BootsnAll Travel Network

A Truly Unique Experience

October 9th, 2006

So you’re bored in Kathmandu after your 15-day Annapurna Circuit excursion and looking for a little something to do while you await your Indian visa.

How about Chitwan National Park? You know, the beautiful 900 + square kilometers park that is offered to you at nearly every travel agency that occupies nearly every other square meter in Tourist Hell that is Known as Thamel, Kathmandu.

“You want trek?” “Where you going, sir?” “Namaste, good morning, how are you?” “Hash, sir?Marijuana?” “Taxi?” “Chitwan National Park, sir?”

Well, before you’ve done the Unthinkable and committed yourself to a travel agency – seemingly the only possible way to travel to and through Chitwan – make sure you’re not about to book through the Saibaba Travels & Tours agency and/or that you’re not going to the Unique Wild Resort.

unless that is, you’re looking for something rather Unique.

or looking to not be picked up at your hotel and given transportation to your bus stop (and dropped off in the middle of nowhere that is a few miles from Thamel upon your return). or to be watched every waking moment, from the second that you arrive until the very moment that you’ve been “escorted” by jeep to your bus stop by wait staff, tour guides, maintenance people and every other living soul that is “kindly at your service and waiting to give you a most memorable holiday”.

note to the kindly-at-your-service-and-waiting-to-give-you-a-most-memorable-holiday staff of Unique Wild Resort:

westerners are not accustomed (nor very comfortable, for that matter) to being watched while they read a book outside on their terrace. or while they play a game of backgammon. or while they empty their bowels in your latrine-style toilets. nor are they big fans of being constantly observed while they eat your customary lentils and rice (sorry, ‘dal baht’). and they become slightly annoyed when asked for the hundredth time “where they are going?” when they’re just trying to take a little stroll into town.

Nothing like someone snapping a quick photo when you’re just tryin’ to have a little lunch.

and when you hire your tour guides, make sure they’re actually remotely interested in giving tours. or that they’re actually interested in doing what their paying tourists have shelled out their tourist dollars to do. you know, like talk about the chitwan national park. or perhaps mention the various flora, fauna and wildlife that can be seen from the touristy vantage points of the canoe trip, elephant safari or bird watching expedition.

how about a little cursory cultural discussion at all, eh?

now, before anyone dismisses this here little diatribe as another disgruntled “american tourist”, please be aware of one thing. while i’ve traveled and worked off and on throughout se asia for over two years now, other than in the communist country of vietnam, never have i felt like Big Brother was watching like i did at chitwan national park.

oh no, this was not your typical little “staring at the whitey” scenario that is so common in these here parts.

this was a scene straight out of some Orwell-ian novel.

these people were goddamn Robots.

what first appeared to be friendly “namastes” and faces, upon closer inspection looked like a Herd of Sheep that had been Brainwashed and Instructed to keep all eyes on The Tourist. and to make sure they didn’t so much as whisper to their Tourist Companion or take a dal baht-induced bowel movement without the action being duly noted by all Staff of the Unique Wild Resort.

and lastly, beware the man at Saibaba Travels & Tours who will try and sell you this excursion to Chitwan. he is a Scheister of the Highest Order who will personally gift-wrap and sell you his used napkin. you will know the very gentleman that i speak of when you note the 16 x 20 framed photograph of himself, looking quite swami-like, directly behind his oblong-shaped head.

alas, starting tomorrow, things can only get better for us as we head back into what is now the lovely, military-occupied fascism that is exciting thailand! i plan on personally walking up to one of the tanks and placing a yellow rose atop the first turret that is pointed in my direction. i will make sure and get at least one solid photograph before they take me down in a Blaze of Glory.

kidding aside, while we’ve had a mostly very good time
here in nepal we’re looking forward to finishing up
our travels back in thailand. we’ve actually not seen
much of the country (other than bangkok and the dreadfully tourist-infested island of koh samet), so this’ll be a good chance to really travel throughout it – under the watchful eye of a Great Military Junta.

Hey everybody, it’s Nepal’s very own Chao Ming, getting ready for his Big Shot with the 76ers! (That is, once he’s finished his three years at The Local Monastary.)

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Who the Hell Writes Blogs Anyway?!

October 5th, 2006

Okay, so if anyone has actually been checking this blog, you will probably notice two things. (1) I haven’t written anything for quite a while (2) A most terrific post can now no longer be found. It was entitled ‘Travel in Sihanoukville! and it was rather a Stroke of Genius.

Unfortunately, technology has once again made us Great Fools and deprived us of Humanity and Compassion. Apparently any blog that was written for about three weeks in August-September was simply lost to the ether when servers and other hardware that “we consumers” can’t possibly comprehend, malfunctioned.

The People of Bootsnall simply stated that they were sorry and that there wasn’t much they could do about it and thank you very much.

Blogger Girlfriend contemplates where boyfriend’s genius bit of prose could have gone.

It should be noted that Bootsnall emanates from the Great Northwest of the United States that is Portland, Oregon – a city that I lived in off and on for nearly ten years.

It should also be noted that the lovely people of Portland, Oregon, are nice, well-intentioned, fairly progressive, educated and don’t really care about the Rat Race that is just about every city in United States.

Unfortunately, it is these very reasons that the great majority of them to hang out on Hawthorne Street playing hackey-sack, smoking The Weed, reading Tolstoy, listening to Bright Eyes or perhaps the Grateful Dead, drinking PBR and just generally being as laid-back as remotely possible.

In other words, most of these people have no inkling of a Sense of Urgency and would be more content talking about The Great Novel that they are intending to write when in reality they can’t be bothered to clean up the bong water that long ago spilled on their Goodwill-purchased sofa, let alone pick up The Pen and Paper.

Alas, while the Bootsnall people are no doubt very enjoyable and Nice people to have an “enlightened” discussion with, they’re most likely not too concerned with making their Ship (this website) run properly.

One particularly disgruntled Blogger from Nepal climbed atop the first sacred monument he could find, vowing to ‘Jump!’ if his lost entries weren’t immediately found.

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that blogs have been lost. Writing gone. Forever. And I am greatly sorry for this.

My Mother will be very upset. I mean, she reads this thing, you know?

However, I’ve only myself to blame. Afterall, what kind of pathetic-writer-wannabe has a Goddamn Blog anyway?


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August 6th, 2006

well, we are still in yogiyakarta but are looking to take off to the giant, scary, city of jakarta tomorrow sometime. from there we will most likely be leaving indonesia and heading into our second country, malaysia.

what can i say about the indonesian experience? too much for an email. i think i need to re-start up some memoirs for this Trip, for sure. indonesia as absolutely humongous. we could easily spend our four and a half months in this country alone. did you know that it’s the second largest population base only behind china? i’d know idea of that. and the country consists of over 17000 islands. you read that correctly. i didn’t realize that there were 17000 islands on this planet. my naivete and ignorance continues to amaze me at times.

the first few days were Rough, to say the least. this is not a country for the faint-hearted or easy going vacationers (other than, i suppose those going to resort-laden bali). from the minute we stepped off the plane, we were accosted by those trying to take our bags (for a small fee, sir!) or trying to give us rides in their taxis. it’s no wonder that some people come to bali and end up holing up in their hotel rooms for fear of going out and getting harrassed. and one is truly harrassed. oft-times, if you try to engage in any type of conversation or god forbid, give some eye contact, with the natives, you’ll find yourself taken into a shop and sold sunglasses you’ve no intention of wearing or tricked into getting a travel package that cost you 100 000 rupiahs more than if you’d simply gone to the bus or train station and made the arrangements yourself (which of course, seasoned travelers like justine and i were well aware of).

alas, the beaches in bali were beautiful, but it was annoying having to constantly tell the sunglasses, food and buddhist statue sellers that you weren’t interested. they simply don’t listen. they believe that if they simply badger the tourist long enough, they’ll get them to buy their wares, so they’ll simply leave them alone. terrible concept, really. because the majority of the time, it has the opposite effect.

so, we busted out of tourist hell (aka bali) and into the huge province of java.

in short, java is a very different experience. it’s 90 percent muslim (bali is the only hindu island), for one. and there are truly characters that one could only dream of in wildly exaggerated movies. and that’s just the native indonesians, i’m referring. the ex-pats are even crazier. we ended up finally meeting a “foreignor” who would talk to us. he was from england and his name was mark (though apparently, he went by a number of names). he was missing most of his teeth, was in his late-40s and had a wild sense of humor. he’s been bouncing around overseas for years, most recently in indonesia for the past seven. he’d had an indonesian girlfriend who’d been a former prostitute (who he naively thought he could “save”) whom left him one day when she decided that she refused to quit her “job” (who can blame her? in this country foreign men have money, eh?). this was after he’d been with her five years. five years that he’d thought he was the Only One. he’d kept wondering why she’d leave for days at a time and not tell him where she was going. (it’s the Classic ex-pat story, really, but i didn’t want to tell the poor guy this).

anyhow, we spent a couple of days going around yogiyakarta with this fellow and his new indonesian girlfriend and had some of our best times in indonesia thus far. we are no longer scared of being knifed or tricked or mugged by the natives and in fact, have grown accustomed to the people. at least, we’ve learned to ignore their many pleas for “sir, taxi?” “sir,where you going? you take bike?” “sir, want to buy shirt?” “where you from?” “where you going?” you get the idea.

learning a few indonesian words has helped greatly.

yesterday, we got up the nerve to drive out to the coastal town of parangtritis (or in short, ‘paris’). this place, as was most of this part of java, was devastated by last may’s earthquake. unfortunately, being on the central southern coast, it was also rocked by last week’s tsunami.

now, you must first know something. when i say that we “drove”, i mean, as in, we rented a motorcycle and i drove with justine on the back of this bike, to the coast. yes, though i’ve probably only tried driving a dirt bike maybe three times in my entire life (and never for more than ten minutes at a time), i’d decided that we’d try something new and see the lovely javan countryside and coast on our times (and not leave it to the mercy of the bus drivers in this country).

i cannot describe to you how the indonesians drive. i’ll only say that they drive on the left side, sometimes drive backwards into heavily-trafficked intersections because they missed their turns, don’t use any signals, many times intentionally drive using the other lane, because they’re tired of traffic, pull out into traffic without looking, etc. it’s really quite the Mad, Insane scene and for a whitey who’s never really driven a motorcycle to try and navigate this Motley would surely be akin to suicide.

so, i did what any sane indonesian driver would do. i calmly put the bike into gear, blasted my pathetically tiny sounding horn at every crazy moto-driving teenager, careening bus stuffed with natives and old indonesian farmer woman carrying firewood that i could see and occasionally –when i found it absolutely neccessary – stopped at intersections.

and drove to a destination i’d only heard about and most certainly was not in our se asian lonely planet book. on a road i’d never seen filled with signs i couldn’t read.

and after a couple of hours of getting directions from laughing indonesians – which consisted of much pointing, nodding and thank you’s – we ended up in three coastal towns that had a grand total of sixteen citizens, four standing buildings and one ex-pat who had the kind of eyes that had either seen his best friend killed in some Great Bloody Battle or at least judging by the up and down he gave justine, had been a sailor at see for the past twenty months and hadn’t seen a white woman in at least that long. and he was either very high on The Weed or very protective of whitey coming into a land where only his skin was that light, given his greeting. this brief interaction happened in a sizeable market that had most likely once been crowded with indonesians selling their vegetables, meats and t shirts, but was now as desolate and empty as a… well, i suppose a town that had been hit by an earthquake and tsunami in the same year. anyway, this man, put the Fear into us and we split town, not thirty seconds after arriving.

which meant that we drove all the way back to the safe, lovely, confines of the strange city of yogiyakarta via a motorcycle i’d only learned to drive that day, as the sun went down.

it should be noted that there were only a few near misses (again, i should mention the crazy bus drivers and twelve year old girls riding with two of their pals, whilst talking on a cell phone) along the way and that we are now Safe and Sound (at least for the time being) back in the city and looking for our next adventure.

which will most likely begin tomorrow when we venture out to the disgustingly polluted and crowded (can you say nine million?) and corrupt city of jakarta.

i suppose until then,
i remain,
chris g. parkhurst

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