Photos from India

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The disgusting habits of the Chinese

I haven't talked too much about the personal hygiene habits of the Chinese people I have come across but after a few recent conversations, I feel I need to reveal the course of today's events. Keep in mind please that nothing about this is abnormal here in China in anyway. This is just how it is here. To everyone around, every bit of this is completely normal not to mention completely acceptable.

After breakfast at my guest house in Chengdu I flagged down a cab, showed him my bus ticket and we were off to the bus station. The windows were of course down as always so I was enjoying the morning air even though we were in the middle of rush hour traffic. I was excited about the journey before me as I was heading to Xian where in two days, Allison would be meeting me. As I watched the city come to life from my window, I heard the first hocking sound of the day. The cab driver gave a good snort and hock and managed to score some phlegm from deep down inside before spitting it out of the window. I don't know why this surprises me every time I hear it seeing as how, everyone here does it quite constantly. We continue our ten minute journey to the bus station and are stopped at an intersection where I glance out the window to notice a frail little Chinese man come out of a restaurant wearing an apron and stoop down by the curb. He is carrying a pan of water which he proceeds to set down at his side. It is pretty early and there is some food cooking just outside the restaurant on the sidewalk as is typical here in China. After setting the pan down, he proceeds to splash some water on his face, takes a finger and smashes one side of his nostril and proceeds to blow enough snot from his nose to fill up a small glass. From there, he moves on to the other side where he performs the same exercise and is again equally successful. The man then promptly wipes his hands on his apron to remove any excess snot, dips them into the pan of water, washes his face and repeats this same morning ritual before returning to the food he was cooking just outside of his restaurant.

Waiting on the bus, I am sitting on my backpack on the asphalt in between two buses waiting on mine to pull up. I am surrounded by the smell of diesel fumes and cigarette smoke. Along with the low pitched hum of the engines around me, I also hear the continuous hocking sound coming from the throats of so many of the men around me. Standing right next to me is a man who in the fifteen minutes I have been sitting there has created at least ten small pools of saliva and phlegm not six inches from my feet and the bag that I am sitting on. My bus arrives and I need to move over a bit to make room for it to park. I pick up my bag and stand off to the side. The bus is finally settled into it's spot, I know I will need to wait a bit so I start to set my bag down. As it touches the ground, I look down and see the spots of phlegm right next to it. Realizing my bag is probably sitting in more of the disgusting discharge, I search the ground for a cleaner spot and am unsuccessful. I will have to wear my bag until I board the bus.

When the bus originally pulled up, I thought I noticed a kind of fishy smell but I didn't think anything of it. Now, you have to keep in mind, that this is actually a really nice bus. Super fancy, toilet inside, cushy seats, give you water bottles, you name it, this bus had it. It was time to put my luggage beneath the bus and as usual, everyone shoved me out of the way to be the first to get there bag on board. Waiting in line here is unheard of. As I lifted my bag to set it beneath the bus, I realized where the source of the fish smell was coming from. Obviously this bus had either been transporting fish recently or was doing so now. There were streaks of liquid all over the bottom of the luggage compartment so I reluctantly set my bag down hoping that it would not smell like a can of tuna fish when I retrieved it in Xian.

At 9:00, the bus engine cranked up and I realized that the bus was not even half full so I moved towards the back where there was some empty seats and I could have two seats to myself for the rest of the journey. We rolled out of the bus station and the man sitting near me decided he would take advantage of the very back row which consisted of five empty seats. After changing into a pair of shorts in the wide open bus, he then took off his shirt and shoes and stretched out across the seats. I couldn't believe the guy was on this nice, VIP type bus and had his shirt off. I mean, the A/C was working quite well and I was even a bit cold but this guy was lounging around on the bus as if he were sitting by a swimming pool.

In the aisles of the bus were small cardboard boxes with plastic bags lining them that I assumed were for trash. While my assumption was correct, I realized that these boxes were also for the phlegm that everyone would be generating throughout the trip. It was like clock work. About every two minutes, another good hocking would come and someone would lean into the aisle and let the saliva and snot drip from there mouth toward the box and let it hang down until they were sure that it would not hit the floor and make it's way into the container. This would continue for the entire journey.

Now, I am not sure what it is about the culture here that makes everyone enjoy listening to everything so loud, but that is just how it is. People talking seem more like they are shouting at each other than having a conversation. It is almost like they are stuck in a cycle that they can't figure out how to get out of. Everywhere you go, there is music or television blaring so loud that you can't here yourself think. This includes on the bus. Combine that with everyone shouting in lieu of talking and it is really really loud all the time here. Do you think the people are loud because they have to talk over the tv or is the tv loud so that everyone can hear it over the loud talking? It is a difficult question to figure out. I don't really believe there is an answer to it. I feel over time, it has all just become acceptable and such a part of life here that no one questions it, excluding of course any foreigners that happen to visit the country.

The bus pulls into a typical Chinese bus stop for some lunch. It consists of a shed that they refer to as a toilet and a restaurant with a buffet set up with all kinds of strange foods. I am starving and I need to urinate before lunch. I walk to the toilet where I find exactly what I expect. A room with no walls and several slots in the floor. The floor is covered in piss and shit and the slots reveal small slides covered in shit and toilet paper that lead down to a massive pile of shit, connected on the other side by the girls slots which I can only assume to be the same. I straddle one slot while men squat down doing their business on either side of me and I attempt not to pea all over them. Staring down at the massive pile of shit and holding my breath, I am rapidly loosing my appetite.

I get into line and am handed a tray with rice and I pick a few scoops of food that looks like it won't send me back to squatting over one of the slots in the toilet with all the world to see. The only seat in the restaurant left is next to two men who were on the bus with me. I begin eating my food with my chopsticks when I look over and see the man next to me put his face directly into his rice with his chopsticks laying just beneath the surface of the rice pile as if it was gesture of courtesy to say, I am actually using my chopsticks and he begins sucking rice directly into his mouth without an attempt at moving his chopsticks. I am disgusted but at the same time, I analyzed the situation. Most of the time, you are eating out of a small bowl which you usually hold in one hand and bring it close to your mouth to avoid spilling food. It is even acceptable to put your lips on the bowl and scrape food from it into your mouth. Now, without the small bowl, the man is essentially recreating the situation in the best way he can figure out with the large tray of food in front of him. The situation only serves to reinforce my hatred of chopsticks as being an archaic way of transferring food from your dish into your mouth. Had you given the man a fork and a spoon, he could have easily eaten everything on his plate without having to stick his face directly into the pile of rice to slurp it up. Did I mention that this is also happening everywhere around the restaurant?

Let's move on now. There is plenty more I could say about the meal and the way in which everyone was eating but that would make my already long story even longer. I am feeling a bit malnourished since the only protein in the meal was tofu so I buy a couple of packages of peanuts and sit down at a now empty table and wait for the bus to depart. I find myself sitting in front of the sink that is out in the open where the dishes are washed and everyone is able to wash there hands after their meals. The floor is covered in spit, bones and bits of food in every direction. I realize I can't find a decent spot to set my small bag down that won't coat it in bodily fluids and half digested food so I set it on my lap and calmly wait.

From across the room, or actually more of a porch kind of thing that we are all eating on, a man walks over to the sink. He washes his hands, splashes some water on his face and then proceeds to put his lips around the tap and begin sucking water in so that he can spit it out into the sink. I don't mean that he is just getting water out of the tap, he physically has his lips wrapped around it to avoid getting any water on his face I guess. After a few runs, it is the next mans turn. He washes his hands and rinses his face and then proceeds to close off one side of his nose, discharge as much snot as he can get out, follows that up with the other side, washes his hands again, gives a good solid hock and spits the final bit of phlegm that he has in his system into the sink. Several other men and women in line and pretty much repeat this same process until I finally re board the bus.

Back on the bus, the journey proceeds as before, men lounging with shirts off, constant hocking and spitting sounds filling the air and the loud television blasting some Chinese comedy that everyone on the bus really seems to enjoy. It is just another day in China and observing the personal hygiene has been something that has built up over time. I haven't talked about it much as it is so overwhelming that I didn't think I could convey it in the form of a story. This isn't the half of it. Of all the places in the world I have been, I have never seen or smelled worse toilet facilities. I haver never observed such commonly accepted public body discharges of all sorts (there is still plenty that I have not mentioned) and I have never heard anyone talk as loudly as the people here do. You could easily take a trip to China, spend a bit more money and never see any of this, but throughout my travels here, it has been commonplace and something that I accept. It is ingrained into their culture and no one here seems to mind. They probably find us strange for demanding clean toilets, talking amongst ourselves in a reasonable tone, never spitting anything up in public and using strange little tissues to blow our noses.

The really big Buddha

Years ago I had seen something on the discovery channel about the largest Buddha in the world. He was 240 feet tall and carved directly into the side of a cliff. Ever since then, I have wanted to see this colossus! I had no idea where it was until a week or so ago when I was flipping through a book about China and saw a photo of the Giant Buddha. I realized he was just an hour off my expected route to meet Alison in Xian so I figured it would provide me with a great opportunity to be in the presence of such an enormous statue.

I arrived at the Buddha park unsure of what the actual scale was going to be like. I had read that you could have a picnic on his foot and his toenail was longer than I am tall. When his head came into view (you approached from high up near his head) I couldn't believe what I was seeing! This sucker was friginn huge! I mean completely ridiculous scale! I have never seen such a spectacle. After climbing down the cliff side just beside the Buddha, I found myself at the base of his monstrous feet staring back up to the top. I was in awe. It took 90 years to complete but I feel they must have been working to death to do so in such a short period of time. Check out the photos when you get a chance, it's well worth the spectacle!

Climbing Emei Shan

A three day climb? Hardly! Surely I can do it in two! From top to bottom, a mere 2600 meters or just over 8,600 feet. Total distance? 95Km or 57 miles. Stairs? Well, there wasn't much of anything else other than stairs. I guestimate that between the path up and the path down I easily covered 40,000 or more stairs. Emei Shan is one hell of a mountain but I conquered it without a hitch! Even after being attacked by a bunch of monkeys, I persevered on. Cold rain pouring down on my head, no problem. Electric Blankets in a monastery that provided me refuge solved that problem. It was a hell of a journey to make in two days and would probably have been easier to do in three but I feel I have made a proud accomplishment in my life. Considering I didn't have the extra day to spend on the mountain anyway since Alison is meeting me at the end of the week in Xian, the rewards will be more than worth the effort.

Tibetan Yunann

After leaving Tiger Leaping Gorge, I headed further North into the Himalayas to the Tibetan township of Shang Ri La. The town was even higher up in the mountains than Lijang and the buildings here had a similar feel just on a much smaller and less commercial scale. I spent a few days exploring the mountains and valleys that surrounded the town as well as the enormous Tibetan monastery clinging to the hillside, standing guard over the city. With cool air and blue skies, it was a wonderful place to spend a couple of days exploring, relaxing and meeting other fellow travelers.

While in Shang Ri La, I managed to make a few friends who were interested in heading further North into the mountains as well. We all complied the few maps we had found and any information that we had learned about the road further North. The guide books didn't have much information on the area but we had heard rumors that there was supposed to be some incredible trekking through small Tibetan communities that were tucked away in the surrounding mountains.

Myself and five friends set out for our journey North in a small little van that we hired for the day. Although only 180 kilometers away the drive there was supposed to take 8 to 9 hours. I wasn't sure how this was possible but needless to say I soon found out. Now I have seen some pretty crazy mountain roads in New Zealand, the Andes in South America and Sumatra but nothing that compares to the drive between Shang Ri La and Dequin. Sheer drops the entire way on mostly dirt roads with landslides being cleaned up around almost every turn. Trucks passing us, us passing trucks, all the while, nothing to prevent us from sliding off the road and tumbling down thousands of feet to the Yellow River below. It was a terrifying experience that I can now say I am happy that I lived to talk about.

Nine and a half hours after we began our trip, we finally made it to the town of Feile Si where we took refuge for the night in a small hotel that fortunately provided us all with electric blankets. That seems to be the alternative to heat in this part of the world. Early the next morning, four of us set off into the mountains. After another hour and a half drive, we made it the beginning of the trail that we had be told would lead us into the heart of the massive mountain that had been looming high overhead since our arrival the previous night before. Standing at 6,700 meters, this was by far the tallest mountain I had ever seen. So tall and steep that in fact no one has ever survived a journey to it's summit. The last expedition that attempted it was in 1991 and resulted in the death of the entire party. Needless to say, a summit attempt wasn't in my plans for the journey. I was happy just to explore the area without need of risking life and limb.

Most of the first days trek was all uphill. We climbed through endless forests that revealed the enormous valley that separated us from the small town that we had slept in the night before. As we neared the pass, the trail became covered in Tibetan prayer flags and just as we crossed over the ridge, we were given our first glimpse of the mountain that we until then only knew to be looming above. Crystal clear blue skies were the backdrop for the snow and ice covered mountains. A few clouds hung just around the peaks but were moving around fast enough to provide us with incredible views of each of the mountains seven peaks. You could see the Tibetan towns that we would be sleeping in tucked away in green fields far down below. I don' think I have been to a place anywhere in the world that was more beautiful. A bold statement I know but words cannot describe the place that lay before me.

On the decent down to the town, I must have taken two hundred photographs. Each turn revealed another breathtaking view and the sky just kept getting clearer while the light kept getting softer. I was ecstatic to be there and have the opportunity to explore the lush valleys, misty waterfalls, frozen lakes, and ancient glaciers that lurked around every corner.

I spent three incredible days in the little Tibetan town that I can't seem to remember the name of now. I climbed muddy slopes in the rain, wandered around on frozen lakes, had snowball fights, warmed myself in a yak herders hut and all in all had an amazing time in the mountains. If I didn't have to meet Allison on the other side of the country in a week, I could have easily spent a month here. It seems that this is just a predecessor to what I can expect when I reach Nepal. Hopefully by then, Tibet will open as well and my journey will take me further into this area which is known as the rooftop of the world.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

It only took a couple of days to realize that I didn't want to stay in Lijang for very long. While I took some great photos of a beautiful town, it is ashame that the character of what was really there is so very different from the moments in time the photos themselves captured. I decided that heading North towards the Himalayas would be the best option as there was a place called Tiger Leaping Gorge not too far away. I had been hearing about Tiger Leaping Gorge ever since I reached Asia and had even looked it up online a few times but never really saw a photo that impressed me very much. Every traveler who had been there said it was an incredible place and trekking through the gorge was an unforgettable experience. Skeptical as I always am about what to expect, I set out on a bus early in the morning on an unfortunately not so beautiful day.

After following a winding mountain road up down and all around with the headwaters of the Yangtze river always by my side, the bus dropped me off in a small town at the entrance to the gorge. Though the sky was cloudy, I did manage to get a peak down the gorge on the way into town and I have to say that it looked pretty damn impressive. It was hard to tell much about it as all the mountains disappeared into the clouds so I wasn't sure how high and how steep the sides of the Gorge actually were. It is reputed to be one of the steepest gorges in the world with the distance from mountain peaks to the Yangtze River down below being about 3,900 meters or almost 13,000 feet!

I dropped off my big backpack at a small cafe and packed a few necessities in my small pack for the trek ahead of me. While I think you could actually do the entire 30 something kilometer trek in one day, I was getting a late start and was looking forward to spending a night at one of the guest houses along the trail. The trail itself wasn't too difficult and was relatively easy to follow. It stayed high up on the hillside above the river at times with nothing more than a sheer drop to a few thousand feet below. The scenery became more and more striking every minute until I came around a turn and there it was. A view down the entire gorge revealing one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. The sky was still gray but through the thinning misty clouds that hovered around the mountain tops I could see the jagged snow capped peaks dropping straight down to the river below. I was in awe of the sight before me on one hand while on the other I was disappointed for it to be such a sullen and gray day. It was then that I had a wonderful revelation. Today may be gray, but who knows what tomorrow or the next day would hold. I don't have anywhere to be and while most people finish the trek and take a bus from the other end of the gorge back to town I decided that I could just walk it back in reverse. Ahh! Not a bad idea!
The first days trek ended in rain as I approached the Tea Horse Guest house where I spent the evening eating wonderful local food, drinking lots of hot chocolate along with a few beers and hoping that the sky would clear for tomorrows journey down to the river. After a good nights sleep on a very uncomfortable bed, I awoke to find the skies yet again to be gray. Not surprising for this time of year but I not only had all day for the sky to clear but the next day also on the trek back to the beginning.

It didn't take long for the clouds to begin to open revealing the first patches of blue sky that would be prevalent for the next two days. As the day warmed up, the clouds gradually lifted off the mountain tops transforming what was a depressing and cloudy morning into one of the most beautiful days I have ever seen. With all the rain they get this time of year, when the clouds are gone, the skies is the deepest color of blue you can imagine. Decorated with small villages on the green hillsides, snow capped mountains, and sheer granite cliffs everywhere you looked, this was one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen. I mentioned earlier that I have never seen a photograph of this place that ever impressed me and now I can clearly see why. No photo could ever do it justice including the hundred or so that I took while there. To capture the striking qualities of Tiger Leaping Gorge on film appears to be an impossible task. I can only hope that one of my shots will help me recall the striking character of the gorge but I think the memories I will carry with me will serve to do it much much more justice.

Old Lijang

I spent a few days in the old town of Lijang which I had heard so much about. Even Allison was jealous that I was getting to go there since she missed it on her trip to China a couple of years ago. I arrived in the early morning hours before anything was open. It was nice and cool being situated between some of the smaller mountains of the Himalaya range. I spent an hour or so wandering the empty streets trying to find a place to say and managed to come across a nice hilltop spot to watch the sunrise giving excellent views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which standing at 5,800 meters is an impressive sentinel overlooking the small city. After sunrise, I managed to find a Tibetan cafe that served a great cup of coffee and a filling breakfast. I finished my breakfast, checked some emails and could see that the streets were starting to fill with life. It didn't take long after walking out the door of the Tibetan cafe to find a place to sleep for the night and I set out for the day to explore the rest of town.

The streets of old Lijang wander and wind amongst themselves while a series of interconnected tiny canals rush by carrying cold glacial water that has run down from Jade Dragon Snow mountain. It is a picturesque place with every building being only a couple of stories tall and constructed in the traditional wooden style of the Naxi people who are indigenous to this part of China. After enjoying my morning strolling around the city, I quickly became aware that there wasn't a real purpose to this town anymore other than it being a tourist trap. I am sure that at one time, the local people lived here and worked in various trades around this quaint little community. Now however, the town is filled with expensive restaurants and there isn't a single shop selling anything useful. All I can find anywhere are Chinese souvenirs. If anyone reading this has been to Gatlinburg Tennessee, this is the Chinese equivalent. More tastefully done by all means and lacking the heart shaped jacuzzis in every room but essentially it has the same qualities. There is absolutely nothing to see or do here that doesn't cost money. I kind of wish the early morning hours had lasted the entire day and the town hadn't had the opportunity to show it's real face.

Intitial thoughts on China

My first day to enjoy China turned out to be quite pleasant. Kunming is a small city by Chinese standards with only 5 million inhabitants but it is also one of the cleanest cities in China. There is not much pollution, not much traffic and it is the most orderly location I have been in since visiting the states over the Christmas holidays. The only chaotic thing going on was setting up for the olympic torch to pass through the next day with everyone on the streets selling t-shirts and flags to all of the people who intended to line the streets watching the ceremonies.

After realizing that there wasn't a lot to see as a traveler in Kunming, I decided to hop on a night bus to Lijang. I booked the sleeping bus at the hotel and was able to choose which bed I wanted. When I arrived at the station, I began showing my ticket to people who each pointed me in the direction where I would find the bus I would be taking. Once at the door of the bus, I met a man who surprisingly spoke English and he told me he was the “boss”. He helped me put my bag beneath the bus and then said that I needed to pay a fuel surcharge to transport my luggage. He wanted me to pay about thirteen dollars which was almost the same cost as the ticket. I told him no and argued with him for a while. He then claimed that on the back of my ticket it explains that everyone has to pay for this service but it is written in Chinese so I can't understand it. After a bit more arguing, I had him down to about five dollars which was still ridiculous. He was the one who kept lowering the price with me just saying I wasn't going to pay it. At about five dollars he said that it was the last price and if I didn't like it, I could get off the bus and wait till morning for the next one. I couldn't believe this guy was scamming me and there was nothing I could do if I wanted to get on the bus.

After reluctantly paying the scam off, I boarded the bus looking for my seat that was supposed to be near the front. The “boss” immediately sent me to the back of the bus where there is two stacks of five beds all hooked together. The other beds are all individual beds and I said no that I had booked this seat near the front. The man looked at me and said “This is my bus and those seats are for Chinese. This is your spot, you don't like it, get off my bus.” I couldn't believe this! Not only am I too tall for the bed at the back, but I am also too wide. Combine that with the fact that the back is the bumpiest and loudest place on the bus and I was not happy at all. I spent the night without any sleep with the leg of one man on me as well as the arm of another. I am not happy with the way things work over here.

On another note, I find the lack of English here to be extremely difficult. On top of that, I don't find the people to be very helpful and many of them laugh at you when you are trying to figure anything out. No one puts any effort into helping you in whatever your needs are. This is such a strange feeling after being around some of the nicest and most helpful people in the world for the past few months. Combine that with the fact that I left one of the most wonderful people I have ever known back in Vietnam and I am having a rough start to my Chinese adventure. Hopefully things will get better soon!

Crossing into China

It took an overnight train followed by a frustrating border crossing but I finally made it into China! After crossing the border and managing to hide my guide book which I had heard rumors of them being confiscating at this border in particular for various communistic reasons, I hopped on another bus for yet another 12 hour journey. Being that we were in China, I expected the bus ride to be across some massive highway speeding along across the country side. The reality however was much much different. We followed what seemed to be a service road that followed beneath a brand new highway. There were however no cars on the highway and no ramps to get on or off if it. I don't think it was open yet, but I can honestly say that I have never in my life seen a highway that could have cost as much as this one. We must have driven over a hundred miles on slow and bumpy roads beneath this thing all the while, it was nothing but elevated highway that was usually soaring at least a hundred feet above our heads. Chinese style highway building for sure.

The bus ride continued to be bumpy and we never managed to get on any major roads, just small worn out two lane roads through small towns. The views of the mountains and valleys we were passing through were absolutely stunning and I was ecstatic to be looking out the window for the entire day. The one thing that wasn't impressive however was the lack of food. Everywhere I have been in Asia, the buses stop a ridiculous amount of times so people can get out, use the toilet and get something to eat. Even a two hour bus ride usually included a thirty minute stop plus two toilet breaks. My 12 hour bus ride consisted of two toilet breaks that were at the worst toilets I have ever seen in my life and no food for miles in sight along with one dinner stop for 20 minutes at a small building serving noodle soup. I have to say that after not eating anything in the last 14 hours, that meal was one of the best I have ever eaten.

The bus finally arrived to my first Chinese city, Kunming. I checked into a youth hostel and fell straight to sleep although there was someone snoring as loud as I have ever heard in another bed in the room. When the sun came in through the window the next morning, I awoke and took a shower and then realized I wasn't feeling very good. It must have been a slight case of dehydration as I didn't drink much water on the train to avoid having to go to the toilet and again did the same on the bus. I realized I hadn't drank but about a liter of water in the last 24 hours where ordinarily I would have gone through four liters in that time period. With my head hurting while feeling nauseated, I laid back down for an hour to regain enough strength to find a spot to eat breakfast.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Recovering on the beach in Nah Trang!

Around 5:30 this morning, I awoke on the ground outside of a hotel I had found in the guide book to find signs of life all around me. Some of the other hotels were opening their doors, a man was watering plants outside another and a little food vendor was setting up for breakfast. I stood up, wiped most of the dirt off my already filthy body and decided I would try and find a room to get cleaned up a bit before heading down to the beach. The first one I found turned out to be quite nice and at five dollars, I wasn't going to complain much anyway. I dropped my stuff on the floor, went into the bathroom and beheld a broken man. In need of a shave and a shower, I looked like I had been without a bed for a couple of weeks rather than the two nights that I had spent on the road.
The number one priority was to brush my teeth. The shower could wait but it had been about thirty hours without toothbrushing. After the teeth came a bit more sleep. A couple of hours later and I was starting to feel like myself again. I arose from my bed to a sunny day and stood beneath the shower and felt the life returning to my body. Following the shower, I got rid of the five day growth that was covering every inch of my face and neck. I looked in the mirror and was beginning to recognize myself again.
Next came food. An enormous English breakfast, a cup of coffee with sweetened condensed milk and as always, a banana shake. I devoured my food and had just enough money left on me to pay the barber for the use of his services. Since the voltage on my clippers is different is Asia, I now am forced to pay the two dollars here for a haircut but I still hold true to my principals and cut it myself. They usually laugh when I take the clippers from their hands and begin cutting my hair on my own. Today was no different but seeing as how my hair was the longest it has probably been in years, it felt damn good to have a haircut!
After a quick trip back to my hotel, I recharged my depleted funds at the atm and then began searching the town for a new beach towel. During a big storm in Loas, my favorite Auburn towel that has been around the world with me was destroyed. The wind blew it down below and covered it in mud and all forms of animal feces that you can imagine. I had seen dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks all occupying the area it landed in for the past few days and since it was fraying pretty badly anyway, I decided it was a total loss and left it as a blanket for the animals in case another wild storm came up and they needed some protection.
It wasn't long before I had located a new towel and made my way to the beach where I secured an nice adjustable chair with a thick cushion, small wooden table and a massive thatch umbrella. I took a big sip of water, grabbed my book and began to enjoy the endless blue sky over the turquoise colored water. Around lunch time, I was getting hungry but I had no desire to leave my little piece of paradise. The chair I was in belonged to a restaurant that looked rather expensive so rather than leave, I was just planning on skipping lunch. At this point, a woman carrying a small grill and some seafood began waving a nice sized lobster in front of me. Seeing as how I had missed lunch the day before, for six dollars, I couldn't resist! The nice little lady put her spices and portable bucket that had been transformed into a grill to good use. Fifteen minutes later and I had the most wonderful grilled lobster that I have ever eaten.
After lunch I got back to my book for a while and after another hour or so, another woman approached selling pineapples. A little deserted sounded pretty good by then and after paying her a dollar to slice up an enormous pineapple, I had to work hard just to get it all down. Lobster and pineapple on an incredibly beautiful beach reading an incredible book is one hell of a great way to get over a miserable journey like the one I made to get here. All I am missing now is a beautiful woman to share the experience with. Any one out there feel like joining?
A side note: The book I read today was Paulo Cohelo's The Alchemist. I have to recommend this book to everyone I know, especially if the journey I am on is hard for you to imagine. I must warn you that it may have an impact on your life and cause you to chase some of the dreams that you have always held close to your heart.