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Friday, 30 March 2012

Inane Blethering Regarding The Banality of the Middle Class Latino Ghetto

In a desperate attempt to find some kind of culture in Managua, I've gone to TGI Fridays for Buffalo Wings (and to digest todays Torygraph ) only to realise that the dance music they are playing, I often run to. A sad reflection of my 400 years of inbreeding indeed.

And what am I doing going to TGI Fridays for culture anyway? (options...Dominos, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Macdonalds, or rice and beans and tacos. No thanks!) At least this sunday its the big Cock Fight in Leon. I hope we can eat the sorry losers at the end. Adrenalin chicken, can you imagine that? Now theres culture.

I found out last night from Kevin, my Gringo Poker buddy, that a bus driver was just caught as part of a gang who had been robbing and killing foreigners here, out in Greytown (an old Pirate den on the caribbean) Ho Hum, so thats that destination off the itinerary for this i'll spend a day or two more in the superficial faux American life in middle class Managua, more for my own personal safety than anything else.

Apologies for lack of posts lately. I finally finished the first draft of my first Novel (more details later) and am frantically trying to turn it into a readable piece of work. Well you'll see one day.

Ok now back to some ice cream and 'requim for a dream' a weird choice after a dinner of Whitney Houston (I have no sympathy it was your own fault) and Eric Prydz. How has what was once a promising life come to this?

Please, dear friend, If i begin to get used to this life. If i begin to post photos of what I have for dinner or what bar/restaurant i'm in and with who on Facebook, do me favour. Just kill me......oh no Bon Jovi... Blaze of Glory....i'm going to the bathroom to do this (by the way, Harold and Maude is a strange, strange movie but one i highly recommend. After this film, it gives you the same feeling as...remember when you read your first 'Flashman' ?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Men without Women = Farting is Acceptable at Dinner

After word got out that a guy with an 'HB' 'tache had arrived, girls flocked to the place
Once your out of Managua, and not in Granada, then Nicaragua is actually a beautiful and safe country, in fact among the most so i've ever seen. Thanks God the 15% Americans who have passports are the only one's you would actually want to speak with.

Im out here in a surf camp called Chancletas Hotel on wavos boom, Aserradores.
I'd rather not tell you about here but I suppose it's too late now

Imagine a place, where the sun shines every day. Where the 5 mile long deserted beach has some of the best surfing in the world. Where the steak and chips is amazing, and $9. Where your bed is $7.50 a night and the hammocks are free to snooze in all afternoon. Where you can forget to brush your hair in the morning, and the response to your dinner table farts is a shrug and smile, bringing you closer to the hallowed brotherhood of what it is to be man. This, dear friends is the austere monastry of life on playa Aserradores, where there isn't actually any village, just this collection of huts and a place to sit. Actually it wasn't me who farted. It was some American guy last night, but I liked it all the same.

I have not seen a woman for days here. I have seen lots of grown men calling each other dude and having bromances. All in all, a very good bunch of ...dudes. This is what life is like without women getting in the way and distracting us. Real things. Like surfing. And calling each other dude. And farting. Girls, you have no idea how important farting would be to men if you were not around to make us all self-concious of these things. My writing is likely to be all Ernest Hemingway soon. With short spare sentences. Only highlighting specific points.

Taking Lunch for a Walk

Right, enough of that - this is my life here to date (i.e. yesterday)

5.30am-  Wake and shower, a nice pancake and fruit and maple syrup with bacon and free coffee.
6am -  Re-drafting first 6 chapters of my novel.
9am - Go for a run along the beach, check out the waves.
10am - Work some more.
1pm - A most amazing steak and chips.
2pm - Read a little and rework next 6 chapters.
4pm - Go out and surf (badly) a little until sun begins to set.
6pm - Have a beer and some dinner (well it is Friday night).
8pm  - Go to bed.

Once I was accused of only ever doing sport and eating (thank you Kriddin) - as you can see, I often find time to write and make bad jokes too.

Friday, 16 March 2012


I would like to add that, as for most cities, 6am is the best and most interesting time to be around and awake. Here in Managua, the sun is just getting up, its nice and cool and, most importantly, the city is at it's safest.

The city is full of runners as it's the only time you can really do that (too hot, too dangerous and too busy most of the time) so if you're running, you're in great company then.

And of course...a whole new interesting and life changing day lies ahead....

Managua, Nicaragua - Things to do (or not)

I'm finally leaving Managua tomorrow, for the glorious north, wavos 'boom', and the peace and quiet of a little fishing village called Aserradores and this little place. There dear friends will the full imagination of the unstoppable writing machine that is...etc etc will be unleashed. Or not. Maybe i'll just surf the whole time. Or get kidnapped on the way.

Ok but i should tell you a little of Managua, in case you are ever daft enough to be stopping here for more than 2 days...

Managua is an ugly city, theres no doubting that. And completely without character, since any building of any note was destroyed in 1972. It's more of one of these raging, never ending, insane Behemoth's, flailing about rabidly with constant chimichinga music blaring out of every orifice and chaos crime and crack cocaine as its lifeblood (that sounded awful didn't it)

Here, i've sifted out the few things that may be interesting....

Mercado Oriental

90% of the country's crimes are committed here. And DO NOT go here after dark. Even I wouldn't do that. But during the day its an enormous and hugely interesting slum/market, where you can buy all the shit you need/don't need. I bought a great pair of breeks for £3 there the other day. And shampoo. But if you wan't to buy glue to sniff, CD/DVD's, fruit, clothes, furniture, guns, dead bodies. This is the place to go. Even if you don't buy anything, the atmosphere is quite interersting. Just think of The Barras about a hundred years ago.


Nope its not a soulless shopping mall, its another area that lonely planet tells people not to go to after dark. But thats what makes it fun. Nope, you won't meet Heidi from Belgium or Jay from Austin. And who truly cares, your life will be better for it. But you will meet lots of locals enjoying themselves, cheap booze, dogs on the dancefloor, and toilets where you wash your hands in a barrel of water.

The neighbourhood is full of change zombies at night (and worse) so get a cab door to door (do this EVERYWHERE after dark and make sure the driver waits until you get into your destination)

But once your into this row of downmarket restaurants/bars, then its pretty good fun and no one gave us any trouble at all. Me and my pal convinced a random local girl who was sharing our taxi to join us too which maybe helped. But I can say the people are even quite friendly. I wasn't there to 'pick up' so i'm not sure how that would go down for gringos though. (do your best guys and let me know!) But makes a  pleasant change for the americanised middle class bullshit places...talking of which....

Moods, Chaman, Pizza Hut etc. - Masaya

Ok if you are missing the west, the tiny middle class of Managua huddles behind its heavily guarded gates, up on the Masaya highway, from Metrocentre Shopping Mall, and up the hill from there to the Galleria Mall (quite appropriately named after the lovely place in the ' Valley ', LA). In the Mall, and also further north just up from the 'Pellas' building (the only tall building in Managua) there is ONE good coffee shop called Cafe de la Casa (or is it Casa Del Cafe) which not only does good coffee and food, it's got that 'Latin American Soap Opera' feel to it, with rich old locals taking their ahem...'daughters' for coffee and cakes, ex beauty queen housewives nattering about whatever it is they natter about at 100 hundred miles an hour, and other gringos sitting on their apple-macs checking facebook (for f*cks sake get a life)

For some reason rich latinos aspire to be white trash, so there are TGI Fridays, Dominos Pizza, Pizza Hut, MacDonalds, Burger King, and all that awful stuff on the main road.

Further North in the Galleria Mall there is a sushi place, the only semi-healthy restaurant apart from the amazing Restaurante_El_Tercer_Ojo which is just on the street behind the main Masaya (get to Pharaoh Casino and its behind there among many other good places) In fact this is a street/neighbourhood full of good restaurants and bars which I recommend a night out in. You can even get a decent Nicaraguan restaurant. The reason Tercer is good is that it reminds you of Asia. Good moods, good food, good ambiance. Exactly what Nicaragua lacks....especially if you want to go to the main 'big' clubs  - moods (ladies night Wednesday) and Chaman which is in a Mayan pyramid (ladies night, thursday) personally I think both were crap but thats just my taste.

I had one crazy night out when it was full moon though. Minding my own business and playing poker (I wont bore you with the details) I ended up with $3000 odd in an hour or so. So we wen't to see
above and beyond which seems to be some kind of famous geeky DJ's pretending to be a band. Even without drugs it was a good show but it ended up as usual in the night degenerating into strange all night bars and meeting random Koreans who speak Spanish...

However, if nightlife is what your after, probably best to stick to Brasil.

ps - if you like Karaoke, go to my pal Armandos place - Claps ! I personally can not stand Karaoke (nor spell it) but even as a bar it's quite ok.

Accommodation - Tica Bus area vs Masaya

Im staying here right now, and while there are lovely little hotels for $10 a night. After ten o clock the streets aren't safe. If you are staying for any length of time, stay in Masaya area - Managua Backpackers is cheap and safe - things you really appreciate in a dangerous country. Still best to get cabs at night though if you have anything valuable on you. If you are looking for a decent five star hotel - Hilton is here and Intercontinental (really quite ok at $50-150 a night depending on dates) but I heard that the Seminole Plaza is the best value if your looking for a full service job (i.e. you've been sleeping in a hammock for a month)

The Hill and the Weird Cathedral

Ok there is a hill in the middle of the city, with a kind of silhouette of a kind of giant cowboy on it. I keep meaning to go up there but i always have my laptop on me (lame excuse I know) but really, walking around quiet places here isn't something to do with valuables. It looks like a cool and quiet place to explore though. One day i will find out exactly who this giant cowboy is.

The multi-breasted Catedral Metropolitaniandonita

There is also a bizzare (i'm told earthquake proof) cathedral (the Metropolitan Cathedral). Looking at it from the outside I don't really see a reason to check the inside. But i guess its interesting for some....

Right, back to making the most of my last night in Managua....

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Central America Vs South East Asia

Well, the dilemma for many of us people from North Europe with too much time on our hands is...where to spend Winter? For those on a budget (or just people who want good value for money) the obvious choices are either a. South East Asia or b. Central/South America.  Africas too scary (real wars and everything) Australias too boring and expensive, and not exotic enough, and the North...well the North is too cold.

Anywhere heres a step comparison from my 'in the field' observations....

1. Food
Central America - Chimichingas, Enchaladas, beans, rice, fried pretty much everything. Everyone here is fat, wonder why?

SE Asia - Lemongrass, tasty soups, spring rolls, lovely dishes wrapped in banana leaf....makes me hungry just thinking about it....

Result - SE Asia WIN

2. Culture
Central America - cockfighting, bull fighting, awful music and noise pollution everywhere you go. The most over excited and overexcitable people in the world. But on the plus side, a lot of passion and honesty. People aren't smiling to your face while robbing you here, they pull out a gun instead.

If you're looking to catch the Schubert recital tomorrow night, forget it. They have no idea who Schubert is. Or Beethoven for that matter. But if you hate peace and quiet and serenity, and love a constant chuchungachuchunga beat somewhere quite loudly in the background, police whistles and gunfire keeping you awake at night, this is the place for you. 'Change' zombies circle whenever you see Gringo. I've been standing waiting for the hotel guard to show up so long at times that every zombie from miles around has heard me shouting him and has limped (they tend to have bullet wounds of gammy legs from drugs) towards me babbling something connected to 'chaaaaange' in Spanish. I've been surrounded before, and the taxi has already sped on it's way, which ain't so good if you've had a good night at poker and are sitting with $2000 cash in your pocket

SE Asia - Ladyboys, buddhism, massages, genocide. I dont know, maybe its my age, but i do prefer peace and quiet, and not being a prisoner in my own hotel at night. I didn't experience any dangers at all in SE Asia beyond Ladyboys trying to chat me up. High culture, it must be a Europe/New York thing, it isn't here either, but cheap massages, cheap and tasty food, and the ability to walk around a little bit at night is a miracle.

Result - SE Asia WIN

3. Things to do
Central America - There are a lot of things to do here, truth be told. Ancient Civilisations abound, the best surfing in the world, amazing diving and snorkeling, and outside the big cities, life is (relatively) safer and a little more laid back. Here in Nicaragua you can do all sorts of things up Volcanoes, and there is even one city that is Liveable (Leon) The other great thing is that in many of the countries (due to the murder rate being the highest in the world) there are very few dickhead backpackers to ruin it all for you.

SE Asia - Yes, the beaches are here too, and the surfing, but i'd say on balance not quite as good. You can learn Muy Thai up in Chan Mai or explore Angor Watt in Cambodia, but it always seems to me that its all a 'backpackers' thing, i.e. there are too many 20yr old idiots from Surrey spending their Gap Yea finding themselves by 'getting wasted' and thinking they will be useful to society in some way at sometime (no, you won't, unless you get a Mcjob)

So, all in all, although there are plenty things to do, it's spoiled by there being too many European (and especially Aussie) arseholes in SE Asia. (except Emma and your lovely friend who returned my Charles Rennie Mackintosh book after 5 years, thanks!)

Result - Central America WIN

All in all, I can say SE Asia is a gentler, safer journey. The only thing breaking your serenity is the fake guffaws of Mr Coldplay as he laughs at some poor girls joke. The real Shangri-La is world without these people. And no I haven't and will never go to Ko-Sa-Mui, or to a full moon party. But there are great little spots in SE Asia (which i won't tell you about quite yet) to get away from these people. Head for the danger zones. These lonely planet junkies won't go near there.

As for Central America...well i've had some great nights here. If theres danger you can smell it (literally) a mile away. There seems (as i remember from one messed up Columbian guy the other night) to be an active drugs scene. My friend got some lovely baking powder from him for i'm not sure how much.

If you want to live long and prosper, SE Asia won't get you killed. Its the Coldplay of subcontinents. Safe, tastes pretty good but gets boring. If its more AC/DC you're looking for.......

6pm profoundness - On another point, people who take drugs. If you want to find the real answers, take Ayahuasca, stop pottering about with cowardly little baby steps like hash or cocaine. You take it perhaps because, deep down, like all of us, you're looking for something, but you won't find it there in the shallows....

Friday, 2 March 2012

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. Hotel California meets Tel Aviv...

Well, here I am in San Juan Del Sur, the sleazy surfing party town in the South West of Nicaragua. There are crackheads and idiots here, and its probably not a place to stay for a long time, unless you're into a poor mans Cabo San Lucas type of holiday...

There is no actual surfing here, although the beach is quite ok. Don't swim in the river at the north end, like I did, unless you want to swallow lots of the towns sewage and puke up your lunch (like me). Shuttles go to the other beaches (see below) from wherever you are staying. They'll sort it out, don't worry.
Yajure hostel - Dorms are mixed, and beds are wide, but after some rum, it has been rumoured that even ladies snore

The town itself seemed to be taken over by mainly obnoxious young Israelis, fresh from 3 years of killing Palestinian children and living it up. Lots of them looked surprisingly like Jesus (or at least the 'Life of Brian' version). Its funny, about 70% of them are cliquey and defensive and often won't even talk to outsiders unless they want something (i.e. since, after taking on Hitlers policies in their own country, consider themselves the master race etc etc) and then the 30% of them are actually really decent and a little bit embarrassed about the inbred nonsense from their brethren.
The view from our lovely hostel

Anyway, zionist nazis aside, this is great a party town that isn't a party town. There is always a party, but there are only 3 bars (see below) Time seems to stand still and you find yourself in situations that you probably wouldn't have considered back in the 'real world'

I stayed at Yajure hostel, a lovely big house on the edge of the beach on the north end of town which is a little more sane than the centre  (and without barefoot druggies trying to steal your cap) You can drink for rather cheap (compared to the west) prices and there are about 50 beds. Its run by an Cheli an ex Surf Pro and him and his assistant take people up to the beaches every day, and will be able to tell you all about it.
Lea has the idea that beer/spanish studying don't combine (Yajure Hostel)

Everyone seemed to go up to a place called Naked Tiger to party or sit by the pool, thats a shuttle bus away from the insanity/danger of the town itself, although I was too lazy to visit, but I do understand a better place is the Pelican Eyes Hotel and Resort with a great view of town, pools, and a $5 entry fee for non-residents for the day, which includes 2 free drinks.

If you just turn up though, there are load of places of varying quality all over the town - especially on the south side. Victoriana is expensive ($100 a night) but lovely and the best beachside place, but there are other rougher ones at around $20 a room a night.

We were without water every day for some time. But being in the 3rd world you just have to get used to that. I haven't been washing much lately anyway and my face is a stranger to a razor, after seeing a Gillette advert with a supersmug cheeseball travelling round the world and shaving. And making extremely cheesy cliched american comments and turning a whole generation of men off shaving.

However I digress....


Well the vibe in the town is actually pretty laid back. There was a crazy harley davidson show (Harley Days) (which explains my lack of sleep in Granada last week) one weekend. I blagged my way into the main party, which had two rather attractive young russian 'DJ's'  (DJ dolls ) dancing around and bizzarely putting on random house CD's while the bikers tried to put up with the awful music and ogled.

The main places are Black Whale which has table football and pool and live music and was really my favourite as I probably drank the most there. On the main drag are also Iguana and another local place across the road who's name escapes me but we did go there for a 'ladies night' where I learned how to dance like a Nicaraguan (and a Scandinavian but i kind of knew that already)
I have no idea who this person is and how the photo got on my camera.

At the north end of the main drag is 'the crazy crab' which is a mainly locals place (i.e. chingachinga music too loud for anyone to do anything except grind on the dancefloor, darkness, cheap rum, and sketchy looking geezers trying to sell drugs to any gringos drunk enough to turn up.

If you really need a cheap (25 Cordoba/$1) Taco at the end of the night, there is a 24 hour place, a street back from the beach. You'll find it. further back in town there are a few cheap eating places (60 cordobas/$3 for a nice chicken/beef/fish and rice) On the waterfront it's mostly nicer places, $10-$20 a pop. But at the very south end, the last restaurant before the sea, they do a 'economy menu' for locals which is exactly the same food (steak n chips etc) for 100cordoba ($4 odd)

There seems to be a lot of drugs here so if you were in that scene I suppose it'd be easy but, not being a loser, I didn't check. One guy did and ended up in some random house in the suburbs and all the lights went off and he got punched in the face by someone who he couldn't recognise the next day. Actually how they got home alive I do not know. Kinda funny story though.

If i was coming back (which I will) I'll stay on one of the quiet beaches outside the town, so i don't need to get a bus to the surfing beaches.


Well I'm not sure why anyone comes here if they aren't either surfing or learning to surf. I went to Playa Maderas, its 10mins north from San Juan. nice shallow water with slow waves, but too busy. If you wan't lessons and you're not saying at the Yajure Hostel, just ask up there and theres a Creole guy who was a great teacher ($15 an hour one to one) and he speaks English as first language (most are Spanish obviously) If you want to stay up there, there are places on the surfing beach, rough enough but fine really for $10 a night. Further along the beach theres camping at Matildas and you can get a wee house there too. No wifi anywhere to be seen here though, except one friend who just a job there told me there is some somewhere...

I'll fill you in on the other surfing beaches when I go back.

Ok, more and more photos will be added to this later! Next a little break from Nicaragua, I have a story to tell from a colder place....