VIP Leech in Unawatuna Beach – A New Years Eve Story

Tonight, we’ll ring in 2019 from half a world away and 13.5 hours in advance of our friends and family at home.  There is just something about spending New Year’s abroad that allows me to believe, even if just for a few days until I get home to reality, that the upcoming year is going to be awesome.  It’s probably just the lack of Taco Bell that gives me a false sense of hope in sticking to my new year’s resolutions.  Last year I made it about two weeks into the new year before almost killing myself in the Philippines and spending the first six weeks of 2018 on bedrest, so the ability to walk upright through the month of January will be progress as far as I’m concerned.  Aim high, friends.

The name of the game today is to conserve our energy at all costs until the entire beach in Unawatuna erupts in a giant cluster fuck of fireworks, lights, drinking and dance parties – the main party of which is at our fucking hotel, Kingfisher.  No day drinking and passing out at 8 pm like a fucking degenerate, especially when your balcony overlooks the DJ.  In Sri Lanka, showing up to the party at midnight is considered premature and leaving the party before 5 am is pathetic.  The pressure is on.

We spent the morning leisurely laying on daybeds at our hotel while we watched the staff set up for the big party.  We had a healthy lunch on the main drag in town at Bedspace (awesome restaurant, highly recommend) and killed some time perusing tourist shops and buying nothing.  Our plan was to next head out to a nearby beach for sunset, but we ran into our first snag of the day when trying to find an ATM – we can’t be constrained by silly things like money on a night like New Year’s Eve, after all.  So here’s the rub – all the banks are closed on New Year’s Eve in Sri Lanka, and since the preceding two days were a weekend, the ATM’s in Unawatuna had less cash than a stripper working the lunch shift.  Literally, nada.  We tried four ATMs before the locals informed us that we would need to go to Galle about 20 minutes away, which is the nearest place with actual banks, for any hope of making it rain when the clock strikes midnight.  Ever the adaptable travelers, we headed to Galle and figured we would knock out a quick tour of the fort and town while getting cash and simultaneously fending off premature drunkenness for a few hours longer.  Patience has never been my strong suit.

Unawatuna Beach – pre shit show

Galle is an adorable little waterfront city which was first fortified by the Portuguese and then later by the Dutch.  The town has a distinct European feel, with a grid of little streets lined with shops, restaurants and art galleries that can be covered, more or less, in about an hour.  We grabbed a drink and met a nice British family who were staying in Galle for three days and they were bored out of their fucking minds.  The dad actually referred to Galle as “a shit Ibiza”.  Mr. Fancy pants was not pleased.  Staying three days in Galle would be the equivalent of spending three days of your California beach vacation in downtown Pasadena.  A lack of travel research will get you nowhere, people.

Sunset at Galle Fort

We hi-tailed it back to Unawatuna and grabbed a low-key dinner.  We opted out of our hotel’s buffet dinner preceding the party.  Who the hell wants to party in a slutty outfit on a belly full of curry?  I don’t have high hopes in a midnight kiss at this point, but going beast mode on a buffet would certainly dash any lingering optimism.  We ran into a friend of Carly’s from home who now lives in Oz while we were at dinner – small world strikes again.  After dinner, Carly continued to restrict my shots to the face until after 10 pm.  What would I have done without her? Pass out before midnight for sure.

Around 11 pm we decided to head down to the beach and see if the kids had been put to bed.  Remember what I said about beach parties in Sri Lanka prior to midnight?  The anticipation was palpable, but we still had people with canes and children with diapers lingering.  We ran into Carly’s friend from earlier at dinner as well as Fedora hat guy from Mirissa that we met a few days ago while walking down the beach – the backpacker community in Sir Lanka is very small.  And no, he did not heed my warnings and burn that fucking hat.  We walked up and down the beach sizing up which parties had the best DJ’s and the best-looking people.  Rows of fireworks conspicuously lined the shore, waiting for midnight to strike. And the anticipation builds.

We headed back to Kingfisher to meet up with our Danish friends from our hotel in Sigiriya just in time for the midnight countdown.   The fireworks were apparently the smoke signal for the real shit show to begin, because that’s where the night takes a left turn in rage town.  With four hot white chicks in tow, our path was clear – head to the VIP section to make some friends with bottle service. As luck (or fate) would have it, we stumbled upon an awesome group of British gays and young Sri Lankan guys.  They were insanely fun shoved booze in our face.  It was clear that we had found our party team for the night.  These guys were a good time.  The details are hazing and unimportant, but rest assured that our motley crew of Danes, Americans, Brits, and Sri Lankans made New Year’s Eve at Unawatuna our bitch.  We obviously didn’t spend a dime of cash we had procured – thanks to our ability to make fabulous VIP friends on the fly – but better to be safe than sorry.  Bedtime finally came calling at 5 am.  For the second time in a week.  I am shooketh.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Today will be a short one because I slept until 3pm when Carly finally dragged me out of bed for a meal.  Her ability to function on a lack of sleep and overuse of alcohol is a gift.  I too possessed this gift once, but you have to give it back when they issue you your Thirty card.  Along with your metabolism and optimism.  I kid, of course, I had never had much of a metabolism.

We ate at a truly shit restaurant on the beach and I was genuinely offended by my meal.  Hopefully this keeps happening and I just stop eating in 2019.  With vodka oozing from my pores, we went on an endless and futile search for a decent bloody mary.  One bartender made a sad attempt that tasted like it was made with dragon fire and morning after vodka-cranberry vomit.  I’m almost certain he pureed actual tomatoes to a pulp and then added vodka and half a bottle of hot sauce, along with whatever condiments were handy.  I awaited septic shock for fear that it had burned a hole through my fucking intestines.  I took the drinks back to the bartender said he said “too spicy?” and I said “too something…”?  After a quick and amiable haggling, I threw him a couple bucks and the search continued.

It should come as a surprised to no one that we ended up on an impromptu New Year’s Day bar crawl.  At bar number three, we had an odd encounter with some old shit faced Sri Lankan men who claimed, in slurred speech, to be gem jewelers and offered to pay for anything we wanted if we would just sit with them.  Carly held out for some colorful rocks but their pockets turned up empty so we politely declined and soldiered on.  It’s going to take a lot of more than a few free glasses of sauv blanc to make me a sugar baby to a Sri Lankan blood gem dealer who can’t hold his fucking liquor.

Our rationale after a few or five drinks was that we should probably go out tonight to the beach party, since we leave the party beach for chill resort-style living tomorrow.  Yes – there is a beach party tonight – there is a beach party every night.  Have you learned nothing from this blog series?  We made the brilliant decision to take a quick nap at 8 pm, using the rationale that we could get in a solid 3 hours of sleep before the pre-party even starts. I’m shaking my head at my stupidity and lack of self-awareness as I write this.  It’s only January 2, so this is for sure the party foul of the year to beat.  Because you know damn well we woke up at 3am, took one look at each other, laughed and went back to bed.

Advertisements

Safari to Beach Party in 24 Hours

The awesome thing about Sri Lanka is that you can go from a safari in a national park to an all-night dance party on the beach in 24 hours.  Here is how we did it…

Friday, December 28, 2018

After a final relaxing breakfast on the balcony of our cabin in Ella, Pradeep picked us up and drove us to Udawalawe National Park.  No commute in Sri Lanka is complete without stopping at a few waterfalls along the way, and this was no different.  Pradeep suggested that we also stop at an orphanage, but Carly and I declined.  I know that makes us seem like horrible people, but it just sounds so depressing.  Plus, Sri Lankan kids are insanely cute so I’m slightly concerned that the combination of those adorably sad little brown faces with the fact that my unfertilized eggs are stuck in a freezer for the foreseeable future, pose a legitimate risk that I’ll pull an Angelina Jolie and come home with an extra carry-on.  So just give me a website and I’ll make a donation.

As soon as we entered Udawalwe National Park we began to see wild elephants along the side of the road – Pradeep’s free safari strikes again!  We spent the rest of the day laying by the pool at our glamping hotel, Kottowatta village.  I’m sure it will come as a huge shock the only option for dinner was buffet and we made it our bitch.  The buffets have to stop.  Add it to this list of 2019 prohibited activities.  I should probably say January 2019 prohibited activities just to be safe. Let’s take this one month a time.

Just before bed Carly saw a little rat-like creature in our room and we proceeded to flip our shit.  We found out from Pradeep the next day that it was a Loris, which looks like the daemon child of a possum and a racoon.  It was traumatizing.  Sleep did not come easy for either of us.  Well it did for me, because, Xanax.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

We had a 5 am pickup for our safari this morning – which is no problem for Carly and I – the earlier the better.  We were picked up in an Indiana Jones looking safari jeep and driven to the entrance gates of Udawalawe national park.  Despite being there at 5:30 am, there was already a line of jeeps snaking down the main road.  We waited almost an hour in line before we finally got in.  Which begs the question of why they didn’t pick us up at 4:30 am, but I kept my mouth shut.  Pick your battles.  Our annoyance subsided quickly once we found a small heard of elephants, complete with a newborn baby elephant that we were told was probably only a few months old.  The only problem with an early climax is that the rest of the safari pales in comparison.  We saw water buffalo, tons of birds including peacocks and eagles, but no more elephants.  Our driver kept stopping to point out crocodiles far in the distance, but Carly and I could never see what the fuck he was talking about.  Eventually I just started humoring the poor guy by saying “oh cool” and taking a picture of nothing so that he would keep it moving.  We passed by numerous jeeps with people legit passed out in their seats – the elusive wild mouth breathers native to early morning birdwatching.

Back at our hotel we were subjected to yet another buffet for breakfast.  Oh, the horror.  I’m serious when I say this is the last one.  But, I mean, do breakfast buffets really even count?  I’m thinking anything 2 plates of food or less should just land in the “large meal” category.

Pradeep picked us up after breakfast and we made a bee-line for the beach.  No waterfalls, no stops – its beach or bust.  From here on out, we are beach hopping up the south coast of Sri Lanka.  Carly and I will be in our element, doing what we do best – tanning, relaxing, and of course a little partying.

Pradeep took a little shortcut, so we found ourselves in Mirissa in time for lunch.  Sadly, this was where we had to part ways with our trusty driver and new friend, Pradeep.  After we bid him farewell and checked into our little beach front hotel, we did floozy lap up and down the main drag to get our bearings.  It’s basically Thailand without the annoying hawkers selling useless tchotchkes.  We found ourselves enjoying lunch and drinks with our feet in the sand by 2 pm.  Happy hour in Mirissa starts in the early afternoon, so we drank and lounged our way from one beach bar to the next.

Let’s get to the good stuff – it’s party time.  I haven’t gotten good and drunk in over a week.  I’ve basically replaced boozing with over-eating.  Instead of shots to the face, it’s been a nonstop curry buffet to the face.  Well that shit stops now.  Time to get back on the old liquid diet and start 2019 off right.  I’m ready to somersault off this fucking wagon.

Day turned into night and we kept the drinking going.  By about 10 pm I was well on my way to shit faced but realized that the liquid diet was not just not going to cut it.  My inability to skip a meal is a surprise to us all, I know.  It was either eat dinner or pass out early – the latter was obviously not a viable option given the fact that it was Saturday night and our first day at the beach.  Carly refused to allow me to be a little bitch and dragged me around to three shitty establishments who had all stopped serving food until I finally settled on burger at our hotel restaurant.  With renewed energy (and perhaps a shot or two vodka back in the room) we were ready to hit up the beach party.

Every night during high season one bar on each beach holds a big party.  The location changes each night of the week, and it is the only game in town.  All you have to say is “where is the party tonight?” to anyone in town and they will respond with “well it’s Saturday, so…Kama”.  Pretty standard for beach towns like this in Asia.  You run into the same people night after night, which can be awesome or incredibly awkward depending on how big of an ass you make of yourself.  I’m familiar with both sides of that coin.

We got to Kama around 11 pm and it was dead.  Apparently anything before midnight is just a warm-up.  Terrifying, I know.  There were actually children on the dance floor.  Who are these spoiled brats partying to house music on a beach in Sri Lanka until midnight and how can I get their parents to adopt me?  With obvious time to kill, we grabbed some drinks and chairs on the sand and waited for the kids to be put the bed.  My fun detector began to beep furiously, immediately zeroing in on a large group of good-looking men with Australian accents who had just strolled to a nearby table.   Aussies never disappoint when you are looking for a party.  Target locked.  I grabbed Carly faster than you can say “thirsty” and invited ourselves to seats and their table.  I assumed it was a bachelor party because I have an actual sixth sense for sniffing those out, but it was just seven dudes who all ditched their girlfriends back in Oz for both Christmas and New Years and flew to Sri Lanka for a boy’s trip.  That is fucking savage and I love it.  We had obviously found our party group for the night.  We spent the next six or so hours drinking and dancing the night away on the beach.  I think it was about 5 am when I finally turned in.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hung.  Over.  Carly somehow managed to get my pathetic ass in a tuk-tuk out to the quintessential basic-bitch instagram lookout in Mirissa for some pics.  What can I say, I did it for the gram.  I’m disgusted with myself for even typing that.  We took some pics for an American guy in a fedora and found out he was going to be in the same beach town as us for New Year’s Eve tomorrow night.  We also discovered that he is literally moving to Hermosa Beach, where I live, in two months.  My response was, “oh yeah, well don’t bring that fedora with you to Hermosa”.  I’m mean when I’m hungover.  And honest.  Why are they so often one in the same?

We spent the rest of day on the beach not doing a damn thing save for forcing down some life-saving bloody marys.  The pack of Aussie boys came to our hotel and hung out with us on the beach for a few hours before we left Mirissa late in the afternoon and headed up the coast to Unawatuna, ready to make another beach town our bitch.  It’s so funny when I think I’m actually going to succeed at multi-night binge drinking.  We checked into our hotel in Unawatuna, met some girls from our hotel in Sigiriya about a week ago for a drink, and promptly went to bed.  Did you really think you were going to get two all-nighters out of my old ass in a row?  And right before new year’s, no less?  Dream on.

 

 

 

 

Chill Lanka – A Journey Through Sri Lanka’s Hill Country

Our journey through Sri Lanka’s hill country has been surprisingly relaxing.  No issues, no fights, just easy traveling.  Which means I was able to pack three days into one (long) blog.  Enjoy…

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!  I know – that didn’t even feel sincere as I typed it.   We all know I don’t give a shit about Christmas.  Rewind.  Happy free day off from work!  Yes, that one felt right.  Today we left Sigiriya at 6 am because we can sleep when we’re dead, and drove to Nuwara Eliya, also known as Sri Lanka’s “Little England”.  This part of the country is famous for its vast rolling hills of tea estates and abundant waterfalls.  The British brought tea to this area of Sri Lanka when they colonized it in the early 1800s.  They also brought people from India to work the tea fields, resulting in a prevalent Hindu population in this region.   All I know is that I got a delicious samosa for about 20 cents on the drive, so I’m not mad about it.  We also extended our driver, Pradeep, for another 4 days of our trip because he is awesome.  And because he cut us a deal.

The drive from Sigiriya to Nuwara Eliya takes about 5 hours along nauseatingly windy roads. We broke up the journey with several stops at your typical tourist traps.  First, Pradeep took us to a spice and herb garden where we were given a tour of every damn plant imaginable and all the all-natural herbal medicines and remedies that they produce.  They had some fresh cacao powder that smelled like heaven.  I could have done without the education on a black pepper tree and aloe vera plant, but I humored them.  Carly went on a shopping spree at their little store.  She’s a hippy at heart.

Next, we stopped a viewpoint on the outskirts of Nuwara Eliya that looked over the sprawling hill country, numerous waterfalls and a few lakes.  We followed that up with a stop at Ramboda falls – which is like the 11th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka – so not impressive at all.  After that, we swung by the Bluefield tea factory and took a quick tour of the process for making black Ceylon tea. I don’t like tea, so the only fact I retained is that tea pickers are all female and are expect to pick at least 20kg of tea leaves every day.  Definitely not quitting my day job.  These women looked fucking miserable.  And their living conditions are horrid.  Think about that the next time you enjoy your Lipton.

We drove through the town of Nuwara Eliya on our way to our amazing boutique hotel, The Langdale by Amaya.  The Langdale is a beautiful English country-style house set among the rolling hills of Nanu Oya, nestled in lush tea fields.  The service here was phenomenal, especially compared to the cluster fuck of a hotel in Sigiriya with the buffet Nazi general manager.  As soon as we arrived, the typical Sri Lankan afternoon showers set in.  Once the rains cleared we headed out for a hike through the tea fields.  The hotel staff shouted a warning about leeches as we headed out the door.  We made a joke about being from Los Angeles and therefore being skilled at spotting leeches, but generally paid the warning no mind.  Carly decided it would be a great idea to brave the hike in sandals, and was rewarded with three blood sucking leeches that we had to pull off her feet after our hike.

We got in a decent workout by the pool before we cracked a bottle of wine and got ready for dinner.  Long story short, we had the best curry of our lives.  I’m still thinking about it…

Amazing curry dinner

Wednesday, December 26 – Thursday, December 27, 2018

Carly and I started the day with a 6 am sunrise hike through the tea fields.  It was blissful until we got lost in the maze of tea plants and dead-ends and found ourselves in a standoff with a deer.  When we finally made it back to the Langdale all the good breakfast tables in the sunroom were taken by the other guests.  Not to be outdone, Carly sweet-talked our creepy waiter from the night before (who gave us free ice cream at dinner and also picked a leech off of Carly’s ankle this morning) into setting up a table outside for us to dine in the sunshine.  We deferred our leave time by few hours to enjoy the beautiful infinity pool in the morning sun.

Pradeep picked us up and drove us about three hours to the quaint mountain town of Ella, where we had lunch overlooking the main drag sitting on bean bag chairs at Chill Café.  It started to rain and we quickly realized we were in for a relaxing day of not doing shit – so we started drinking.  Pradeep tried to take us on a hike, but we quickly educated him on the fact that LA girls don’t function in the rain. He took us to our bed and breakfast, Country House Ella, where we checked in to our amazing cabin overlooking lush green hills and mountain peaks.  The rain quickly turned into an aggressive torrential downpour with lightening to boot.  We are so fiercely adverse to water falling from the sky that we skipped dinner and went to bed early.  New fad diet for your 2019 resolutions – move to Seattle, stop leaving the house for nourishment any time it rains, get skinny.

Carly chillin’ at Chill Cafe

We were up around sunrise the next morning, no surprise there given the fact that we have the bedtime of an eight-year old.  We were served an amazing breakfast on our balcony – the only picture I got was after it was half eaten, obviously because of our impromptu fasting the night before.  Pradeep picked us up and we headed out to the famous Nine Arches Bridge to catch the morning train as it arrived in Ella.  We had originally planned on taking the train from Nanu Oya to Ella, but the first and second-class reservable seats sold out a month and a half in advance and there was no fucking way I was riding in steerage where they pack people in like cattle.  Just to be clear, my need to have an assigned seat on a train is not because I’m some prissy bitch.  It’s because I’m an impatient bitch with complete and utter disdain for strangers in my personal space.  A very important distinction.

Back to the bridge.  Nine Arches Bridge is a beautiful colonial-era bridge designed by a Sri Lankan architect and built by locals using only stone bricks and cement, no steel.  Once we got to the bridge, we had about an hour to kill before the train came.  As the its approach grew near, the number of insta-fame thirsty sluts in white lace tops and floppy hats forcing their boyfriends to take hundreds of staged pictures of them “living their best lives” increased exponentially.  And then there is old Rory – with a selfie stick in a nike tank top.  The disparity was palpable.

Next on the agenda was a quick hike up to Little Adam’s peak, which provided beautiful views of Ella gap and prominent Ella Rock.  Carly and I considered hiking Ella Rock, but it required waking up at 4 am as well as a considerable amount of coordination and stamina, neither of which I was blessed with.  Plus, it’s basically the same damn view from Little Adam’s Peak for about 4x the work.  I fully maintain that my decision was based on efficient time management and not laziness.

On our way down from Little Adam’s Peak, Carly ran into a girl that she met while we were sailing with Bucketlust in Belize a few years ago.  Literally, ran into an acquaintance from two years ago and halfway across the globe while on the side of a fucking mountain in Sri Lanka. The travel world is shockingly small sometimes. We made plans to meet up later that night for drinks.

Carly and I had about 4 hours to kill before our cooking class, so we set out on an impromptu bar crawl through Ella’s main drag.  Our first bar was a cluster fuck.  After waiting 20 minutes to order a drink and then rescuing said drinks from a waiter-less bar ourselves before the ice melted, we decided not to further test our luck with the Sri Lankan service industry and went back to the Chill Café.

Rory chillin’ at Chill Cafe

We headed to our cooking class at Ella Spice Garden and met a group of young Aussies and an expat American couple who we would be sharing the class with.  No one stood out as overly obnoxious (other than Carly and I), so I was relieved.  Our teacher was a young Sri Lankan guy named Chandika who drives a nicer car than I do and is low-key funny as hell.  We started with garlic curry.  I am assuming you are thinking that garlic curry entails some sort of garlicky sauce with vegetables or a protein as the main component.  WRONG.  It is literally curried garlic.  160 cloves of garlic for 8 people, to be exact.  We worked in pairs to peel all the garlic and Chandika rated us.  Carly and I won, obviously.  We also made potato curry, dhal curry, and some coconut shit that I didn’t pay attention to because I hate coconut.  We then all sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

We headed back to Chill Café, for the third time in about 30 hours, and were greeted by our usual waiter who found us some bean bags and remembered I take three limes in my vodka soda.  Carly’s friend met us a bit later for a drink with some of her travel buddies.  Don’t get too excited, we were still home by 11pm. On the walk home Carly and I raved about the cooking class and I started mentally planning a dinner party to introduce all my friends to the amazingness that is garlic curry.  That dinner party has since been cancelled.  Why, you ask? Do you have any idea what happens after you consume 40 cloves of garlic?  Buddha exacts his revenge.  Delhi Belly strikes in Sri Lanka.  I’m not sure how I can make this more clear.  Carly and I had a rough early morning.

Ancient Ruins and Ruining a Gala

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The original plan for today was to hike Sigiriya rock.  After the cluster fuck that ensued on Pidurangala rock yesterday, we are all rocked-out and plans have changed.  It’s rock city, bitch, here in Sri Lanka.  Today we are visiting the ancient royal city of Polonnaruwa, which was the second capital of Sri Lanka around 1100 AD.  What can I say, I’m a sucker for a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you all know I love me some ruins.  Carly isn’t quite as thrilled, but she knows what she signed up for and is no stranger to humoring me.

Pradeep picked us up after breakfast and we drove about an hour out to the ruins.  Sri Lanka’s road side eye-spy game is on point.  Along the drive we ran into a few wild elephants trying to cross the road, more elephants bathing in rivers, a heard of water buffalo, a peacock, and a mongoose.  Yes, I’m aware no one gives a shit about the mongoose.

We stopped to buy our tickets at the museum and Pradeep found us some bicycles to rent from a guy on the side of the road for about $4.  From there, Carly and I biked through the site’s many temples and palaces.  It’s not a true vacation with Rory until a bike tour happens.  We actually just followed Pradeep’s car on our bikes from one parking lot to another, so he could watch our bikes to make sure no one stole them while we toured each site.  It was pretty much the definition of transportation redundancy, but I was biking around an ancient archeological site so I’m not mad about it.

At each of the ruins that signified a temple, which covers about 90%, we had to take off our shoes and socks and cover our shoulders.  If you don’t, you are scolded by old Sri Lankan men and women who sit at the gates for the sole purpose of keeping the white people in-line.  I do a lot of shit that could reasonably be considered offensive in any part of the world, but I have a hard time accepting the fact that wearing a tank top is one of them.  However, given that these are active religious sites, I begrudgingly put a shirt over my sweat-drenched shoulders.  I am very tempted to go off on a completely tangential rant about the patriarchal nature of religious modesty and my personal views on the imposition of those values on foreigners, especially those that pay entrance-fees.  Luckily, despite the fact that I’m a few vodkas deep while writing this, I realize that I would be making an argument for logic, rationale and modernization within the construct of organized religion.  I know an exercise in futility when see one.  Moving on…to my next drink.

If there is one thing that bugs me about Sri Lanka so far, it’s that there are rules for everything.  Shoes off, shoulders covered, no booze sold on a full moon.  They are also sticklers for opening and closing times.  If something opens at 7:00 am, they will not so much as glance in your direction until 7:00:01.  Every time someone tells me about a new rule, my subconscious is waiting for Patrick Swayze to magically appear and say “no one puts Rory in a corner”.  Until then, I’ll just do as I’m told and bitch about it in my blog.

Carly and I spent the rest of the day lounging at the hotel pool – knees, shoulders and all.  Carly made me work out, which was fucking awful because the AC unit the hotel “gym” was broken so I felt like I was running on the surface of the sun.  We basically did a Barry’s boot camp class in a hot yoga studio.  After showering, we spent a very hungry hour waiting for the buffet dinner to open.  In our defense, we skipped lunch.  The second they opened the doors at 7 pm, Carly and I hit the buffet hard.  It was actually disgusting, so I won’t go into detail. We went to bed at 9 pm.   I’m really digging this early vacation bed time.

Pool time in Sigiriya

Monday, December 24, 2018

The original plan for today was to go on a safari in Minneriya National Park, which is famous for large heard elephants.  Unfortunately, due to heavy rains in recent days (cue “Africa” by Toto playing in your head for the next hour), there is too much flooding for the jeeps.  Not to worry, I’ll have another crack at a safari later in the trip.  You didn’t think I’d come all the way to Sri Lanka without a safari fail safe in my itinerary, did you?

Sunrise in Sigiriya

Carly and I took the flooding as a sign from the universe that we should man the fuck up and hike Sigiriya Lion Rock.  Lion rock is an ancient rock fortress built by a Sri Lankan King around 500 AD as his capital city.  He built his palace on the top of a giant rock with a big moat around it.  Straight gangster.  As you’ll remember from our little issue on Pidurangala rock the other day, it’s not the hiking we are terrified of, it’s the buddha-awful hordes of tourists (see what I did there?).  Luckily there is an easy trick to avoiding crowds – be the early birds.

The ticket office opened at 7 am, so we were third in the queue at 6:50 am.  By the looks of the two groups in front of us, Carly and I would make them our bitches in a foot race, giving me complete confidence that we would be first to the top of that rock.  Nothing makes me happier than winning the tourist game by being numero uno.   We hauled ass up straight up the 1200 steps in about 20 minutes and emerged victorious at the top of Lion Rock to see…one couple had beat us to it.  They had purchased their tickets the day before and tried to climb the rock, but it was too crowded, so they turned back and asked to have their tickets validated for the next day.  An unfair advantage, to say the least.  But you had to respect them for knowing when to throw in the towel in the face of a Sir Lankan tourist mob.  Excellent pivot on their part.  On the bright side, we now had people to take pictures for us.

Here’s the rub on being the first to the top of Sigiriya Lion Rock in the morning – fog.  You can either fight your way through thousands of tourists later in the day and be rewarded with clear and sunny vistas, or you can hike up early without fear of being smothered and wait patiently for the fog to clear.  We gave it about 30 minutes until the fog cleared from a solid 180 degrees of sky line, snapped some pics, and headed back down just as foot traffic was picking up.  Rock redemption and domination has been achieved, and my travel homeostasis has been restored.

We headed back to the hotel and dismissed Pradeep for the day with a bottle of wine so he could get drunk on Christmas Eve with his driver buddies.  Carly and I went for a bike ride around our hotel, managed to avoid being trampled by wild elephants, and then settled into some lounge chairs at the pool around 10 am.  I busted into my duty-free vodka that afternoon and got surprisingly drunk off a few double vodkas.  Or perhaps they were triples.  I make a point not to keep track of such trivial things while on vacation.  I’m guessing that the humidity was just as much to blame as my heavy hand.  Carly attempted to get me to go the gym.  I laughed as I jumped in bed for a nap.

The hotel was throwing a compulsory Christmas Eve “gala” this evening, so Carly and I skipped lunch (read: snacked all day) to prep ourselves for another buffet.  The hotel had emailed me when I originally booked the room to let me know in advance there would be a charge of $18 a person for the gala, and that attendance was mandatory for all hotel guests.   Imagine my shock and horror when the front desk called ten minutes before the buffet line opened to confirm that they would be charging me $70 (USD) per person for the evening!  What does $70 worth of food in Sri Lanka even look like? Unless Buddha himself is shaving black truffle directly into my mouth, that is fucking preposterous.  I attempted to explain their fuck up over the phone, but arguing with a Sri Lankan is nearly impossible, because when they don’t understand you they literally repeat everything you just said back to you.  It’s like arguing with a parrot on a fucking merry-go-round.  I told them I was coming to the front desk to discuss this and have the manager waiting for me.  I was heated, to say the least.  Carly said that before hanging up I said something along the lines of “do not charge my credit card or I will come to your gala and fucking ruin it”.  I think I blacked out with fury for a few seconds, but that totally sounds like me. I’ll try being sweet in 2019.  2018 is no longer salvageable, so I might as well save some cash.

I headed up to the front desk, guns blazing.  I almost felt bad for the hotel manager, who by the way, looks like a Disney villain that I can’t quite put my fingers on (no its not Jaffar – that would be way too easy, not to mention slightly racist).  When I come to a fight, please believe that I come correct.  With receipts.  I pulled up the email they sent me on my computer and marched up to the lobby to show them my smoking gun.  I was told this was obviously a “miscommunication”.  I agreed, and pointed out that the miscommunication was on their end, and asked if there were going to honor the price that they quoted.  The manager spent the next ten minutes yelling at his frightened employees to search for any other emails they could have possibly sent me with the correct price.  Nothing says “customer service” like insinuating your guest is lying straight to their face while making them watch other guests beat them to the buffet line.  Once their pointless little witch hunt turned up nothing, the manager and I stood there arguing in a standoff.  The gala had begun so I elevated my voice to cause a nasty little scene.  He had no choice but to relent, and give us the “gala dinner” for the originally stated price of $18.  The guy sure did put up one hell of a fight just to cover $104 worth of overhead.  One would think a general manager of a hotel would have bigger fish to fry on Christmas Eve.

Xmas Eve Gala Dinner

Using the word “gala” to described an incredibly large buffet with a 4-person band and some Christmas decorations seemed like a generous word choice.  It was at this point that I realized every other person in this hotel had actually paid $70 for this dinner.  The price didn’t even include booze!  What a bunch of schmucks.  I forced Carly to keep eating long after she was full out of principle.  I wanted that ass hole manager to see me enjoying a new plate of food each time he walked through the dining room.  Who knew spite was so high in calories?  They had a Santa coming later that night, but I was pretty sure I had already been put on the naughty list, so we headed to bed early. Tomorrow, we head south to Sri Lanka’s “little England” tea country.

Welcome to Sweat Lanka

The Holiday season is upon us, so naturally it’s time to get the hell of out of the USA.  An LAX traffic jam is basically my version of Candy Cane Lane this time of year.  Who needs a partridge in a pear tree when you can be a basic bitch is a coach seat flying half way around the world? I know the suspense is killing you, so without further ado, I am pleased to announce that the 2018-2019 Christmas and New Year’s trip is none other than the post-civil war jewel of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka.  A quick overview of the agenda includes two weeks of jungles, elephant safaris, ancient ruins, temples, hiking, and plenty of beach time.  Who is my travel companion, you ask?  None other than the blog legend, Carly.  You avid blog readers (all twelve of you) will remember Carly from taking shots to the face with me while sailing the Thai seas, taking pre-10am shots to the face with me while sailing the Belize seas, taking shots to the face with me before a 10am bike tour in Kyoto, and my favorite Carly travel memory of all – the time she left her passport on an overnight Guatemalan bus.

Since everyone is always curious as to how I pick my destinations, I’ll break this decision down for you.  Back around May or June, a newly single Carly informed me that we were officially a go for a two-week trip.  My first choice was Patagonia, but due to time and cost restrictions, a lack of lodging availability along the W-trek during this insanely popular time of the year, and my refusal to spend my ever-so-limited vacation freezing my ass off in a tent in the Patagonian wilderness, we decided to push that trip back a year or two and went in search of warmer climates.  Once you factor in the 50 or so countries that Carly and I have traveled to between the two of us, the list of options narrows.  Now factor our requirement to come home absurdly tan, our affinity for traveling as far from home as possible, and my innate ability pick the next up-and-coming destination just before it starts to pop-off, and the dart lands on Sri Lanka.

Be warned, flights to Sri Lanka from the US are absurdly long and expensive.  Back in November the airline actually cancelled our flight and instead put us on a multi-stop trek that would require us to backtrack across all of fucking China.  I spent the next two days calling every phone number for China Eastern airlines that I could get my hands on, waiting on hold for hours, and bitching out countless clueless, albeit innocent, Chinese and Indian call center workers.   The only options for a decent flight were to extend a day or shorten our trip a day – I’ll give you one guess which option we chose.

Tom Bradley, the gift that keeps on giving

All this flight confusion resulted in our first major travel snag – up until about 36 hours before our flight, Carly actually thought we were leaving a day later.  We luckily cleared up that major miscommunication (it’s always in the google sheet, people!), and I was confident that our first major snag was already behind us.  FALSE.  I woke up the morning of our adventure sick as a dog.  And luckily for me, the best way to incubate a cold is to take a 13-hour flight to a 7-hour layover to a 7-hour flight.  I managed to sleep a majority of the way through our first flight by tranquilizing myself.  Travel math for dummies: two codeine pills + two Xanax = nine hours of sleep.  We spent our layover at the Shanghai airport in a sad excuse for a “VIP lounge” drinking disgustingly sweet sparkling wine and eating dumplings while I blew my nose for seven hours straight. Luckily, Chinese people tend to stay out of your personal space when they think you have the plague.  So, ya know, silver lining.

By the time we landed in Colombo a full thirty hours after leaving home, I was a miserable sick mess.  The real loser in this situation is Carly.  Sick and tired Rory is not a fun gal to be around.  She is a raging, cranky bitch.  I was determined to get myself in bed in a hotel room as quickly as possible, so I went full zombie travel ninja on the Colombo airport.  Immigration à duty free vodka à Customs à ATM à taxi in a solid ten minutes flat.  Hell hath no fury like an impatient Rory.  At least until the Friday night traffic of a third world country took a big shit all over my flawless Sri Lankan efficiency roll just as quickly as it had begun.

Our taxi driver couldn’t find out hotel – because that would have been too easy.  He actually pulled off on the side of a road and asked “is this it?”.  Dude, I’m a white girl you just picked up at the airport.  Do I look like a fucking Sri Lanka Thomas Guide savant?  We finally found it down the road, and of course our taxi driver “didn’t have enough change”.  I muttered “ass hole” under my breath and walked away, because it wasn’t worth fighting over $2 after 30 hours of travel.   It was the last crack on the line sheet of patience I had left.  We were invited to have a seat in the lobby and a welcome juice while we checked in.  I refused both and asked for my room immediately.  They took one look at my miserable face and obliged.  Don’t worry, I apologized for being rude the next morning.  Twice.  We went to straight to bed at 8 pm.  I even skipped a meal for once in my life.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The next morning Carly and I enjoyed a lovely breakfast on the rooftop of our hotel.  I’m still blowing my nose in public, but at least I have a decent night’s sleep under my belt.  Our driver for the next four days that I had arranged online, Pradeep, picked us up right on time at 8 am.  Excellent first impression.  Pradeep is a very sweet and polite Buddhist father of two from Colombo, Sri Lanka who understands when to speak and when to respect quite time during a four-hour drive, so I think we lucked out as far as driver/guides go.

We headed out to the cultural triangle, which is a treasure trove of temples and monuments in central Sri Lanka and once served as the home of Sinhalese royalty.  Our first stop was the Dambulla cave temple, which are a series of caves at the top of a huge rock containing a few hundred Buddha statues.  It took all of fifteen seconds of hiking up the rock for me to realize that I’ll be a hot sweaty mess for about 90% of the trip.  It’s not so much the heat, it’s the humidity that will kill you.  Once we reached the top, sans my face which had melted off, we had to remove our shoes and cover our shoulders and knees before entering the temple complex.  So much sweat.  So much.  The cave temples were mediocre, but the views from the top were beautiful.  I felt like we were making day 1 our bitch.  Never get cocky on vacation my friends, never.  Buddha always has the last laugh.

 

Loving this fancy ass Buddah

After lunch we headed to our next hike – Pidurangala Rock, I am literally at a loss for how to even describe this complete cluster fuck of a tourist attraction to you.  Basically, you climb a big ass rock (Pidurangala) to get a good view of a different and far more famous big ass rock with a fortress at the top (Sigiriya Rock).  We bought our tickets and were informed that we have to remove our shoes for the first part of the hike, which takes all of thirty seconds, because you pass by a temple, after which you can sit in the dirt and put your shoes back on for the rest of hike up.  Not a lot of juice for the squeeze with this one, but fine, I’ll play by the rules.  It was your typical sweaty Sri Lankan rock march until we had just about reached the top.  This is where things take a turn….

We soon found out that there is one tiny opening at the end of the hike to get both up onto the top of the rock and back down.  One creepy little hole that fits ONE. PERSON. AT. A. TIME.  The “line” that had formed was more accurately a giant swarm off sweaty, stinky and confused tourists trying to shove their way past each other while balancing on rocks and hanging from tree branches.  We weren’t even sure what was going on, so I told a group of Sri Lankan guys that I was going to slither my way around them like a snake and check out the situation – basically informing them that I was about to cut the shit out of this line, but in such an adorable way that they could do nothing but laugh.  Carly and I tunneled a few feet ahead and emerged to find ourselves trapped in a swarm of tourists in a narrow rock passageway.  The boulders began to close in around me and claustrophobia set in.  Visions of being trampled by bodies in the two-way traffic jam flashed in my head.  It was basically the Spartan 300 situation all over again.  Yes, I’m being a bit dramatic, but I stand by my assertion that this was panic inducing.  Especially for an anxiety-prone and impatient American who doesn’t enjoy being trapped against her will and with no warning while sweating through her shirt.

There were a few guys at the top entrance/exit hold (they are one in the same), who were attempting to direct traffic. They would let a few people come down, and then haul a few people up.  All the while, the crowd is pushing their way up from the back while I’m balancing on a rock as thin as my patience.  I was holding back tears.  Damn near hyperventilating.  Carly was trying to keep me from going full psychic melt down.  We were contemplating if and how to cut our losses and turn around when a few people squeezed down and told us “it’s worth it! The views are amazing!”.  Those negligent little ass clowns.  Oh, did I mention that it started to rain while we were trapped?  We waited (Carly, patiently, while me…not so much) and finally reached the top at which point two Sri Lankan men literally brute forced us up the rock face and we realized (1) it was now pouring, (2) the amazing view was covered in clouds, and (3) The line to get down was even longer than the line to get up.

Not enthused

Carly pretty much immediately got in line for us to get the fuck out of there and let me hyperventilate under a tree.  The line was so long that eventually the rain subsided and the sun came back out, so we were at least able to enjoy the view.  My Sri Lankan friends from earlier made it up to the top where I discovered that my new nickname was “snake girl”.  I commiserated with anyone who looked half as frustrated as me, in an attempt to mask my anxiety with California girl sass (one of my specialties).  I took a selfie of myself giving the finger to no one, which people seemed to enjoy.  I even went over to the side of the rock, looking down on the throngs of tourists waiting to get to the top, and I yelled “turn around while you can! It’s not worth it”.  Someone had to be honest with these people.  Sure, the view was great, but buy a fucking post card.  I wish those pricks had the decency to warn me.

Carly made a friend in line with a guy named Brett from San Francisco.  Brett had just spent 10 days in some sort of ashram where no one spoke and he meditated all day, so he was kumbaya’ing the shit out of this situation, trying to turn lemons into lemonade.  Thank you, Brett, for making me realize things could be worse – I could be trapped in a mute mediation camp.  Perspective, people.  After a long wait, we finally made our way through the hole, past the mob, and down the rock.  Oh, and there was a lady with an infant in the mob below waiting to get up.  A pale white infant. In a excessively hot, sweaty, treacherous mob.  Fucking hippies.

The line to get DOWN

We finally reached the bottom where we were once again required to removed our shoes and socks while we walk past the Buddhist temple. No.  Just fucking NO.  I refused.  I marched down that path like a bat out of hell with my feet fully protected.  One guy yelled at me that I had to turn around, go back past the temple, take off my shoes, and come back down.  I looked that mother fucker square in the eye and silently mouthed “NO”.  Hear me out on this one before you judge me.  If this tourist attraction can’t respect its visitors enough to restrict or regulate the absurd crowds from whom they collect money, why the fuck on earth am I required to then show them respect by abiding by their customs?  I’m done doing shit the Sri Lankan way for the rest of the day.  We’re doing this the Rory way.  With some common sense.

Back in the car lot, Pradeep could see the irritation on my face and swiftly drove us to our hotel, Sigiriya Jungles.  We collapsed into the lobby for check-in, and Pradeep went to check into his room.  The hotel provides the drivers with free accommodation (very common in Sri Lanka), however we were informed that since we booked our room online through a booking website, we don’t qualify for the free driver accommodation.  Why must these people test me after the day I’ve had?  You guys would have been proud of me.  I did not flip out.  I calmly told them that was unacceptable and that they could either find the homie a room or get me the manager.  He folded.  If you had seen my face, you probably would have too.  It started pouring rain.  I blogged.  Carly went to the gym and worked out like a serial killer.  Although she managed not to punch my whining ass in the face back at the riot rock, so I think she had some pent-up aggression to release.  We went to bed at 9 pm.  Sri Lanka is turning me into a party animal.

Bottles Popping and Bizarre Roboting in Tokyo

Friday, April 6, 2018

Hungover in Tokyo should be today’s blog title.  That’s what happens when you take shots shitty vodka from the Lawson’s around the corner while pre-partying in your studio apartment Airbnb.  Ever the tourists, we still got our asses up and walked to the Harajuku neighborhood for breakfast at “Eggs and things”.  I may be in Japan, but I’m still a white girl, and I need eggs with my hangover.  I seriously contemplated washing them down with champagne, but I’m not trying to shoot my wad too early on a Friday in Tokyo.

After breakfast we met up with our tour guide (read: drunk bar friend who we harassed into showing us around), Paul, and his friend Alex.  They showed up looking like they were ready for a hipster photo shoot at the skate park in Venice beach.  My lulu lemons were pathetic in comparison.  We walked around Harajuku, which is a neighborhood in Shibuya knowns for it’s bizarre/retro/quirky fashion and the famous Takeshita Dori street, which is the Japanese version of Santee Alley, just sub the fake purses and homeless people for kitten t-shirts and giggling Asian girls in school girl uniforms.  Paul showed us a cat café, which charges about $10 per person to sit in a room and drink tea with four cats.   I can do that at my Dad’s house with actual booze.  We obviously passed.  Paul marched us on through the backstreets of Harajuku, by trendy café’s and vintage clothing stores.  I waited outside and tried not to puke on the street while the rest of the group wandered in and out of the fashionable boutiques.  Shopping is not my strong suit on a good day, and I sure as shit don’t travel halfway around the world to check out clothes.  Neil, Carly and I decided that our particular skills were far better suited for the drunken nightlife tour of Tokyo, and so we threw in the towel with plans to meet the boys later that night.  I’m sure none of you will be surprised to guess that I spent the afternoon watching homeland in bed, nursing my hangover.

Normally I would feel travel guilt about spending a day in bed, but we have  serious temple PTSD from Kyoto.  Our mantra in Tokyo is “fuck temples, I just wanna dance!” We checked every tourist attraction off our list in Kyoto, and we are on track to pretty much do nothing on the list while in Tokyo.   Sometimes you just have to cross everything off the excel spreadsheet itinerary and replace it with “have fun and get drunk”.  Look at me, being all spontaneous and shit.

Around 5 pm, Carly and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed and head to the local conveyor belt sushi restaurant down the street.  I don’t eat sushi, so I grabbed a gyro while we waited in line and then drank shochu while Carly played fish roulette.  The experience was actually pretty fun, and amazingly inexpensive.  You order small plates of sushi off an iPad and within minutes it shoots down the conveyor belt to appear in front of your plate.

Conveyor belt sushi at Genki Sushi in Shibuya

Back at our Airbnb, I was ready to party, but Carly and Neil wanted another nap.  I gave them a solid hour to sleep until I unleashed all holy peer pressure hell on them.  I should probably mention that I took shots of vodka to the face, alone, while they were napping.  I didn’t tell them how many I had under my belt when they woke, and I think it’s probably best that I don’t tell you either.  Your judgement will get us nowhere.  After a more-than-sufficient pre-party, we headed to Mogambo bar in the Roppongi neighborhood of Tokyo.  Roppongi is the party place for tourists in Tokyo, so we should fit right in. The bar was fun, but drinks were expensive.  Luckily, Japanese men seem to really enjoy buying drinks for white girls such as myself.  They don’t even try to hit on you, they just pay your bar tab, thank you for the pleasure of letting them pay your tab, and leave you alone.   If you ever find yourself in a bar filled with Japanese businessmen, just smile while ordering and the bill will somehow take care of itself.  Paul and Alex met us at Mogambo where we did some dancing before heading over to 1 Oak.

Yes, Tokyo has a 1 Oak, and yes, I actually went to a club.  Only because Paul put us on the list so I didn’t have to roll in like a basic bitch.  This is where the night gets fuzzy so bear with me.  We got a few drink tickets with our cover charge, but only had time for one round before we were ushered into VIP bliss by some rich Mexicans.  Don’t get your panties in a twist, I’m not being racist.  They were actually rich boys from Mexico City.   At the very least, their daddies are rich Mexicans.  They had the best table right on the dance floor, and even let us bring Neil into VIP with us.  Bottle service at the rich Mexican table was going OFF even before the champagne party started.  The night reached its shit show climax when a procession of Japanese cocktail waitresses walked out holding no less than twelve bottles of Dom Perignon with sparklers.  Imagine my elation when I realized the bottles were destined for our table.  I started handing out glasses of champagne to everyone around me, even the peasants on the other side of the ropes.  I was like Oprah with a drinking problem.  You get champagne and you get champagne and you get champagne!

I’m going to stop the blog here because frankly there isn’t much I remember after that point. I know I made an ass out of myself on the dance floor, but that goes without saying.  At one point I realized how drunk I was and tried to flee but couldn’t figure out where to door was so I went back to the rich Mexican’s table and continued partying.  I’m honestly shocked I didn’t pass out in a bathroom.  Not because I’m a hot mess who can’t handle my booze (I can), but because the toilet seats in Japan are heated.  Have you ever peed on a heated toilet seat while shit faced?  They might as well read you a fucking bed time story.  I can only assume every bar and club has a protocol for extracting drunk people out of bathroom stalls.  We somehow managed to take our drunk selves home in cab a little after 3 am.  I didn’t lose any of my shit or sprain an ankle.  Hallelujah.  I love Tokyo.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Now that we are Tokyo experts, we don’t feel guilty sleeping the days away and saving ourselves for after the sun goes down, the city lights up and the weirdos come out.  Carly and I got some hungover ramen and walked around for a bit before heading back to our little studio to nap.  Around 4 pm we pulled ourselves out of bed, popped a bottle of champagne and got ready to head out for the evening.  It’s robot restaurant show night!

Ready for ramen!

We hopped on the metro for a few stops from the Shibuya station to the Shinjuku station.  For those of you who don’t know, we went from the second busiest train station in Japan to the busiest.  At rush hour. Despite having to walk about half a mile through the train station to find your train, this is still a better option than driving in Tokyo.  Seriously, don’t even try it.  We reached Shinjuku and realized it looks exactly the same as Shibuya, perhaps with slightly taller buildings.  I’m feeling better about my decision to sleep all day.

We headed to dinner at Kuriya, a yakatori restaurant that Carly picked based on excellent tripadvisor reviews.  We entered to find it packed with white people.  It was definitely one of our best meals in Japan.  Probably because it was Japanese food white washed for tourists.  After dinner and drinks we walked over to the famous Golden Gai – a time-warped network of small alleyways filled with hundreds of tiny bars the size of closets.  It looks like a Japanese-style shanty town straight out of the 1920s.   Golden Gai was my one MUST DO thing in Japan. A tiny town of bars at the top of my list should be a shock to no one.  We randomly hopped into one of the little bars that had no cover charge (a rare find in Golden Gai) and had a drink with a nice couple from Brazil.  Between the five of us, we filled up the entire bar.  We zig zagged through the alleys, checking out all the quirky little bars, some multiple levels, some locals only, and some teeming with the sounds of amazingly awful karaoke.

Overall, the unique bars in Golden Gai are truly awesome, but they are also over-priced.  Given that it is our last night in Tokyo, we were running low on cash reserves, so we headed to a bar that takes credit card to have a few drinks before the Robot show.  We obviously had no intention of being anywhere near sober for this shit.

The colorful Shinjuku

Oh, Robot restaurant, where to even begin? From the moment you enter, it is a full blown assault on your senses.  We were ushered though sparkling mirrored hallways, down a psychedelic staircase to the main showroom on the ground floor.  We had a round of drinks included in our tickets so we headed to the “bar” for one final attempt at getting ourselves drunk enough to fall down the rabbit hole.  The drink situation here is dire.  All drinks are pre-made out of cans, including the booze.  Have you ever had a vodka soda out of a can?  Of course not, because you aren’t drinking from a fucking earthquake kit under a pile of rubble. Who on earth would do such a thing?  We took our seats with our nasty canned drinks, thankful for our little pre-show bar crawl around Shinjuku.  Let the show begin….

The Robot show is basically like watching the rose parade in the Mad Hatter’s living room while on an acid trip.  People come out in ridiculous metallic costumes, lip singing their hearts out, gliding along the runway in bizarrely decorated platforms on wheels.  These people ride everything from robots to giant pandas to huge dinosaurs.  I think there was actually a story line, but it would be impossible to follow without some form of illegal substance.  We basically spent an hour and a half pointing at shit saying “what the actual fuck?”.  There were two intermissions where you can buy food and swag.  Neil spent most of these breaks trying to spit game at the hot Asian girl sitting in the row below us.  Normally I would have ran straight to the bar, but the cans of sugar they were passing off as booze kept us on the wagon.  I would describe the entirety of the show as burning man on mars after an alien invasion.  Yeah, I think that sums it up pretty well.  For the record, this is NOT the weirdest show I have ever seen while traveling.  Lest we forget the epic Ping Pong show in Patong, Thailand.  Sorry Robot Restaurant, it was cool, but there are no points for second place.

We all spilled out onto the street around midnight, contemplating what move to make next.  Neil’s girlfriend and her posse were headed to 1 Oak.  We seriously contemplated going with them until we realized we were not on the list.  Spending an hour sitting in traffic in a cab, plus another hour in line sounded like a great way to put me in a terrible mood.  Besides, how on earth would be top last night’s visit?  We decided to call it a night and put our Japan trip, and ourselves, to bed.

All we did Sunday is fly home, so I’ll end the Japan series here.  The nautical soul mates survived a vacation on land.  Until next time, losers!

A train ride through Japan’s tourist trail

Wednesday, April 4, 2017

Today we are leaving Kyoto and heading to Hakone in Japan’s Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.  Hakone is a mountain town known for its hot springs and views of the elusive Mt. Fuji.  After our aggressive visit to Kyoto we are in desperate need of some relaxation and nature.  I had McDonalds for breakfast at the train station.  Throwing in the towel on Japanese cuisine on day three.  No one is surprised.  I asked Carly and Neil if they wanted champagne for the train ride.  When they answered no I just asked them again.  And again.  Until they realized I would keep asking until their answer was yes.  Soon we were popping champs on the Shinkansen (the Japanese bullet train) bound for Hakone.

The only way to travel in Japan

I need to digress for a moment to discuss my love of Japanese public transportation.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a bus, a train, or a boat, that shit is always on time.  And it is cut throat – if you show up ten seconds late, you are fucked.  They wait for no one.  What makes Japanese transportation so great is that they understand what most people I know fail to, which is that your time is not more valuable than that of the collective group.  If only I could find a way to teach that to 95% of the self-absorbed ass holes I know.   Yes, you are probably one of them.

We arrived in Hakone at the Odwara station where we purchased the Hakone Free Pass, which gives us unlimited access to all transportation in the area over the next two days.  From Odwara, we took the Hakone Tozan Railway to our hotel in Gora.  The Hakone Tozan Railway is Japan’s oldest mountain railway and winds through the mountains, over bridges, through tunnels and along switchbacks.  It is supposedly quite a treat for train fans, whoever the hell those losers are.  To any normal person, it’s a really fucking slow train.

Hakone Tozan Railway

Once we reached Gora, we dropped our bags at our hotel, and headed out to a burger place that I read about online.  Woody’s is a toy-story themed treehouse-like restaurant with creepy dolls from the movie randomly placed all over staring at you while you eat.  It’s weirdly awesome.  The burgers here are massive an messy.  While I pondered how to best attack my food, Neil stuffed his burger in his face like a lion feasting on his prey.  I have legitimately never seen anyone eat a plate of food more aggressively in my life.  It was a fucking bloodbath.  You would think the guy hadn’t eaten in weeks.  I’m actually shocked he didn’t eat his hand by mistake.  I’ve been known to get pretty disgusting with some Panda Express on a bad hangover day, so if I’m impressed by your ability to utterly demolish a plate of food, that is really saying something.

Neil getting down on a Woody’s burger

After lunch we went to the Hakone open air museum, which features an awesome display of modern sculptures spread throughout an open-air garden with 360-degree mountain views of Hakone.  It also features an impressive Picasso collection.  I’m not much of a museum goer, but I was pretty blown away by this place. Did I really just say that a museum blew me away?  So this is what old age feels like.

After the museum we walked to the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, which is a truly bizarre hot springs/water park combo.  This little walk turned out to be more of an uphill hike along a random path through the woods, yet twenty minutes later we found ourselves at the Yunessun.  This place is a fucking trip.  It’s a Japanese hot tub play place, with bizarre themed hot tubs, a water slide into a hot tub, indoor and outdoor hot tubs with waterfalls, and also has a traditional Japanese onsen on the groud floor, which is segregated by men and women.  Typical Japanese onsens have very specific rules about how you must shower before you enter and they don’t allow people with tattoos in.  I have a tattoo on my toe, because I’m hood like that, so this was a good option.  It also allows men and women to enjoy hot tubs together, which is fun when you are traveling in a co-ed band of misfits such as ourselves.  The only real problem was that they didn’t sell wine.  The ladies only naked area was by far the best part, mainly because there were no screaming children.  We tried the pool where the little fish eat the dead skin off your feet.  I was utterly disgusted.  Carly was a good sport, but unfortunately when Neil put his hobbit feet in pool there was no fish for anyone else.  Those fish know a dead skin buffet when they see it.

We headed back to the hotel where we smashed the $10 buffet and were in bed by eight.

Thursday, April 5, 2017

Today we are tackling the Hakone tourist trail before heading to Tokyo.  First you take a cable car halfway up a mountain, where you then catch a gondola that guides you into the Owakudani Valley, at which point you continue down the mountain in another gondola to Lake Ashi and board a pirate ship that takes you across the lake.  The highlight of all of this are the stunning views of Mount Fuji – if the weather is clear enough.  When the weather complete and total shit, like it was for us, the trail is really just various forms of incredibly slow transportation while staring out into grey skies.

We went through the motions anyway while we were in the area.  We ate the famous Owakudani black volcanic eggs that are boiled in a sulfur spring and are rumored to add seven years to your life.  My drinking has probably taken at least that from me, so this is really just an attempt at breaking even.  At one point we waited in line for ten minutes to get a picture in front of the Hakone shrine.  Japanese people fucking love waiting in lines.  I don’t mean bullshit lines at home where everyone cuts in front of each other, I’m talking orderly and respectful lines for everything from tourist attractions to restaurants.  But not subways. Subways are every man for himself.

That afternoon we caught the train to Tokyo, checked into our Airbnb and headed out on the town for some dinner.  Tokyo at night is FUCKING AWESOME. The entire city completely lights up to the point of sensory overload and there are never ending masses of people everywhere. People who apparently need to eat.  A lot.  There is literally a restaurant every five feet in this city.  I didn’t even bother looking up at all the shit above the first floor because what is the fucking point?  We wandered around for a while paralyzed with food options until the decision was made for us by a very loud Japanese guy screaming at us to come inside.  The place was packed and had dancing teppanyaki chefs so we took it as sign and obliged.

Teppen Otoko Dojo Shibuya is an izakaya style teppanyaki restaurant.  Translation: bizarrely small plates of food cooked on a griddle in front of you.  Carly ordered a “veggie steak plate” which consisted of one grilled white onion cut in half and three pieces of bamboo shoots no longer than an index finger each.  Cost: $0.10, RRP $9. The plate was, however, decorated with some lovely wicker fencing, the overall mass of which was triple the amount of edible material on the plate.  Who serves someone an entire onion and calls it a meal?  I had a “Japanese pancake” called Okonomiyaki, the contents of which were not discernible to the naked eye.  It looked and tasted like the Chef vomited onto his griddle and then seared it into a congealed mass.  To add insult to injury, he then he covered it with fish flakes.  Barf.  Neil had the steak, which was decent, but the chef’s one-bite taste test while plating accounted for about 25% of the portion.  The entertainment was at least decent.  Another good thing to come out of this meal was discovering our newfound love of shochu, a Japanese vodka-like liquor distilled from rice.  It’s basically sake’s sluttier and more entertaining older sister.  Kyoto was all about the sake, but Tokyo is all about the shochu.

After dinner we headed back to the Airbnb to get ready for our first night in Tokyo.  To me, that means ripping shots of vodka to the face.  To Carly and Neil that means power napping.  Out of the goodness of my heart I gave them a solid hour of nap time before screaming them into consciousness and pouring booze down their throats.  Neil had a friend in town, so we met his buddy at Hub British Pub down the street.  Yes, I flew to Tokyo to hang out in a chain British pub.  I headed directly to the bar where I discovered an actual line of people waiting patiently in turn to buy drinks.  Remember how I said Japanese people love their lines? Even in bars.  I think we should institute this form of ordering drinks in bars at home.  It gets harder to catch the eye of bartenders with each passing year.  This would really level the playing field for me.

A Japanese girl came up to me very excitedly and started repeating a Japanese phrase over and over while giggling a lot.  Her boyfriend translated for me.  “Big boobs”.  My c-cups apparently make me the Tits Mcgee of Japan.  I’m not mad about it.  While I was being fondled by little Japanese girls we made friends with Paul, a guy from San Francisco who lives in Tokyo, and his Aussie friend Alex.  Paul offered to be our tour guide tomorrow so these boys will be making another appearance.  We hopped the around the bar, doing laps and talking to strangers.  I made bar bffs with a guy who grew up down the street from me in Torrance, CA.  There is no smaller world than a bar full of white people in a foreign country.  Once Alex began to girl Carly a creepy palm reading we decided it was time to bounce.   I’d say the first eight hours in Tokyo was a success.