So you want to travel the world?

Macchu 1

*** this piece is part of a larger series on my travel writing, called the ‘Travel Thai-aries®’  It is best to start here before going any further. ***

Wifey and I just got back from a wonderful trip to Peru.  It was just amazing, but no surprise.  People tend to have the same reaction > I wanna go to Peru, too!

No you don’t.  You don’t want to go to Peru.  You want to be in Peru.  See, going to Peru is quite a pain in the ass, and some high level tedium as well.  You wanna just GO to Peru, I’ll take you right now.  We’ll do a virtual reality adventure.

seans back

Is that Peru?  Did we make it to Lima?  Are we at Machu Picchu yet?  I have no idea, because this is all I saw for 2 weeks.

See that?  It’s a headrest and the back of someone’s head.  That is pretty much your view for the next 12 hours.  Oh, there are variations to be sure, but mostly this will be your trip.  Perhaps you think “oh, to be the guy up front.  At least he gets the cool view.”  Wrong.  First off, he is very tall, so this whole trip will be misery on his body.  Secondly?  You don’t really EVER want to see the view straight ahead when traveling outside the US.  Everywhere outside the US they drive like maniacs.  Somehow it works, but it is terrifying.

Do you really want the view up front in a greyhound when the greyhound decides to pass into oncoming traffic on a split highway round blind corners in the cloud forest of Costa Rica?  No, you do not.  Because you don’t want to see that bus coming at you at 60, and your driver’s solution is NOT to get back into his lane, but to honk at the idiot who is driving down the mountain in their own lane.  When it’s not that, there just may be a cow on the highway that you don’t see until its too late.  Or, fires right in the road.

Somehow, it always works out.  But, I have learned in traveling a decent chunk of the world to stick with the view out the windows.  Sideways is your friend, I promise.

Slow down, that was just the long ass drive to the airport at 5 am.  Scroll back up to that picture and sit down and stare at it for 45 minutes.   DO IT!  You want to travel, this is the deal.  Ok, airport time.  Ready for lines, asshole? You better be.  Now that you are traveling international, expect LOTS of scrutiny and lines everywhere.

lines of peru

That is the wifey ahead of me in line.  I actually had writing this piece in mind before we left. This is why I am prepared with seemingly dumb photos and perspectives.   Why we are deck out in jackets to head to the jungle?  Because we had to get up at 3 am and stand in that freezing ass Pike’s Peak parking lot to wait for the shuttle bus.  Also, after a week in the beautiful but hot ass jungle, our next stop was Machu Picchu at 12K feet.  Don’t worry, we were only there for a few hours.  You don’t get those photos.  You get to see what the real aspect of travel is > just lines and buses.

Ok, security is done.  Once again, paying that $75 for ‘pre’ was WAY worth it.  Even though I only fly a few times a year… it is worth it.  It gets you relaxed security protocols, and a secret much shorter line.  I am loathe to endorse any aspect of TSA, but this program is worth its weight in teeny tiny airline bottles of booze that are hidden all over my person.

seatback plane

This is nice.  The stressful part is over for a long time.  Now, we sit!  You want to go to Peru?  Ok.  Stare at this picture for 6 hours.  Surely, for a 6 hour flight across the continent and the equator will have TVs and movies and charging ports for USB, right?  Not this cheap ass plane.  This was our flight to Panama.  I get it, these are first world problems.  Who am I to bitch about world travel?  I am Correct, that’s who!  Scroll back up.  Remember, stare at that seat for 6 hours.  You are totally free to sleep, just don’t get up.  You can’t.  Once the 6 hours has elapsed, you may continue reading.

Because I am kind, and wisely looped on valium and booze, we can skip ahead.  We now need to get on our third plane today.  The first one went from Colorado to Panama.  The next was Panama to Lima, Peru.  This last one was Lima, Peru to Puerto Maldonado.  This was not exactly supersonic modern travel.  Here, I snuck a picture of this janky ass plane.

sketch plane puerto maldonado

Ok, we made it!  Well, not really, but the air travel part is over.  Let’s jump to this part.  Please stare at this for 45 more minutes.  Don’t get up.  And don’t be concerned that the idea this thing we travel over is barely a ‘road’ by any stretch.

the road

We were in an old Land Cruiser.  It looked SO cool, but as a ride was horrible.  The suspension was shot, no seatbelts, and a door that didn’t totally close.  Go ahead and put a camping chair on your washing machine.  Then put one of those really heavy rugs in the washing machine that makes it freak out off balance.  You know, when you can hear the machine from upstairs… and you go down to check on it and it has walked about 5 feet away from where it was?  Yeah, that is your drive from the airport.

Ok. Time for a well earned break.  95% of our travel is done.  We made it to the headwaters of the Amazon fucking river!  How cool is this.  This photo is taken nearing the confluence of the Madre De Rios river, and the Tambopata river.  Here is the photo most would post.  This is the Instagram influencer photo.

madre de dios 1
it was stunning.  We are finally here!  We are on the river of the headwaters of the amazon river in the jungle in Peru.  This picture isn’t the whole story, though.  It is some clever selection of what I want to show you.  Here is a more accurate portrayal, taken standing in the exact same spot.  You see, this below is what the world looks like. You won’t find it in any travel books or commercials, though.

madre de dios 2

This is not a criticism of Peru.  Their streets were cleaner than hours.   Just keep in mind for every single shot like the top one, this one right here is the one you aren’t seeing.  The one they are likely standing on to take that other shot.

Ok, more driving.  I pictured this.  This was the drive described in the brochure.

the road 1

Ha ha ha, you dummy.  No, your 2 hour drive will be this.

the road

Yes, you feel all in touch with your human roots now.  Most tours don’t let you see this stuff.  That is why we don’t do tours.  We craft our own adventure.  In the business, they call it ‘independent traveling’, and they don’t like it.  Anyhow, I didn’t even have this view above.  I had this view.

road view sean

Most of my amazing Peruvian memories involve Sean’s neck.  End result was this.  Just an amazing trip.  However, if you did this right without cheating… it took you 16 hours from when you started this piece.  If it didn’t, scroll back up to the airplane headrest shot.  Stare at that for another 4 hours, because you didn’t count the flight from Panama city to Lima, Peru.

 

Now you have traveled the world!  Oh, here is another example from Thailand that very much fits the theme.  I can’t find my pictures, so these are pictures I copped from the internet.  However, I genuinely have these exact same photos.  There is a very famous and iconic Angkor Wat photo.  It is the main palace and sunrise, and being reflected in the water for a perfect mirror image.

angor watt 1

To get this pictures sucks ass!  You get up at like 4 am, and trudge through the mud with thousands of other pilgrims looking for the shot.  The shot, like the one above it, is worth it.  It is spectacular, and even more beautiful in person.  However, what none of these photos show you is how we got the shot.  In a thousand pics of this, you will a very specific angle, which means there is basically one location to get this photo.  Turn his camera around, and this is what you actually see.  This, below, is my memory.  and getting pushed into that mud by understandably overeager tourists.

angor watt 2

see how I didn’t blame the Chinese on that one?

And see how at least people are staying out of the water?  Yeah, that wasn’t the case when we were there.  Folks were in the mud.  We were in the mud.  I sure as shit wasn’t to going to miss this shot for anything.  Even if I am only using my cell phone camera.  This gal, whose picture I stole, wrote about her experience dealing with the whole thing of getting this shot. It’s pretty great, so let me acknowledge here, and read her piece.

People didn’t travel to the other side of Earth to miss this shot.   Also, people are pushing you all the time… maybe on purpose, maybe not.  No one means harm.  It is just that we all have about a 6 minute window to get the perfect picture.  And somehow, ideally, the picture above without all these folks.  I think it would be fun to do a travel book just about this.  ‘This’ being the disparity of the beauty of the world’s great sites… and the task it is to get there.  And… what you actually see.  I get it, these are painfully first world problem.  Boo hoo to the rich white guy with problems traveling the world.  I get that, and I agree.  Maybe this is why Rick Steve’s doesn’t leave Europe.  Anyone wanna pay me to do this?

 

*** I didn’t even get to tell you about the train into Aguas Caliente.  Here is how that worked.  Get some motion sickness in ya.  I mean sea-sick throwing up into a bag.  Then, come back and spend 3 more hours reading this.  That was the train ride.  🙂

friday fives

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Would you ever go “under the knife” (or laser, or dental pick) for cosmetic purposes?

Don’t really see the need.  Am lucky I’m a dude, though.  Society appreciates an older guy.  We age better.

Describe your dream home, including location, design, and who/what’s in there with you.

Have it now, am in it.  Whose there?  Wifey and I, 2 cats, 3 dogs, and 3 horses.  ei, ei, o.

You have one month to travel the world, all expenses paid. Where do you go and what do you do once you arrive?

Would like to go back and do more Asia.  Got to do Thailand and Cambodia and South Korea, but would totally do more.  Didn’t get to check out china or Vietnam, but want to.

What scares the bloody heck out of you? Would you face it down if someone paid you? What’s your price?

Spiders.  Kill them ALL.  I deal with them daily.  Btw, don’t give me that shit about how spiders are good for nature.  If you really believe that, I will bring you all of mine.

You’re stranded on an island. What five simple items do you have with you? How do you survive?

a Leatherman.  In fact, that is all i need.  There is nothing in life better than a Leatherman.  I don’t leave the house without one.  If you do not have one, you simply aren’t living.  it’s not 5 tools, it’s a trillion tools.  screwdriver (flathead and phillips), needlenose pliers, wirecutters, scissors, ‘buck’ knife, file, small saw, bottle opener, ruler… and that is all in the $40 one.  Seriously, how do you not have one?  i keep one in the truck, one in the wife’s car, and one on me at all times.

Best part of this story?  Leatherman is the dude’s NAME.  Was he not bound for greatness with that name?  They are made in America, in Oregon!

The Lono Travel Thai-aries® – Chinese people eat the weirdest shit… and other observations.

When we had started, I asked you to start here. I talked about sweeping generalization, and uninformed opinions. That is pretty much what this story is about. I like to call this “Chinese people eat the weirdest shit’. That is a strong statement, especially from someone who has never been to China. I am, however, very observant. In our travels across Southeast Asia, we went to a ton of markets. To generalize, again, people in Southeast Asia don’t go to supermarkets. They go to markets, which are outdoor, stall based systems. They are generally covered, and take up roughly a parking lot.

None of these things are judgements.  They are observations.

The meat we got in Cambodia had hair on it, still attached. I don’t even know what animal it was. Not sure I wanted to know. We didn’t want to seem discourteous. So, we smiled graciously as we forced down the hairy knuckles of lord knows what.

Look at this.  This was in the Chinese gift shop in Cambodia.  These are octopus flavored thingies.  NOTE:  It is not actual octopus.  It’s corn puffs, I think (think cheetos, here).  It is just octopus flavored.  Also, this bag is HUGE. It was over three feet tall, and came up over my knees.  Why the hell would you buy something that bit and unwieldy in an airport?   Well, I guess this octopus is duty free!  Here is the two things you hear about ALL Chinese food.

octopus treatsFor the purpose of journalistic integrity (which, at the end of the day… is really why you come here) this was also not found in China.  It was in the airport in Cambodia.  In the Chinese gift shop.  Is that enough to peg a quarter of the earth’s population as bunch  giraffe anus eaters?  It’s good enough for me!

Thailand, by comparison, is rich and stable. In Thailand, the local people eat exactly what you eat, and exactly what you think they eat. They are eating Pad Thai, and all that. We aren’t here to talk about that, though. When you look over a Thai person’s shoulders at what they are eating, it looks delicious.  Every time.  We are here to talk about Chinese food, but I thought that ramp up was pertinent. Whenever we got to really strange looking for, it was invariably the Chinese food section. See, Chinese People are not eating sweet and sour chicken. People in Mexico aren’t eating chimichangas.  People in China are, apparently, eating dried giraffe rectums.

  • It’s good luck
  • Children love it

Chinese people are CRAZY about luck. Yes, that is a sweeping generalization, but I dare you to defy me. The funny thing, to me at least, was the weirder food got, the more I would hear those two key phrases. Apparently, they (Chinese) love octopus. I say ‘apparently’ because we didn’t see much octopus, but everything was octopus flavored.

I am going to spare you the pictures from the Chinese market. Well, here is one. This is a bucket of snakes. Live snakes. Not pets. Food. Ok, in closing… one more thing about the Chinese (in Thailand… the Chinese in Thailand. I don’t know dick about China, never been there.) ******

20141104_085301Lastly, look at this.  Take a look at the visual pollution. I thought this was fascinating. I tried to explain it to people, but it was tough to articulate. The pictures tell the story. These two pics were taken less than a mile apart. The top is just a street in Bangkok. The bottom is a street in Bangkok in Chinatown.

20141104_083438Dazzlingly. all of these photos were taken by me on my telephone.  Ain’t technology grand?  Above… not Chinatown.  Below… Chinatown.  These were taken blocks away from each other… both commercial business districts.

20141101_200811Now, leave me alone. I have to get back to my lucky giraffe rectum lollipops.  Really, they grow on you.

** Do we say that? We should!

***** Listen > I know eating snakes isn’t that big of a deal.  In fact, pretty much everyone eats snakes.  Most of the photos I took of the disgusting food just look like amorphous blobs.  Plus, the lighting was always bad.  It wasn’t just gross animals.  Oh no, it was always the grosest part of each animal.  Perhaps they are just feeding their kids the nasty shit they don’t want to eat.  Then, just tell the kids its good and lucky.  I mean… does that work?  If it does, BRILLIANT!

The Lono Travel Thai-aries® – Bangkok Red Light District

That picture is a bit much, isn’t it?  Well, jackass, you are the one who clicked on the link  to read about the Bangkok sex shows. 

First, start here

Second, I have gone ahead and given the travel thai-aries® it’s own page.  Look above, see the ‘what I am reading, about me… etc’, it is there.  This is if you want to skip over my usual brilliant blathering and get straight to the Thailand and Southeast Asia fun.

There are a lot of hyperlinks here, they are all safe to click on at work except for the very end.

This is a story about Pat Pong, the fabled Red Light District of Bangkok, Thailand. In order to discuss this adventure, there will be words and situations that may make you blush. So, if you are easily offended… then definitely read on – and stop being such a pussy about everything.

We knew our hotel was very close to the Red Light District, easily within walking distance. We knew this because every time we told a taxi or a tuk tuk driver where we were going (our hotel), they would say “Ah, you mean red light district. It’s ok with me. I take you there now.” This was actually helpful, as in the end we didn’t bother explaining our hotel.  We would just say ‘pat pong’.  No one believed us anyway about the hotel.

It is composed of about 3 small city blocks. It is sex clubs, supposedly… but we think it’s a myth, maybe. This area may have been notorious for sex, but in the last 20 years it is more notorious for scams. If you google the red light district (go ahead and do that at work, I dare ya!  Make sure it’s an image search) you will find stories of people getting shaken down, hustled, drugged, robbed… all kinds of nasty shit. The rule of thumb seems to be NEVER go into these clubs… and certainly never go in alone.

What they advertise isn’t sex. At least, not in the sense of a guy and girl getting is on. Though, that is likely available. Mostly what they offer is weird voyeur stuff. Most famous is the ‘ping pong show’. I’ll let Wiki take it from here.

The Ping pong show is a form of stage entertainment that takes place in strip clubs, most often in Thailand. The show consists of women using their pelvic muscles to either hold, eject, or blow objects from their vaginal cavity. Ping pong balls are the most iconic objects used, but others include long strings, whistles, pens, cigarettes, candles, darts, spinning tops, razor blades and chopsticks. Another activity is the shooting of goldfish into a bowl, or stuffing a rather large frog inside to see how long she can keep it in.

Yeah, there is a wiki page for that. Can you believe it? I was with my wife, so I don’t know how that colored my experience, but it didn’t seem to make them shy.  My wifey is awesome.  She was as curious about all this as I was.  Each bar has at least one guy out front approaching people. They show you a laminated menu with various sex acts to watch. Every store front/bar had the same menu. So, I am guessing there is a single owner over the whole thing. Problem is, you see, it seems no one ever gets to see the sex show. They lure you in, charge you a LOT, and then lure you in more… but the sex show never seems to happen, unless you have a ton of patience and money.  I am speaking anecdotally, as I never went in to the clubs.  There was a period after we had been drinking and I needed to pee so bad.  However, I knew if I used these clubs I would come out $300 poorer, and likely pregnant.  Of course, that is why we kept no more that about $20 in cash when we went out anywhere.

It seems no one ever sees the show, so we (the wifey and I) questioned if there even was a show. I named it the Great Pumpkin – talked about, promised, discussed, but never happens. Here is a shot of the menu. I would prefer to embed it below, but maybe you are at work.

This guy summed it up on Trip Advisor with many less words than me.

Patpong is two small narrow streets and is a red light zone.  Its safe enough, but if you venture inside some of the red light bars expect to get seriously ripped off, and the police won’t do much to help.

Oh, I forgot to mention this. Bangkok, and Thailand in general, is incredibly, and impressively, gay friendly. There is a whole other sex and class of people known as ‘lady boys’. Interesting article here. These are gay men with their male junk still in tact, yet they present themselves to society as women.  You often can’t tell if it is a boy or girl until they speak. The Pat Pong district had a whole gay section too. It not only included bars with men dancing out front in tighty whiteys that looked to be about 15 years old… but hair cut places. These were hair cut places specifically for gay men. It was to get the ‘gay cut’. You may think there is no such thing as a gay haircut, but you would be wrong. As Meese once said about pornography, I will say about gay hair. I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.

In closing, I got you something.  Since you came all this way, and stayed and read this far… I found a ping pong show for you.  Someone snuck a camera in, so the footage is grainy, but unmistakable.  I didn’t want to be a tease.  You came here for a ping pong show and you shall get one. The footage is interesting.  Maybe because I am happily married, or old, but there isn’t anything erotic about this… to me, anyway.  Needless to say, don’t watch this at work.

I have to say I had a lot of fun researching this post.

Lono Travel Thai-aires® – the Thai Massage

First, start here, please.

If you know about massages at all, you have heard of the vaunted ‘Thai massage’. You haven’t? Good news, I am here to tell you about it.

If you are a dude, odds are you have never gotten a massage. I know why. You may say that’s for chicks. Or, I don’t want a dude touching me. Whatever, I don’t want to hear your excuses because I know the real reason. You are afraid of massages because you may either: fart, or get a boner. These are very reasonable fears. I had them, until I finally got a massage. Now, I LOVE them, and get them often. I have never had a problem with either of the aforementioned threats. So, stop being a pussy and go get a message. It’s amazing.

With that being said, let’s talk about the ‘Thai massage’. It is a specific manner and technique of massage. It involves the masseuse using their entire body to contort your body.

 

To many people, my wife included, the Thai massage is a miraculous and happy and relaxing thing. However, if you are as broken as I am, not so much. Imagine this: imagine I made a bet with you. Let’s say that I bet you that Tony Romo will throw an interception in their upcoming title game that will cause them to lose the game. It’s an easy bet, he has done it 5 years in a row. You say he won’t. Let’s bet.

If I win, you have to get a torture massage. You get a massage from his guy, and it will be the most painful thing you have ever experienced. Like, water boarding type pain and fear. If you win, I buy you a happy sexy relaxy massage with candles and topless girls and one of them will give you the happy ending. And, they are playing your favorite CD and feeding you shrimp scampi in the meantime. That is if you win.

Now, what if I told you the outcome of both massages is exactly the same?

What if I told you will come out of the torture massage even happier than you would have been with busty mc handjob? THAT, my friends, is the essence of a Thai massage. It is very physical, and painful, and laughably awkward. When done right, though, it is insanely effective. The first people we went to were in Bangkok, and was recommend. That was a top dollar fancy schmancy place. For a full hour message, I paid upwards of $8. $10, with tip. Yeah, shit is cheap there, it’s awesome. I spend more than that here just on tips. She was able to finish by cracking my back. Since I have a chiropractor, I knew that was EXACTLY what I needed… especially after spending 2 days on a plane!

I went for 3 subsequent massages, and none were as good. Mostly, just painful.  How many swear words do you know?  Guess what?  After a proper Thai massage you will come up with a few more.  After a bad Thai massage?  Several more!  For the record, though, my wife loved them ALL. She is physically in superior shape. So, if you don’t have back problems like I do, go for it. Find a Thai masseuse. I would recommend, if possible, to do this in Thailand. While I am sure there are qualified people here, you would probably pay about $200. For that, you can almost fly to Thailand and get one there.

Lono Travel Thai-aries® – why Bangkok smells like feet

First, start here.   Did you read that?  Only if you did, you may go forward.

When we landed in Bangkok, it smelled. It smelled bad. I didn’t want to judge, though. Also, I was too tired to judge. I had been flying for about 40 hours straight, so I just wanted to sleep.

The next morning, we went out and about. It was true, Bangkok smelled. BAD. I thought, maybe it’s garbage. Such a big city could have acres of unprocessed trash. What do I know? Am I being racist?

Then, I thought… maybe it’s poo. I read about the bathrooms here in studying for our trip. Well, I read that there are not bathrooms in the traditional sense. Instead, its mostly a hole in the ground, and no TP. So, that must be it, right?

Bangkok smells like feet. Not just feet, but the feet of a man who eats nothing but raw red meat and sweats the sweat of a sinner who never baths. That kinda smell.

Then I thought, does anyone else notice this? The wife did, but I couldn’t ask anyone local. Two reasons for this: 1) they probably no longer notice it and 2) it’s somewhat impolite to fly across the earth and meet a new culture and say “why does your entire city of ten million people smell like rapidly decomposing feet?”. It is just not how you go about meeting people.

So, I figured suck it up, it isn’t my business and maybe I am being racist and America probably smells plenty funny too.

Wait, maybe it’s the water! Of all the places we went (Thailand, Cambodia, South Korea) you could not drink the tap water anywhere. Obviously, water is life so that is probably the problem.

It wasn’t. On our first full day we went on a tour to the local flower market. The smell got worse, and closer, and worse. It wasn’t garbage, or sewage, or even by feet. It was Durian, which is a fruit. Apparently, it is quite a sweet fruit, and loved by kids. The outside of it, though, is just horrible. It is SO strong that, seriously, the entire country smells like this fucking god-awful fruit.

Proof? When we got to Chang Mai (a wonderful little city in Northern Thailand. We spend almost a week there, its where the lantern photos are from) we found this sign in the hotel.  Took this pic myself.  There is, quite wisely, a ban on this shit throughout the whole town. Wisely no.

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Up top is a picture of the fruit. Want smell-o-vision? Here is what you do. Wear the same socks for a week, day and night, no showering or changing. THEN, at the end of that week, take a dump in one of those socks. Don’t worry, it’s not as tough as it sounds. Now, leave that dumpy smelly sweaty sock in a hot car for one week. THEN… take it out, and smear it across your computer screen. Then, read this piece.

More Travel thai-aries here and here.

The upcoming travelogue: the Lono Thai-aries®

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Hey all,

As you may know, the wife and I just got back from a two week trip across SouthEast Asia. It was AMAZING, and there is so much I want to share about it. I kept a notebook with me almost everywhere, jotting down cryptic to expound about later.

So, if that sounds interesting to you, stay tuned. Each piec will be a small two page sort of thought. For example, I wouldn’t do a single piece on the history of ancient   temples. That is too big a thing to chew off, so instead it will be bite size morals; like the creepy shit Asian people feed their kids and call ‘lucky’.

These pieces will be called ‘the Lono Thai-aries®’. If I get the considerable material out of this that I think I will, I will give it its own tab at a later date… to hold them all in a single spot.

Also, having been gone for over two weeks, that is why I didn’t have any new material recently. Sorry about that.

* that picture above… that is the wife and I yesterday (11.15.14) in South Korea at a temple.  I am not covering my face to protect my anonymity.  I am covering it because I am a pussy and it was cold there – below freezing.