Tag Archives: Noah

Thoughts in a hotel room in Cebu

1/23/15 Cebu City Philippines

I sit here in my hotel. A couple of days into a work-binge. Days spent resting, nights spent working. Room service and smokes. I will spend another few days doing this, or maybe another week on top of that. We shall see. I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been too busy doing the travelling and meeting people. I thought at one point, before I left the US, that I would write about everything that happened. I realize now that was a fools fancy. There are only a couple of stories that stand out now as deserving their own pieces of writing. I will write them, but for now I just relax and think about the Philippines.

I’ve been here for about six weeks now. I have a couple of weeks left on my visa before I need to renew. I’ve spent all of this time on Cebu island, and a large portion in Cebu City. I’ve made friends here, both locals and travellers. Most of the travellers are gone now, and I’m cordoned off and the locals probably assume I’ve left as well.

I’ve isolated myself right now so I can do a substantial amount of work and not be distracted by friends and fun. I think of my friends that I’ve met here. Jelmer, the dutch engineer, who I went through Southern Cebu with and who’s back in China now. Felix, the young Swede, who is back to finish his school. Teal, the Swedish manager, who is back after holiday. Hao, the Vietnamese software engineer who lives in LA, who is down in Australia diving. Maikel, the Dutch tour guide, who is on a Buddhist retreat in either Thailand or Vietnam right now. Shantae, the American diver, who is probably off looking for the next great shark dive. Nana, and Bella/Jaekun who are both back home now. Junior and Phillip, the Philippino couch surfing hosts that I met at a beach party and who let me and my friends stay with them and cooked us food. Keith and Emmett, the Irish backpackers that are now in Thailand before heading to Cambodia and Vietnam. Rafa, the Spanish expat who lives in Malapascua with Joon-Joon who owns the hostel Villa Sandra, one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed. Shaira and Farieza the former of whom I think is in Indonesia, and the latter who is back home after her brief but tumultuous holiday. I think of my friends and how when you travel you make fast friends, but they leave just as fast. Technology helps, but is no substitute for long slow talks over fast beers and laughter. I could keep naming people for paragraphs, but it would just touch the people I’ve met.

It’s funny how people say travelling changes you. I’m not sure I believe that. I think I’m still basically the same guy I was before, but I have a better grasp of who that is. I find myself not worrying as much about who I am, or what I’m doing. I still worry some, about money, and my health. The money thing is actually one of the primary reasons I’m putting in so much time on working right now.

I know that I’m lucky to be able to work while I travel, as people so often tell me. It’s most traveller’s dreams, but it has it’s downsides as well. Staying up for midnight conference calls while everyone else is at a bar, or a party. Taking a week off to put in 40 hours on a project, and not being able to really let go of things back home. Letting problems percolate in your subconscious so that you can deal with them at a later date. I suppose that these are the realities that we deal with so that we can travel right? I don’t begrudge them, because my work, and the company that generously lets me work this way, make my travels possible.

As my friends enjoy pointing out to me, I’m not good at saving money, but I am good at my work. My skills allow me to continue my travels without having to leave the US with as much money as most people travelling for an extended period of time generally do. I’m grateful for that, and I need to get back to it now. Until later.

Cebu Island Part II

Bohol

The next day, on Christmas day, we went out to Bohol on the ferry, but Dora went off to meet up with a friend. It was pretty empty in Cebu on the way, especially compared to the madness of Cebu coming up to Christmas Eve. We stayed at the Tr3ats in Tagilarund (capital of Bohol), which was the same hostel we stayed at in Cebu. Till, Hao, Maikel and I arrived and woke up the other person in the dorm. A traveller named Vandana. We went out for food. Some of the only places to find food in Tagilarund are at the malls. Later we found out that there is some decent street food near the port, but not really in the rest of the city. That night, Christmas night, on the TV there was Frozen. I love that movie and own the soundtrack, so I started singing along. Louder and more effusively as there were more drinks had. The rest of the night was spent talking, drinking, and watching the stars.

I did very little the next day. I slept in and almost went to the beach, but didn’t. The next day or so I ended up at Alona Beach with Thomas and Felix, the Swedish guy that I might have mentioned earlier. We swam, and had some drinks and it was good times.

So it was right before New Years and everyone had plans except for Maikel and I. Felix had invited us out to meet up with him in El Nido, and Farieza and Shaira were there as well. It sounded fun, but there was no available accommodation and the tickets were a little pricey. After much waffling we said fuck it and booked the tickets. We high fived, and then ten minutes later someone asked us if we had heard all boats off the island were cancelled because of the typhoon. I believe our reactions were to swear and laugh. Yo get our refunds we had to go out in the storms and go to the pier, then wait in line for hours at the airport. It took almost the whole day. So after the next day the boats were cancelled again. The typhoon was coming and everyone at the hostel was stuck on the island just like we were. Some people were bummed, but as I always say when life gives you typhoons make TYPHOON PARTY!!!

We grabbed a huge amount of alcohol from the corner store, and waded through all of the rain that was already piling up. The hostel had BBQ in the evenings out back so food was taken care of, pay no attention to the plastic they use to start the fire. A few Aussies apparently had the same idea and brought a few more bags of booze and by the time everyone was out back it was maybe twenty of us. The party was a ton of fun, but it was cast in perspective the next day. We had been on the edge of the typhoon that hit Bohol and only had some light flooding and strong winds and lost power and water for a couple of days. There were about 140 dead on the island, bridges were down, houses were destroyed, and there was flooding in all of the rivers. To put it mildly we all kind of felt like assholes.

The boats were cancelled the next day and we were pretty sure that we were going to be spending New Years on Bohol. Maikel and I were OK with it, because when the boats were going again there was maybe a half kilometer line for tickets in the sweltering heat. We weren’t going to wait in that. Fortunately for us our friends Nana and Bella were already in line and got us tickets. We were set to go back to Cebu City for New Years. It wasn’t El Nido, but a sight better than Bohol.

We got business class tickets because that was all they had, and we got back to Cebu in the afternoon. Everybody ended up bailing except for me and Maikel. We met back up with Dora, and her friend. We hustled together more people from the hostel and were going out maybe 12 deep when we hit the bar district in Cebu. The bars in Cebu are not very big, and were all pretty full when we got there maybe an hour before New Years Eve. Corralling that many people is also inherently difficult. We ended up, at the recommendation of our Russian friend we met in Bohol, just grabbing some brandy, some mango juice and some cups and just going to the main square in Cebu uptown and hanging out and watching the fireworks. The fireworks in Cebu on New Years are impressive. We were in the center of Uptown, so some large buildings blocked some of our view, but you could still see a ton. Sitting on the grass around the giant Christmas tree was a great way of ringing in the New Year.

Malapascua

Maikel, Dora, and I had decided to go up to Malapascua, and one of the Americans that we went out with for New Years was heading that way too. Shantae was a backpacker/diver from Utah, and was going to dive with the Thresher Sharks. Malapascua is one of the only places to dive with them in the world. Maikel was a diver too and was psyched. Dora and I were not divers, and I was just looking forwards to some drinks and some beach. So we took the bus at like 5 in the morning. I think Maikel enjoyed waking me up much too much. Shantae, me and some other people from the hostel had been up drinking until like 2 or 3. I was not bright eyed and bushy tailed to put it mildly.

We took the bus to Maya, then the boat to Malapascua. The day was dark, and the water was rough, so we made it on the last ferry going out and it was pretty wet and very up and down on the way there. It is worth noting that this was the time that I decided to get a dry bag. A dry bag, for our friends that aren’t aware, is basically a bag made out of rubber that is waterproof and airtight. They are popular with divers because you can drop them in the water and they generally float because of the air trapped inside. My bag was soaked. This was mostly my own fault because the captain had told me that putting the bag below decks was going to be drier. Long story short, get a dry bag. They’re awesome. So we got to the “Pier” in Malapascua, but it was just a beach. They laid down some boards for us to walk to, and then we were on the beach. There are no cars on Malapascua, so you get around by walking, or by hiring a motorbike, which comes with a driver (20p/person). If you have two bags being on the back of a motorbike is a pretty tight fit. We stayed one night at Thresher Cove. It was a beautiful resort, and one that had dorms. The dorms were thin mattresses in a concrete room, but it had a private beach, a pool, and was meticulously maintained. It was a bit outside of the village though. We took it pretty easy that night and the next night, on recommendation of the resort, we went to Villa Sandra.

Villa Sandra was probably my favourite hostel I’ve stayed at. Simple, inexpensive, right in the village, and the people were amazing. It rained for two days, but then the sun came out. The beaches in Malapascua were some of the nicest I saw in the Philippines, and they were pretty empty. The island is still primarily a place for divers, so during the day most tourists are out diving. The nights were filled with drinking, talking, and the occasional bout of karaoke in the village. We all spent several afternoons at Maldito’s, a bar with the IQ special. 60p for a single rum and coke, 50p for a double, and 40p for a triple. It led to fun times, and harsh mornings. Malapascua was my favourite place in the Philippines and I’m not quite sure how to get across the charm of the place, and of Villa Sandra. I awoke each day to people drinking coffee on the patio, smoking cigarettes, and listening to reggae. You could ask about snorkelling places and someone would volunteer to take you. Maybe it was the people I was with, and the people I met, but it was a very chill place. It was also just what I needed right then. It was one of the only places I could see living/working for a month or more in the Philippines.

I stayed in Malapascua for 5 or 6 days, but I wish I could have stayed longer. However my visa was running out and I needed to renew it. I also wanted to get my diving (PADI) certification, but the money/time/scheduling didn’t work out.

Sinulog

I came back to Cebu City after Malapascua and just hung out in the city while I waited for my visa to be renewed. I met some more people. I was planning on going back to Malapascua sooner rather than later because Sinulog was coming. Sinulog is the biggest party/festival in the Philippines. For scope I’ll tell you this. The Metro Cebu area has a population of about 800,000. During Sinulog the city swelled in 2014 to about 3-4 million people. Every street in the city is a party. I wasn’t going to do it, but after a night with Keith and Emmett, who were in town for the party, they convinced me to do it. Red, Will, and Marina were all in town for the festival too, so we all made plans to do it, but there was a problem with accommodation. We didn’t have any, well, Keith and Emmett and I didn’t.

Keith, Emmett, and I all went out for drinks with some friends of theirs that they met on the flight into the Philippines. We had dinner, then went out for drinks. We were telling people that we were looking for accommodation, and they just laughed and said that we were screwed, which was funny, but ultimately unhelpful. It was two days before the festival and people generally book months in advance. However after the dinner one of the guys said that they thought they had a friend that owned a guest house that might have a free room. We said that we would take whatever they had as long as it had a floor, and that was negotiable. The room ended up actually being pretty nice. Will and Marina ended up grabbing a hotel. It was kind of pricey, but it was available..

It was Sinulog, so it was pretty hard to get back to the guesthouse, but I made it. I was burnt out. I did not go out on Sinulog, and my friends gave me no end of crap about it, but I was feeling kind of sick. By all accounts it was crazy. Marina made a Youtube video of it, and if I can track it down I’ll link it.

After Sinulog I checked into a nice hotel to get some work done. I sat in a room just working and sleeping for a week, then I was going to go back to Malapascua, but some friends invited me down to Boracay. I ended up going to Boracay, but that story is for another time.

Cebu Island Part I

Cebu City

When I started this post, I’d been in the Philippines for about two weeks. I spent the first few days recovering from either food poisoning, or just adjusting to the food. It was hard to tell. I had some KFC in the Mumbai international airport at midnight that didn’t agree with me, and yeah I know it was stupid, but it was late and I was hungry and not a lot was open (stupid chicken sandwich). I went up to the roof at my hostel and met a bunch of people including a friend named Jelmer from Holland. It was on the roof of that hostel that I met a lot of friends and people that I would later end up travelling with. It was a tiny little rooftop commons area. This was both it’s problem and it’s saving grace. It was so small that when people went up there to smoke, or to drink everyone had to be in one tight circle. This, of course meant that that everyone had to interact, and there were no small groups as happens sometimes. Jelmer invited me to Moalboal in a few days after he got some work done, so I stayed at the hostel and killed time.

I mostly recovered my health in the next days, but I did have a fun night with a Swedish guy named Felix. I asked Felix if he was going out that night. He said that he had just flew in from Sweden and was pretty jetlagged. I said I was recovering from food poisoning, but we both agreed that a couple of beers on the roof sounded good. Of course one beer turned into three, which turned into several bottles of rum as more and more people from the hostel came to the roof. People came and people left, but Felix and I remained. We couldn’t figure out why people were going to bed so early until the sun rose. Now the funny thing about Felix is that he couldn’t really drink, but he was keeping up with me all night. When the sun rose I was surprised he hadn’t passed out. I found out later that Felix was 18 years old, and then I understood. I could do things like that when I was 18 too.

Oslob

So Jelmer hit me up a day or two later, and we went down to Oslob, because the only hostel in Moalboal was booked up. We met back up with Matt, who we had met in Cebu. We all three went to swim with the whale sharks the next day and decided to stay in Oslob for another day because it was so chill and everyone was so nice. We stayed in Luzmin BH, which is ran by Lucy, and she’s helped by her son Mark. Almost every evening people come by and play pool on the pool table in the back. The cost for a game is 5p (about $0.10USD) and the standard bet is 20p (about $0.40USD). It was fun even if I almost never won. The people in that area play a ludicrous amount of pool, as did the people in Moalboal. Some of my fondest memories of Lagunda, and Oslob in general, are just hanging out in that back courtyard area and losing pool consistently to the local guys. While we trash talked each other and feigned pain when we missed, all without any grasp of each others language. It was good fun. Matt was actually the first person I met travelling who played serious pool. I used to, many years ago, but my skills have atrophied to the point where I can only beat my friends. Although they like to think I’m really good, I’m not, but it makes them feel better about losing.

We went to swim with the whale sharks pretty early in the morning, or at least for me it was. We got up and around 7 and got out there maybe 7:30. It was one of the more expensive touristy things I’ve done since travelling, 1000p (about $23USD), but it was so worth it. That included the snorkelling as well, so it would be a few hundred pesos cheaper if you didn’t want to go in the water, or a few hundred more if you wanted to dive. You go out on a little bangkha about 50-60 feet from the shore and just jump in. The snorkels they rented us were terrible and I kept inhaling water and ended up ditching the snorkel and keeping on the mask. The whale sharks were 8-10 meters long. That is around 30 feet. That doesn’t quite due them justice, because they are also very big around. Google some images, because I forgot my camera, but suffice to say they are HUGE! The people in the boat feed the Whale Sharks, so they are constantly moving around trying to get the food. You go through an orientation before you go, and it mostly consists of, “DON’T TOUCH THE WHALE SHARKS!!!” also maintain a 10-15 foot distance at all times. That is easier said then done and I had to frequently dodge the sharks when they almost ran into me. They are so big that you don’t even register to them. At one point I was hanging off of the side of the boat with a whale shark coming by beneath me with the man driving the boat yelling at me, “UP! UP! HIGHER!!!” I was completely out of the water at this point and hanging on trying not to fall on the whale shark inches below me, and then the man yelled at me, “BUT RELAX! RELAX!!!!” I wanted to yell back at him, “QUIT YELLING AT ME TO RELAX! IT’S NOT HELPFUL!!!” However I was out of breath and trying not to fall. Over all it was one of my favorite memories in the Philippines and I would highly recommend it.

So now we went to Moalboal. Unfortunately the rain started coming down. I was reminded that the Philippines doesn’t have Summer or Winter. They just have the rainy season and the not rainy season. Typhoon season is generally at the beginning of the rainy season. We had been making jokes about the rain for a bit while we were lounging in the sun, but then it started coming down. Jelmer sat on a little chair in the rain with an umbrella while we were trying to wave down a bus. It was one of the saddest most pitiful things I had ever seen. I wanted to take a picture, but it seemed inappropriate. Also my camera was all the way in my bag. I offered to take a shift with him, but he said that there was no sense in getting two of us wet, and I didn’t argue very hard.

Finally we got a bus. Unfortunately it was the wrong bus, but we didn’t realize that until we arrived at the end of the line. It was not the town we thought we were going to catch the next bus at. We asked the driver if we could just flag down another bus on the way. He assured us that it would not be a problem. It was a problem, and illustrates something that happens a lot in the Philippines. People will tell you where something is, because they are helpful, but they might not have any idea what you’re talking about. If you get directions I would recommend asking a few different people and getting a consensus. It will save you many of the days I spent looking for restaurants and landmarks. None of the buses stopped and we ended up taking a trike to the next bus station. We still had to wait an hour or so in the rain huddled with everyone else under some thatched roofs trying to edge out the vendors and the chickens.

Moalboal

We got our bus and went to Moalboal. When we got to Moalboal I thought immediately that I would hate it. It was packed, noisy, and everyone was yelling at you trying to get you to take a trike etc. I was pretty wet and beat so we grabbed a trike for like 150p (we found out later the going rate is 30p/person). So the way that Moalboal is laid out is that there are two major areas around the water, and the city. The city sucks. The other parts are called the little sun and the big sun. The little sun is where all the backpackers and cheap diving people hang out. The big sun is resorts and private beaches. I did not go to the big sun. The little sun was cool though. Good food, nice bars, not too expensive. We grabbed some beers, met up with the girls and just hung out. The next day was a bit of an adventure. I accidentally went canyoning. That day warrants another post, so I’ll link it here when I’m done. Although Seven Sins bar was pretty cool and is worth noting because it’s a little bar in Moalboal that takes bitcoin. It was pretty awesome and Jelmer and I had a great talk with Abraham, the owner of the bar, about cryptocurrencies.

I ended back up in Cebu after Moalboal. It’s a 4 hour bus ride North from Moalboal to Cebu City, but in rush hour its more like 5-6 hours. I relaxed in Cebu for a couple of days and met up with some guys. Till from Switzerland, Hao from Vietnam (but who lived in LA), and Maikel from the Netherlands. We were all thinking about heading to Bohol. We decided that after Christmas Eve we’d roll out.

We went out on Christmas Eve. We started the night at an Irish Pub, and there was a hilarious exchange when an American guy we we were hanging out with tried to order Irish car bombs. Keep in mind this was an Irish pub, that I’m pretty sure was owned by an Irish guy. After half an hour of trying to explain to the bartender and the bouncer how to make them he just asked for the ingredients. So if you’ve never tried to make 10 Irish car bombs from shots and cans of Guiness and pint glasses on a rickety table in a crowded bar I will tell you it’s challenging. We finally succeeded. Serge felt triumphant, and I was happy to get free Jameson and Guiness, and then went to the club. We danced our asses off, but the club didn’t seem very Christmassy to me. I headed back to the Hostel with Maikel and Dora, from Australia. We got back to the hostel and heard merrymaking across the street. The two shops were having street parties. One had house music playing loudly, and people dancing. The other shop had an amp, and two guitarists, or maybe a guitarist and a bass player. We grabbed beers and started listening to the music. However in the Philippines if you know the words to the song then they’ll just pass you the mic. I sang some Janes Addiction with Dora, but had issues because I blew out my voice at the club. I could only sing bass very low. We partied, then went to bed. I have a video of it somewhere that I might upload.

Leaving Benaulim

Hmm, a lot has happened since my last post occurred. Zach and I did a perfect week. That means a solid week of going out partying every night. We have been in Benaulim long enough we’ve seen a few crops of tourists go through. Some were pretty cool and we kicked it with them for a few nights like the Ukranian couple Ruslan and his wife. Some are here for longer periods and we have seen a bunch like the group of Russian tour guides Sergei, Viktor, Vladimir, Lena, and both of the Katarinas. A few have become fast good friends like Vitale who might meet up with us in Indonesia, Morris from Italy who went back home after an extended 5 month holiday, Chris who is from Goa and just went back to Kuwait for work, and Scott from Scotland who partied with us even after he dislocated his clavicle and was in a sling.

I thought of writing up every night on the perfect week, but I thought that it would get monotonous. Meeting people every night and drinking and laughing at jokes and at the language barrier while the music is pumping and the bottles keep coming. We’ve become regulars at a couple of places and they don’t mind that much if you bring in some of your own booze. However with a fifth of good rum at the bar only 400 rupees (about $6.50 USD) it’s not that hard just to get them there. Although you have to pay for every coke separately at 30 rupees or so. Some nights would just be me and Zach and Chris chatting and kicking it, but usually we would see people we knew or meet new people and would fill up our table, bring another over, fill that one and then grab another. I remember these nights for the heat, the lack of fans, the bugs swirling like vortexes around the light bulbs of Malibu (the shack not the restaurant that we might have mentioned elsewhere).

I was going to separate out the partying and my general thoughts on Benaulim, but I can’t really. However there is another piece that I wrote up about partying with some of the crazy Russian girls. Completely separating partying and daily life implies that there exists some line between them. The places we’ve eaten in the day aren’t generally the places we go at night, but they are all a part of the town. The fallout of the perfect week was that I ended up with pretty severe food poisoning that put me out for 3-4 days. It was another few days of issues before I had a doctor come out and give me some antibiotics. Jack, the owner of the guest house we’re staying at, was super cool. He heard I was sick and offered to get me a doctor. It was a couple of days before I took him up on it, but he got a good one out, Alejandro I think his name was, and then went and got me my antibiotics. I mostly stayed in while I took them over the next several days. Zach went on partying straight for another two weeks (three weeks total as he keeps reminding me) and now is getting over a bad cold. We both hit the wall and our bodies fighting back.

I guess I’ve been thinking about Benaulim in general a lot. I decided a while ago that I’m going to break off by myself for a bit. I’m flying to the Philippines on December 8th. I’ll be there until the end of March and then I’m meeting back up with Zach in Jakarta before we head to Bali for his birthday. When we first got to Goa we were some of the only people here and I got a bit stir crazy. It was some the lack of interaction with people. Mostly though it was the lack of things to do. When you’re working full time you don’t feel a need to really do anything else. You get off of work and just want to relax. You might go out on the weekends, but the time fills itself. I’m still doing some work, but not that much. It started driving me crazy. You think that when you do something big, like going across the world to travel, that things will suddenly look brighter and all of your problems will go away. You’ll be more gregarious, and be able to leap over buildings. Unfortunately people don’t just change overnight. You can’t flip a switch and be an entirely different person, or even flip a switch to stop doing things that you don’t like. I’ve known that in the past, but I had forgotten it. It took a trip to India to remind me.

Basically I was having some issues adjusting to travel, and the realities of what travel would change, and what it wouldn’t. Zach and I talked about it, and he said that he had noticed it too. After talking with Zach I decided that I wanted to travel by myself a bit. Travelling with Zach is great and I enjoy it, but he is a pretty experienced traveler, and I don’t think I’ll be able to develop some of those skills unless I put myself in a more sink or swim environment. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Goa, and I enjoy how I spend my days. I used to be much more frenetic, but now I can just sit and drink tea and watch the street for an hour or two and it doesn’t seem that long. I’ll hang out on the beach for half a day and be surprised when the sun is going down. I also find myself talking a lot less, because a lot of what I say (witticisms, puns etc) don’t really translate to non-native English speakers, especially who speak minimal English. I’ve been relying on Zach for meeting people because he’s much better at striking up a conversation with people in crowded environments. I met most of my friends at work, or school, or through mutual acquaintances.

There is no progress without sacrifice, and I’m a little sad that I won’t be here in Benaulim for the holidays, but Sunnny who owns the Hungry Duck is throwing me a BBQ tomorrow (December 6) for my going away party. Zach is super psyched about Northern India, especially Rajistan. I’m excited to see the Philippines, where Nate, a good friend, spent several months and has always raved about. He also met his wife Sally, another dear friend, there. I officiated their wedding, my About Us picture is actually from that wedding. For my conduct in the photo I blame the fact that Nate fed me like three 40s of Steel Reserve before it was taken. That wasn’t really relevant, but it still makes me chuckle when I see it. We’ll both still be writing and a few months isn’t very much in the grand scheme of things. We hope everyone will keep reading, because we’re going to keep writing.

In Goa drinking with Russians

Quick setting for Tuesday night. We spent the day kicking on the beach for quite a bit, maybe 4-5 hours. I had several drinks, Zach had a few, then we went back to the guesthouse. The bar we were at with the chairs on the beach said that they were doing karaoke that night, so of course we were down. We only had a Saturday karaoke place. We definitely needed another. So we went back to the bar Dominic’s for karaoke. It was pretty much just Zach and I. There was a French guy doing some singing too. We got him to sing “Could you be loved” with us. It was awesome. I sang some “Gangster’s Paradise” which went over very well with the Russian women at one of the tables. The song selection was awesome. Zach and I sang some Will Smith (“Miami”), and I even sang some Everclear, “I will buy you a new house”. I was super impressed, most places in the states don’t have Everclear. I also got down with soe Sublime. We drank, and sang, and smoked hookah until they closed down. They said karaoke was over. Zach and I asked the waiters where the party was at. They said it was at Malibu next door and to come back next Monday for karaoke. I went over and invited the French guy and his table to join us next door. They said that they might when they were done with their drinks.

We walked next door and the music was blasting, the Russian dance music. That is apparently all they play at the Malibu. We had been to the Malibu restauraunt and go periodically for dinner (free wifi is nice). We hadn’t been to the shack yet. We setup, ordered a couple of Fennys, and surveyed the place. The dance floor was full of Russian women and the mandatory Russian guy with no shirt. They all seemed to be from the same table, and I was trying to think of a good way to introduce ourselves. You see it’s a little challenging to introduce yourself to Russian tourists out here because they speak little to no English and my Russian is limited to saying “Hi”. I was considering this when Zach saw they had a bottle of rum at their table and just turned his chair around and was then sitting at their table. They waved me over too. We started chatting a little, they said some of them were from St. Petersberg, and some others were from places I couldn’t pronounce. We all ordered more drinks and started dancing our hearts out. A little while then the French guy, who’s name was Joaquin I found out, and his girlfriend came in and pulled up chairs to the table. He was in town for a couple of days covering a soccer match for the magazine he wrote for. Also an Indian guy named Chris pulled up a chair too. We had seen him at karaoke and he seemed to enjoy our singing and I saw him at the bar seeming to be trying to find a way to come party with us. He also just pulled up a chair. I think our giant table was the entirety of the people at this bar at this point. We danced and talked and there were huge language barriers all around, but it was tons of fun. Language is overrated for having fun with people when the music is thumping and the drinks are flowing. They kept playing great music all in Russian that I had never heard of and we all kept dancing.

Eventually I told Zach I was heading home if he wanted to come, but he was fairly intoxicated and wanted to dance/drink more. I made it home and got through the gate to the guesthouse then to the room and laid down. I remember wondering how Zach was going to get through the gate when he didn’t have a key. I considered just leaving the gate open, but that seemed like a bad idea in general. That was about all the thought I put into it though. Fortunately Zach came back shortly after I did. He had a plan to get through the gate. He shook it and yelled drunkenly until someone let him in.

So fastforward to the next day, I wake up, Zach is hellaciously hungover and naked. There was an “issue” with his sheets and clothes. I felt a little rough, but Zach was close to catatonic. We went down to eat lunch at Jack’s, and then he went to sleep and I messed around a little bit online. We grabbed food for dinner, but were just going to have a low key night. I wanted a couple of beers, and Zach wanted to just go out for a bit. As Zach said to me later, we approached the night with the best of intentions. We went to this little lounge bar where some people were dancing and had a couple of drinks and just relaxed. Eventually the DJ sang along with the songs a bit too. He did an awesome version of Pink Floyd, and a couple of other songs too.

Then Mahal closed and we decided that we had a couple of more drinks in us before we wanted to go to back to the guesthouse. We walked directly over to the beach shack next door, not at the time realizing that it was Domnick’s. We were walking up to the bar when we heard people yelling at us “Zach, Noah!” We looked over and it was the girls from the night before. Zach and I both looked at each other and just had that telepathic moment where we just went, “Well, shit. I guess this is going to be one of those nights.” They called us over for drinks and said that they were going to the club in Colva, and we should come. One of the local guys arranged the cab and everything. We just kept drinking and had Svetlana’s daughter do some translating for us. There was this crazy blond girl that was all over Zach. I know that some of you guys might be taking umbrage with me saying crazy girl. I know that’s a term that guys throw around with abandon. However she borrowed my water bottle to pour it on Zach because he said he didn’t like Vladimir Putin, and kept biting his fingers. She also spoke about as much English as I do Russian. But did this discourage Zach? Nope. The party consisted of a really cool Russian guy, Svetlana the married mother, the blonde girl, the brunette girl, the guy who worked at Dominics, and our grumpy cab driver, you can see him in the group picture from that night. We ended up going to this club in Colva called Margarita. The guy who setup the cab and club got us in with no cover. The drinks were pretty expensive there. A double rum and Coke was 200RP, expensive is relative though. That’s still only $3 USD or so, but a double rum and coke is usually like 60RP or so, or $1 USD. I’m sure everyone is overcome with pity for us having to pay that much for drinks. The club was great. There was much dancing and little talking due to the volume.

I wake up the next morning. I see Zach walking around the room. I also notice that I’m naked, so as you can the shoe is now on the other foot. I had this witty rejoinder to Zach, “My mouth tastes like death.” He laughed and told me that he was going to take a shower then he would tell me what happened the previous night. So the last thing I remember is having drinks at the club and dancing, but not any event in particular. According to Zach I had a few too many and was about to fall off of a bar stool. He sent me in to the bathroom and sent a bouncer after me to make sure that I was OK. I fell down and the bouncer carried me out to a cab. I gave my bill clip to Zach for safekeeping, very weird by the way, and went home. I miiiight have paid for my cab. I saw the cabbie the next day and he said that he was paid. I just had to kick him a few hundred rupees for cleaning the cab, don’t ask. Zach stayed at the club for a bit and then headed back. The blonde girl wanted him to come up with her to the hotel, but he said that he was too drunk to want to and just came back to the guesthouse, waking up the people working there again. He said he felt bad because he promised Cool that he would make sure to come back home with me so that he wouldn’t wake up everyone.

This was the first, but not the last time that a bunch of Russians got us much too drunk.

Night out in Mumbai

Zach met this guy in Prague named Anirudh. He had been staying in London, but was traveling around a bit before going back home to Mumbai. Zach mentioned that we were going to be in Mumbai and Anirudh said to hit him up and he’d show us around.

Fast forward a couple of months and here we are in Mumbai. I’m sitting in a Starbucks with Zach drinking Frappucinos (don’t judge me, it’s delicious, but very sweet). We’re killing time before we leave for sandy beautiful Goa on a very cramped train. That’s another conversation though.

We went out with Anirudh to this bar he liked. We also found out that all of the “good” bars pretty much require you to wear pants. Zach and I were not amused, but there it was. We went out to some rooftop bar, that overlooked the city. We talked with Anirudh about him coming back to India after a year in England to start his own business after working in investment banking for a few years, and we drank big Strong Kingfishers while Anirudh drank whiskey and coke. The local beer here is called Kingfisher, and the Kingfisher strong is 8% abv, which is pretty freaking strong for a beer, and they sell them in regular bottles, or 650ml bottles, which is what we were drinking.

So we were kicking it and chatting, enjoying the view and decided after our drinks that we would go to another bar. we went to what seemed like the Indian equivalent of a sports bar, the kind that would have bowls of peanuts in the states. Anirudh said that it was more of a go and drink place and less of a lounge. It was more my kind of bar. We had more beers, but they didn’t have kingfisher strong (small tear), so I switched to double old monks and coke. Old monk is a local Indian dark rum that is cheap and delicious. The next day I realized that what was happening was that I was really thirsty and I was drinking alcohol instead of getting a bottle of water because I didn’t realize it. I wouldn’t recommend it. We hung out for a while then headed home. Anirudh said that we should hit him up on Friday (the next day) because he was going to take us out on Saturday, but Zach, smartly, told him that he wanted to have a relaxed evening on Saturday because we checked out of the hostel on Sunday. We said that we would talk to him tomorrow.

Friday came and we hung out, went for a walk and had some good food. Anirudh hit up Zach and invited us over to his families house for dinner. We headed out around 7, but we found out that getting a cab on a Friday took some work. The streets were fuller than I’d seen them since we were leaving the airport. There were the same number of cabs out as usual, and normally we couldn’t walk down the road without a cabby trying to sell us a ride or a sightseeing tour, but they were all full on Friday. We had checked out how much a cab should cost to where we were going. It was around 100rp, maybe a little more since it was rush hour. Everybody quoted us 200rp and they refused to turn on their meters. Zach finally found a guy that would use his meter. Our cabby was awesome and worked with us on our hand-drawn map and directions to get us to our destination. It ended up costing about 85rp.

Anirudh worked in an office building on this street we were on, but we had some trouble locating it, fortunately people on the street were super helpful and when Zach asked if we were going the right way they sent us back towards the building. We met up with Anirudh, he closed up shop and we went to his house. He lives in a condo with his family. He told us that is the traditional way that families live in India. The whole family lives together their whole lives unless specific needs like work changed the situation. We went up the elevator to his home and I was very impressed with his home. It was beautiful and very tastefully decorated, but still looked lived in. Also AC which was nice in the Bombay heat. It was probably the cleanest home I’ve seen besides a couple of friends of mine in Portland that are obsessive about cleaning before dinner parties (you know who you are).

The way that the food was brought out was quite different than what I was used to. The women cooked and brought out all of the food. I’m used to that being a kind of communal thing, but we were also their guests. I suppose that I’m not used to being a “guest” in the formal sense, but everyone in Anirudh’s family and Anirudh himself were all consumant hosts.

We met Anirudh’s father, mother and grandmother. They all seemed very nice, and we had some really good salty lemonade while we waited. They said that since we weren’t going to hit Northern India they made us some dishes that you wouldn’t find anywhere in Mumbai. Their family was originally from the Rajistani region and they made us a bunch of Rajistani dishes. There was a very good wheat flower based spicy curry like thing, rice flour tortillas almost that were steamed in banana leaves, sweet paneer (cottage cheese), crisps that were crisped dough with sweet milk curd, chutney, and other spices. You took those and put them in your mouth whole. Also there was a kind of stew type thing that you mixed with milk curd and you had the savory sweet tastiness. Also there was a puffed rice dish with spices and other things. I think I’m forgettinga  couple of dishes, but it was delicious.

During the whole meal Anirudh’s mother kept serving up more and more food to us. It was very nice, but I haven’t been really eating a ton since we have been in India, and I’m not used to eating that quantity of food anymore. Anirudh was my hero though and said that I didn’t have to keep eating food if I was full. He read the situation perfectly; I was worried that I would offend them if I didn’t finish my plate, but I wasn’t sure and everytime I finised out my food more came right after it.

After dinner we were ready to go out. Zach and I had grabbed a couple of little bottles of old monk a piece earlier to reduce costs of going out (can’t beat 100rp for a little bottle 187ml). We filled up a couple of coke bottles and got to going. Anirudh drove us over to pick up his girlfriend. We kept chatting and then his girlfriend found out that we would be traveling for a couple of years and was blown away. She kept asking about where we were going, and what our itinerary was in India. She also had some suggestions about places to go and stay in Goa. No one we have talked to thus far has known where Benaulim is in Goa, but that makes me even more interested in it.

Anirudh was on the phone while he was driving with some friends of his. This is super impressive in and of itself. The streets in Mumbai are really crazy. The laws and lanes are just suggestions and no one really pays them much heed. Anirudh had told us earlier that he never got a license in England because he would have had to unlearn all of his Indian driving habits. He told his friends that we were going to the food court. I thought this was odd, but I took a drink and figured we’d get to wherever whenever we did, and that Anirudh hadn’t steered us wrong before.

We got to a restaurant called the Food Court, but not before some guy backed into Anirudh’s car while he was stopped. It turns out that the food court was the name of a restauraunt/bar that was cheap and quite good. A rum and coke worked out to be about 70-80rp, because the rum was 60rp and the coke was some small amount. That means that the rum and cokes were about $1.20. Yes that is correct, and I fell in love with this bar. We had some drinks and more of Anirudh and his girlfriend’s friends showed up. There was Anandia who was a lawyer, and their other friend who was a woman that used to be a dentist and was going back to grad school to switch to public health.

We were all chatting and having a great time. It was awesome to see these people that were so put-together let their hair down, and they were a ton of fun. They were friendly, and funny, and also they wouldn’t let Zach or I pay for our drinks. They were super awesome, and the night was just getting started.

We went to this club just a little ways away. We walked up to the car park where Anirudh had parked his car and then took an elevator up, and there was a club up there. I didn’t see a sign, but the girls and Anirudh apparently knew some of the people there and they let us in and hugs went all around. They also introduced us to another couple of people, Winny and another guy whose name I didn’t catch. I feel less bad about that because the music was quite loud.

Anandia got us beers and we started dancing. Zach procured us another Coke, which was harder than you would think just because aparrently the bar was unused to selling whole bottles of coke. We poured the last of our rums into it and then started passing it around. This would mark the way the rest of the night went. Everyone shared everything. From beers, to these awesome chilli’d martini type things that Anirudh kept getting, to more mixed drinks. The DJ was excellent, and while Zach was a little disappointed that it was all American music, the mix was excellent and he got in the groove pretty quick.

We danced and drank for hours, then the music changed. They started putting on Bollywood hits, and the dancing hit a new higher tempo. It started building as a crescendo with spontaneous dance circles in the middle of the dance floor. Anirudh started dancing with such fervor that he was almost hopping up and down with wild call-response hand motions. Zach and I tried to keep up with everyone, and I think we did OK, but this was not really our forte.

After a few songs the lights came on, and that seemed to be the sign for last call. I thought that meant that we were done, it was around 1:30AM. However we were dragged out the door to waiting taxis to go to an after-hours club. It was in the basement of a hotel and I’m not sure how it happened, but one of the guys we were with got us all in. It was dark, and the music was thumping. We hung out there for a bit and then decided to go get some breakfast. We went to one restauraunt very briefly, but left after picking up another friend of theirs.

We ended up in front of a train station next to a small trash fire, and we were brought jam and cheese sandwiches. I had never had this, but it was quite good. After that Zach and I took a cab with some of the guys that were heading our ways. We got back to the hostel and slept the blessed sleep of the exhausted, but awoke to the terrible hangover of people who were out til 4 something in the morning. I have not done that in years, but it was worth it.

Puerto Vallarta – Nacho Daddy’s

I was going to put this in my other post, but it was getting long. I also like this story enough to want to include it. After the beach, while I was passed out, Zach started talking to one of our hotel neighbors in the lobby. He was in his 50’s and named Bill. Bill was in town for a conference. He was an engineering professor in Florida. We ended up grabbing beers with Bill a couple of times at the Sea Monkey and he told us about this band that was playing just down the street on Thursday. The place was a tex-mex restaurant named Nacho Daddy’s and was owned by this really cool (based on the couple of minutes we chatted when we dropped by to check when the band was going on) ex-pat. We got there about an hour early and got some food and beers ($2 pacifico). True Tex-Mex queso too, yum. Kind of an aside, but I haven’t had queso that good since I was in Oklahoma visiting family. The trick is bacon grease people, it’s not that hard. Anyways, I hadn’t watched a band setup in years and that was kind of fun

.At Nacho Daddy's

People started filtering in, and Zach and I were probably the youngest people in there by twenty years. Not an issue, but it was quite a few old hippies. We started chatting about wanting to come back to Mexico after our Asia trip and learn the language. They gave us some great contacts to talk to, and tips on surrounding towns. The story from each of them was pretty similar.

“I came for a couple of weeks, and just never left,”

or the other

“I own a condo down here and just rent it out when I’m not using it.”

Puerto Vallarta is super expensive, but the towns about 30 mins bus ride out are not. It’s apparently pretty cheap to live there and they don’t have the tourism hustle that Puerto Vallarta does, but it’s close enough to come in if you want to see the city, or kick it with other ex-pats.

Back to the bar, we were chatting with these people and Bill finally showed up, and sat down with us and grabbed a beer. The band started playing. They were a cover band that played everything from Jefferson Airplane to Daft Punk. It was a lot of fun, and they even did a bit of an improv light show with the lights out.

The old hippies were super digging it, and dancing a ton. There was this one older guy. Picture a heavyset man, not necessarily fat but barrelchested, completely bald man with a white handlebar mustache in a completely black suit with black shirt. He looked sharp. He also did interpretive dance to almost every song. I heard from one of the guys there that his brother had passed from heart problems and that his doctor had said that he needed to take it easy or he would go to. He told his doctor that he preferred to live his life as much as he could with the time he had. This guy went out every night drinking, dancing and generally having a grand time. I have a lot of respect for that kind of commitment to life. He also did a pretty impressive pole dance on one of the support pillars for the bar during a song.

I love to dance and was waiting for a song that I could dance to. I think I ended up cutting loose on “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. I danced with some older lady and ditched my sandals to really get my dance on. There’s a reason my friends call me twinkle toes. My feet hurt like a bitch though. So the set ended up wrapping up, and we tabbed out. It was pouring rain by this point. I mean a true torrential downpour. There was probably 5-6 inches of standing/running water at some points in the street. This is why I love the tropics though, it was warm water. In Oklahoma that water would be cold, not frigid, but unpleasant. This was like wading through warm bathwater, that was probably dirty as hell. We ran/walked back to the hotel. I didn’t care about the water as I was in a swimsuit, a shirt and sandals, but I had our trip notebook with us (for notes). We said good night to Bill and crashed out. Minus an epic fight with a cockroach in the middle of the night (we won, although there was a lot of RAID in the air), we slept well.

I checked my feet the next morning to see why it hurt to dance and I had like 3-4 huge blisters on each foot. Zach had been mocking my strappy sandals (Chaco’s) the entire trip and I had defended them. The issue is that, while I love strappy sandals, in the tropics the constant changing humidity causes them to stretch oddly. Teva’s or something would probably be fine, but Chaco’s are pretty tightly fitted. I chucked my Chaco’s at that point, and just used my flip flops. Zach was using slip on Van’s and they worked great for him. That’s probably what I’m going to use for the main trip. Just remember.

FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS WEAR STRAPPY SANDALS!!!

Puerto Vallarta – Beach

MEXICOOOOOOO!!! I think that Zach covered a lot of the facts on Puerto Vallarta, but here are my two cents. Puerto Vallarta is one of the more popular tourist spots in Mexico. When we went there it was the peak of it’s internal tourist season. In June it’s mostly filled with tourists from other parts of Mexico. Puerto Vallarta also has some of the best tap water in Mexico. Zach and I drank it fine, although mostly we drank water from jugs at our hotel. Your mileage may vary.

Beachside at the Sea Monkey

Drinks were super cheap at the Oxxo. Cheap tequila and Fresca and you can’t go wrong. Having some drinks in your room is also nice for the heat of the day. Good for kicking it under the fan and waiting for the sun to chill out a bit. You can try to get ice, but for us it melted faster than we could even make a noticeable dent. We eventually just gave up on ice. It was so hot that the slightly cooler drink in our room was plenty cold.

We went out for beers almost every evening beachside at the Sea Monkey. Dollar beers (Corona and Pacifico) and a perfect view of the beach for sunset? Sign me up. They also had cheap, but good, Mai Thais, Sangria and margaritas ($2).

We spent a good portion of the trip wandering around the city, or at least the part that was around us. The Romantic District was beautiful (I know the joke is there, but restrain yourself; you’re better than that). We didn’t go up to the area around the resorts more than a couple of times, because it was expensive and far, but we did eat at Senor Frog’s. I liked it. A tad expensive, but where else can you get a yard of high end rum or tequila? I didn’t get one, but I did get a huge margarita with Don Julio. Delicious, and not that bad at around $15 or so.

A couple of my favorite stories from Mexico. The names in these stories have not been changed to preserve humor and embarrass the dicks in them, mostly me. Although I am not the best at remembering names in the best of times, let alone when I’ve been drinking. Let it be said that I am not rude with names; I forget my own mother’s/brother’s/father’s names, so if I ever forget yours please don’t take it personally. Alright, moving on.

Zach and I had decided to go down to the beach to kick it. We were setting up our towels and this American flagged us down and told us about a deal where you could rent a daypass at this hotel. It was 190 pesos (about $15), but you got an umbrella, a chair and you got 190 pesos in credit for the bar. Also it was happy hour. We had brought our own drinks (Tequila and Fresca for me and rum and Coke for Zach), but he seemed cool so we started chatting. Also it was happy hour so 2 for 1 well drinks. That made the rum and cokes about a dollar a piece. You might think that this potentially spells trouble, and you’d be right.

The guy was cool. He was from Nashville, and had sold his company in his 30s and was just traveling enjoying himself. We chatted about our upcoming trip across Asia. He gave us great advice that I mostly forgot because of the sun and the booze. I was chatting with him for a bit while Zach was swimming. We were trying to stock up on drinks before the end of happy hour, or I was. So quick aside, I’m not sure if anyone else has this problem, but I can’t tell if I’m getting drunk on the beach, or specifically if I’m in constant sun. I just don’t feel drunk. I don’t know what it is. I felt fine, but there was a fly buzzing around me and I yelled at it, “Fucking Asshole!” I was talking to the fly mind you, but a beach vendor was walking towards me and thought I was talking to him and walked off. I was also waving my hands like a madman trying to swat the fly, so he also probably thought I was crazy. I felt like a dick. I heard about this after the fact though, because I didn’t really notice. I talked Zach into going and grabbing another bottle of Rum. I said that I would go get it, but he said he would (good looking out man, I probably would have gotten lost). He came back a bit later, and I was working on the 2-3 drinks I had stockpiled from happy hour. We had a couple of drinks then we decided to leave, or I assume Zach did, that part is a tad hazy.

We were walking back from the beach, and going over the old rope bridges. I was staying to the right of the bridges to be nice, but I didn’t realize something. If you walk to the side of a rope bridge it will sway. Not a big deal, because most reasonable people would notice and stop. I did not. I thought it was just me being drunk. I am not a small man, so when I caused it to sway it swayed a lot. So I was walking down this bridge doing kind of a serpentine pattern trying to stay going straight while the bridge was swaying about 5-8 feet back and forth. These bridges were not empty either. Zach was having issues getting across. There is also actually a photo of me on one of these bridges attached to this post for perspective. Eventually someone actually stopped me and explained that you should stay in the middle. It was good advice, although a little late because this was at the end of the bridges.

DSCN0339DSCN0342

You’d think that was the bit about me being an asshole, or that the beach was, and you’d be wrong. So we were walking up the street to our hotel. One thing to remember about Puerto Vallarta is that almost all of the streets and the sidewalks are old school cobblestone. It looks awesome, but is a bitch to walk on, especially in flip flops. I ended up jamming the shit out of my toe and almost eating it on the street. I legitimately thought I had broken my toe. I was super drunk at this point and didn’t realize it. I am also an abnormally loud person, just in terms of how much my voice carries (ask anyone that’s met me). I started swearing up a storm. I didn’t notice the fairly substantial crowd that had gathered around the loud, drunk, swearing gringo. This group of people that actually included cops. Zach asked if I was OK being a nice guy. The exchange kind of went like this.

“Are you OK?”

“GO FUCK YOURSELF!!!”

I thought he was just being a dick. I didn’t realize that he was trying to settle down the situation. Zach walked back to the hotel while I limped behind him swearing to myself. We got back and I passed out. I woke up a few hours later thankfully sober (ish). You sweat that stuff out pretty quick in that kind of heat and humidity.

Zach asked if I was OK, then told me that you never EVER draw that kind of attention in another country. I completely agree with him. I made a rule that day, that I encourage you to follow. No drinking booze on the beach in the sun, it will just get you in trouble.

 

Just beer and Sangria.