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Saturday, 28 December 2013

Things to Avoid While Travelling No. 143 - Wallets (and No. 158., Airport Food)

I'm writing this while trying to consume the inconsumable. An 8 euro Airport panini, here in Amsterdam Airport, that must have been sitting there for weeks. So there's the lesson of the day - avoid overpriced and generally poor airport food, even if you are hungry.

But back to the main point....When I was packing for my current trip (to Ecuador), I thought to myself - why do i have all these wallets and never use them? So, like a beaten husband who keeps coming back for more to his abusive wife, I blocked out the why's/why nots, and went back to old habits, put my cash into one and off I went, completely forgetting why I never use a wallet (and I recommend you don't either)

And then, last night I remembered. Last time i took a wallet out with me, I got pickpocketed (in Jaco, Costa Rica) And yes, everything, cash, bank cards etc etc were all in there.

So last night, between walking the 100 metres from the taxi to the Casino Holland, with about 200 Euros cash in my wallet (and little else, thank God) I got to the casino with no wallet. They're pretty amazing. A completely inconsequential brush on a busy street, and hey presto its gone without you even noticing.

Anyway, my conclusion? A wallet in a busy street, (especially in Europe, thank you dear gypsies) by and large means a loss. Maybe not now, maybe not the second time, but I dont know, I can't seem to last a week with one these days, they're worse than umbrellas...

...which I dont think i'll bother with in the lovely warm rain of the equator, where i'll be (slightly poorer) in 14 hours time. I'll write about that soon, til then, hope you all had a merry christmas.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Day I met God in Ueno Park

One morning, a long time ago, when I was perhaps a lot more shallow than I am now, I landed in Tokyo from Europe, and my hotel room wasn’t ready until that afternoon. So in a jetlag haze, I took a little walk around Ueno Park, the scruffy old green lung of North Tokyo, and sat down to watch the world go by. I’d almost forgotten what a strange and amazing day that was, so now I think I’ll share it with you...

  In my daze, I noticed that an ancient wizened old homeless guy was sitting beside me, and without realising it, struck up a conversation in English, which he spoke fluently. Although I was so jetlagged and exhausted I could hardly keep my eyes open, we talked all day about philosophy and the meaning of life from an eastern perspective and western perspective, and how in, fact there wasn’t a great difference from the fundamentals of what perhaps Jesus really meant Christianity to be (no, not silly statues of the virgin Mary and supporting Zionist colonial plans, you fools), the old pagan ways of the west and the Shintoism of Japan, and how really, the rules of life were the same no matter where you are in the world. There are good and bad people on both sides of every fence, and many ‘bad’ people have good traits and many ‘good’ people have bad traits (bad spirits inside them that haven’t managed to throw off), and really, the love of money and material goods, of conquest and domination, were just bad spirits inside a man. He talked and talked and everything he said seemed like deeper wisdom, and for years afterwards I often thought about this Yoda of Ueno park, and who he was, and how he became homeless and, did he really exist or was this old man actually God speaking to me in some way to help change my life’s direction and understand why I’m actually here?

I can say I’ve learned my lessons slowly. But if it wasn’t for this guy, I wouldn’t have bought books comparing Buddhism to Christianity, or the 'crazy' writings of Zachariah Sitchin, Graham Hancock or Daniel Pinchbeck. And if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t have considered Ayahausca, which to all who’ve taken it would agree is a profoundly life changing experience. But strangely enough I thought about this man again the other day, probably for the first time since I’d taken Ayahuasca, and realised that all the time it wasn’t that he was God, it was just that he was a man with the light of God shining brightly in him. An enlightened man, if you want to call it that.

But now thanks to him, I can see that we all have a piece of Gods love in us, he’s everywhere, its just that, for almost everyone (at least in the west) that piece of their soul and is hidden so deep inside that, that they’re trapped in the web of their own short term animal-like cycle of needing ‘stuff’, and of needing the fix of temporary ‘satisfaction’ that distracts them from taking a moment to realise the true reality and the true love of life. ‘Life’ for most people involves TV shows, sport, the soap opera and politics of everyday gossip, political correctness and other false ‘causes’, fast food, prescription drugs, casual sex, getting drunk, recreational drug use, pretend illnesses like ADDT and other attention seeking cries for help…you get gist) every last one a short term fix and none of them connected in any way to the reality and true beauty of the world.

Maybe the wisdom of the Ayahuasca is beginning to kick in finally, that I’m beginning to see the cancer of the ‘western’ consumer world for what it is, and can see how the ‘answers’ to these cravings simply make you want more. The ‘bad guys’ even created new language to distract, divide, confuse, and ultimately, cause needless conflict – (smart huh?) - How do you react to someone calling you a ‘racist’ (always by idiotic white guys with beards) or a ‘sexist’ (usually by those same spineless men, although sometimes by girls as a sly compliment) when this is every time a trap question because the words actually have no definitive meaning and were constructed originally as trap questions to damage reputations by avoiding real issues. But this is just the start - The legal system is changing. The media is pushing the moronic masses to accept different boundaries of what’s appropriate, and what’s acceptable in terms of ‘the mans’ interference in your life. And believe you me, your voluntary enslavement has a long way to run yet – so subtle, you wont even notice.

So what’s the answer? Should you stop watching crappy TV dramas? Should you realise that the Bills vs. the Redskins or Arsenal vs. Man. City mean absolutely nothing? No, of course not. For some people, maybe you, that and hamburgers all they have to look forward to in life. Maybe you’re too far gone to accept that reality is not the slavery you’ve already sleepwalked into.

The true answer is that there is no answer, except to ask yourself truly the question that why the homeless old man, with no bank account, and no material possessions, who lives free in Tokyo’s Ueno Park, is infinitely happier and more content in his life than you, or anyone you have ever known?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

If Jeremy Clarkson made Nightclubs - York Club, Dubai

So I booked into a random mid-level hotel (York International Hotel) here in Dubai, as I stop over a couple of nights en route to Singapore. The first night, arriving at 2am I went straight to sleep but I did notice the next day there were various bars, restaurants and clubs around the venue, so I ventured down the 2nd night to see what was on offer...

First stop was an 'Asian Club'. This basically meant that I sat and drank a beer, and a row of pretty young Indian girls sat on a stage looking bored, and one was up dancing. I'm not quite sure what was going on here, maybe someone can help - it sure seemed strange that a bunch of fat rich looking indian guys  would want to just sit and watch girls dancing in some kind of Indian style dancing all night. Who knows, maybe they were there to buy more wives, maybe it was all just a bit of good fun...anyway, bored out of my skull after two pints, I headed down to the York Club, downstairs. This was a very different kettle of fish. As soon as I got in, fifty sets of eyes were on me, smiling gappy teeth in the dark. Yep, you guessed it, skanky hookers. I went over to the stage, and a Japanese girl band were rocking it out to 'Breaking the Law' by Judas Priest. Jeremy Clarkson lookalikes were in frantic air guitar competitions. One finished off with the drunken 'spin' on the dancefloor - you know it - you've probably done it, when you're dancing with a lucky lady, have been downing shots all night, and you have it in your head that making a little spin around on the dancefloor will be a good move, but actually 50% of the time you end up falling over and looking stupid. I noticed actually the dancefloor was full of drunken 50 year old blokes, with some of the most awful dance moves you could ever dream of. Still, with AC/DC's 'Highway to Hell' coming on straight after, they were in Top Gear heaven. I felt kind of sorry for the prossies though. This place must be a kind of place where hookers end up when they get too old, clapped out or just not sexy enough to be in other places, so they trawl around here, looking desperate, trying to catch Jeremy Clarksons in between downing shots, hoping they won't notice the fact they are more than ready for the prostitutes knackers yard.

Anyway, all in all it was a good fun place, albeit bizzare. I met a chubby Georgian girl who was just a normal tourist and so I enlisted her as my DHD (desperate hooker defence) and watched the clazy japanese girls, who seemed to even have choreographed dances for Led Zeppelin numbers...

And I just noticed the hero of last nights show, the craziest air guitarist of the whole dancefloor spinner, furtively sneaking out of the hotel looking like a total wreck (it's 2.30pm the next day as I write this...) and probably wishing he'd stayed at home...

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Spirit of Adventure - Ukraine, Moldova...and Trans-Nestria

What I love about traveling are the daily interactions with random strangers, especially the experience of how people treat other people in a position of vulnerability. Last night, when driving home from a cave monastery in deepest (read African level roads) Moldova, I scraped the rental car off a giant kerb at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere, and got a puncture. Sure, the rental company took complete advantage today, and blamed me for all sorts of other fictional scratches (and suddenly the insurance doesn't work anymore and no one remembers how to speak english except the words 'problem' and 'money')

 But, to take the silver lining from the cloud, that night as i drove off cursing, some complete random stranger flagged me down as I trundled along the track, told me I had a puncture (which we hadn't noticed at all) and fixed it in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, just like that. I have no idea who he was, and never will, but that, i'd prefer, to be my memory of the incident, rather than goons trying to do me over, which sadly is often the foreign view of Eastern Europe.

In Ukraine it was the same - a very kind random couple, went out of their way to help me find the 'secret' bus ticket office, to buy the bus ticket from Odessa to Kiev. It was no easy matter, I can tell you, even for them. It's an endearing part of being in post-soviet countries. People are expected to just 'know' this kind of thing - no adverts, no info. and certainly no english.

Anyway, such is the fun and the spirit of making random trips. Good souls can make your day, and goons can ruin your life, but all in all, it's the same the world over, and thats what keeps a mans faith in humanity.

Trans-Nestria, the infamous non-country east of Moldova, was, i'm afraid, a washout. It was totally safe. No big nuclear weapons auctions. No post-soviet ghost town. No armed guards at every corner demanding bribes and passports. Perhaps the guys who tell of having problems there are simply dickwads. We filled in the form, paid about $1 for the mini-bus from Chisinau (the capital of Moldova) stopped at a kind if kiddy-on checkpoint/border crossing, showed the passports, went to Bender Fortress (a giant castle, with a quite interesting history among various battles between Swedes, Ottomans, an Russians) got a bus to the capital, Tiraspol, ate a pizza for about a dollar. Took a photo of Lenin (the only soviet thing we found), got bored after realising...ah thats it then, and went home to Moldova. So its basically like a Narva with less blonde people.

Eastern Europe is full of honest, good people. Its just than none of them are in the government. Nations of lions are led by inept corrupt donkeys. Road needs fixed? pocket the money. Your people need schools? Build a football stadium. Not enough hospitals? Buy some new limousines for the cabinet. Welcome to Eastern Europe, Africas role model...

Next move, is an overnight train, tonight, to Kiev, then the long flight east. We had a 5.7 richter earthquake two nights ago here in Chisinau (a lovely but boring city, by the way) my rudely built building wobbled like it was made of cardboard, but fortunately just for a few seconds. Thank God Tokyo is built to withstand these things...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Paris and onward...

Arriving off the Eurostar in Paris is always a strange feeling. 2 hours from St Pancreas and suddenly there you are in a different city, country – a different world from London. Everyone smokes, women look and dress like women – even ‘borderline boilers’ have a certain ‘je ne se qua,’ here, which is the way things really should be. Men still look and dress like pimps, I notice. Everyone seems locked in intense conversations over tasty fresh food or expresso’s, and you can be sure the subject isn’t related to house prices, or who of their hapless colleagues are going to be applying for some awful middle management position in Barclays Bank.

I ended up avoiding the $250 a night hotels and getting a room in ‘le village’ hostel in Monmatre for about 60 Euros. I couldn’t complain at all about the location, just underneath the beautiful Sacre Coeur and with meandering roads, little squares with fountains and steps and little café’s with views, in what I’m sure everyone thinks of the archetypal Paris of romantic dreamers, philosophers and writers. Sadly, there aren’t so many places in Paris like this, but still, it’s a nice place to be – I ate somewhere different every day and didn’t have a single bad morsel of food or glass of bad wine, although you're talking a good 40-60 euros for dinner and wine (Paris is possibly even as expensive as London, although better value.)

To the west a little is Pigalle, of Moulin Rouge fame. To be honest, it’s crap - nothing more than a pretty sketchy area with down at heel, clip jointy looking strip bars and sex shops, and the odd rubbish looking bar – a bit like Soho, I suppose, where no actual locals go, only perverts on tour, lost tourists, and stag weekends. After getting drunk one night I decided to wander round looking for anything reasonably interesting only to find lonely looking transvestite cabarets, and the only bar that had any sort of life was O Sullivans which, like a night out in Newcastle, was jam packed with British/American teenagers downing shots and dancing on the bar. I’m pretty sure most of them had a vague idea they were not really getting the authentic Parisian experience and they may as well have been in aery overpriced Birmingham, but hey ho, ce la vie.

It’s not so easy to give a general overview of a city like Paris in one post, so I’ll do a general comparison with London, Tokyo and New York later on. I think that would be interesting to think about…

…But back to Paris- what a lovely example of how a big city can be. Unlike London, it’s (just) walkable – most of the tourist sights go from the Eifell Tower in the South West, across to the Champs Elysees and the Arc De Triumph, then down through the Tolleries to the Opera and Lafayette (the most beautiful shopping mall you’ve ever seen) the the Louvre and Notre Dam are just a few hundred yards further east. La Defense is actually pretty boring if you go up there, it’s just as interesting from a distance.  Anyway, if you’re feeling lazy there are plenty of hop on hop off buses at all the main tourist sites (27 euros a day) The Louvre is doable in a day, no matter what guides tell you - it's not that big, and it's most likely you won't actually want to see all of it. I was focussed on the old Dutch and German paintings, for some reason my favourites, but there are some pretty mighty old French paintings in there. 

I think the funniest thing I saw on my whole trip was the hordes of idiots taking photos of the Mona Lisa - for the slapping the forehead, shaking your hear at the sheer lunacy factor, worth the 12 Euro entry ticket alone. The Mona Lisa is the first ever example of modern art. Its a quite average painting that some people said somewhere thats its amazing, even though it patently is not, and for that, and that alone, sub-human IQ snap happy morons come from the world around to look at this painting, which, yes, looks exactly like the picture you can google right here. Its just an average looking woman smirking. Smirking at you, Brasilian guy taking a movie of the mona lisa with your apple tablet, because you came halfway across the world to make a fool of yourself in front of other fools and in front a distinctly average painting of a woman smirking at you. You idiot.

On the crowds of snap happy morons subject, one thing that ruins a lot of the biggest sites are the sheer numbers of tourists. Notre Dam Cathedral is beautiful, yes, but there are actually quite a few lovely churches around Paris that are just as beautiful (and infinitely more serene, because half of China isn't walking around taking photos and talking loudly.)

But one thing I see about Paris is that its very liveable and on a scale that Prince Charles would be proud. The expensive neighbourhoods actually look expensive (unlike the soon to fall apart apartment blocks in the posh parts of London, which set you back a fair bit more than million quid at least.) The city does have a slight authoritarian vibe though, in the architecture at least. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of 1984 was filmed here…

For those of you who, like me, like to meet local people and play Poker, the Aviation Club de France at 104 Champs Elysees is the way forward. It's 150 Euros to join, but it’s a lovely poker club with good service, lots of rich gambler players, interesting people, and nightly tournaments. I played the 500 Euro entry tourney and the poker gods were kind and I won 4200 Euros, which actually covered my round the world trip, but really I wasn’t up against any more than good recreational players, and the cash game was even better, lots of guys with seemingly endless wads of money to throw in the middle and even a fish like me could win. The downside is of course that i’m going deep into Eastern Europe now with a good part of 8000 Euros cash on me, which probably wont feel too wise at the Trans Nestria border crossing if they search my bag… Anyway, there is another Poker Club just round from Pigalle which is only 30 Euros to join but they wouldn’t let me in without my passport (or was it because I was drunk) it looked a bit scabby though, truth be told.

So after 3 nights in Paris, just about enough to want to come back with some good company, I jumped on an overnight train to Berlin. Thinking I would be in a lovely comfy bed, I found myself in a couchette piled 3 bunk high and with almost no room to swing a cat. I was sharing with 2 dodgy looking Turkish guys who looked like they were jumping bail for rape convictions, so I scrambled on to the top bunk, put all my cash in my money belt round my neck, and went to sleep.

As we sat in Berlin Station the next morning, I was just getting my bags ready to find that one of the two Turks in the other bunks had stolen my toilet bag, which I’d left on the empty middle bunk. Nothing much but still, annoying. Anyway, even more annoying was that as I packed my bags up and searched for my contact lenses, the train started moving again from the station, and I was the only person on it...

With visions of spending 3 days locked in a train on a remote siding somewhere in the darkest suburbs of Berlin, I had no idea what to do – I had no way to communicate with the driver (in a separate coach that I couldn’t get into) so like an idiot, I had to pull the emergency cord…

The train stopped abruptly in the middle of nowhere, and the driver walked through and found me standing like a fool, and of course started banging on about a 300 Euro fine but as he eventually stopped in some random station near Berlin and let me off, he seemed to forget about it, so all was good (except i had to find a hotel and a way to get to it) 

The truth is though, I’ve always secretly wanted to pull an emergency stop cord on a train, haven’t you? well, I can tell you it was kind of good fun, and after my win in the poker, I would have even quite ok with the potential fine…

So now after a nothing special day in Berlin, which included sausages and beer,  I'm getting ready to get onto an overnight train to Budapest. I’ve upgraded to get a proper nights sleep and not have to worry about random sleazers stealing my toothbrush again. The cabin even has a shower! I haven’t been to Budapest for about twenty years and to be honest I can’t remember much about it apart from the parliament looks like the UK parliament in London. Last time I was there, my friends and I were tempted to join an American religious cult – they were recruiting young people in the street, and were talking about free food, accommodation and easy girls – sounds on hindsight like a ‘hostel’ prototype. It as pretty tempting for broke hungry horny Scotsmen but then one of the girls turned up and she was a fat moose so we wisely turned it down…how different life could have turned out!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Wanderlust...London, Paris and Princess Douchesses

 The other day I woke up and realized it’s high time for an adventure. One of those adventures where you just walk out the door and don’t really know quite where you’ll end up, but that’s part of the fun, kind of adventure.

So, like Bilbo Baggins, I packed a small hand luggage bag, yesterday morning and walked out the door. First stop was the 4.5 hour train ride to London, where I stayed last night. Train (75 pounds first class Glasgow - London with Virgin) takes about the same time as the flight all in, is comfortable, has free wifi, coffee, cheese, dinner, free booze, and you are able to avoid the humiliating hell of places like Luton Airport (far and away the worst airport I’ve ever had the misfortune to visit I’m sure you will agree.)

It’s always nice to pass through London – It’s the city I really spent the most mis-spent part of my younger days, and I had many happy memories there (mostly because I barely did any work) But, beware of London, dear friends – it’s all an illusion. It’s amazing how someone somewhere managed to convince millions of people that living in a cramped room in a shared flat, overpaying for absolutely everything, commuting, shoved up like cattle for 90minutes a day, and working like a slave with little or no free time or money is in some way ‘living the dream.’ Mass hypnosis, perhaps?

 Ask anyone who lives here, do they love living in London and of course they say yes. Yes, of course, there’s nowhere else in the world to live, nowhere so alive, so happening. London is the centre of the universe….and in many ways it is. But like a spiders web, it traps its residents, and in time it becomes harder and harder to leave, and you wake up one morning, and you’re 48, living in a shared flat in Bethnal Green, having worked yourself into a semi-coma and have nothing at all to show for it. Shit! You think. You came here 25 years ago, ready to set the world alight, but for some reason, like 99% of the other people who come to London to ‘make it’, you didn’t, you just plodded along like a normal person, and while all your mates back in Leeds have detached houses and Volvos, you have a mild coke habit, cynical nature, and lots of regrets.  An even if you ‘make it’ its not much better – wow, you managed to save up 100,000 pounds. Your lovely wife is pregnant. So you have a deposit for a tiny 3 bedroom terraced house in a pretty mixed area like Hackney, and a million dollar mortgage round your neck for the next 20 years (and a house that would costs 50,000 pounds if it were in Leeds) Well done, Sir. You are indeed a success in life. 100,000 pounds incidentally, will buy you a self-sufficient dream in somewhere like Ecuador, or an income for life of about $25,000 a year if you buy 5 houses in Buffalo.

It is always interesting though to check out the modern day Nathan Barleys round the east end – I ended up out in a pub in Mile End, near where I used to live, and right in the middle of a roughish council estate. When I lived there it was full of cockney football hooligans, but now it was all 12 pounds for an organic hamburger and a ping pong table full of bearded freelance social media nodes cheering a bit too loudly, in order to draw attention to themselves. Imagine Russell Brands' little brother who never managed to get famous. I wonder when the crossover was made? Were these braying fools beaten to a pulp a few times by the West Ham guys before sheer numbers of fixy-bike riding twats annoyed the regular jims until they gave up and moved down the road to an even rougher drinking hovel?  

What I wonder though, is why London has a pervasive aura of deep sadness about the people here – did you ever meet anyone in London who was truly happy? I mean truly content with their lives?  I haven’t. Maybe they’re all too busy. Or it’s too competitive to be truly happy. Any semblance of a kind, bubbly personality, or gentle spirit, is soon bled dry with cynicism, as the reality of having to make a living (or, if you’re Russian) hitch a rich husband, hits. And as a result, here I am, on the Eurostar to Paris, glad to leave the denizens of the soul sucking vampire squid to their 8am sandwiches at their desks and their 3 pints in the Bricklayers Arms bitching about their boss after work on a Thursday. Leave, you fools, before it’s too late! Ditch your job and go to the beach and go and be happy somewhere!

Of course, due to my innate laziness I missed my booked Eurostar train. Actually the bus took 45 mins instead of 21, but hats off to Eurostar, I explained the bus was late and they put me on the next train for free. Bravo!  No free wi-fi on the train but that may be connected to the international nature of my journey….next stop, in 2 hours…Paris.  I wanted to go here again for ages, after watching Midnight in Paris. What a great film! I liked particularly how the very decent Owen Wilson characters’ nasty all American ignoramus wife runs off with the uber-douchebag. Made me think how often when you do meet douches, its kind of satisfying that decent girls also will be mentally noting their douchishness and so, as sure as the sun sets on the empire, they end up with neurotic prescription drug addicted princess douchesses.

When I was there 10 years ago, I remember Paris being a smelly dirty place with overpriced food, scabby cafes, pigs trotters for sale in butchers shops, and rude as hell brown people everywhere. And is it just me, or do all French men look like pimps? Lets hope it’s all changed, and my dream of this kind of inspiring, meandering city of beauty and romance isn’t shattered this time. There’s a decent 500 euro entry poker tournament on in the famous Aviation Club de France, on Wednesday so I’ll go there, and I suppose the Louvre, and spend the rest of the time wandering around randomly. I’ll avoid that nightclub that was in ‘Irréversible’ I think.

Today out of the blue, in London, I bought an ‘inter-rail pass’ – 240 pounds odd for 10 days of travel all over Europe – so a meandering 10 days across Europe ending up in Odessa is the next loose plan…then in October ill be back in the land of the warmonger. 

I can safely say nothing really beats looking out the window on some exotic new city, not knowing what insanity awaits out there…except now i'm sitting on Eurostar looking at fields.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Molvania vs Moldova

For the benefit of my doubting American friends, Moldova IS a real country. It isn't the country i said i would make up and tell people i'm from because they have never seen a map.

Molvanîa is not though. If people are tricking you because of your scant geographical knowledge, then this is probably the country they're talking about ;o)

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Real Moldova

So firstly, forgive me for putting 'sex' in all my title headings. I only do it because when i look at the most popular search items, it seems to be all porn/sex related. Any regular posts just don't get a look in. So i can write a load of drivel and put 'sex tourist porno' as the heading and it gets 10,000 hits a day, and write a really interesting piece about the Soul of Moldova, and get 24 hits.

This of course does beg such questions as to what kind of society do we live in, and will I get banned when David Cameron puts in his porn ban...

The railway station was clean and had no beggars or hustlers...

That being said, I will now write a little bit more of the real things about Moldova, since the country doesn't have any information on it elsewhere, and because it is actually quite a nice place (to visit).

...Because they were all outside in the flea market!

After writing about there being nothing to do, my trusty soup making Moldovan friend decided to show me some real things about the city. We went to the Chișinău Botanical Garden where you can hire bikes and explore strange little places, see the 'gates of the city' (which are two big gatelike apartment complexes.) We walked back to the centre, along the main boulevard into town, and there do seem to be plenty cafes, bars and restaurants around there (just west of the city centre, along the road where the railways station is, if you want to explore) - if the tourist places are $1 a beer, then God knows about these places. Maybe they pay you to drink! There are also dozens of slot machine/money laundering places, if throwing money into a bottomless pit in a dark room is what you're into.

This is plainly a very important monument, but I have no idea what it actually is.

What hit me though was how small the city is. Like Tallinn, you can basically walk to the airport. In fact since there is no proper parking there (yes, crazy but true) walking may well be a good idea.

Texans will not be familiar with this, but guys with guns in Eastern Europe are not usually the good guys.

This is the view outside the parliament building,  and probably the nicest part of town to walk around in (because its leafy and flat)

Just outside the city, there are plenty of wineries to visit. I went to Orthei (home a cave monastery, which I didn't have time to go to) but also the home of Chateau Vartely which is pretty amazing if you like your  $5 bottle of wine to taste like a $100 bottle.

The general vibe of the city is what, to me was important. Unlike a summers day in Tallinn, the streets were not lined with drunk people (despite amazing alcohol prices) the taxi drivers didn't try to rip me off, and even the casinos were full of quite nice gun-free people (my ATM card that got stuck there, was returned to me two days later, with no money stolen!) At night, things are more about Kareoke than anything else though. God help them.

While there isn't an organised tourist industry as such, I found loads of lovely people on Couchsurfing who were taking people to Trans-Nestria, and all the other tourist sites on a regular basis, for no other reason than they are very nice people, and justly rather proud of their homely little country.

There you go, maybe i'll get a free dinner from the King of Moldova next time....

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Chisinau...The City that Italian Sex Tourists Forgot (thank God)

I would love to tell you all about the tourist sites of Chisinau, Moldova, but to be honest, there are more tourist sites in Scunthorpe.

However, Chisinau has really grown on me. It's pretty old school, but that also means 1 euro coffees, safe streets, taxi drivers who don't rob you, and no fat people.

I'm staying in the 'hotel cosmos' which, as you can see from the website just arrived out of 1982, and could be describe as 'retro soviet'. I just noticed the 3 old ladies who sit downstairs every night and say hello to me are actually the 'house prostitutes', who while being very pleasant, have plainly have been there since the hotel opened. I wonder if they are the only people alive to have been in every single room?

I've had a pretty interesting time here nevertheless, mainly due to the very nice local people i met here. It's not easy to get lost, as the centre is basically one long street with a macdonalds in the middle.  haven't seen anything costing more than $10 in the whole city. I have a suite for $30 here (although to be fair thats the going rate for rooms) and i'll put in here later some of the restaurants i've been to.

The first thing to do when you get here is walk up the main drag. Watch out as you will probably bump into lamposts checking out the most beautiful array of local girls, rather than the nothing special architecture (with some interesting exceptions like the presidents palace and some other cool sovietsky style stuff) There are a couple of lovely parks with free wifi and a street back is the National History Museum of Moldova which is quite a bizzare little place which has a large furniture shop in the middle of it, which you initially think 'wait a minute what kind of exhibit is this?' Babushkas follow you round switching on the lights and off again when you go in and out of rooms, and there is a pretty amazing wrap round montage of some war or other.

I rather stupidly got my ATM card stuck in the cash machine today in a casino where i was having lunch. Moldovan Casinos are probably not the best places to lose your atm card, but i'll have to make do with the winnings for the rest of the trip. I'm not quite sure how I will pay the hotel though on top but some kind of solution may well present itself. Between a final Moldovan wine fuelled night out on thursday, sneaking out of the hotel without paying, and visiting Soviet breakway republic Trans Nestria on Friday, there are sure to be some kind of adventures ahead...

If you don't hear from me again, you know roughly which prison i'll be in then....

ps photos WILL follow!!!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Onward to the Heart of Darkness...Trannyvania-Bucharest-Moldova-Trans Nestria

 I’m going to leave a full, comprehensive guide to Brasov to a guest post from my local friend there, so from me, I’ll just tell you a bit of background from a ludrious Scottish perspective…

The first thing to consider in Romania is that the gypsies and hustlers you’ll see, especially when you’re travelling anywhere, are small timers and a bit of threatening aggression will usually see them off (swearing helps.) Just be aware of the ‘going rate’ for things – don’t accept the taxi driver at the railway station who offers ‘VIP’ for 20 Leis when the normal rate is 5 (that’s what just happened to me in Brasov station.) The gyppos, unlike in UK are generally (between rummaging in bins) are usually selling something like raspberries, i.e. they are actually earning their keep and not dangerous – just be careful what you agree and haggle, then you’re all good.

The very Tallinesque Brasov Town Square, here in Transylvania

As I begin my journey further into the heart of (socialist) darkness, it’ll be interesting to see how things change. Here in Romania, sure, the police/officials have those oversize hats which usually means you’re in a dodgy country and that they’re crooks, but so far I haven’t had any hassle at all. I’m expecting that to change as my train trundles onwards towards the Moldovan border. Will the police/guards hats be double size by the time I get to the North Korea of Europe – Trans Nestria? Maybe the hats are big to hide all the bribes, who knows. But I do know, that when a guy with a dodgy uniform and a big hat barks something at you in some bizzare language, and puts his hand out, you know it's not looking good. At least Siberia is warm in summer.

The very hidden but pretty, Peles Castle

Transylvania, despite being surprisingly beautiful, still has a long way to go with organizing its tourism industry. One of the most amazing castles in the region  (or in the world) Peleș Castle Castle in Sinaia, just south of Transylvania, kept secret by an intricate network of streets and hills, and of course a complete lack of any signposts, keeping it safe from all those vulgar tourists who may possibly have come to the town to try to find it. Well, maybe this idiotic lack of common sense has some soviet charm, and of course it could put off the more annoyingly stupid tourists, but all in all, I haven’t seen anything as daft since the Latvian Airport misdirection scam (there is a sign 10km from the airport pointing the wrong direction and saying 'airport 70km'!)

I missed out 'Draculas' castle, the alleged home of 'Vlad Draco', Bran Castle in the assumption that someone else would tell me all about it and i can write about it at a later date...

I can just imagine Bats flying out of here though (Bran 'Dracula'' Castle)

The food outside Bucharest tourist traps, is generally cheap ($3-10 for a dinner depending on where you go) and beer is especially cheap (about $1 a pint) The breaded cow brains I decided in wisdom to wolf down with potatoes and veg cost $2.50 but perhaps there was a reason for that. It was either that or pig testicles, and I’m not quite ready to go there yet…

Tonight, assuming I get to Bucharest and get a ticket ok, I’ll be on an overnight train to Chisinau, Moldova. I have an old guide book to ‘Molvania’ which is a loose piss-take of this wonderful nation, but who knows what the poorest country in Europe will look like. Perhaps my lack of bribing will land me in jail, perhaps my soviet era hotel will collapse under me. Maybe i'll like it so much i wont come back. The unknown is part of the adventure…

With Romania, I’m at least partly aclimatised to the vagaries of ex-soviet states. Moldova may well be a little bit of culture shock, but the most interesting goat trafficking adventure will my onward trip to Tirasapol (the ‘capital’ of unrecognized breakaway soviet republic of ‘Trans Nestria)

Perhaps I’ll decide to stay and never come back, or perhaps I’ll rot in a prison there. And maybe, just maybe I’ll have a great time.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Eating Brains in Transylvania

The strangest of days creep up on a man from time to time.

One minute i'm in London, surrounded by uninspiring zombies pretending they're part of the next big thing. It must be subliminally piped into the tube to forget the fact that they share a house with 5 other people because they can't afford to rent a place of their own, never mind buy something or get a car, and can only afford to go out once a month, or have any time to themselves to actually think or do anything interesting for a change except drink wine and moan.

Next morning i'm in Luton Airport, (a horrible refugee camp of a shed- the very antithesis of the idea that flying is in any way glamorous), surrounded by blabbering gyppos, en route to Bucharest, Romania...

Now, Romania, in most people's minds eye, is full of scraggly little brown kids with no shoes trying to pick your pockets, and these head-scarf clad women with babies begging, as their other children try to pick your pockets. On the bus from the airport, a dodgy geezer tried to sell me a 3 Lei bus ticket for 10 Lei. I think every other taxi driver I got tried it on, but you quickly get used to these quirks as you find that most Romanians are actually

a. Not brown at all - the brown ones are gypsies, who are a hated minority, due to their lack of bothering with such small trifles as the law of the land.

b. Pretty decent and honest and not really looking to rip you off (unless, of course they are politicians/biznismen, lawyers or anything in between - this is Eastern Europe after all and you, dear friend are a foreigner/human ATM)

Bucharest, isn't a particularly pretty or interesting city. It seems like an average hotch potch of pick-n-mix East European Capital city, which of course, it is. You can see a couple of great churches, some grand boulevards, and of course their beloved Dictator Ceaușescu's palace (interesting to read about his ignoble downfall, here. There is a good looking Old town, which is choc-full of bars, cafe's and restaurants and pretty much the only place to go at night (but its not bad at least) There's even a bar called 'Glasgow Pub' (which 'welcomes heavy drinkers' - what a great image my home city has)

Anyway, I got a train up to Brasov, which is a beautiful city in the mountains, and near to the home of Dracula- it feels more like an Austrian mountain getaway, full of ornate hanseatic style buildings and a pretty old square or two, full of those quaint cafe's that you see if every beautiful medieval city (although unlike Tallinn old town, the coffee is less than 2 Euros a pop)

Which leads me on to this evenings dinner, which was Cow Brain, and potatoes...more of which I'll tell you later...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Age of Aquarius

So finally my first novel is out in the open...

You can buy it here in USA, and here for the UK - But most importantly, check out the website and competition which will launch today in here (see competition)

And thanks for everyone who bought it already, whoever you are (mum)

Monday, 3 June 2013


What I love about Panama (i'm here playing poker, really badly) is the warmth of the latino race.

Personally I hate cats, but I understand they increase blog hits, so here is a cat, from Panama

The whole region, probably thanks to the much maligned but actually not so bad catholic church, completely lacks political correctness, and is much better for it - black guys are just like black guys in the west, except without the white liberals patronising them all the time and making them victims, so they're free to be themselves. Women, (who seem to all have photoshopped backsides here) seem quite happy being women, feeling not much need for screeching harpies demanding that 50% of all coal miners and racing drivers should be girls. Even fat asian people, at least in the poker room here, seem quite ok with being called 'El Chino Gordo'.

As you can see, Cocaine trafficers also need banks, lawyers, hotels and apartments...

As a result of course, society actually works. People have functional nuclear families who love and support each other. Divorce rates are low. Fetuses are neither eaten nor aborted. The burden on the taxpayer is minimum and of course although efficiency probably isn't that high thanks to the lovely weather, business are free to make profits without having to subsidise irresponsible idiots and the left wing parasites of the job-for-life public sector, who seem to be the only ones who's interest is served by the state.

Much of the old town is still sketchy, but it's getting there. Strange to see a lovely Art Deco building sitting there though. 

Panama' wealth though wouldn't have been possible without the help of the USA. The panama canal of course, is a world monopoly, as is the cocaine money laundering business, and both can be traced back to Uncle Sam without much digging.

I've yet to explore the rest of the country - something I really want to do soon, but what i'm beginning to like about Panama City is that it's beginning to form itself as THE hub of southern central america - i.e. its the only city of any decent size/interest in the region so it's emerging as a base for Europeans fleeing Spain and Italy, as well as Americans fleeing their own warmongering, tottering nation.
Training for the Guernsey Graniteman and looking increasingly like the one man wolfpack, yesterday. 

Anyway i'll leave you all to get back to your dinner. I just wanted to make the latest post on this blog a little less scary than the last...

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Cannibalism - The Last Taboo? (warning, dodgy photos!)

I’ve always been interested in things and subjects where people say ‘Alan, you CANT say that!’ Anything you can’t say or do must, by default, be interesting surely? So, heroin, crack and crystal meths aside, I’ve thus always had a weird fascination with ‘outsider’ subjects, hence the themes in my forthcoming novel. I’ll start today by looking a bit more at cannibalism…

We're all Cannibals, really

There’s a big difference between the classic idea of cannibals, black native guys with bones through their noses, putting khaki clad explorers in big black cooking pots on the fire, and the real, scary idea of people who are basically messed up enough to meet you in a bar, invite you back to their house, and kill and eat you.

Classic C'bals at Work

I think I first became interested in the subject when I got my hands on a copy of ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ on a street in St Petersburg. Actually it was totally accidental, I bought about 20 random dvd’s for about $10 but when I googled it I realized how it had been banned everywhere. It’s not a film for the faint hearted, but I am glad to say, ‘Hostel’ director is Eli Roth is also on my wavelength here with his forthcoming film  ‘The Green Inferno’ (which looks amazing I must say) – set in Peru, about a bunch of not particularly likeable American deforestation activists, who end up as dinner. Which is basically the same story as cannibal holocaust.

But eating another human being. Even the thought of it makes most people queasy. Why? There is of course the why factor. What would go through a rational mans mind to consciously do such a thing?

I'm not actually sure this is real but...what the hell???

In ‘The Age of Aquarius’, cannibalism takes a number of basic forms (I wont tell you about them all here, just some examples.)
Beautiful romantic scene from Cannibal holocaust, which basically got it banned all round the world.

Firstly, slaves are eaten, simply as a show of complete subjugation over another human being. ‘I’m so rich, I can afford to buy this persons whole existence’ is the message. So, to fill market demand, slaves are bred from birth, to want to be eaten. This is the pinnacle of their very lives. Powerful (and sociopathic) people, want to invite their friends to dinner parties, and show off how rich they are, by feeding them corn fed humans, who are eager and willing to be eaten alive.

The second form is of course through ignorance. This isn’t rocket science. Do you actually know what is in your ‘all beef hot dog?’ Does that look like beef to you? It’s basically the same with all ‘reformed’ meat. It could be anything. Including your cousin.  

Aye right, of course it's 'chicken'

Later on in the book, as civilization breaks down, the weak are hunted like dogs. As in the movie ‘alive’ where the plan crash survivors eat their dead because they’d die otherwise, this is merely survival and, unlike veganism, quite possibly within the bounds of rational human behavior. 

In short, cannibalism is most probably a potentially natural thing to do. It's the murder that precludes it thats weird.