So I think I left off after the trek in the Himilaya. Real quickly, from there:
- I went to Pokhara (still in Nepal) for a couple of days to unwind, kick back and relax.
- Got my ass back to Kathmandu, and headed out. I took a flight from Kathmandu to Bangkok, then another to Singapore, slept for two hours and then got on a train for Kuala Lumpur
- In Kuala Lumpur (KL for short) I went to the penultimate (second to the last, in case you were wondering what that meens) round of the 2008 MotoGP season at Sepang International Circuit (SIC)
- I spent a couple of days staying with this dude I met on the street, Ridz, and then hung around Chinatown, KL.
- Took the bus from KL to Palau Penang staying at this ladies house who was sitting next to me on the bus. I dont think her boyfriend likes me very much, and im pretty sure he wanted some alone time with her for a quick shag so I wrote most of this while waiting to go back.
- Partied in Penang, and then headed to Palau Langkawi
- Im heading off tomorrow for a ferry to Thailand, and then a bus up to Phuket/Ko Phi Phi
I forgot these pics last time...
Me at the base of Kalaa Pattar.
Me on the top of Kalaa Pattar (5,600 meters/18,600 feet). On the right is Pumo Ri. There was a Spanish couple there who were super sad, and I asked why. It turns out it was because they had 5 friends die in an avalanche there last year.
I finally managed a mustache. I like to call this one (thanks D) terminator meets CHIPS.
This sweet ass town is about an 8 hour drive to the west of Kathmandu. You can take a chicken bus (local transport) which takes like 13 hours and costs like $1.50, or cough up the wopping $5 to ride the luxury coach (one step up from the rat and roach infested busses I had in Africa, so not really so luxury - but transport nonetheless). The ride out to Pokhara, or any transport in Nepal is pretty much life threatening. As you are driving along, you are hugging the mountainside with 400 meter cliffs and no railings (not even the dangerous part - lol). The dangerous part is their driving style. When you are going along you will see wrecks, of the likes you have never seen before. Huge trucks, upside down, and twisted in half, busses with all their windows shattered out and crumpled like an accordian - its crazy.
When you get to Pokhara, the main area is Lakeside. Lakeside quite obviously hugs the lake, and is filled with restaurants, cheap hotels and guesthouses, barber shops, internet cafes, bicycle rental places, and souveneir shops.
I dont really get the barber shop thing. There has to be more barber shops in Pokhara per capita than anywhere in the world. Quite literally every third shop is a massage parlor/barber shop. I couldnt even conjure up that in the highest of high seasons that there is enough work for all those barbers. They are all men, and they stand in the opening of their shops, doing their best to get your attention, offering massages. Now I dont know what kind of readers are out there, but Im not particular on getting a massage from anyone, let alone a man, but I guess some people sign up. Pokhara is the starting point (and usually ending point) for people starting the Anapurna Trek (number two in Nepal to Everest Base Camp), and people come off the hills a bit rough - so some people just go straight for a trim and a massage, but sure as hell there cant be enough trekkers for all those barber shops.
So I hung out my first day there, just checking the place out. I went over by the lake and found these guys, who later became my good friends. The leader of their pack, who went by the name Earthquake (born during one) was a bit witty and wanted to learn from my western ways. Man, do I really hate westernizing people, so after playing along for a little time I commandeered the subject away from the ways of the west. Anyways, these guys and I stole a canoe (haha - they promised me that it was ok, but I really knew that we were stealing it; rather borrowing it) and we went out on the lake. We went to this island and walked about 1km through this leech infested water to a waterfall, and then after we went to another island that had a very famous Hindu temple.
Reflection on Lake Fewa
Looking out over Lake Fewa
This is one of the boats we stole!
Israeli hostel/bed chabad on the lake. Man, those guys really do manage pretty well. For such a small country, they are everywhere.
Me and my new buddies at the waterfall on the island. Earthquake is the guy in the middle. Hes putting his hands together which is the custome when someone says hello in Nepal (Namaste).
I gave him my camera, and he took this ultra cool picture of me.
My new buds
We then went and had some drinks at some super cheap hole in the wall place and then split up. Earthquake had to go home to eat Dahl Bhat or his mom would get angry at him so I went and had dinner at his place. His dad (name is House) is a bit of a kook, so I hung out for a lil while with his mom and then boogied out.
Me with Earthquakes mom. She was hillarious.
The next day was productive. I rented a bicycle and went all around. Highlights were the Gurkha and mountaineering museam. The Gurkhas are world renound as some of the worlds toughest soldiers. Nepali by birth and culture, they are recruited every year by the British army and form six brigades. The motivation is that back home in Nepal a soldier could expect to earn around 10 British sterling a month. In the British Army this salary jumps to nearly 1500 quid a month, so every year hundreds of young men flock from every corner of the mountains to try out for selection. Their selection process is rigorous, and just to give you an idea - the first event requires them to carry a 25kg rock in a wicker basket running uphill for 5k (and thats just the start of it). If you have heard the name Gurkha before, but are not sure where, its probably because most recently there has been a lot of controversy over them. In 1997, with the end of British ruling in Hong Kong the main base of the Gurkhas was moved out and all soldiers that served from that point on were given the same pensions as their British counterparts. Additionally, after 5 years experience they were able to move out into regular British units. Those who served prior to 1997 were given the royal shaft. For all their hard work, tenacity, and service, if they did not meet the stringent requirements they were not given a pension, and those who did not have citizenship at the time of the signing of the legislation would not be able to file or get it at all. War heroes, who fought for the UK would not even be allowed to be considered a citizen. How sad. The Gurkhas are well known for their tenacity under fire, ability to handle stress, and are extremely agressive in battle.
Symbol of Gurkha regiment. The knives are called Kukhris and are very effective at hand to hand.
I thought this was funny. "A gurkha using equipment that his father would not have understood"
Pretty good moddo if I say so myself.
This was a cool hindu temple that I went to that had and opening out that went behind a waterfall.
The outlook through the cave into the backside of the waterfall. We all are adults. Norm, dont even think about making any wisecracks about what it looks like.
In Pokhara I also went to the mountaineering museam which highlighted the feats of all the great mountain climbers throughout the world. I was there that I realized I have to climb Mont Blanc in France, and Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. Those are next.
I hung around Pokhara for a bit, then headed back to Kathmandu for a night, then the long haul to make my way to the MotoGP race in Sepang. I had to take a flight from Kathmandu to Bangkok, then after a layover take another flight to Singapore. I crashed for about an hour or two and then took the train in the morning to Sepang International Circuit. I hustled hard from Nepal to the race, and went straight from the train station to the race track with all my bags. I looked pretty retarted, but I was really hustling to make qualifying practice on saturday. It turns out I was like a half an hour too late but nonetheless.
Anyways, after the first day at the track I headed back to Kuala Lumpur (the city closest to Sepang circuit). Being so exhausted from traveling from Nepal I couldnt work the ticket machine for the subway, and I told this guy that I didnt understand and then he made fun of me because it was in english - there should be no reason for not understanding. We chatted for a minute and I asked to stay at his house and he agreed, but only on one condition - that we would have to cook togethere some Malaysian food (score!).
Petronas towers are the most significant land mark of KL.
I dont think that I have properly described anything about MotoGP in any of these posts, despite ranting about the details of it week after week. MotoGP is the class of international motorcycle riders that are the best in the world. There are roughly 20 riders in the MotoGP class, and race at roughly 17 circuits that are dispersed throughout the world. Younger, and less experienced riders race in the lower classes (125 and 250cc two strokes) untill they either fail to suceed, break their bodies, or move up to MotoGP.
A MotoGP motorcycle is nothing like what you can buy off the street. They are purebreed racemachines that are one off million dollar prototypes. They weigh 326 pounds and have four stroke 800cc engines that produce something like 220 horsepower (the actual number is closely guarded by the bike manfacturers). The circuits that are raced at year after year are Qatar, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Catalunya, UK, Netherlands, Germany, USA, Czech, Misano, Japan, China, Australia, and Malaysia. The principal bike manufacturers are Honda, Ducati, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki with most manufacturers operating a factory team of two riders, and another satelite team of two riders.
The races are short, at just around 45 minutes, which is the optimum length of time which it takes to empty a fuel tank and fry the tires of the bike. Going around a circuit at a maximum speed of 335 km/hr the tires take a real beating and are specifically designed for each circuit and each rider. The rules have changed slightly most recently, but the way that they used to do it was that the rider would test drive a few sets of tires on friday, and on saturday, and then on saturday the tire manufacturers would take their data and formulate a specific compound that would be made for a few sets of tires and those would be flown directly to the racetrack for the race on sunday. In addition to this specific diagnostic data is examined to determine at any given point and time nearly every aspect what the bike is doing. In short, its an extremely competitive sport from the rider as well as bikes perspective. There are huge stakes at risk (not only the lives of the riders, but also the ensuing bike sales that fluctuate with who is winning).
In the history of the sport, interestingly enough only one rider has died. Japanese rider Daijiro Kaito died from a brain stem fracture that occured from a crash at Suzuka racetrack (his home circuit). The bikes are pushed to the absolute limit (tires are on the verge of shredding to pieces, engines scream at 20,000 rpm are ready to blow if there is any flaw in their manufacturing, and the riders are utterly exhausted at the end of the race). Why am I explaining all this - because nobody back home knows about it. You go anywhere in the world and you will see the number 46 (Valentino Rossi) plastered all over everything and anything. The Doctor is about as well known as any other international athlete superstar (schumacher, jordan, woods, etc.), but nobody knows about him or the motorcycle racing at home. Even the American riders are not all that well known. The 2006 world champion, Nicky Hayden is more well known overseas then he is back home. With the winning of the championship, Dorna (the people who put it all together) thought that the sport would gain popularity back in the states, but im not convinced that it really happened. You wont ever see ESPN to talk about it, and speedvision sometimes doesnt even air the races.
If you really want to learn more, there are two great documentaries you can get on DVD that will explain it all. "Faster", although a few years old is narrated by Ewan McGregor gives a good overview of the sport. The Doctor, Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid gives some insight into the introduction of an American race (Laguna Seca) on the calendar. You should check them out.
I am pretty ignorant on most sports, but I really have a special place in my heart for MotoGP. The reason is that for me, I find it to be the ultimate test of who is the best. It is an individual sport (usually teamates are the most vicious of enemies) which requires man and machine to be stronger and better than the competition. The engineering aspect of it is really interesting, but when you couple that with the skill that is required of the rider it becomes an interesting mix. F1 is much more imbalanced to sucess depending on the car, and isnt as physical as twisting and turning and flicking a motorcycle down the track. F1 = duck sauce compared to MotoGP.
So, on race day I was able to get some good seats that were right above the start/finish line, and had some good chats with other fanatics while I was there. On race day the front row was Dani Pedrosa (Spain), Valentino Rossi (Italy), and the rookie Jorge Lorenzo (Spain). I was probably the only American there, so I was in full force in support of the US riders. I was yelling at them, rooting for them, and trying to convince the other fans of how good they were. The Aussies and the Brits all had huge flags and banners in support. I was well out numbered.
Aussies were out in full force.
Layout of track. I was sitting in the grandstands on the upper part of the sideways V.
Then there was this guy doing stunts. Kind of cool, but I have seen better.
125cc starting grid
Valentino Rossi's pit.
Marco Simoncelli on his way back into the pits after victory as the 2008 250cc world champ!
Front row of the MotoGP grid
Everyone around me got a kick out of this one.
The boys laying it down on turn 17.
The tornado, Colin Edwards (US) smokin down the front stretch
Jeremy Burgess giving his rider a hug. Hes a very famous man in racing, and has worked with Doohan and Rossi.
Rossi giving his fan club a big wave in thanks of their support
Champagne celebration on the podium
Fuck the police!!! Even their scooters...
Me with Denso girls. Theres like one million girls who just stand around and look pretty. Jolly good entertainment.
I have never seen a Kawi looking so good.
Ducati girl on 1098. This bike is like $25,000 which is huge for a streetbike.
About halfway through the race, Valentino Rossi made the pass on Dani Pedrosa to take the lead and never looked back. His bridgestone tires took him on for the win 4 seconds (an eternity) ahead of Pedrosa. Rookie Andre Dovizioso (Dovi for short) went on to take the third spot on the podium, but not after having to fight off Hayden (US). It was so close, and I wanted Hayden on the podium so bad I was going nuts every time he would come by. All the people around me could see that I wanted him to get on the podium, and I was so excited that they started to get excited with me. I had these Japanese guys who couldnt speak english yelling at the top of their lungs in support of him, and we were jumping around and hugging eachother when he would make a pass. It was hillarous. Anyways, he just couldnt do it which was dissapointing but showed grace and later congradulated Dovi and commented on how good the fight was.
In the lower categories, I got to see the crowning of Marco Simoncelli as the 250cc world champion which was cool. He had a lot of fans there, including this group of like 15 Korean girls who were going even crazier than I was about Hayden. There was a shitload of Italian fans that flew there, and almost an equal amount of spanish fans which I thought was cool.
After the race I stayed in KL for a couple of days. The place is really cool. Coming from Nepal, it made me feel really weird to be back in civilization. The roads were paved, the place was clean, there was transport, there was cold drinks, etc. The subway system in KL is waaaaaay better than anything back home, and way cleaner. The petronas towers are by far the centerpiece of the city, and are really cool. The humungous tower in Dubai beat it as being the worlds tallest building, but nonetheless I think the petronas towers are the aesthetic champions.
From KL I took the bus to Palau Penang, which is an island in the North of Malaysia. On the bus I met Ling, who offered for me to stay at her house (Malays are so friendly). She gave me my own room, a set of keys, and cooked for me! Im not so convinced her boyfriend liked me, because he couldnt figure out why Ling would take a stranger in, but by the time I left he was cool. She also had a kick ass pad on the 17th floor of an apartment building that had a swimming pool.
I did some exploring in Penang, and went to get a coffee and met this cool Belgian guy, Johan, who has been on the road for two years, mostly living in Australia. We rented motorbikes and went all around, especially to Penang Hill, and this cool chinese temple. Then we got absolutely pissed, and the next day I nearly missed my ferry when I headed to Langkawi where I am now. At like 3AM me and Johan went to get some late night snacks, and when we were ordering pancakes we started chatting with these two American girls. One asked me where I lived, and I told her upstate NY and that she didnt know where. She pressed me to find out the town, and when I told her Binghamton, she told me she lived in Binghamton also. She said she lived at 5 Seminary Ave, so I asked her what her name was, and she said she was Ashley Cornelius. As soon as I heard that I burst into laughter, and nearly fell to the floor. She couldnt figure out why, so I jumped up and told her that one of my best friends is Ashley, and that I knew she was lying.
Ko Si Lok Chinese monastery in Penang
Ouside of monastery
These guys were cool!
Im addicted to motorbikes in Asia!!!!
In Penang, for some reason there were these guys weedwacking a drainage ditch, and then they took a picture of it. Id say one of the most random things I have ever seen.
Always remember - dont turtle, monkey corn, or basketballs.
Lousy picture, but one of the beaches in the North. My buddy Johan from Belguim in pic.
Dude, these were the sickest 4AM pancakes I have ever had!!!! As a matter of fact they are the sickest anytime pancakes I have ever had.
The girl on the right pretended to be Ashley. Looks nothing like her.
We eventually worked it out, but she for some reason has Ashleys ID (this girl is underage), and memorized the address in case a bouncer asked where she lives. When I told her I was from Binghamton she just pretended she was Ashley. What are the chances???
I was supposed to go to Borneo to meet a guy I knew from Nepal and then down to Indonesia but with heavy rain likely I scrapped the idea and am going to head up to Thailand.
At Langkawi I met these cool Brits, Tim and Gareth and with Johan we have just been tearing this place up at night. There are some really cool bars and clubs here. In Penang, and here there has been heaps of Americans that are doing semester at sea. There is something like 650 of them, and partying with them was cool, but weird. Thats the most I have seen or hung out with Americans in my whole travels.
Sunset in Langkawi. The picture doesnt even do it justice.
Another 5 minutes later. The shades were amazing.
We convinced this girl to donate her bra to Raggae Cafe. They had a bunch already on the wall, so we had to add it to the lot. In honor of the new addition, the owner gave us all free shots! We all signed it (like 10 of us from the hostel), so if you ever are in Langkawi you should check that place out. That was only the start of a crazy night out.
I went from Langkawi to Phuket where I am now. Till next time - stay classy San Diego.