and had lunch with them (for free). By this point about 3 hours had passed and I was getting a little itchy to head off only to be told something about the bike which took about half an hour for me to understand. They couldn't articulate that as it was a weekend they couldn't give me a reg plate until the monday so I'd they suggested that I ride to the next place (Halong Bay) and they would call me on monday and give me the reg plate for me to then somehow get one made in Halong bay. This sounded like it had disaster written all over it so told them that I'd just get a second hand bike instead. Anyway I decided on this 100cc honda bike (not a scooter) which was frankly falling apart and kept stalling when I took it for a test ride but as I'd been waiting for ages and it was only 220 dollars I figured I'd just take it. Besides, what it lacked in reliability it made up with in character :-). During the whole bike purchase process (by this time was like 4 hours) one of the workers had been flirting with me so I asked her out for a meal which I offered to pay for. 8pm came around and she picked me up from my shitty little hotel and took me down the road to this outside street market food place. All the chairs where made for 5 year olds and once again I was being starred at by all the locals. Every few minutes a different friend or family member of hers would show up on their bike and ask me if i liked her and wanted to marry her. This was funny and cute at first but became a bit irritating and awkward by the end. After the night finished she dropped me back to the hotel and off she went without even a friendly hug. She did pay for the meal though (I did offer but she wouldn't take my money) so I can't really complain. Next day I was to set off for Halong Bay but I want to start a new blog in case the internet goes down for some reason.

One EPIC weekend in China - Sanming


I was talked into doing one more training session with my old class of White crane which by this stage only had 2 other guys in the class (as so many people where leaving for the winter). Got taught the rest of the Kata I had been learning and got some tarty photo’s of me and posing. So me, Rob, Billy and Samir (guys from the Kungfu camp) headed off to Sanming to meet up with Dan, Ronnie and Jack who had left earlier that day. Having spent 2 hours in the post office trying to send home Christmas  presents for the family in Taining I eventually had to give up as we had a bus to catch. This was to be the first of many linguistic challenges I was going to face in the coming days! We arrived at Sanming, got settled in the hotel then had some pre-drinks before heading out to the only bar in Sanming (in china they don’t really do bar’s, they just have restaurants and KTV Kareoki places). As usual us westerners where a magnet for Chinese curiosity and where swamped with people offering us beer and dice based drinking games. We all got pretty drink and when the entertainment singer busted out ‘it’s my life’ by Bon Jovi I got up on stage and sang with him J. We then went off to KFC for a bit (5-1) and then bumped into one of the other entertainers from the bar who was as camp as a row of tents at the street market. He dragged us over and offered us yet more beer and kept asking me and Rob “are you happy” which we later thought may have been “are you gay” but he’d taken the literal translation. Rob managed to get a date with his sister so we kept him sweet and played along and played the good old language game, which is basically where you say the most vulgar string of crap and swear words to someone who can’t speak English and watch as they smile and nod as you tell them you have a whale up your arse and want to sleep with their mother!


The next day we nursed a rather large hangover over some western food and various Café’s (Rob is obsessed/addicted to coffee and constantly strives to find decent expresso’s and Late’s in the middle of China!) before heading out again that night. Once again we had some pre drinks at the hotel before heading to a nightclub next door to the hotel that Dan had said was rubbish…. It wasn’t! Oh, in the hotel lobby there was this fat Chinese dude who was hammered drink be carried out (presumably had got pissed at the restaurant on the 5th floor) and was vomiting all over the floor. Bloody hilarious, I wanted to take a photo of him passed out covered in sick but at this point I was on my own and didn’t want to get in a fight with his mates! So me, Samir and Rob went to this club and decided our mission for the night was to get the Chinese hammered and watch them drunk. They have this word called “gambey” which basically means cheers and if you say it you have to neck your beer. So the plan was to get these guys pissed by constantly shouting GAMBEY and then only drinking half the glass of beer but it massively backfired as me and Samir ended up obliterated (Rob doesn’t drink). We ended up in the adjacent KTV with like 30 Chinese guys who were buying us all beers and singing with us (and by us I really just mean me as once again I hogged the mic!). After singing and drinking for like 3 hours we then went back to the club by which time I couldn’t function at all. Apparently it massively kicked off in the club and there was a giant bar fight between what we think where two triad gangs and people where being bottled left right and centre. Now bear in mind that this massive fight was happening no more than 5 metres from me I didn’t see any of it and don’t remember any of it and was only told about it the next day! Not cool being that battered in a strange country so I’ll have to watch out for that in future.

After that we all pretty much headed to the hotel and the next day Rob and I where to head off to Guangzhou before I went to Vietnam…..

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Kung Fu camp – The end is in sight!

Jesus titty fucking Christ I’m battered. And not the good battered that one gets from large quantities of whiskey like I was on Saturday night! My body is aching everywhere and I’ve been off the last couple of days resting!

Ok, so I’ve been a bit shite at keeping this blog up to date whilst I’ve been at the camp, but as I explained before the internet here is balls. The good news for you blog fans out there is that you’ll just get the MOTD highlights of my activities here at the camp (4-1 FT).

Obviously most days here have been spent training, getting up at 5am and training all day and most evenings have been spent chilling watching films. There’s been a couple of nights when we’ve gone to the restaurant at the local village of Shin Show mainly just to get a change of diet from the same meals of rice we get practically every day! We usually get a nice mix of pork ribs, chow Mein, duck heart etc. just to get a fix of protein as the meat at the camp is pretty sparse (insert joke about women being meat here) and it costs around 4 quid so can’t really go wrong. We did have a day when we went to the Golden Lake to see some gay little waterfalls and a Buddhist temple but the weather that day was crap so it wasn’t all that spectacular to be honest.

Weekends are usually spent grabbing the bus to Taining to get battered at the ‘western’ which is as close as you get to a bar here and is named as such as they sell lots of western food, booze and fancy coffees. We usually hit dico’s at least a couple of times as they sell KFC style fast food for under 3 quid J Last Saturday was pretty much the biggest night in terms of alcohol, I remember getting a bottle of grants whiskey to share with this Dutch guy and vomming in the western toilets but not a lot else. Most drunk I’ve been all year. There was another night when we had a few beers and went to this karaoke bar where by I pretty much hogged the mic for about 2 hours solid as no-one else could be arsed to sing. The karaoke bars here are weird, you pay 300 Yuan (30 pounds) between however many people there are in your group (in our case there was about 10 of us) and you get your own room and beers are 5 Yuan each (50p each!). That was a pretty cool night.

Err, so in terms of the training I decided it would be a good idea a few weeks ago to do Sanda Boxing with the Shaolin class (I was doing white crane at the time) and was pitted up against a guy from Bristol who had been here for about 3 months. He battered the hell out of me, so much so that I nearly cried in front of half the school. You see the sparring here isn’t like the sparring I did back in England whereby you were trying to improve your technique and land a few gentle hits on your opponent, the object here is to smash the crap out of your opponent until you win. 3 x 3 minute rounds and by the end of the first round I was seeing stars. Obviously I felt like a total pussy nearly being reduced to tears but I’d never really had a proper battering like that before and it was a real shock to the system. Managed to keep a brave face on though and I don’t think any of the guys clocked that I was welling up (but they did see me get battered though!). After that I was up half the night with shooting pains going up my spine and wasn’t really back to full fitness and confidence for a few days.

Had a web cam chat with H, Andy and Emily which was really nice followed by a web cam chat to mother, trev, Cathy and Chris. So good to speak to peeps from back home and see my family J Dad called me last Saturday too which was really cool to speak to him.

This is my last week here so I decided that I’d got as much as I was going to from White crane and joined Shaolin on Friday. First day in and we did the Taining run which is a run from the camp to the local town – 23k no less! To my shock and delight I managed to do it in 1 hour 58 mins and was utterly chuffed having not really done any long distance running in the last couple of years (and even then the most I’d ever done was 10k which I did in 57 mins). 

Monday came around and I spent the day with the Shaolin class which put me out of action for 2 days! Basically they train far harder in Shaolin and my back and neck took a major beating and needed to be rested. They do 3 5k runs a day, lots of acrobatics and at the end of the day they do squats up these set of stairs then press ups down them 4-6 times. Killed me! Today was my first day back training since my injuries and earlier today I did Shaolin boxing again, and lasted all of 30 seconds before kicking my opponent in the arm and bending my toes back putting me back out of action. Don’t think they’re broken but they’re pretty sore and I can’t put any weight on themL.

So my tickets are booked for the three busses that will take me back to Guangzhou where Pete Hull will be putting me up for a night before heading onto vietFUCKINGnam (Forrest Gump reference there). Frankly I’m really looking forward to getting the hell out of here. Don’t get me wrong, my time at this camp has been brilliant, really beneficial and even more enjoyable than I’d hoped but I’m looking forward to getting back to travelling and seeing some more of the world and chilling out for a while.

Thinking about buying a little motorbike when I get to ‘Nam and riding around like they did on Top Gear but I’m not sure if it requires too much planning, equipment and money. Would be a brilliant experience but I’ll have to do a bit of homework.

Ok, so basically I’m done training now, too injured to carry on today so I’m just going to watch the classes and chill. I’m travelling to Guangzhou with this English guy called Rob (who has over 100 sky dives under his belt!) and we may end up leaving tomorrow as he’s pretty much done with training now and there are some of our mates going to Sanming tomorrow for a night out. Would be nice to get some decent food and to stay in a warm hotel but I’m not sure if it would be better to rest my foot and head off on Sunday instead (which would be a lot cheaper too).

Rambling now. Laters on the menjay.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Rising Dragon Martial Arts School (Week 1.5)

Arrived at the school on Tuesday around 9pm at night. Scott Bird (the owner) had picked me up from the capital Fujou earlier in the day and drove for about 5 hours to get to the camp. On the way through we passed through Taining town which was suprisingly large and developed. I'd put it on par with Wokingham town centre in terms of size and how modern it looked. Met my room mate Dan and first impressions were all good, nice bloke, been here a while so a good person to show me the ropes. He explained that essentially there where 4 classes to chose from. This is my (potentially ignorant!) understanding of the classes:
1) White Crane - this is centered around power and force. it seemed like the most practical option in terms of learning something that could be used in a real life situation rather than busting out fancy jumps and spinning kicks. Around 2/3 of the school does this. As my room mate and neighbours where all in White crane I figured it was a logical place to start. Pretty sure I'm going to stick with it though as it's pretty bad ass!
2) Shaolin - This seems to be centered around fitness and flare. It's still a very powerfull form in terms of how 'hard' it makes someone, but is more for professional ring fights than bar brawls. Lots of horror stories about people crying beause they train so hard (lots of runs, press ups etc) Again, around 2/3 of the school does this.
3) Baji - This seems to be centred around performance of kata's (sets of movements that demonstrate techniques) with and without weapons. only about 4 students do this
4) Tai Chi - This is focused around the control of the body's Qi (chee) and performing set kata's, but basically in slow motion. If you've seen road house I'm pretty sure Swazie performs a Tai Chi kata at one point topless whilst the bad guy watches him. It's a really relaxed martial art but I think the idea is if you can perfect the moves in slow motion then you can use them in real life at full speed. Fuck knows.

So a typical day at the camp is as follows:

5:00 wake up and get ready to kick off at 5:30
5:30 The whole school (all the classes) meet at the shaolin hall to do the morning circuit. Most days it's held by Pierre, who is essentially a robot. This guy is 27, ripped to fuck and hard as nails. The class varies from day to day to excersize different parts of the body eg upper body, legs, abs. A couple of times we've done something different though like one day we did conditioning (where you smack forearms and legs into each other to make your body 'tougher' or this morning when we did akido type holds and arm locks (for self defence). Not only is it fucking early in the morning, but it's also the hardest thing we do all day!
6:00  Class starts, so as I'm in white crane we meet on the area of concrete outside the rooms and start off with Qi Gong. This is a series of movements to get the fundamental body possions and stances corrrect. It's pretty cool to do neo meditation as the sun rises looking out to the hills and vallys below.
6:30 Line drills. We all line up and go up and down the concrete area doing different kicks, chops, punches etc. Can't really explain what we do without demonstrating, but if you've ever done a martial art class you'll know what I mean! It's really good for muscle memory of the different attacks and combos.
7:30 Breakfast. As with every meal, get there quick and be ruthless otherwise you go hungry! They sit all the students around 4 circular tables 8 or so to each table and put 2 bowls in the middle, one with scrambled egg and tomatoes and the other with chips. The egg one gets battered first then the chips. everyone has chop sticks so if you don't have ninja chop stick skills you're fucked!
8:00 Morning break. I usually take this time to go for a crap and grab 40 minutes sleep.
9:00 Class re-convenes at the basket ball court. White crane then go off and do sprints which is basically 300 metres jog, 200 meteres run and 100 metres sprint four times without a break between. I come 3rd last to this litte kid called Jimmy and the stoner Billy who is mashed most days. Ahead of me is always Jackson (really cool aussie guy who is letting me use his laptop right now!), Samir and Jack (these two always come as a package, really cool 19 year old guys from england who are a good laugh) Dan (my room mate) and Scott (full timer who has been at the camp for 18 months and has arms like steel posts!
9:30 We go through a series of stretches to limber up each part of the body. this lasts about 20 minutes. Then we do knuckle push ups (on concrete!), jumps, running on the spot and punches for the last 10 minutes.
10:00 conditioning, ok, so as I mentioned earlier conditioning is basically getting your body used to being hit. The idea is to strengthen the bones and muscles that are frequently hit during a fight like forearms (during blocks) legs (to stop getting 'dead legs' aka grandad's), chest, abs and forehead. As I type I have a cut on my knuckles from the press ups on conrete (designed to toughen up the fists) and rather large brusing on my forearem from the conditioning. If you go to the rising dragon facebook page there are loads of videos of people smashing arms with each other and at some point i'll try and get a video up of me getting knocked about! DO NOT DO CONDITIONING WITH SCOTT HE WILL CAUSE YOU PAIN! I did slaps with him which is designed to condition your abs. You basically tense your abs as much as you can and the other person issues a palm punch to them. Then you return the favour. I think I actually managed to beat the record against scott the other day of surviving 7 of them from him! Probably cus me and chall always do it when we're drunk!
11:30 break. No time for sleep so I usually just chat or kick a football about with the guys.
12:00 Lunch. Again, survival of the fastest with the old chop sticks! Massive bowl of rice for everyone (more than enough to go around) and 2 bowls per table of 8/9 people, one with meat and veg and the other with just  veg. Everyone just hen picks out the meat at warp speed (no time to chew!), then eats the veg with the rice. Bassically it's all about getting your fix of protien to build your muscles that you're constantly battering!
12:30 Longest break of the day, either watch a film on my ipod, hit the computer room, go for a sleep or take a walk to the near by village for supplies.
2:30 Meet at the basket court and go for a jog. We either go to the waterfall or up the hill and back. Only about a 20 minute jog either way and the same order as earlier in terms of finishing possitions!
3:00 Meet in the 'red man room' (so called as there's a big red dummy there with no arms that we practise hitting to get used to the techniques) and go through the same stretching and pressup routine from the morning. After we're finished with that we do some more conditioning only this time we tend to do it against objects rather than each other. There's the red man for doing combos and strikes against, the wooden dummy which if you've ever seen an old kung fu movie there's usually a scene where the hero hits these wooden blocks at warp speed with different blocks and chops, a bucket of gravel to grind your fists into, a couple of padded walls to punch and a weights room to condition your wrists with (and to work out outside of class hours if you like).
4:00 Break
4:30 FInal half an hour doing form, basically our kata. Only as we're in white crane our form consists of about 10 moves which we do over and over and over again and never seem to learn anything else. Sightly tedious but I suppose necceary for getting the fundamental stances correct.
5:00 Finish. Usually a good opertunity to do washing, tidy your room or have a shower
6:00 Diner. Basically exactly the same as lunch!

Ok, running out of time and you're probably a bit bored of reading all this so I'll give you some more details on what I've been doing day to day and at the weekends another time.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

China - the journey to kungfu

Just to set the scene, it's 7pm on the second day of my month here at the kungfu camp, every muscle in my body is on fire, my knuckles are cut (from doing press ups on concrete) and I'm shattered from these 5am starts and lack of protein. Having said all that, this is exactly what i expected and hoped for and I'm having a fantastic time here! 

I'll start with my development in India that I was being coy about. I wanted to let the mother unit (hi mum!) know via message before she found out on here, but I got a phoenix tattoo done in Goa. I did loads of research first to make sure I went to a good and clean place and put a fair amount of thought into the design. It's a bit wanky, but the symbolism of a phoenix rising from the flames and starting a fresh symbolism what I'm doing now. I was in a pretty bad place last year so traveling has really helped me start a fresh with something new. The design itself is about 8inches long and i've posted the sesign on facebook. I don't want to post any photo's of it yet as it's still peeling and healing so it wouldn't do it justice :-)

The journey from Goa to Singapore was a bit of a mission, got a taxi with a couple of other Indians who had pulled 3 day sickies from their bar jobs in Mumbai just to go to goa with these French girls they'd met! They must have spent about a years worth of wages chasing that bit of skirt around! Bless. Train to mumbai was pretty cramped and minging but i had my tunes and films to keep me occupied. Bex, that ipod you sold me is a god send! :-) Arrived in Mumbai at about midnight and saved some money by sleeping at the airport on the floor of the waiting room. Again, a couple of vally and I slept like a log! 

Arrived in Singapore the next day after a skinfull on the plane (took full advantage of the free booze on the flight!) and decided to treat myself to a hotel for the night. Went to some karaoke places and the only song I recognized was Madonna "power of goodbye" which is one of my favorite songs (and I'd like it played at my funeral by the way) but not really that easy to sing so I sounded like a right mug. A RIGHT MUG! 2-1.Singapore was really clean and pretty (as expected) but I didn't spend long there as I plan to go back on my way through to Australia.

Got a taxi back to the airport the next morning and flew to Hong kong (watched thor the plane which was a great little movie!). Arrived in Hong kong and made my way to the hostel I'd booked into. Bumped into a fellow traveler on the street outside the hostel who was looking for the same place (a swiss guy called Ulrich) so we managed to find teh place. We were told that the hostel was fully booked and I realized I'd booked the following day (it was some trade fare that night so all the hostels were booked). So I managed to blag us to stay at the hostel opposite and we headed out into town to see the sights. Ulrich had spent a few months here previously so he knew his way round really well. Saw the HSBC tower and the Tower from the dark night and they looked sweet all lit up at night. Went out to the main party zone and it was manic due to Halloween. Instead of spending loads in teh bars we just went between the 7 11's (the chinese equivalent of a co-op) and bought a beer in each. 

The next morning we went to meet Ulrich's Chinese mate for lunch which was really nice then went back to the main tourist places. Rode the ferry across the island and saw the bruce lee statue and all the stars with their hand prints in concrete (like Hollywood only for Chinese films!). Hong Kong was pretty similar to Singapore really, developed, modern and pretty. Walked past a couple of Indian guys trying to sell fake watches and it reminded me how annoying India was. Really wanted to spark them as they don't go away until you tell them 'no' like 5 times. Thought I'd got over all that! Managed to get the train to Guangzhou that afternoon (by the skin of my teeth!) and met Pete at the station. Really nice to speak to someone who could speak casual English (most of the other people I've met have been European or Australian) so it's nice to bust out slang with-ought having to explain what the words mean. Pete has it pretty sweet in China, he has a slamming Chinese misses and I think he's on relatively good money compared to the cost of living so he's laughing. 

Next day we had to make our way to another town (can't remember the name of it) to get the train to Sanming (for the kung fu camp). We went to loads of Chinese restaurants and a fast food place and ate like kings all day! Also saw half a dog's carcass strung up at one of the restaurants so snapped a photo of me stood next to it! Booked the tickets and phoned the owner of the camp (Scott) to let him know and he said to change them to Fuzhou as he was already in that city. Easier said than done! The ticket place said that I had to do it on the train and when it came to explaining that I wanted to stay on the train past Sangming to get to Fuzhou no-one spoke any english. Had to call Pete's mate and have him explain it to the ticket guard about 3 times! 

So eventually arrived at Fuzhou and had to kill some time before meeting Scott met me so I decided to get some decent running trainers. Couldn't pay by card and couldn't get any money out of the cash machine either but fortunately I had packed some emergency US dollars that they excepted instead :-). It was a 5 hour drive to the camp and on arrival I was immediately chuffed with the place. Met my room mate who had been there 3 months and is a really nice bloke and went to sleep pretty rapidly as we had to be up at 5am the next morning! This internet connection is starting to play up so I'll write more at the weekend. Right now I'm off to bed! 5am start in the morning.... again!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Goa, Goa, Gone!

Sup fan base! This entry lacks any trace of class/culture (not that my other have any!) and is basically like an episode of Geordie Shores. With that in mind, read at your own risk!

Been living it up in Goa for the last 9 days and frankly I'm ready to move on. I won't give you the usual day by day breakdown as I really haven't done any thing exciting enough to warrant it! Mostly I've been partying on Tito road (which is the party capital of Baga, where I'm staying) and spending that majority of my time at this killer bar/club called Cape Town. I've met some pretty awesome people here in the evenings but the day times have been a bit dull. The Majority of people here (i'd say 90%) are either Indian's on holiday or Russians. English speaking people are hard to come by but the advantage is that they're all really pleased to meet each other as we're sick of Russians! The Russians are ok, but they can't really speak much English so it makes conversations basic and frustrating.

The first few days I spent here where slightly out of town and I met up with Some English people who were staying in Anjuna (down the road from Baga) so I took my scooter (shorts and T-shirt only!) there and spent the night out with those lot. We had a pretty cool night at this resteraunt on the beach and had some pretty impressive seafood. After that we went on to this Trance rave and throw some shapes. The Essex girl I was after was all over this other guy (who was far better looking than me!) so it was a choice between the fat girl who was flirting with me and bed. I elected the latter option!

A few days later I moved hostel to a place really near to Tito's road (the party strip) and met some Ukraine girls who were well into their yoga. They were waking up at 5am and doing yoga on the beach so I met with them and they showed me some moves. One of them was 27 and had a slamming body, spoke really good English but I think she may have been carpet munching with the other one as she didn't seem that interested in me (Surely if she wasn't interested in me she was a lesbian?!). Anyway they convinced me to end my wicked ways, renounce alcohol and get fit for the Kungfu camp.

That lasted all of a day before I got bored, knocked back some whiskey and headed down to Cape Town! Watched some football and met this cracking bloke called Billy, a 60 year old 3 times divorcee who was the life and soul of every bar he went to! He was the ultimate wing man, he had the balls to go and chat with any group of girls then introduce me and as he was faithfully married to his wife back home (and 60 of course!) I could take over from there! Met loads of cool people that night and spent the majority of the night chatting up this tidy Russian girl who looked a bit like that bird from 'In Bruges' until one of her country men muscled in and took over. Frankly we were running out of things to talk about anyway as her grasp of the English language only went so far! Chatted to a few other girls that night; an actress from Reading who was doing some bollywood films over here, a couple of girls from Norway who are really cute (and coincidentally say next to me now!) and a mixed crowd from walse/liverpool/Holland/Germany who were here on some organized trip.

The next day I chilled on the beach all day, got a bit cooked then went back to Cape Town to watch the rather key Manchester Derby. I was cheering on Manu as Billy (the old guy) was so that wasn't a great result! A cracking match though. After that Billy and I headed to this place he knew (he goes to Goa 2 or 3 times a year!) and had, I shit you not, the best steak of my life. I've eaten at a top Steak restaurant in London that charges a small fortune for their steak and it wasn't as good as this 3 quid fillet steak! That night I hooked up with one of the Welsh girls from the organized crowd and went back to mine for some desert!

Yesterday I had a rather eventful evening but I won't divulge that just yet. I need to go through the correct channels before I publicly make an announcement!

Right, off to China soon, the next 5 nights will be spent in Goa, then Mumbai, then Singapore, then HongKong then Guangzhou so I've got a busy week coming up, Looking forward to getting to the Kungfu camp and doing something a bit more interesting/rewarding.  

Friday, 21 October 2011

Agra (The Taj Mahal)

Arrived in Agra and met up with the girls at this place the lonely planet recommended. Unfortunately it had sold out so after a couple of hours fannying around finding another place we eventually ended up at another place that beth and Ross had suggested which was pretty good. Booked some train tickets for the next day on this super express train that only took 2 hours to get from Agra to Delhi but after booking them I realized that I’d selected the wrong option and was on the waiting list. In hindsight that would have been fine but at the time I was annoyed at myself for cocking up everyone’s tickets and potentially having to take a long ass bus or train journey.

Woke up super early to catch the sunrise at the Taj (apparently that’s the best time to see it). Took some killer photo’s there including some world class pics of Tig there (which was pretty much the only reason why I came to Agra!).  Tarted around at the taj for a while photo bombing random tourists (which is where you walk behind someone/a group of people who are getting their photo taken and pulling a funny face at the camera) then headed back. The Taj itself was pretty unimpressive on the inside but it is pretty magnificent from the outside. After that we grabbed some lunch, got the train tickets from the station (‘waiting’ again, but was assured it would be fine) and went to Agra fort to piss around and feed some squirrels (see photos!). Had a bit of a barney with the tuk tuk drivers over the price to take us to the station (basically it was a lot more than we had agreed earlier that day) but eventually they won and we had our pants pulled down (I was trying to argue the case but the other guys couldn’t be arsed so we just got on with it!). The train ride to Delhi was a dream, we were in AC2 which had massive comfy seats and a meal (Thali once again!) and only took 2 hours. Checked in at a hotel in Delhi (that was pretty scummy but really cheap and had an early night.

Well the power has gone in this internet cafe so I'm sweating my nuts off. I'm in Goa (and have been for the last couple of days) so I'll update you all on my Goan adventures soon. Peace out.



Arrived in Jaipur and for once didn’t have any issues with picking a place to stay. We had been recommended this place called Yogi’s by Beth and Ross (who we met in Udaipur) which was a cracking little place. First thing we did was head to Macdonalds for some well earned junk food! Then we went off to the local fort and then to this gay little astronomy museum thing but by that stage I was too tired and hot to take in any more culture. Went back to the hostel and chilled for a while before heading out to the biggest cinema in India to watch Rascals. Wade stayed back at the hotel as he was still ill. Only watched half of it as it was the biggest pile of corney shit I’ve ever seen (plus I didn’t understand what they were saying!). Bollywood movies are so weird, they have some lose plot intermingled with MTV music videos like a modern musical. All the acting was massively over the top and all the people in the cinema get well into the film (woop and cheer at their favorite actors).

The girls went off to this other fort outside of town that had some monkeys and stuff. Wade and I couldn’t be arsed so chilled all day and watched into the wild and slumdog and booked our bus to Agra for the next day. Stocked up on Val again and this time bought 50 tablets for less than I bought 10 at the last place! The girls arrived back with a couple of Indian guys in the Tuk tuk and they were desperately trying to get rid of them (they had been trying their luck with them all day) so Wade and I pretended to be their boyfriends. One of them Semi jokingly squared up to me and told me that he was her boyfriend not me so I brushed him to one side (these Indians are pussies when it comes to it!) put my arm around Nic and walked her into the hotel like a boss (although that still didn’t help my chances!) That night we chilled on the roof of the hotel and drank some beers.


Fuck me I'm behind on these blogs! Been doing a lot of traveling around recently and this is the first time in a while I've been on my own.

Arrived in Jaisalmere and met up with the two Aussie girls we met in Judpur (Duke and Nick). Duke’s real name is actually Julie but for some reason I couldn’t seem to ever remember it and could only remember the name of her dog! Anyway, the four of us met up and spent about 4 hour deciding what Camel safari we wanted to do (Jaisalmere is located on the west coast of India and is surrounded by desert). We eventually went with this pretty seedy looking outfit as Wade liked the guy there. The girls weren’t overly happy about the choice but as one of the people we were doing the safari with said “you either buy shit here or shit there, it’s all just the same shit!”. After a somewhat stressed and heated few hours we headed to the fort to grab some dinner and chill out. I decided to buy this heap of shit Indian Guitar thing (not a sitair, some other shoudy pile of wank) as I figured we could have a sing along in the desert (it seemed pretty simple to play). Anyway piece of shit guitar thing in hand we headed up to this resteruant that overlooked Jaisalmere and kicked back and ordered some beers to unwind. The chef came over and promided that his Thali was the best in India. Turns out he was right! It was absolutely gorgous and we had a really nice evening listening to tunes and chatting. I was trying to bust some moves on Nic as she was insanely cute but I’ll save you the suspence and having spent a week with the girls DNC’d (did not close).

Woke up early doors and headed off in our jeep to the camels. I asked the dude what my camel was called and he told me it was called camel. Not sure if that was a language thing or what but it amused me. Off we went (me, Wade, Duke, Nic and this other couple) on our camels with the dune coons leading us along. They stopped every now and again to pick wild melons from the ground to give to us which was pretty cool. After a while we stopped for some veggy currie and chapattis which the camel jockey’s made from scratch. The women in the couple was mildly cretonnes as she’d done a bit of travelling so was giving me patronizing advise on places they’d been etc. She was a personal trainer so had all these cookey ideas about what was safe and what wasn’t. Having given me a lecture about eating street food and swimming in Udaiper lake she then went on to say that she hadn’t taken any vaccines or malaria medication which I thought was pretty fucked up. After lunch we carried on trucking away on the camels and stopped in at a little village and bought some cokes from the kids there (which after a full day trecking in the desert was bliss!). Eventually we arrived at the dunes and the sand bandits set about cooking up some grub (which was pretty shite to be honest!). Took some sunset and safari style photos and I tried to meditate for a bit before getting narked off with the flies harassing me! Me and the girls popped a couple of valium (which is readily available in India everywhere!) and nailed some whiskey.
We spent the night cuddled up together and woke up the following to some to some breaky cooked up by the sand people. Off we went again on the camels and stopped in at this little school in the middle of the desert to play with the kids there. The little blighters where so sweet but kept asking for money and school pens. We had a good joke around with them and taught them how to give high fives! That was pretty much the last stop on the safari so we went back to the town via jeep, had a shower and off we went via coach to Judpur.

Friday, 14 October 2011



This shouldn't take long to write as Judpur was a bit of a dump. We arrived pretty tired and grouchy, walked around for a bit then went back to the hostel. Same old shit in the markets, annoying salesmen trying to flog shit. I was craving meat so Wade and I grabbed a tuk tuk to 'chicken corner'. The food was amazing but all the locals there where staring at us the entire time and one Indian dude sat opposite Wade was winking and blowing kisses at his which weirded him out big time! I'm starting to think that Wade is a bit of a batty magnet! Maybe they just like his rugged surfer hair. Maybe he just looks like a bumder! Who knows!


Wad got proper ill from the chicken the night before and was wretching most of the day. I met up with some Aussie girls who where pretty cute and we agreed to go to the Fort together. Wade bless him soldiered through and walked around the fort with us but kept having to visit the gents. The tour itself was pretty interesting and the audio guide was in good English. Then we went bak to town and had an omlete from The omlete man which was off the hook (very good) and a lassi from a recommended place. Then we went back to the fort and did a flying fox ( which was absolutely amazing. Proper long zip wires (I'll upload the videos and pics at some point) and cracking views. I'm off to treat myself to a macdonalds now so I'll write about the Camel safari e did in Jaisalmere another time. By the way, I'm now in Jaipur.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


Arrived in Udaiper having had a surprisingly good amount of sleep on the train. Udaiper is situated on this massive lake and all the hostels have cracking views of it and the mountains in the distance. Grabbed a tuk tuk to the hostel Joe had recommended back in Mumbai. The driver was desperately trying to get us to go to a hostel he said was really good (which they all try to do as they have commission arrangements with certain hostels). Anyway, we looked at this hostel (which turns out wasn't the one Joe had recommended) and they were quoting 2200 rupis a night which we were having none of! So we let mr tuk tuk (khaun) take us to his hostel he was recommending as it was near to the dream heaven which the lonely planet recommended. The dream heaven didn't have any rooms so we went for this place and it was only 600 rupis a night for an AC room with a balcony. Went for a cracking lunch at Jasmine (lonely planet recommended) which had a really chilled vibe and decent food. We were itching for a drink so wondered to the off licence and bought a 70cl bottle of whiskey for 300 rupis (4 quid). Stepped in a big old lump of cow shit and had to clean off my sandels in the lake (and probably caught aids). Headed back to the hostel and chilled for a couple of hours before going to a resteraunt by the lake. The restaurant had a cracking view and the food was top notch. In hindsight it was a wee bit expensive but the equivalent of a tenner back home for 2 beers each and enough food to feed 3 people. Wade was a bit down about missing his girlfriend back home so I was doing my best to cheer him up. I explained that I knew someone back home who had gone travelling in Australia and ended up leaving after a couple of weeks cus he missed his girlfriend back home and always regretted it as they ended up breaking up shortly after anyway. Think that helped a lot and by the morning and a good nights sleep he was back to his spritely self.

Having had a pretty lazy day the day before we decided we'd go out exploring the town. Started off by spending a couple of hours at the internet cafe then headed to the dream heaven to see if they had any rooms going. Got chatting to 3 aussie girls who had been in India for a couple of months and more importantly had been in Udaiper for 6 days so gave us loads of good tips. Headed off to the temples and we started getting the hang of the locals constantly harassing us and turned it into a bit of a game with them. We walked around all afternoon and had such a great laugh. Went to this temple and got a cracking pic of tiggs by this hindu statue on the sneak. Then we went next door to this run down temple that didn't have anyone in it. It was much better as we could walk anywhere and take photos without feeling guilty about offending anyone. This helpful official looking guy who worked there took us around and told us all about the temple and had a laugh with us at the naughty karma sutra carvings. Wade asked him "do you do karma sutra?" and he replied "i'm married" so presumably he means no! That night we met up with a couple we met in the internet cafe (Ross and Beth) for a few drinks. The resteraunt/bar we went to was suggested to us by the owner who we bumped into earier in the day and we had barted drinks for 120rps a beer. Got there and asked how much a beer was and they said 250rps each! We told him he was having a laugh and we threatened to leave unless he gave them for 120 each and he soon cracked. The negotiating here is hilarious! Stayed for a few jars then went on to this place called Pushkas and the guys there don't care if you smoke special cigerates in the bar and you can put your own tunes on. Had a cool quote on the wall saying "we're all here cus we're not all there" which I really like.  On the walk back Wade tried to ride a cow (they just wonder around the streets) but it wasn't too happy about it. Then we heard some loud music ritual banging from a place near our hostel so the guys let us get involved and we got blessed by the holy man there.

Best day in India so far. Bumped into this Manc guy called Micheal who recomended we head to this museli place down the road. loads of fruit and yoguart and this thing was the balls. He took about half an hour to make it but that was only cus he put so much love into it. After that we went to find a swimming pool, tried a few places that were talking 300rps but eventually found a place for 100rps. It was actually the first place that tuk tuk man took us (the really expensive hotel) and it was really chilled there. They had 3 turtles just bopping around the grass. I decided to splash out on a full body massage which cost me 950rps (15 quid). It was naked which was a bit uncomfortable. The masseuse (who looked like an India Mr Bean) kept brushing past my junk which weirded me out a bit. After that we went for a cooking course which was amazing. It's run by this sweet old india woman who is recommended as the best thing to in Udaiper by trip adviser and lonely planet. We cooked everything from pakoras to curries to naan bread and at the end we sat and ate all we'd cooked. Got back on a real high having had such a cracking day and realised I'd left my ipod at the bar the night before. I was spitting feathers as it's one of the most important things I have (second only to my wallet and tiggs). Went to the bar and after I'd identified it as being in a leather wallet he handed it over. I could have kissed him I was so happy! Bought the guy a beer to say thanks and explained that the night before we'd been blessed at the ritual and told him that I thought I was blessed (they love all that).


Met up with the Aussie girls we hung around with at the pool the day before and grabbed a tuk tuk to the boat place to get a trip around the palace lake. Having already swam in the lake a few days prior (I can't remember what day it was) it kinda took the adventure out of it but it we still had some pretty views of the palace on the lake. After that we got chatting to some Indian kids and convinced them to let us ride their motorbikes about for a bit which was a good laugh. Bit dodge rocking a bike in just shorts and a beater (no helmet!) but when in Rome and all that! Then we walked up this hill and convinced some locals that Wade was Ricky Pointings son so they all took photos with him and where really impressed. It's got to the stage now where every fucker we meet is lying to us to scam money so we might as well just lie back! Got this cable car up to the top of that mountain and sat drinking whiskey looking out at Udiper lit up at night which was beautiful. We spent about 3 hours up there just soaking it in and chatting and it was so nice to get some peace and quite for once. By the time we where done there where no tuk tuk drivers to take us home so we asked this 'helpful' local guy to take us back on the back of his motorbike. 3 up! He tried grabbing Wades junk and feeling up his leg on the way back so Wade wasn't too pleased with that!


Aimlessly wondered around udiper for a while and chilled at the hotel for most of the day until the evening. Met a couple of french girls at this fancy Restaurant (one of which was insanely hot!) and chatted to them for a while. The next day we agreed to met up to got up to monsoon palace which cost us a fair amount. and wasn't all that great to be honest. Grabbed a bus to Jodpur that night which was pretty uncomfortable but having popped a couple of valium I was out like a light!

In Summary, Udiper was fucking quality. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Mumbai: What a dump!

This is where the adventure really starts. I was absolutely bricking it the morning of flying from Bahrain to Mumbai. Literally the only white person on the plane over. Arrived in Mumbai on Friday and got greeted at the airport by a rep from the hostel I was staying at the first night. I was really skeptical about him as the email warned of people posing to be from the hostel and charging them loads to stay at another place. He walked me through this seedy car park t the road and flagged down a tuk tuk. I grilled him a bit on the booking but I was still worried. Anyway, we both jumped into the tuk tuk and set off towards the hostel. The ride there was fucking mental, I thought the roads in Bahrain where bad but they don't even come close. At one point the tuk tuk driver hit a speed bump/pot hole at full speed by accident and I nearly bounced off the roof. He looked at me in the mirror with a big grin on his face and just did the Indian head wobble (which I still haven't figured out what it means!) Arrived at the hostel and check in and there was a pretty cute American girl (Errin) staying there. We ventured into the street to grab some dinner at a restaurant. Had a couple of strong beers and exchanged war stories. Went back to the hostel and chatted/flirted a bit more and it turns out she's got a boyfriend back home. Of course she didn't tell me that until after I lent over to kiss her! Bloody prick tease! Anyway she cleared off the next morning and I met the other people staying there. There was Joe from Manchester, Lyndsy from Oxford and Nat+Hayley from near Bristol. I was really lucky to have all English speaking people who were really cool as it set me up nicely for the rest of the trip. Later that evening Errin and I wondered out to the street as there was a bit of a festival going on. Not sure what it was for but they were all doing this line dance thing in a circle which we got involved with. Then we went and paid homage to She-ra (sheeva) by chucking popcorn at a statue of her and praying for a bit. Really cool that the locals where all so keen to let us get involved.


Woke up early and headed off to be an extra in a bollywood movie called House Full 2. Me, Joe and Lyndsy got picked up by a rep from the studio and he took us to the station via tuk tuk. It was rush hour so they where cramming into the train like Sardines. We had to let the first 3 trains go because they were just too busy. Eventually got on and had to throw some elbows to get off the other side! Got to the studio and we had to put on these cheesy retro outfits (see my pics on FB). Then we hung around for about 3 hours before eventually going into the set. There was loads of other people from near by hostels and I got chatting to this Aussie guy called Wade who I'm now travelling with (as he's going to the same places as me). The filming was  boring and the director was a major dick head who kept shouting at us. We decided we were bored at around 2 (having spent 5 hours there) and told the organizer that we needed to go as we had a train to catch. He got on the phone to the agency and the agent told me if we leave early we won't get paid. Bear in mind we were being paid 500 rupis (about 8 quid) for 13 hours work I told him I really didn't care about the money! The guys who didn't leave early had to stay until 10pm and went out after for a few drinks (which I was a bit gutted about missing). So me, Joe and Lyndsy headed back to the hostel and ordered some Indian take away and had a chilled one.


As all of the people from my hostel left the previous night (to various destinations) I decided to head over to the hostel (salvation army) that some of the people from the filming where staying at. It was a third of the price (225 rps as apposed to 800rps at the place I was at) so I figured it was a no brainier. The new hostel, the Salvation Army, was conveniently located near most of the tourist sites in Mumbai (the church gate, the grand univercity, the court house etc) but was the biggest shit heap I've ever stayed at. I'm still itching now from all the bed bugs that where feasting on my skin and I was kept up most of the night by snoring, dogs barking and car horns beeping. Met some more cool people there and didn't actually manage to meet the people from the filming (which was a shame cus one of them was really cute!). Went for a wonder to the church gate which was fairly unimpressive and tried to walk to the western coast to watch the sunset. I decided I was going to use the sun to guide me but instead of walking to the western most point, I ended up at the southern most point! Fail! got a taxi to take me to the  'Grand University' and court house which were just standard buildings and then wondered to the coast. I sat on this wall overlooking the sea among hundreds of other people, put my ipod in and watched the sun set which was really nice. It was the first time I could relax and enjoy india without the constant drone of horns, beggars and hustlers. Got a taxi back to the hostel and headed out to grab some food at one of the lonely planet recommended places. All the food India has been top notch and bloody cheap. It's shame that so many people are out to get your money as the ones who just want to have a chat you blank or try to get rid off as you think it's going to be a scam. That night I got hardly any sleep and woke up the following morning on a mission to get the hell out of mumbai.

Met up with Wade who was firmly of the same opinion that he'd had enough of Mumbai and we jumped on a train to Udaiper. I don't want to give him too much of an ego boost in case he reads this but Wade is by far the coolest guy I've met travelling so far. We just talk shit and have a laugh without ever feeling uncomfortable or needing to try to force conversation. The journey to Udaiper would have really sucked if it hadn't been for him. The first 8 hours of the trip where on a sitting train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad (which we nick named I'm a bad ass). Wade decided he wanted to go budget on the train so we where in with all the riff raff in fairly crowded and uncomfortable seats. Got chatting to this cool guy who spoke really good English and he gave us great info on places to go and how long to spend in each area. We arrived in Ahmedabad at 11pm and for the first time I felt threatened queuing up to inquire about what platform to take. I was the second guy in the queue and a local pushed in front of me. I tried shoulder barging him out the way and telling him to go behind me but he was having none of if. I had my big bag on my back and Wade was in another queue. I looked behind me and there was 4 crusty looking blokes who gave me a shit eating aggressive looking grin and I decided it wasn't worth it so walked away. The second part of the journey was on a sleeper train which was the budget class again. There was 6 people in the carriage and we were on the top bunk. We thought it best to keep our bags on us in the bed so it was rather cramped. Managed to get  bit of sleep though and woke up at Udaiper station.

I'm sat in an Internet cafe in Udaiper and it's really nice here. I'll write some more another day as I've been sat here for ages now!