Hanoi

October 14, 2011

We arrived in Hanoi pre warned about unscrupulous airport taxi drivers and their many scams. So when we found ours, I was expecting the worst. It’s always a little unnerving when someone speaks in a different language in front of you, as you’re paranoid they’re calling you horsedick to your face. So when our driver made a phonecall as soon as we got in the car, I was pretty sure he was calling his mafia boss to inform him that fresh, Western meat was in the car and that we’d be delivered to his whorehouse in 20 minutes. During the drive from the airport to the hotel, I flitted between worrying about us being kidney-less sex slaves and looking out of the window, completely mesmerised by the utter chaos on the streets. The Vietnamese practically live most of their life on the street as this is where they cook, eat, socialise, sell and do their crazy-ass driving. Their traffic system is pretty much non existent. As we drove down the main freeway, people were randomly walking on the road as the traffic whizzed by them. No one believes in lanes, stopping or indicating. In fact, our driver indicated at the most random, unnecessary times, leading me to believe he was just doing it because he thought Western people liked the ticking noise. Cars drive on the line that separates the two sides of oncoming traffic and motorbikes weave like drunkards between cars, trucks, people and buses, carrying everything from the village’s supply of toilet paper, multiple family members and trees. People were burning rubbish by the side of the road, eating and walking around with their bamboo shoulder baskets trying to make the last sell of the day. All these sights while listening to Savage Garden’s Truly, Madly, Deeply. Surreal, right?

Our first day was spent at a cooking school which was one of the best things we’ve done on our trip. We started with a local student taking us around the neighborhood markets. These markets are called frog markets, as the ‘vendors’ are illegally selling things they’ve bought at a wholesale market and are just selling it on trying to make a buck. So when the police come, they have to jump up and bring all of their wares indoors, hence the name, frog market. Everyone at these markets sell something different. There’s fruit, meat, vegetables, shoes, noodles, rice and herbs. Oh yeah, and there’s also dog, which is probably the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. Wholly roasted and weirdly crispy, this is one sight I will never forget. Although having said that, I don’t think it’s right for Westerners to judge what other cultures eat and have been eating for hundreds of years. At the cooking class, which ended up being a private lesson for Luke and I, we learnt about how Vietnamese food is all about balancing the flavours, like ying and yang and how Vietnamese people love eating close to the ground and actually, just eating in general. They eat and spend much of their time outdoors to maintain relations with their neighbors and to spend time with their families and one meal a day should always be eaten at home. After we’d finished preparing our bun cha soup (BBQ pork noodles) we had the best meal of our whole trip.

But it wasn’t just food and culture we learnt about. We also learnt that Luke has the most vomit inducing man smell when put in humid, sweating, non deodorant wearing conditions. He was fascinated with this new smell, kind of like when babies discover poo in their nappies and smear it all over themselves. He found ‘intriguing’. Upon smelling it, I, on the other hand, wondered if this was going to be the moment in our relationship when I was going to projectile vomit over his feet. After letting him reveal in this new smell for half a day, I made him shower and soap twice. Yes, it was that powerful.

Hanoi is one of those places you enjoy for a couple of days and then get the hell out. While fearing for your life when crossing the road is fun for a while, it’s just not sustainable. Nor are the tiny baby stools that street food vendors put out when you’re Luke and extremely unflexible when faced with having to basically squat while eating. And it’s not sustainable for someone like me who pretty much gets the shits just looking at bug infected chicken that’s been sitting on the street all day. So we stayed, we enjoyed and then we got the hell out.

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If you’ve secretly always wanted to know how to go about public sexual humiliation or how to dress like a S&M horse and whinny while pulling some ugly dude around by your mouth, by golly, can I shed some light for you.

Throughout our trip around the US, we’ve unfortunately been a couple of days too early or a week too late for some awesome festivals. I don’t know what fate is trying to tell us, but luckily, we were bang on time for the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. Now, we’ve seen a lot of weird shit in our time. I actively seek weird shit out, hell, that’s what I call a good workday, but it’s one thing watching Fat Feeders and another seeing a megatron fattie doing sexy laughing while being spanked til her dimpled ass is red raw. I can’t even begin to describe the crazy shit we saw and you know what, the pictures don’t even do it justice. Everywhere you looked, there’d be some guy trying to not pass out during a public rope fetish demo, a man with GIGANTIC BALLS (Dr Joe, please send an email to explain) or women dressed as S&M warlocks leading War of Warcraft junkies by chains attached to their dicks. It was seriously awesome and this, pretty much sums it up.

Best day. Ever.

September 24, 2011

Sometimes, everything just falls into place and today was one of those days. It started with being served coffee by a midget. I LOVE midgets! I mean, a primordial dwarf would have been amazing, but I was pretty happy with the midget. Except for when he made both of us try his ‘awesome’ coffee in front of him and then waited for a compliment. Next, we went into a shop on Valencia I’d read about a couple of months back. ‘Boo shops’ you’re thinking, but stay with me. As soon as we walked in, I saw a ring I had seen online and had wanted for my birthday. I had also been thinking it would be perfect for my temporary (or maybe permanent) engagement ring. AND IT WAS IN A BOX NEXT TO BIKE BELLS! Honestly, it was unreal. It doesn’t even need plasters to stay on my finger. So we bought it. Afterwards, we went across the road into 826 Valencia to which I almost did a waterfall of excitement pant weeing. God I love Dave Eggers. If he had been there I might have had to give Luke the ring back to swap for a vintage ping pong set. I didn’t think things could get any better until we went next door and saw a taxidermy unicorn and taxidermy mice that had been dressed up in ballet costumes!!!! We then stumbled across an exhibition a couple of doors down that showcased Mitsu Okubo’s work that totally tickled the funniest, darkest and dirtiest part of both of our brains. The environmentalists would have HATED it. So at this point we were about ready to die happy because the day had been that good. We then went to Fisherman’s Warf and went to an old arcade museum where they had the COOLEST collection of vintage arcade games. I got my fortune told by a mechanical granny and Luke watched some arcade porn from the 1920s. Finally, to top the day off, we went to a magic show where Luke got his time to wee in his pants. Not only did we get one on one pre show magic time but he also got to be the assistant in the main show. I couldn’t have been prouder. The best bit was due to our tiny bladders. Needing to wee for about the 5th time in two hours, we stayed back after the show for one final wee before hitting the road. As we were the only ones there, I came out of the toilet to find Luke talking to Peter Morrison the magician about our upcoming travels. Next thing, he’s asking us if we want to go to the mecca for all magic fans, The Magic Castle in Hollywood. You can only get in there if you’re a celebrity or if you’re invited by a magician in the Magic Circle. And we’re going! All we have to do is find Luke a dinner jacket. To top it off, after the show, we went to a blues bar with the most charismatic, doing it for the love of it, musician who was so great, the five people in the crowd (including us) were yelling in Spanish for an encore. Seriously, best day ever.

Yosemite National Park

September 21, 2011

Click to enlarge this amazing panoramic

I never knew I was scared of bears until I got to Yosemite. The thing is, they scare you with information. When we checked into our camp, we had to sign a bear information sheet saying we had read and were aware of all the dangers. There were bear warning signs outside, on the road, in the shower blocks, signs in our tent. We had to keep everything in a bear box outside our tent and were told under strict instruction not to bring any food or anything with a scent into our tent (even sun cream and toothpaste). So what does Luke do? Goes to bring the food bag into our tent as soon as we arrived. The boy clearly showed in our three day stay in Yosemite that he is NOT bear aware. Luckily, I’m very good at rules and we were spared from becoming snack food. If Luke had been in charge of bear awareness we would have:

– eaten chocolate INSIDE the tent
– had bags that had food INSIDE them in our tent
– sprayed all sorts of scented shit INSIDE the tent

Luke should never be allowed to be in the wilderness by himself. Come to think of it, neither should I unless it’s to boss people around and make sure they are sticking to the rules.

On our first day, we decided to hike a trail. You’d think with three maps and signposts, we’d be able to work out which way to go. Oh no, we managed to walk the last quarter of one trail that ended in a car park and then another half of another, after going completely the wrong direction for about half an hour. But then again, getting lost, fending off bears and freezing your ass off in a cold tent doesn’t matter so much when you’re in the most beautiful place on earth.

We are loving our new place. For all the oddness and the laughs we got out of our last two places, it’s a nice change to be with someone who is relaxed, says thanks and is grateful for the help she’s receiving. While there are three cats to content with (I’m ignoring my germ alert freaking out over having the cats crawl all over where the food is kept) there are also two beautiful dogs; Sammy and Chloe (ok, ok, so Chloe is pretty ugly but she’s so lovely) on the property. Our days are starting early (830 is early, right?) but we’re having lunch by 12:30. Yesterday we saved the life of some growing carrots, picked our first lettuce and the world’s largest courgette. Later on, we ate the latter with a Irish couple who said ‘grand’ and ‘good craic’ a lot. Actually, that’s all we could really understand.

The other neighboring village, Villacroze is stunning. It’s like time has stood still with its medieval archways and narrow cobbled streets. It makes you wonder how many million other beautiful places there are that we’ve missed simply because we would never have thought of going there. This experience is proving you should just put your finger on a map and go, because you can find the most unexpected beauty anywhere.

Murphy

June 27, 2011

My once nemesis has grown on me. Therefore I’d like to dedicate the following rap (West coast all the way, RIP Tupac) to him. My creative vision hopes to be realised through commercial RnB. May Ashanti and Ja Rule reunite and make such sweet, sweet music like their former hits ‘Always on Time’and ‘Mesmerize’. Thank you and this goes out to you Murphy.

Murphy, Murphy,
You make my sinuses go crazee
But when you look at me with your itty bitty eyez
My heart goes BA BOOM with surprise.

Hey lil’ Murphy, I think I like you
(like you, like you)
Hey lil’ Murphy, I don’t despise you
(despise you)

Just last week, the thought of you made me low
All you were, was a goddamn furry foe
Now I know you don’t mean no harm
Hey lil’ Murphy you got some feline charm.

Hey lil’ Murphy, I think I like you
(like you, like you)
Hey lil’ Murphy, I don’t despise you
(despise you)

Or crackpots. One of the two. Yes, our new family are potentially nuts but there’s no need for alarm.

At first I thought, they were really straight. Daddy David came to pick us up and while it wasn’t surprising he didn’t laugh at Luke’s jokes (I did because I’m a good, supportive girlfriend) he just seemed devoid of humour. But as soon as we met Sunny Mummy, it all changed. She had the barking mad aura of a moon worshipper (she has a stars and moon covered book, most probably filled with positive affirmations) and we’re pretty sure she was inebriated. I had a rather awkward greet which involved me thinking she was going to shake my hand and instead she kissed me, so we kissed holding hands. It was almost as bad as my handshake with Daddy D as he gripped very tightly onto my fingers before I could get the rest of my hand in the shake. Then we proceeded to have a rather random dinner. But out of that, one of the three Jeffs in the village is taking us to Narbonne tomorrow on his way to church.

Anyway.

Their chateau is beautiful. It’s set in the most picturesque village. It’s 25 minutes outside of Narbonne looking over a 300 year old canal. From our room you can see the Pyrenees. The Pyrenees damn it! Mummy and Daddy bought it after seeing the ‘Parlor’ which they now use as a music room. And it is really lovely – floor to ceiling french doors, high ceilings with ornate detailing, wide fireplaces and doors that I’ve only ever seen in castles. Our room is on the 3rd floor and we have the entire floor to ourselves. There’s a 26 degree pool and their kitchen is stocked with the most lovely, fresh local produce. And then there’s the cat. Another fucking cat. This time called Murphy.

Murphy, you too will be my nemesis.

After dinner, Mummy and Daddy went out to a concert. We were told that Murphy wasn’t allowed in the Parlor. Of course, when we opened the door, the little shit ran through. So we ran in after and closed the doors so he couldn’t go any further. Now, I refuse to touch cats, so I told Luke to get him. The only trouble is, Murphy is fucking mental. He skits around like someone on Ice and then hides in sofa covers, has a spaz attack and hides somewhere else. Luke tried picking him up and he scratched the shit out of him. So we tried wedging the door to the kitchen open, turning off the lights and fooling him into thinking we had gone. Didn’t work. So then I went and got some of his food and tried luring him out with that. It worked. Except I shut the door in triumph forgetting we had left the lights on in the kitchen that we were instructed to turn off. This then turned into another 10 minute ordeal as Luke couldn’t get out of the kitchen without Murphy. He ended up having to go out the back way and come through the garden. All this for a bloody cat. Then we had to crawl around on our hands and knees looking for the cat food that Murphy had scattered and therefore camouflaged into the Parlor floor.

Fucking cats. More on the nutters tomorrow.

Farewell Jpow

June 17, 2011


I have no idea where the past two and a half weeks have gone. In this time our way of life has completely changed. Before coming here, we were lucky if we cleaned our house every two months. We had no idea how to hang towels or ride a tandem. Cooking on an Aga was only a dream (although now, it’s actually a nightmare). We can safely say we have acquired a few new life skills, despite their practicality is questionable. Having said that, I can totally imagine being on a plane and the stewardess asking over loudspeaker; “does anybody onboard know how to stack and un-stack an industrial dishwasher? It’s an emergency!” Then, I can put my hand up, a little shyly at first, then followed by a heroic stacking performance where after everyone claps in awe. Ten minutes? That girl has GOT IT GOING ON…sorry, that fantasy was a little long. Where was I? Oh, Luke now goes by Jpow’s pet name for him; Lukey Boy. And I go by ‘she hates you Robbie’ – also penned by Jpow although sadly not as lovingly delivered.

Tomorrow morning we’re off to Narbonne. Our new chateau home is with a retired, yet ‘VERY ACTIVE’ couple. I don’t know about you, but to me, that screams swingers. It might well be my over active imagination (I was slightly worried that Jpow was a serial killer – although this has yet to be confirmed) but just in case, I’ve bagsied the less wrinkly one due to my phobia of excess skin.

So goodbye Jpow. Robbie and Kylie, you can kiss my ass.

Rennes

June 14, 2011




Advantage Vanessa

June 9, 2011


Tonight I decided to do some Robbie damage control. So eight days after arriving, I decided to make my first comment on the cats, yes, ok, out of nowhere, and said to chateau dude (I’m going to start calling him Jpow):

“Gee, Kylie sleeps a lot”.

That was as close to a cat compliment I could get out of my mouth. I then followed it with making a few random meow noises towards the other room (I’m not entirely sure if the cats were even in there) and then said to Jpow, very casually:

“I really like cats, but it makes me sad that I can’t pat them because I’m allergic to them”.

I then pulled a mini sad face which in reality, is not that much different to my normal face, but perhaps with more snarl.

Then I asked him if he wanted some cake (Jpow has a massive sweet tooth).

BACK IN THE GAME.