Expat@Large

Beautiful Ice-Cream – Ugly Baby Jesus – Unwell E@L

Posted in art, heart attack, Ice-cream, Italy, tourists, ugly jesus by expatatlarge on July 25, 2012

In the town of San Gimignano there are a lot of towers. It’s famous for its towers. There are a few museums (like the Torture Museum, that I missed) and there are the some bloody good ice-cream shops.

This one sells the World Champion Gelato.

And just a few metres away, this one sells The Best Ice-cream in the World. Spoiled for choice.

The pistachio ice-cream here in the second place was truly beautiful and a joy to the palate. Miraculous.

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In the next square is the Museo Civico in which there is quite a collection of frescoes of the Madonna with particularly unattractive baby Jesus’s*, so E@L wandered around snapping pic after pic…

And E@L’s personal favorite (this one is from the Duomo in Siena…)

When he left the museum – the three story part in the middle here, with the crenelated rooftop – he decided, after all those earlier misgivings and the others refusing to climb it, that it would not much of a problem after all for him to climb the Torre Grossa, (as seen in Assassin’s Creed II apparently) on the right, and go way up there, 57m (177ft)… No problem…

Smart?

No.

Problem. So here’s E@L on the top of the tower having some pretty fucking severe angina.

Famous last words? “Great view from up here!”

Cue: Ambulance to Siena, angiogram, stents, hospital for a week… And associated drama of logistics, etc… for Izzy and Danijel and Vicky… and then for myself to get home as I was not supposed to fly for a week after discharge.

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Sigh. Why did E@L climb that fucking tower? What was he thinking? Maybe he was thinking that the PET stress test he’d had done two weeks earlier showed normal cardiac perfusion is maybe what he was thinking.

Cardiologist in Singapore yesterday says, “Mmm, that normal test, very high predictive value, this shouldn’t have happened.”

E@L says, “No it shouldn’t have.”

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Expect E@L to be going on about this incident a lot in the near future…

* Not to be confused with uglyrenaissancebabies.

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What To Do In HK – An Expat-Tempore List

Posted in beach, expats, food, hiking, Hong Kong, tourists by expatatlarge on May 20, 2012

A friend asked E@L to suggest some things for a buddy to do while he was in Hong Kong. E@L has no idea how long, if not forever, his buddy would be there.

This prompted a quick thought and an even quicker burst of the automatic writing that E@L used to think he used to be infamous for… Gods of Blog Spontaneity be damned, there has been quite a bit of editing from the original e-mail, for obsfucational clarificational purposes in the vain hope of making it more understandable/coherent.

This means that while there are still plenty of errors, distortions, misrepresentations, exaggerations and arguably hypocritical opinions and comments in this list – not to mention geographical fuck-up – E@L holds these truths be evidence of his experiences there.

E@L apologizes in advance to local experts and tourist-guides for making the wrong call on so many things, but this is how he remembers it… Many of the local bloggers would scoff at and deride E@L for this superficial list, but as they don’t follow him anyway, eh, who really cares?

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Hey friend, person of ill-repute,

An embarrassingly incomplete list of gwailo/tourist things to do in Hong Kong for your buddy – not in any order. Choose any four.

The Peak – make sure it is clear weather (i.e. winter) or forget it. This time of year, dodgy. Take the funicular tram up. It is steep, about 45deg. Goes past my old place. If you want to have a baby, Matilda Hospital up here has the best views of anywhere on the island.

Walking/Jogging Path – Bowen Rd path on Midlevels (where I used to live – merely coincidence that my first two recommendations are for nearby). There is a 4km track level path straight across the hills above Wanchai to Causeway Bay. Goes past the enormous mansion of Feng Shui master guy who earned (cough!) billions from “eccentric heiress” (batshit crazy rich bitch) Nina Wang by a) telling her where she should put his water spout to best effect, and b) forging her will. Great story there, someone should write a novel. About 0.5km along, climb up to look at Lover’s Rock. Rock, yeah, right, bit of mis-spelling there. But first, look down over the fence to see if the heroin addict guy who tends the rock still lives there. Keep an eye out for some little statues and joss sticks every now and then along the path. Forest gods, IKYN. The jogging path around The Peak is also nice (when the weather is clear!!!)

ICC building – The 100th floor viewing platform on the big fucking building over Kowloon MRT (118 stories!) Same weather warning. When it is clear you can see the other big fucking building (IFC2) quite well from here. My buddy Spike, former Wanchai Vortex ™ surfer and now camera geek, has taken some great nighttime pictures of HK, btw.

South African Food (wtf?) – The Stoep on Cheung Sha beach Lantau island is something of a hazing ritual for tourists / new recruits. The lamb shanks, what can I say? There might be time for this after checking out the Big Buddha. Ditto warnings with the weather.

Hong Kong fishing village restaurants – There are plenty, all equally toxic exotic. Lamma island or Cheung Chau island. The Lamma one needs you to walk a bit (or you can if you want… not 100% on this?). Get the scallops with garlic – sorry I mean garlic with scallops. Also razor clams. (And WTF are those giant penis things?) Haven’t had cholera there for years now. Nah, seriously, great food. You’re more likely to get ill eating in your hotel.

Junk Trip – absolutely a must – you get seasick easily? This is the ride for you! They’re all good. Take a bunch of buddies of course, these are communal affairs, plus it’s affordable if you share.

Swimming – Are you crazy? Head out to Tai Long Wan beach way out past Sai Kung (take the junk trip!) if you want to avoid the majority of the shipping lane effluent.

Crap “Local” Food – Lan Kwai Fong’s Rat Alley is famous for its… rats. Seriously. Unbelievably bad, yet popular, like most blockbuster movies. A favorite for back-packers and poorly paid F.I.L.T.H.

Sai Kung – well worth a visit while you’re at it, as you can take a long hike to Tai Long Wan as well, if you are feeling suicidal in this heat. Or jump across to play golf on Kau Sai Chau – bring plenty of balls, it can swallow three per hole, easy. (This is not a metaphor, or do I mean not a double entrendre?)

Stanley Market – the most amazing part of this trip is the ride on the No 6X bus. Take the top deck and sit at the very front. Your worst roller coaster ride will seem dull after this. Some things are OK in the market, but a market is a market is a market. Buy books, if you must, at the Dymocks [if it is still there] that I was going to set up before I came to Singapore.

Portugese Food (wtf?) – ferry to Macau, tell the taxi driver “Fernandos” – it’s on the arse end of the other island, Coloane, past the Venetian. You’ll get just as good if not better chicken and potatoes in town but, hey, you’re a gwailo, a tourist, you have no common sense.

Chinese Noodles, etc… – the first place you come to anywhere is bound to be brilliant. OK try the Honolulu Coffee Shop in Stanley St near Lan Kwai Fong. Recommended by insert name of common friend. Unlike many of the eateries in this great former British colony [founded by and for heartless drug-runners] they have an English menu.

Dim Sum – man I love this Cantonese junk food. Noisy and very noisy are your choices for restaurants. Everybody likes the ancient, sullen aunties and their steaming trollies at the City Hall in Central, where the Star Ferry and Queens pier used to be… (gone, sad.) Get there before 10 or you’re screwed. Not the best, but hey, you’re a tourist! [Most locally patronized yum cha places are upstairs in mold-scarred buildings that certainly don’t look like restaurants from the outside. They are gate-kept at the bottom of the stairs by harsh women who speak into tiny microphones and never tell you anything. No, no English, what were you thinking! Even your Cantonese friends are scared of these women.]

Spa/Massage Parlour – the only legit spa/massage place that I know the expats go to is Sunny Paradise, in Lockhart Rd conveniently. At least that is where it used to be. Get a pork bun or two. This is not a metaphor.

Hiking – weather permitting, must walk the Dragon’s Back on HK island. It’s not a hard climb – steps all the way, great views (what did I say about weather?) and bring water, it’s frackin’ hot this time of year. Finish at Shek O and eat and drink (you’ll need a San Mig or fifteen – bottle only, never can) at the Thai/Chinese restaurant there on the left of the carpark as you enter, an excellent gwailo tradition best upheld in the partaking.

Sleazy Fat Old Men – No visit to Asia is complete without checking out the sex-tourism – oh that’s right, these are local expats, not tourists. Ah, Wanchai… (eyes go dreamy…) Want to see some feeeelthy old expats leering at local (Philippines is nearby, right?) girls? Try the Old China Hand on Lockhart Rd, there or the new Queen Victoria Pub a few bars up. However, while these are “normal” bars, yet somehow the genuine girly/stripper, feel-my-tits if you buy-me-drink bars, or the meet-market clubs at Laguna and Fenwicks along this strip seem somehow less sleazy than these two places. [Say hello to Bruce and E@L while you are there… Sleazy is fine if you are drunk, and who isn’t drunk in Wanchai?] If you pass the girly bars early in the evening, you will see (and smell) mamasan burning Monopoly money and joss-sticks in an orison for a good night.

Legit Wanchai – right next to the girly bars and sleazy old men joints are some nice bars and restaurants. Do not eat at the American Chinese Restaurant – it’s another gwailo tradition to mock it. Good rock music at Amazonia. Free mike night at The Wanch. Dance on the bar at Carnegies. Have a whisey at The Stag. Have a 3am 4am kebab at Ebeneezers.

3rd Gen Entertainment – in the hills above the tourist crowd in LKF on pissing up on Friday night, you will find Wyndham St, now the Friday night piss-up place for Execs and bankers-wankers. Don’t expect Cantonese to be spoken here. Eat somewhere near Staunton St, up The Escalator (note the capitals) to SOHO (south of Hollywood Rd). Around here [E@L is too old to have ever found out where, exactly] locally born but still expat (3rd Gen) brats hang at bars, or so I believe. Walk all the way down to Jaspa’s Restaurant, don’t eat there FFS, and turn right. There are some tiny makeshift bars here, not far at all away from the great unwashed tourists. Don’t expect English.

“Real” Hong Kong – anywhere, just not near Wanchai, LKF, Central or TST.

“Antiques” – walk along Hollywood Rd under the escalator and order antiques to your exact specifications. Interestingly, some of these places do sell genuine antiques. Those antique porcelain horses which look like they have been sprayed with mud, are really brand-new plaster horses that have been sprayed with mud. If they have these in the windows, move on.

The Dark Side – (Tsim Sha Tsui – TST) – high tea at The Peninsula (book now). Dinner of brilliant Indian somewhere in Chunking Mansions on Nathan Rd. Do not buy cameras in this area though (head back to Stanley St in LKF). After dinner drinks at the Wooloomooloo bar at The One on Nathan/Granville/Carnavon Rd, just up a bit. Awesome views at night (weather permitting), but closes at midnight. Spend lots.

More Beaches – Past Repulse Bay (get off the 6A or 260 bus on the way back from Stanley and walk or taxi the 2km down to South Bay Beach. Gay friendly, which means all the homophobic obnoxious gwailos steer clear – you’re comfortable with your sexuality, yeah? Drink four million Coronas under the faded umbrellas in the restaurant above the change rooms – just grab the beers from the fridge yourself or you’ll die of thirst. Make sure you shower if you go swimming. The water in the beach is relatively OK (shudder, for HK) but the shower is nice place to make new friends.

That is all – too much already, yeah? Geez, I miss Hong Kong.

Cheers

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E@L

Poverty Porn III

Posted in holidays, laos, porn, tourists by expatatlarge on March 1, 2012

One of the few snaps we took on the infamous Poverty Porn cruise in Si Phan Don, southern Laos, last month.

Odette grabbed his phone and snapped this one of E@L after he had voiced his disapproval once he realised that they were entering, not just a tourist trap, but the murky treacherous realm of 1st-World perversity. It was sold to us as a sunset boat-ride, however the solar action was behind us all the time. Sunset? Wah? Ah no, there was another agenda. Perhaps we were supposed to get it?

Yep instead we were expected instead to watch and take photos of people who were nearly naked, the children certainly were [you couldn’t help but think ‘pedophile alert’], as they engaged in their daily wash.

It was in the river, yada yada, ooh wow, but it was their daily fucken’ ablutions. After a minute of not being sure what the fuck, E@L refused to look let alone take any Kodak moment memories.

But they looked at us as the boat slowed down, cruised past. Their looks flung back were a mixture of reluctant toleration and seething disdain, as we had been receiving for our whole time in Si Phan Don – not just “Get the fuck out of my bathroom,” but, “Get the fuck off my fucken’ island!

And E@L fucken’ well agrees with them.

As would you, should strangers people came into your shower and started taking pictures of you soaping up your nethers. Even friends!

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E@L is not feigning that decidedly unimpressed mien. He was feeling bad, angry, disgusted with everyone, not excluding himself. You can almost see him writing that post in his head.

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Yada yada, tourist money, gradual improvement, fine but not this cultural pornography. Laos would not be in such a state if we had not dropped millions of tonnes of bombs and incendiaries, intentionally and specifically to set children on fire.

Children like this. “Yay,” they said. “Burn the gooks!”

E@L

[I thought I had a Flickr thingummy at the side, seems to have disappeared. Here is the link to Flickr if you are interested in seeing what a crap photographer I am.]

Not Self-Aware (I Am a Tourist In My Own Life)

Posted in autobiography, tourists, travel trouble, writing by expatatlarge on July 10, 2009

I have real trouble turning off my internal narrator. The enthusiasm of this continuous monologue is what first made me think I should try my pen at writing/blogging. Then I found out most people have a voice inside their heads who comments on the action, that other people have their own internal narrators and that I was not unique after all. How disappointing, I thought it was just me. But no, we all have one.

Except for those people who, as Izzy insists, are Not Self Aware.

Like the guy tonight that everyone in our cheap Outback style Chiang Mai restaurant found out was from Las Vegas. He lives here, we all leanred, but those people he was with before, they were not his FREINDS, they were his NEIGHBOURS. The Vegan guy would not shut-up. He kept talking continuously at indiscreet volumes to the two Thai girls at his table. On and on he goes. “That happened to my mom, who is,” he leans forwards and speaks slowly, “EIGHT EE SIX YEARS OLD.” They kept eating, not looking at him. Wondering, what the fuck is he yelling at us about? No doubt. He then sends back his steak because it is “a touch more medium than well done. I prefer it more WELL-DONE/medium than medium/well-DONE, as I requested, so could the chef please JUST COOK it a little bitty MORE, thank you sir, I’d appreciate that.” The blank-faced waiter nodded and took the meat back to the kitchen, shrugging his shoulders to the chef.

My waiter rolled his eyes. Tourists. Not self aware, as a species.

This guy could not be self-aware as the voice in his head would not be able to get a word in edgewise. I often wonder, are people who talk incessantly like this capable of… like, *contemplating* anything? Can they ever stop… and just… think? Ever? Are they afraid of what their inner narrator might tell them?

I’m trying to get rid of my inner narrator. I was once told he is slowing me down. Then again, other people say that I think too much. I’m not doing any thinking, of course, I’m just listening to the inner narrator. I’ve been presuming he’s been doing the thinking for both if us and therefore knows what he’s doing, and ergo facto, so do I.

Perhaps I should study my Eckhart Tollë a little more, eh? BE in my present. Stop listening to that inner voice. Stop worrying about the future and regretting the past (which is what my inner voice is or should be talking about, according to Tollë, rather than saying mundane things like “Long shot: Phillip picks up his fork and examines it for traces of dirt”).

And keep those cheques and money orders coming in, says Eckhart.

Yes, I should stop being an actor in the movie that is my life and just live it without awareness. Like a brain-washed new-age zombie. Like a tourist.

As long as I am alive to live it that is.

I just hope that they way to achieve this inner calm is not by talking loudly to uncomprehending people in restaurants, like a total wanker.

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The country town of Nan was a bit quiet last night.


Street market at 9pm. More street than market.

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My narrator was haranguing me on helium for the drive back from Nan (on the Nan river, same river that flows through Phitsanulok from two weeks ago) to Chiang Mai; he was having a field day. I only wish I could recall some of it for you. Passages of great descriptive power, episodes of dramatic irony and then some of irony and drama by themselves. Discourses of great social and political import. All of them concerning feats of dangerous driving even more harrowing than earlier in the week. Feats to leave you gasping. More knife-edge curves and split-second swerves… More good luck than good decisions on the corners… It got to the point were E@L had to say, “Please DON’T text while you are driving at twice the recommended speed, on the wrong side of the road, going into a blind curve, with the setting sun right in your eyes!!”

Reply; a pleasant “Hoka-ay. No ploblem. Solly.”

As I couldn’t sleep due to anxiety for the first hour of this trip and due to a full bladder for the last, I also wish that the pictures from my mental camera could be downloaded to share with you. Other than close-ups of oncoming trucks, I mean. Snaps of rice paddies reflecting the burnished clouds of sunset and the silhouettes of the hills.


Oops missed the rice paddies.

Snaps of the teak jungles draped in a suffocating omnipresent vine infestation. Snaps of village markets, rickety shanties on those hillsides, plus large modern mansions with satellite antennae. Snaps of the weather-beaten, lined and tanned face of the man pushing a tractor-tyred cart to the market, or the weary grandmother in traditional hill-tribe dress keeping a hand on the exhuberant children under her supposed control right by the road-side.

I think next time I’ll go by bus.


This bus pulled up next to us at the lights in Lampuang.


Somebody, please explain.

E@L