Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#15 - Get Stupid Lost

The night markets in Kuala Lumpur are dizzying. I’ve seen hectic markets before and I’m getting used to the noise, clamor, and crowds of Asian markets, but this was unreal.

I was two-inches too tall for most of the tarps strung across the alleyways and streets, so I dodged, dove, dipped, ducked, and...dodged thin strips of cords and awnings. It kept me on my toes and made me feel like a giant burrowing into a plastic sea of bargains. Also, turns out whacking my head into the overhang or the bar supporting the tarp is a great way to start haggling. They'd laugh, I'd smile, pick something up, and ask how much. It got things off to a positive start.

The getting lost part was weird though. I have good spatial awareness – you develop it when you wander around new cities all the time – so I thought I knew where I was. I even popped into a little diner for some noodles and had a read. After that I browsed some more, deeper and deeper into the maze, expecting the whole time to reach a major street or thoroughfare and get out. It didn’t happen. I hit major arteries of traffic, but they were part of the market too. EVERYTHING was part of the market. Seriously. I don't have more photos because I was starting to panic.

What do you do when you're lost in Malaysia? You slam a red bull, pick a direction and blast on. An hour later I was STILL in the market, but I was buzzing on taurine. Somehow I’d stumbled on that part of Zelda (the first one on Nintendo) where you wander in the forest forever. I literally couldn’t get out. Screw finding which way my hostel was; I was just trying to get to something that WASN’T the market.

Time passed. I kept shuffling along at browsing pace with everyone else, slowly picturing my new life in the market. How much was the rent? Could I get a job selling bedazzled jeans? What was that smell?

It was only when I completely gave up trying to get out that I found my way. What saved me was a dilapidated house I’d taken a picture of earlier. I love that house. I’m gonna move there.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#14 - Eat a Malaysian Spike Fruit

Ok. I know it’s a lychee (or rambutan for you Aussies), but it sounds lame when you say that instead of “Malaysian Spike Fruit.”

I saw it on a few stalls so I bought a half kilo of em and dug in.

P.S. Not very good.

#13 - Have a real Red Bull

I haven’t been to Thailand, so I haven’t had a bucket of red bull or anything like that, but I did have a small can of the good stuff in the night market yesterday.

And I haven’t slept since.

I feel like ripping a phone book in half then taking a road trip to Gozolla’s.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

#12 - Rent a Moped

When I lived in Seattle I bought a moped on ebay and was so excited I didn't read the fine print. A few weeks later a large box arrived at my house, but not quite large enough to contain a moped. Huh.

When I opened it I discovered all the parts for a moped, but much like Ikea, China flat packs their shipments. I had to assemble it myself. A friggin moped.

The only thing that was "built" was the engine block. I had to assemble parts of the carburetor, pour alkaline/acid mixture in the battery, wire the headlights, and dashboard monitors, and assemble the tires, brakes, and chassis. For those of you who don't know me that well, I had right click to spell "carburetor" correctly.

It ran for a few months and then died. Because I didn't know what the hell I was doing.

That's why my moped ride here in Bali was awesome - no assembly required. Ban, the guy who owned the bike, asked me if I had a license then tossed me the keys. Boom. Time to ride.

For $6 I got the bike for the whole day and "insurance" - whatever that would have done. After almost taking out a pedestrian, a wall, and my left foot, I hit the highway and jammed to Jimbaran, 20 km south of Kuta. Let me just say that driving in Bali is ridiculous.

Mopeds don't really have any rules, (you encouraged to pass on the other side of the road/sidewalk) and while there are a few traffic lights, most intersections are up to your skill level/discretion/insanity. I was pretty timid at first, but after a few u-turns on the freeway I caught on.

I got well over 80km/hr on some sketchy little streets, and found myself passing locals. Man, it was so awesome. The only glitch in the day was when I took out the side mirror on a moving taxi. Luckily we were in traffic so he couldn't chase me when I jammed out of there. Allegedly.

Mopeds are extremely dangerous to ride in Bali (I had to slam to a few sketchy stops), but if you're adventurous and want to get away from where you're staying, renting a moped for a day (or two) is an awesome way to see the island.

Just make sure you can run from any super pissed taxi drivers.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

#11 - Drink a Bintang (Bali beer) with every meal

So I’ve been keen to get to Asia to surf, see the sites, get some culture exchange (and shock) and just try something wildly different from what I’m used to, and Bali isn’t disappointing. The one thing that I’m most stoked for though is the bevy of cheap, authentic, delicious Indonesian food – and the Bintang (beer) that comes with it.

In fact, I like the food/beer combo so much that I’ve had a Bintang with every single meal – even breakfast.

That’s definitely a first. Probably not the most positive new thing I’m doing, but it’s still a first.

Hurray beer!

#10 - Surf Bali!

Ever since I started surfing in high school all I’ve heard about are boat trips to the Maldives, surf safaris to South Africa, and going loco in Indo. After all these years of fantasizing I finally got to cut my chops here in Bali.

And it's awesome.

I rented a sweet little phish (it was the owner's personal board and I had to chat him up to rent it) from a shop across the street from my weird little hotel and spent the day getting smile lines sunburnt onto my face. The conditions were so perfect for me it was ridiculous – 3-6 ft, steady offshore wind, nice mushy shoulder take-offs followed by some straight down the line pumping rights. It was tailor made for me, since I like some size but I hate steep hollow take-offs.

The locals and crowds were mellow. Nothing agro – if you were in position you got the wave – no snaking. I saw a few questionable paddles, but hey that’s just good surfing. I also somehow lucked into the wave of the day.

This amazing right came out of nowhere, a foot bigger than the back sets and wedged just in between the two peaks that had been breaking all day on my left and my right. It was ridiculous. I saw heaps of locals from 20 meters away frantically paddling to out position me, but I was centered right on it with no one around. I paddled, got heaps of spray in my face from the offshore wind and whooped my way down the line with a few nice pumps and a beefy kickout.

I’m aware I sounded retarded right now, but I don’t care. You know why? Cuz I’m surfing in Bali right now and you’re not. I’m gonna sound like an even bigger tool tomorrow!

(Sorry I don't have any photos of me surfing - I'm traveling by myself and I'm not taking my sweet camera to the beach to have it jacked!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#9 - See Motorcycles ride through a bar

If you hadn’t noticed, bars in Alice are friggin random – snake karaoke one night, motorcycles driving through the bar the next night. People in Alice just know how to cut loose. Must be the heat.

The back story behind the bikes in the bar is that my buddies and I walked past a place called Bo’s Saloon and just poked in for a look. Two jugs later we found out it was the day of a yearly tradition to honor a biker that hit a camel 13 years earlier and died as a result. Yup. The way they honor a biker who died hitting a camel over a decade ago is to drink heaps and then ride their bikes through the bar. It’s called “Fish’s Run.”

It was awesome.

They roped off a lane and just let the bikers blast through. Some revved it up, others just cruised, but the whoops and exhaust fumes will last in my ears, lungs, and memory for a long time.

God bless you Fish you stupid bastard, and God bless the camel that killed you and spawned this truly epic tribute. Glad I could see it.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, but here's the website, and the youtube clip, while it is from last year, is pretty spot on.

Monday, August 22, 2011

#8 - Hold a Snake in a Kareoke Bar

Toddy’s Bar has a truly crap karaoke night, but I rocked up anyway, and not for the cheap booze or singing. Nope. I came for the snakes.

I had a python wrapped around my neck and attempted to sing White Snake, but didn’t quite make it on stage before the snake owner got pissed and took it away from me.

Still pretty sweet though. I never wore a snake in a bar before. I felt like Jake the Snake Roberts from the old school WWF. Man that guy ruled…

Sunday, August 21, 2011

#7 - Run in the Henley on the Todd

The Henley is a world class rowing race held on the Henley River in England each year where teams like Harvard and Oxford race each other. It’s snooty. The Henley on the Todd is also held each year but on the Todd River in Alice Springs. The difference isn’t the prestige or the people though – it’s that the Todd River is bone dry.

Teams of six carry a boat with the hole cut out of the bottom through a sandy 50 meter course. Accidents happen. People fall. Teams tip sideways. It’s a mess.

I ran for Toddy’s Bar, a little place around the corner from where I’m staying that has been great to me the past few nights. My tour guide, Radz from the Uluru trip, hooked it up so there’s another reason to take the trip. I got free entry, a pair of sunnies, hat, shirt, and a shot at the title. Apparently our team theme was “BRO.”

Unfortunately one of the girls in our boat lost her grip just as we were crossing the finish line in first place. She fell out of the boat taking another teammate with her, so we got disqualified. C’est la vie.

Everyone from Alice got into it, and I got heaps of sand in my shoes. Good times.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

#6 - Go to Bat Country with Bogans

I don’t know when the conversation came up or how it happened, but I ended up exploring a bat cave with a few bogans (that’s an Australian redneck) just outside Alice Springs. It was a weird trip, the caves were hot as, we went looking for friggin bats, and I got super dirty from crawling around in all the tight spaces, but it was a definite first.

I’d never been to Bat Country before.

Friday, August 19, 2011

#5 - See the Sunset and Dawn at Uluru (Ayer's Rock)

When I was in Australia eight years ago (wow) I didn’t have enough money to go anywhere but to the East Coast in a van with a bunch of other people. Actually, I didn’t have enough money to buy a sandwich, but it was a good trip. I always regretted not getting to the Outback and Ayer’s Rock though. Seemed like a shame to come so close and not see it with my own eyes.

Now I’ve got one less regret.

The three-day two-night trek to Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and King’s Canyon was amazing. I was worried that I was getting jaded – seen one monument seen em all – but Uluru and the surrounding parks pumped me up. I was stunned by the weight of age there, the beauty and lushness in semi-arid landscape, the geological history, stories of the aboriginal people, the red earth – all of it was overwhelming. I met some great people, camped, broke firewood over my knee, slept in the open under shooting stars, all that. I don’t wanna do one of those posts, but screw it – it was rad.

I finally saw the sunset and dawn at Uluru – something I’ve been meaning to do for a decade – and I’m pumped to realize that I’ve still got fresh eyes on the road. That’s a first. Hope it happens again and again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#4 - Ride a Camel...and then EAT it.

Wow. Ok.

I got back twenty minutes ago from my three-day tour to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), Kata Tjuta, and King’s Canyon and I’m so pumped to write about it but I’ve got a dinner to go to and I want to post something asap. So here's another first:

I rode a camel.

It’s a rough ride (it hurt my nuts) and smell gnarly but it was a rad first. I recommend it, and Australia is a great place for it too, with over one million wild camels disbursed throughout the outback.

Afghani immigrants brought them over in the 19th century to help move goods through the great red center and the animals have obviously thrived, so much so that they’re routinely caught and butchered for their tasty, tasty meat. Which leads to my side note first:

Side note – 4.1 I ate camel meat.

We had camel sausages at night. My nuts are avenged. P.S. That's also Kangaroo on there. Word.

Monday, August 15, 2011

#3 - Make Dinosaur Necklaces with a Dutch Girl on a Train

What’s the best way to pass time on a 25-hour train ride from Adelaide to Alice Springs?

Read a book?
Listen to music?

All fine options, but the number one answer is…

1) Freak out the nice Dutch girl sitting next to you by making dinosaur necklaces!

That’s right, pulling a spool of yarn, scissors, and six different plastic animal finger puppets out of your bag and then proceeding to stab holes in the sides of their heads and stringing yarn through them to make a necklace IS in fact the best way to pass time on a long train trip.

It’s something I’ve never done and it was a pretty sweet time. I have a few new rad necklaces to show for it, and I made a friend on the trip which made things way more enjoyable than just sitting quietly the whole time.

Dinosaurs may be extinct (prove it science!) but they are alive and well as fashion accessories. I call em "Jurassic Jewelry."

Side note new experience #3.1 – Shower on a moving train.

The bathroom on-board had a little shower head that everyone else was too weirded out to use. But after a surprisingly restful night's sleep I had a shower in the morning and it was lovely – hot water, gently swaying train car – weird experience, but a nice first.

Take that again science. 2-0.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

#1 - Eat Green Eggs and Ham

"I do not like
green eggs
and ham!

I do not like them,

You do not like them.
SO you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may I say.

If you will let me be,
I will try them.
You will see.

I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat...
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good so good you see!"

- excerpt from Dr. Suess' "Green Eggs and Ham"

I’m typing this post with green-stained fingers. Nice start actually…

I remember reading "Green Eggs and Ham" as a kid and being confused why the main character wasn’t stoked to eat some sweet green brekkie. Was it so much to ask that he take a bite of some green food? Not really. I would have done it.

So in honor of my 10 hour train ride to Adelaide today I decided that the first thing I'll do which I've never done is:

1) Eat Green Eggs and Ham.

And I'll say that Sam knows what he's talking about. I'd eat them anywhere.

#2 Eat Sushi off a Conveyor Belt

How good is sushi? Awesome, right? I know. But you know what makes it even better?

A conveyor belt.

Raw fish and tasty rice were friggin Tokyo drifting around every delicious corner. "Where you goin next soft shell crab roll? Left? Left again in a never ending circle o' awesomeness? Wrong. You're going in my belly." That's what I said to the sushi when I ate it.

I know the first two posts have been about food, but hey man, I'm in Adelaide. This place is like a provincial French hamlet on a Sunday night. My train - The Ghan - leaves in an hour for my 24-hour train ride to Alice Springs so I'll post when I get there. Then it's all about Uluru. I have a feeling something weird is gonna go down on the rails first though...