Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Betel Nuts Taste Like Soap and Make Your Spit Red and Sloppy

No one has a cell phone in Myanmar and unlike Indonesia and Malaysia, people rarely smoke. They do, however, chew the most disgusting package of mind-buzzing shit called betel nut.

They take a betel nut leaf and cover it with white liquid lime dipped from a caked white bucket. Then they sprinkle on some Indian tobacco or other brown substance that smells like incense. Onto this, they put the betel nut and wrap it into a tight cylindar.

Then you chew. It gives a quick buzz that's like smoking a cigarette for the first time and chasing it with a double espresso. And it tastes like soap. In fact, my mouth tasted like soap for a full 24 hours.

All the sidewalks are splattered with a dried blood-like substance which I discovered was the thick loogies hawked by all the locals onto any footpath in sight. After getting a few hard chews in, I joined in that tradition by emptying a few ounces onto the streets of Yangon. It appears like someone just punched you in the mouth and you're emptying and mouthful of bloody slop. It felt great.

I'm in central Myanmar at the temple region called Bagan, staying at a riverside hotel that was built in 1922 that overlooks the Irrwaddy River. It's full of loud Brits and French package tourists.

I'll upload photos when I get to Thailand.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This is what $1,700 in small bills looks like.

In two days I leave for Myanmar (wiki) where there are no ATMs, no credit cards and traveler's checks are worth the paper they're printed on. Their currency, the kyat, has an inflation rate so high that it's better used to wipe your butthole -- and I will, because toilet paper is rare.

All the money we need for the trip is in US greenbacks which is accepted -- sometimes demanded -- throughout the country. Myanmar's per capita income per year (CIA factbook) is $1,800 -- only $100 more than I'm bringing for my two weeek trip! I suppose that's comparable to walking around southeast DC carrying $42,000 cash.

Sadly, the military dictatorship that runs Myanmar with an iron bludgeon regularly rapes, tortures and murders certain ethnic minorities (News link) -- keeping the population in a state of fear since 1962 -- so deciding whether to go was a moral dilemma.

The internet was only introduced in 2001 but the junta has blocked websites worth visiting, including, gmail, hotmail, yahoo and a host of others. Jim graciously set up a proxy server for me so I'll keep up the blog posts and will have access to email while there.

Fewer than half of Myanmar's airports are paved and the airlines haven't updated their safety protocols since the 1950s. I read a quote by a Yangon travel agent saying that, "Air routes change in the air"; dates and departure times aren't written on tickets so the airline doesn't have to honor the days and hours for which reservations were made. But there's no way I'm taking the 16 hour bus rides over the worst dirt roads east of India, so we're flying, my friends.

But all this is worth not being stuck in this winter hell hole. Here's what I'll be looking at in 98 degree sunshine:

(Bagan, Myanmar) More photos here.

I'll be back in DC on March 24th.

Monday, February 12, 2007

An Ode to Consuming Feces: How my Dog Does Her Part to Keep Adams Morgan Clean

By chowing down pounds of shit per week, my beagle Grace is doing her best to make our nation's capital's dog owners seem less irresponsible.

She's one of the few who take care of these neglected crap piles littering DC. The city doesn't clean them up. Other dog owners don't touch them. They just sit there decaying for months until a coprophagic dog like mine comes along and makes the neighborhood more livable.

And there's more to eating poo than you may think. A shit-eating dog has certain types of feces that they prefer. For example, Grace has no interest in fresh, warm dog shit; her delight is to snatch up the frozen turds before I can see her doing it. She doesn't eat Great Dane-sized dog crap, either, which is too big to fit in her cute little mouth. And if we're walking on a horse path that's covered in grass-rich manure, it's like Bob's Big Boy for Grace; she'll bury her face if you don't watch out.

And Grace's most stomach-churning feast occurs when I walk her too close to the edge of Rock Creek Park where the homeless masses pinch their loaves. Yes, folks, Grace devours homeless man poop. You haven't lived until your dog licks your face and it smells like a bum's ass.

To live with this, I've convinced myself it's simply her civic duty. It helps with the nausea, at least.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Music is No Longer a Central Part of My Life

I get more fulfillment from reading a book or watching television than listening to some trite song.

Although there's about one band I still truly like. I now divide Indie Rock -- by that, I mean everything after September 1991, when Nirvana's Nevermind was released -- into two categories: 1) Every Modest Mouse album; and 2) all those other bands' albums.

Unless you're destined to be an "adultescent" forever, you will hit a point in your life when music is about the least important thing. Those adultescents who don't are the same 30-somethings who care whether one ZIP code is cooler than another (, I'm looking at you).

Last night some friends came over and tried to find something from iTunes to play. The only music in the whole gazillion gigabytes that seemed half decent to me was the aforementioned Modest Mouse, and I could half care even then.

Remember indie music magazines? How about feeling passionately that band X sucked whereas band Y was great? Or even worse, changing loyalties when a band you liked got successful.

Music isn't absent from my life, but now it doesn't have the same pretentious status as it once did. Plus, less than 1% of people who play in a band have any real talent. Yes, I've been in a band before [sheepish grin].

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

People Who Like Winter Are Ice-Cold Devils.

Fuck people who love winter. FUCK 'EM.

The rest of us are holed up with rye whiskey, trolling craig's list for cheap firewood, and cursing our friends who like temperatures below 20 degrees.

Let's review this blog's three year history. Have you learned nothing? I don't have to annoy you with a rant against winter. My pictures prove that it sucks ass.

Here's what I did in Belize a year ago.

And for those who are too lazy to click, the first photo I took is an environment people were built to live in:

Contrast that with the mid-atlantic region in February:

People who love winter make me angry. Every time I use a squat toilet in 105-degree Burma two weeks from now, I'll be thinking of your god damned FACES --- hot shit on your skin, you cold-blooded bastards.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Backpackers are full time tourists.

Most people who hate part time tourists are full time tourists -- backpackers -- and that's why backpacker forums like the Lonely Planet message board contain an undercurrent of self-loathing and guilt. Here's an analogy: imagine you're drawn to banking but you fundamentally feel that usury is morally wrong; that's the psychology of many people who strap on a backpack and head across Asia for a year. It's the sophomoric belief that the main problems of the global south are international business and package tourism -- like thinking up is down and down is up!

Backpackers idealize the "unspoiled" regions of the world, hoping they'll discover something about themselves that's missing in their own culture. It's a patronizing view of the world -- that the poor should remain poor and not be spoiled by money because young people from rich countries are enlightened by communing with noble savages wallowing in their own misery. Stay penniless and backwards. It's charming.

In reality, every poor farmer I've met in the third world is looking to make a profit as much as a Wall Street banker, and could give a damn whether some smelly dred-locked douche wants to sleep in a filthy hovel, spend very little money, and drink the local beer.

I've often been a part time tourist but I've never gone on a package tour or stayed in an all-inclusive resort. But I don't look down my nose at those who do. All tourists spend money and that's something the poverty-stricken world needs more of. What they need less of are holier-than-thou scrotebags thinking they're better than everyone else just because they have the money and time to spend a year chalking up countries like notches on a frat boy's headboard.

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