Tag Archives: Asia

Thelma and Louise Go Flying

If there’s a more inspirational film than the 1991 classic Thelma & Louise, I’m yet to see it. The tale of two lesbians who smoke some poor bloke and then travel all over the place in a fancy car before driving it off a cliff provides lessons that we should all live by. Also, Geena Davis was pretty hot back then. So when Al, who looks a little like Geena in the right light, asked me to fly into uncharted territory with him, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

We were cruising around above Pandawa Beach, when the wind shifted south and we realised we could start edging further and further around the bottom of the Balinese coast. Kilometres of rugged and remote beaches lay begging to be explored, and before long we found ourselves cruising through uncharted territory. The height we found was extraordinary, and it was exciting to escape from the restraints of the popular flying sites.

It’s a beautiful part of the world, with shear cliffs topped by million-dollar houses and exclusive resorts. Bikini-clad babes looked up from their expensive cocktails to watch us float by, most likely hoping that we would land nearby and pop in for a shag. But Al and I had eyes only for each other the end of the island, so we kept pushing forward. There were a few dodgy moments, but we stuck together and made it work.

“How far are we going to go?” I asked, my voice trembling.

“To the end of the world, baby,” came the unwavering reply. “To the end of the world… together.” The landscape became even wilder and more amazing as we swept past stunning beaches and misty mountains. Finally, we reached the headland that marked the start of Uluwatu, on the western coast of the island. We’d made it as far as two brave pilots could ever hope, and swung around to start the long, slow slog back to launch. The sun was fading and the headwind was powerful, but we knew we could make it.

Unfortunately, just like in Thelma & Louise, this story was not to have a happy ending. Coming back around a monstrous headland, we ran into wild rotor that threw us around and sent us scuttling towards the beach hundreds of metres below.

“Looks like we’re going down on each other,” Al called over the radion.

“Don’t you mean we’re going down together?” I asked, sure that he’d simply made a linguistic fuck up.

“Erm, yes, I guess that’s it,” he replied slimily.

I fluttered to the ground next to an ancient shipwreck, and looked around at a beach seemingly untouched by the hand of man.

I was packing up my gear and wondering how the hell I’d get out of there, when a funny little man wearing oven mitts climbed out of a nearby bush and started talking to me in broken Engrish. I thought he was a local hobo and was about to brush him, when I noticed he was plucking his wing out of a nearby bush. He introduced himself as Lee, from Japan, and an instant bond was formed between us. I saw him as a mentor; he saw me as the son he’d never had.

Even though our landing spot was as remote as the chances of Penny Wong taking out the next Miss Universe competition, it’s never hard to get a beer in Bali, so Al and I relaxed with a few Bintangs while Lee kicked back with a cocktail served in a coconut, complete with tiny umbrella and extravagant crazy straw to suck it through. It was a surreal vision in such an out-of-the-way spot.

It was fortunate that we rehydrated, because the climb back up the cliff was steep enough to have a Nepalese sherpa calling it quits. When we finally made it to the top we were treated to a (well-deserved) hero’s welcome by the local villagers, who showered us with love and affection and free nasi goreng. It was the best day of my life… until I caught Al and Lee walking out from behind a tree with guilty looks on their faces. I was crushed.

What a fuckin’ day! It was an epic journey and one of the most memorable flights I’ve had. Al and I pushed our limits and tested our skills, and we were rewarded with stunning views and an effort that we can be truly proud of. Every day of flying in Bali is brilliant, but that afternoon spent high above the beaches of southern Bali has to top it all. And after having some time to reflect on what happened, I wish Al and Lee all the best in the future. Keep flying high, you crazy kids.

Back in Balangan

After three weeks back in Australia, I was sick of winter and ready to head back out into the big wide world, so I hitched a ride on a Qantas jet and zipped over to Bali to go paragliding and chase backpackers for a month. Actually, it wasn’t quite that easy – some Islamic terrorist knob jockeys have been doing their best to blow up Aussie planes, which meant an extended journey through security. I guess rocking up with a backpack full of radio equipment and other electrical goodies probably wasn’t a great move. Sadly Fortunately, I didn’t end up with some customs dude lipping his arm up my arse.

Oh, bloody hell, it's sunny!

The other hassle during my flight over to Asia had less to do with bearded Islamic terrorist bum boys and more to do with my own goofiness, because I wasn’t allowed to check in without having a return ticket booked. With only $126 to my name, a flight back to Sydney was out of the question, so it looks like I’ll be spending a week in Darwin on the way back. Cold beer, hot Euro travellers, and heaps of crocodiles to punch. Oh shit, however will I deal with that?

The place I'm staying at looks like it was built by drunk children

Much like last year I’m kicking off my Bali sojourn with a few days in the hidden paradise of Balangan. If you want to know more about it, just read my award-winning post from this time last year. The only real difference is that I’m 20kg lighter this year, so I’ve been spending every morning jogging around in the heat and trying not to shit myself the whole way. Thanks to the rabid dogs that chase me everywhere, I’ve actually been cracking out som good times, and the seven litres of sweat that pours out of me each morning clears plenty of space for Bintangs.

Olympics, here I come

It was on one such not-so-fun run that this story begins. I was doing my best to sidestep a cow when a motorbike came to a spluttering stop a few metres from me and a stunning sort climbed off. She pulled off her helmet, sending blonde hair cascading halfway down her back. I did my best to hide my erection.

“You look like you have plenty of stamina,” the babe said in a thick eastern European accent. I just nodded dumbly and hoped she wouldn’t realise I was about six steps away from collapsing into a bush and spewing on myself. “You should jump on the back of my bike.”

We've all woken up next to someone who looks like that, right?

I was faced with two options. Either I could continue on my run, improve my health and fitness, and live a longer life, or I could climb on the back of a conked-out bike ridden by someone barely old enough to have the training wheels off and drastically reduce my life expectancy. I’m not a fucking idiot, so I went with the option that offered the best chance of getting laid. By that I mean I got on the bike – I guess I could’ve porked one of the cows wandering around, but even in Indonesia such behaviour is largely frowned upon.

Alright, they are kinda cute

Milana (for that was this lovely lass’s name) took me to a gorgeous bar on the beach, where we ordered icy cold Bintangs and did our best to piece together a conversation, despite her being from Estonia and possessing a looser grasp on the English language than your average Bauer editor. When she told me that she’d been in Balangan a year ago and had a disappointing sexual experience with another Aussie paraglider, who looked like me but was much fatter and had longer hair, I just nodded and pretended not to be hurt.

The long-haired, overweight disappointmnt may have looked something like this

Long story short, after 15 Bintangs each we found ourselves in a run-down shack on the beach, the waves crashing beneath our heaving bodies. After a few minutes of fumbling around like a drunk seal I felt very contented and was ready to roll over and have a sleep, but Milana was somewhat less pleased with the proceedings.

“I take back what I say about you have stamina,” the babe said, struggling into her dress. “Maybe you is more like 100 metre runner.”

“Luv,” I replied with a smile as I swaggered out the door, “that’s the first time anyone’s likened me to Usain Bolt. Cheers.”

I like swingers' parties

Bali is still a beautiful place, but it’s time for me to stop looking at it from ground level, and instead check it out from a couple of hundred metres in the air. I’ve got a brand new wing and an almost aggressive desire to spend as much time paragliding as possible. Let’s just hope I can keep it up for a bit longer than I did with poor bloody Milana!

My Dinner With Dipu

If you’ve been reading Drunk and Jobless lately, you’re no doubt incredibly jealous of all the cool places I’ve been to over the past few months, so I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that I’m currently stuck at Dubai airport on a 23.5 hour stopover. That might sound like the hilarious premise behind the latest Home Alone film, but in reality it’s very fucking boring. I have to space out my trips to the toilet so that I actually have something to look forward to.

My time here hasn’t been a complete waste, however, because it has allowed me to meet Dipu Chandrababu, a chubby Indian poofter who is also my biggest admirer. I was enjoying a surprisingly good curry in the food court when a bloke who looked like a 1980s gay porn star picked up the chair next to me, turned it around and sat backwards on it. You know shit’s about to go down when someone sits on a chair backwards, although with Dipu I’m surprised he didn’t turn the chair upside down and sit on one of the legs.

“Hello, I am Dipu,” crooned the curry-crazed cutie, licking his lips. “How long are you in Dubai? Four days? Five? You can stay at my place. It’s close. Only one bed, a single, but we can share. Let’s go.”
From there, the conversation was a one way street, as the Punjabi playboy hammered me with question while mentally undressing me (not a great idea – a chick I hooked up with a few weeks stole most of my undies, so I’m anything but fresh).
“Are you married? Maybe a girlfriend? A lover? Are you single? No time for women? I have no time for women. Not my thing. I have many lovers. All over the world. You could be my lover. Nothing serious. I have a talented tongue.”

Now, If I had any inclination to have sex with a man, I would have acted on it by now, and I don’t think some fat curry muncher is going to be the tipping point. Kudos to the bloke for trying, but he’d have a better chance trying to shit into the eye of a needle. As a straight bloke, I think it would be awful to wake up after a big night on the piss to discover I’d been sucked off by some idiot I met at the pub, but over time I could probably deal with it. That woudn’t be the case if I was sucked off by fuckin’ Dipu, though – it’s so much gayer if the bloke blowing you has a moustache. I’d have to cut my cock off and throw it in a fire.

Dipu insisted that I take his phone number (which is how I was able to steal his photos off Facebook) and, after realising that I wouldn’t tikka his masala, ponced off to try his luck with someone else. Ships pasing in the night, I guess. Last I saw him he was leading a priest into the disabled toilet. And that’s how I went close to getting a rimjob off a fat Indian cunt. Isn’t travelling wonderful?

Reflections on Dubai

I’m at 35,000 feet with a beer in my hand and another seven under my belt, on my way to the Democratic Republic of South Africa. It’s there that my journey will truly begin – not only will I be wrestling rhinos and gulping malaria tablets so that I don’t die, but I’ll also be tracking down the mysterious Prince Imotep Bobongi of Nigeria, who has promised me a large sum of money. None of the movers and sheikhers I met in Dubai had ever heard of him, but I’m not letting that put me off.

Dubai was certainly an interesting place to visit, but it should be obvious from my earlier blogulas that I wasn’t enraptured by it. That’s not surprising – I’m backpacking around, looking for hills to climb and ruins to explore and bars to get smashed in, and Dubai is aimed squarely at families and rich pricks who want to sit by the pool all day. I’m not the target market, so my opinions shouldn’t turn off those who are. In saying that, the UAE isn’t for the adventurous, and isn’t meant to be.

Being Australian and not being a fat cunt, I like to walk everywhere and see what I find, but that doesn’t really work in the Emirates. I clocked up 62.37km of walking over three days (I’m not even making that up – and Mum, I did it all in thongs. Sorry) but I didn’t see as many interesting things as I would in a five kilometre stroll in Riga or San Francisco. It’s all very new and functional.

In saying that, there’s plenty to see and do if you’re planning to stop there for a few days and are willing to travel around. Burj Khalifa was every bit as impressive as I’d hoped it would be, and it stands proudly beside (well, more like stands over) the world’s greatest buildings, such as the Eiffel Tower, Oriental Pearl Tower, and Gosford City Council Building Block B. I’d wanted to see this stunning structure with my own eyes ever since it was announced, and it didn’t disappoint. The beaches, epic shopping centres and massive developments are also worth checking out if you’re into that sorta thing.

It’s a city without a distinct personality, and in many ways it reminds me of Las Vegas. Both are hot, dusty metropolises that have no real reason to exist where they are exept for a major commodity, and both are incredibly superficial. I guess the main difference is that I was able to get so smashed in Las Vegas I kissed Boy Meets World star Ben Savage, and Dubai is the most sober city I’ve ever encountered. I find it hard to trust a city I haven’t passed out in.

For me, it was the old town that was most interesting. It has all the good things about India (the food, happy men with moustaches who like to talk about cricket) without the bad (insane crime levels and five billion people on ever street corner). Alright, so it’s missing the Taj Mahal, the jungles of Southern India and a million other things, but you get my point.

The food in the old town is exceptional, and was a definite highlight for me. Curries, kebabs, pizzas and other awesome stuff are readily available and as cheap as my ex-girlfriend. I almost had to ask them to roll me home after dinner a few times. Dubai is home to heaps of 12-star restaurants and apparently that Gordon Ramsey knob-gobbler owns a place, but the street food is where it’s at.

Is Dubai a place I’d recommend for a holiday? Fuck no, but it’s a decent place for a few days break on the way home from a more interesting destination. That’s it for the stopover, now it’s time to explore the cradle of humanity, an ancient land with millions of years of history. They don’t have a ban on alcohol in Africa, either, so I’m hoping to spend tonight getting shitfaced and hooking up with sheilas who sound like they have speech impediments. Bye bye.

Capital Punishment 

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, which means it’s their version of Canberra. But instead of being freezing cold and overflowing with brilliant footballers, it’s blazing hot and loaded with skyscrapers. Oh, and the beaches are a bit better than Canberra’s, too.

OK, I admit it. I’m sexy

The city is a two hour bus ride from Dubai, and the majority of the trip plows through barren, sandy desert, with the odd shrub or dilapidated building to break things up. It’s certainly not spectacular, but it’s different from anything I’ve ever seen before. I was tossing off up between going on a desert safari or taking the bus to Abu Dhabi, and I reckon my choice gave me the best of both. I’m now an expert on endless, sandy deserts.

For the true UAE experience, just stare at this photo for two hours

The city of Abu Dhabi isn’t much different from Dubai. There are immense skyscrapers, little Indian blokes running around everywhere, and a distinct lack of decent public transport. It’s an easy city to walk, with wide footpaths and very few open sewers in which to fall into and die. In saying that, there are two big dangers. Firstly, the heat, which smashed me like a Josh Papalii tackle during my near-20km hike. Secondly, the drivers in Abu are fuckwits and would rather hit and kill someone than slow down and let them cross. It has one of the highest rates of hit-and-runs on the planet, which is something the locals take a strange pride in. I reckon they should leave that shit to the professionals at the nearby F1 circuit.

Moments later, it was CARMAGEDDON!

Whilst it really is a nice city and it’s all very impressive, there’s not masses to see and do in AD unless you’re into shopping or are loaded with money. The Grand Mosque is superb, but well out of town, as is the popular Ferrari World. The streets don’t have a lot of personality, with very few shops or markets. I loved exploring the place, but I wouldn’t want to be stuck there unless I was shacked up in an expensive resort (and someone else was paying).

Get off my road!

The jewel in the crown of Abu Dhabi is undoubtedly it’s beaches, and I found them to be really nice. They’re man made, of course, and Kelly Slater won’t be popping round to hang ten anytime soon, but they’re lovely and clean and the nearby ‘scrapers provide a stunning vista while splashing around. I’d been told the water would be too hot to swim in, but I found it really refreshing. There weren’t any topless stunnas on the sand, though, and I couldn’t find anywhere to buy a beer, but count me as a fan of Corniche Beach.

The Abu Dhabi waterfront is lovely… but where are all the people?

There weren’t any women with their tits out, but there was a very naked, very handsome penguin hanging out near the entrance to the beach. He was being coy and obviously playing hard to get, but I could tell by the way he held his beak that he wanted some.
“You’re a long way from the South Pole,” I said smoothly. “But I can show you a pole if you want, you naughty little bird”

Just another holiday romance

The penguin, obviously the strong, silent type, again said nothing, which I took as a sign of interest. I strutted over, loosened my britches, and seconds later I was making love to my flightless fuck buddy. People were honking their horns as they witnessed the physical manifestation of our romance. I was on the verge of orgasm when I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see a very tall, very muscular policeman peering down at me. I immediately lost my erection, assuming that he would throw me into a rat-infested prison where I would probably be raped.

Not a bad pool!

Instead, the policeman just shook his head. “I know how tempting it is, but you’re better than this,” he said, before pulling a samosa out of his pocket and chomping into it as he walked away. I said goodbye to my penguin, returned my shorts to their correct position, and continued on my way.

Sheikh, Rattle and Roll

Yesterday I took on Dubai’s ancient streets, and today I explored the newer side of things. The symbol of this rapidly-evolving desert metropolis is the Burj Khalifa, an 828m-tall skyscraper that is the tallest structure on the planet. It really is an incredible building, and standing at the bottom and looking up at it left me feeling queasy at its immensity – even though I flew my paraglider at three times that height two weeks ago. Is that the sound of your panties dropping, ladies?

Dubai has a far more impressive skyline than Wyong

I would’ve liked to go to the top of the tower, but it costs 50 bucks to go halfway and I’m too povvo to pay that. I’ll just get some photos off Google and show them to people if they ask. That’s what I do with dick pics. The Dubai Fountain sits in Khalifa’s shadow, and I watched on, entranced, as the monumental water jets danced in time to some beautiful music. Dubai often feels fake, but it really is astonishing that they’ve been able to turn desert into an aquatic oasis.

Go go dancing fountain!

The Dubai Mall is next to that, and it’s the biggest in the world. Inside the mall are heaps of shops, so if you’re after a new hat or some a whoopee cushion then it’s the place for you. I brushed all that crap, though, and headed to SEGA Republic. With the disappointment of Nagasaki SEGA World fresh in my mind (it totally bombed), I was hoping for the best. It was as disappointing as that crap all-fat-chicks Ghostbusters movie, though, because all the rides were closed and the bloke in the Sonic outfit got shirty when I tried to take a photo of me humping him.

He’s behind you!

I thought it was strange that a massive shopping centre full of sheikhs didn’t have a single shop selling those funny white sheets and towels they wear. What happens if they run out of clean sheets and have a big date to go out on? Do they just grab a doona cover, wrap it atound themselves, and head out for a nice night of dancing?

“We can’t both wear white, it makes us look like we’re part of a softball team”

As someone who hates shopping centres, the Dubai Mall really started to get on my nerves after a while. It’s loud, there are people everywhere, and it takes an hour to walk from one side to the other. Making things a bit more tolerable is the gigantic fish tank in the middle of the place. Sharks, stingrays and octopuses swim past exclusive clothes shops and fast food restaurants, giving some idea what the world will look like when climate change causes the oceans to rise 500 metres and we all drown. It’s really impressive, but I’d hate to be the person who has to clean it. Shit, my tank at home is only a metre long and it’s filthier than a Kings Cross hooker.

Other Arab countries prefer showing off slightly less relaxing tanks

I’m a poor bastard and so I’m staying in a cheap hotel where running water isn’t seen as a necessity, but all the rich picks who come to Dubai stay out at the famous Palm Jumeirah, where rooms run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a night. I was curious to see what my life would’ve been like had I decided to become a corrupt politician, so I rolled on over there and took the monorail out to the man-made island, which is indeed in the shape of a huge palm. It’s an interesting ride, with luxurious houses, apartments and hotels growing from each of the palm’s gargantuan fronds. I felt poorer the further I went.

Want your palm read?

The Atlantis Resort at the end of the palm is really lovely, but all the beaches are private and there’s not a whole lot for a poor ol’ backpacker to do. I was standing beside a pie truck, looking sadly at a menu full of food I couldn’t afford, when one of those blokes in a sheet beckoned me over to his table. I was a little reluctant to join him, but took a seat next to the fella anyway.

“You look hungry,” he said in a kind voice. “Please, allow me to buy you a pie.”
I was going to put up a facade of arguing, but figured he was rich as shit and so ordered the most expensive roast chicken pie on the menu.
“My name is Sheikh Abdul el Waleed Aly,” he told me as the food arrived. He then went on to tell me how rich he is, how many cars he owns, how beautiful his wife is. I was torn between sucking up to the Sheikh in the hope he’d buy me a car, and telling him to shut the fuck up because he was boring me. I got stuck into the food, and as I was finishing it, Abdul gave me a slimy smile.

Enjoying my complimentary dog’s eye

“It is so easy to buy the time and affection of the poor,” he told me. “I just have to wave a free meal in front of your stupid face, and you sit there like an obediant dog. And what is the price of a meal to a man of wealth such as myself? Nothing. Nothing!”
I let him carry on like that for a few minutes because I was too busy stuffing my face with the pie he’d bought me, and eventually he stood up and swept himself away across the street, laughing. Just then, a truck sped by and splashed mud all over his stunning robes, causing the Sheikh to scream at the heavens. I just swaggered ver to him, licking tomato sauce from my fingers, and said, “Thanks for the food. You can find some clean sheets at the nearest Spotlight, dickhead.” And with that, I made my way back into the city.

“Dubai… is that in Africa?”

My plane touched down in Africa just as the dirty orange sun was slinginging itself over the nearby skyscrapers, and proceeded to battle jetlag as I battled the crowds onto the train that would take me into the heart of the city. As it sped through modern buildings and past beautifully-manicured gold courses, I couldn’t help thinking that this place doesn’t look like the Africa I expected.

Can’t be Africa, no one’s playing basketball

After getting off the train, I was even more confused. Expensive cars were cruising along the streets, planes and helicopters were zipping through the sky, and I couldn’t really see any black people. Sure, there were plenty of blokes with good tans, but none of the Laurence Fishburne-types I’d seen in photos. Then it hit me; no famine, no disease, modern archicture – I wasn’t i Africa! I must’ve had one too many complimentary beers on the flight and gotten off at the wrong stop!

It’s a mosque-see site!

Never one to let something like that ruin my day, I swaggered up to a bloke sitting in the back of a banana truck and asked himself where I was.
“Hello my friend, I am Farooq,” he said in a thick, velvety accent. “How may I be of service?”
“Yeah mate, two questions. Can I get a beer, and where the fuck am I?”
“You are where you are meant to be, my friend,” he replied, whilst clearing away some bananas so I could sit down.
“That’s great, very philosphical, but which city specifically?”
“Dubai, my friend, and Farooq will give you a tour of the most wonderful sites.”

He’s the Arabic Ron Jeremy

Farooq looked as trustworthy as a brown snake and twice as slippery, so I wasn’t too keen on the idea of him leading me down some back alley to be murdered. But before I could say no he’d jumped out of the banana truck and grabbed my hand, squashed banana oozing between our entwined fingers.
“Where you want to go first, my friend?” Farroq asked, his face so close to mine that I could smell the stale tobacco and fresh banana on his breath. “Burj Khalifa? River tour? Maybe we get AK-47 to take down the infidel?”
I wrenched my hand from Farooq’s grasp and spun into the streets, envisioning an epic chase through downtown Dubai. Instead I turned back to see Farooq sitting on his arse after slipping on a banana. How poetic is that?

A couple of top blokes

Dubai is best known for its awe-inspiring skyscrapers, gigantic shopping centres, massive man-made islands and other tourist attractions, but I decided instead to head towards the city’s Old Town, to get a better feel for the history of the place. Scattered along the Dubai Creek, this part of the city has plenty to see and do and is a hive of activity. From mosques to museums and souqs to sewers, it’s certainly a more authentic Arabian experience.

Want a knock-off soccer shirt? Old Town is the place for you!

A highlight of my hike was a trip across the Creek in an abra, which is a traditional wooden ferry. For the massive price if one Dirham (about 36 Aussie cents) I got a great view of the bustling city. Being a tourist destination, there are plenty of little blokes trying to sell expensive river tours, but my advice is to save the money and hassle and just take an abra.

Water way to travel!

The food in Dubai is also worth noting, because it’s exceptional. The huge Indian and Filipino communties mean there’s no shortage of exotic (and cheap) food, and it’s everywhere. The streets are lined with curries and samosas, and I’ve been stuffing my face with all sorts of samosas and strange kebabs. The best thing is that walking about in Dubai’s extreme heat means that you can eat whatever you want and not put on any weight.

Delicious and healthy… but enough about me!

So far, Dubai has been completely different to anywhere I’ve ever been before. With sand everywhere it’s obvious I’m staying in a desert, but the ornate gardens are completely at odds with this. The ethnic mix is both strange and fascinating. The clash of old and new is jarring at times. Dubai sometimes feels fake and soulless, and at other times ancient and full of life. I’m planning to check out the other side of the city tomorrow, just as long as bloody Farooq doesn’t put a fatwah on me!

Shanghai scumbag – a Row Row rewind

Crapping your daks in public isn’t fun, but that’s what I did exactly five years ago. I was a 16-year-old girl, fresh off having my first period and ready to explore my bisexuality. Alright, that’s a lie, I was 29 and ready to explore China, and I wrote all this but never got around to actually posting it online. So let’s delve into my personal diary and see what I was up to way back when…

IMG_0701

There are few things more humbling than shitting your pants in public.

I was on a crappy old train, rattling through slums, half blind from food poisoning and stumbling through crowds of unfamiliar faces towards a filthy toilet, so I could chuck up another load of electric-orange bile. I stepped around one bloke, pushed passed another, and stopped in mid-step to squeeze out a little fart… and ended up with a river of liquid shit cascading down my leg.

And the best thing is, that was the day before I flew out to China.

Yeah, most people wait till they get to the exotic Asian country before they get food poisoning and start squirting from both ends like some sort of demented lawn sprinkler, but I’ve never been one to follow the well-worn path. I’m more likely to be swinging from a tree with my pants on my head or something (although, after the incident on the train, I won’t be plonking those pants on my bonce any time soon).

Thankfully, the effects of eating rancid sausages I’d picked up at a pub raffle were gawnski by the time my flight rolled around at 11am the next day, leaving me to enjoy the hospitality of China Eastern Airways without needing to wear a pair of adult nappies like some sort of perverted BabyMan.

The flight itself was painless enough. Being the only white person on board was good preparation for a trip to a country that isn’t known for its multiraciality, and the choice of in-flight entertainment was fantastic… as long as you like watching heavily-edited Leonardo DiCaprio movies and Chinese musicals so bad the People’s Republic probably use them to torture traitors. I was a little bit put off by the ancient woman behind me who seemed to be coughing herself to death, but when I realised she wasn’t going to hock up a lung anytime soon I was able to relax and settle in.

IMG_0547

Right, so Shanghai’s bloody huge. When the street lights first started burning through the pitch-black night below the plane I thought we were about to land, but then we kept on going and the lights went right on with us. Multi-lane freeways, industrial parks, houses, skyscrapers, unit blocks, it opened up beneath me like the embers of some world-ending fire. I’ve flown over huge cities like Bangkok, Los Angeles and Wyong, but nothing could prepare me for the size of this place. I now know how Tim Mathieson felt like the first time he saw Julia Gillard’s arse.

We landed without the wings falling off, I made it through customs without getting my cavities checked, changed some money, had a much-needed wee and navigated my way to the train station. With the previous day’s experience fresh on my mind I found a seat off by myself (not hard, ‘cos sweet fuck-all people were on there), and minutes later the little old rattler started clickety-clacking through Shanghai.

Only that’s not how it goes. See, China’s a proper first-world country, and first-world countries don’t have shitty trains that roll along at walking speed and break down if it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry or there’s a full moon. Y’know, how it is in Sydney. Shanghai’s Maglev train belts along at around 300km/h, and makes the 30km trip from the airport to somewhere near downtown in around seven minutes. Seven minutes – that’s how long it takes a Sydney train to get from Central Station to four metres past Central Station.

I jumped in a cab at the other end, and 15 minutes later I was swaggering into the Oriental Bund Hotel. And it wasn’t a bad place for a young bloke from Gosford to stay. A king bed, lounge, 42 inch plasma TV, bathroom big enough to fit the New Zealand womens rugby union team – that’ll do, pig, that’ll do.

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After a quick shower I was back out the door and on my way to sipping a cold beer on the banks of the Huangpo River. Or I would’ve been if I’d walked East, where I meant to, rather than North, which took me into the strange and scary back alleys of nighttime Shanghai. Without a map, a GPS, a compass, or any fucking idea whatsoever where I was or where I was going. I didn’t even leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

Ah well, at least the architecture was nice. Heaps of 1920s-style Gothic buildings that made me feel like I was in a Batman movie. Heaps of scary homeless Chinamen, too, who were probably licking their lips and imagining me served up with rice and a side dish of albatross vomit or something.

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After wandering past an endless number of traditional Chinese chain stores like Starbucks and McDonald’s, I finally stumbled upon Shanghai’s famous Naning Road, renowned for it’s world class shopping. Perhaps during the day, but at night it’s better known for women (and blokes) offering sexy massages with the option of mouth-sex. Now, I’m used to women throwing themselves at me, but after the 27th offer in 27 seconds I started getting the feeling they weren’t being totally honest with me, and that maybe they were offering prostitution. So, as tempting as a quick, AIDS-encrusted shag with a street-walking, drug-addicted Oriental bint was, I said no, continued my walk and finally hit the river. And what a river! It was wet! And riverish! And there!

Of course, the main visual attraction is the truckload of futuristic buildings over the side of the water in Pudong, which are covered in flashing lights and look really cool, like giant Christmas trees. Sadly, I’d spent so long wandering the back alleys that I was too late for the light show, so the only thing I got to enjoy was another 11 people asking me if I wanted a sexy massage.

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Still unfed, I started making my way towards where I thought my hotel was, hoping to find some sorta kooky Shanghai street food on the way, if only to relive my brief-but-torrid love affair with food poisoning. I didn’t find any food, I barely found the hotel after an hour, and I wound up my first night in the exotic Far East with an exotic meal of Pizza Shapes.

Oh, and a sexy massage. But I didn’t charge myself for that one.

Escape From Tokyo

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There was a loud knock outside my capsule, and when I poked my head out I almost headbutted a policeman. He was crouched down in front of where I’d been sleeping, thrusting his Tokyo Police badge in my face. Behind him stood two other men, dressed in suits, arms crossed, stern looks across their faces. It was not the best way to wake up on my final day in Japan.

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Three days had passed since my friends were arrested for assaulting a Nigerian conman, and I’d spent that time exploring Yokosuka and traipsing around Mount Fuji’s suicide forest. As interesting as those places were the fate of the two Aussie backpackers I’d met on my first night in Tokyo was never far from my mind. I’d been reading up on Japanese prisons, and the reality of incarceration is shocking. For starters, simply being arrested leads to a mandatory three-day evaluation period. It doesn’t matter if you’re innocent, if the cops take you in, you won’t be seeing daylight for 72 hours. In reality, however, this three-day period is almost always extended to 23 days, which is how long the police can detain a suspect for without charge. If I hadn’t gone for that burger, and had been taken in when my new-found friends had been arrested, I would have almost certainly been kept in for the full 23 days, even though I’d done nothing wrong.

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The 23 days are supposedly used for investigating the case, and the police must be bloody good at their job, because they have a 99% conviction rate. In Japan, the police can’t be seen to make mistakes, so pretty much everyone who is arrested is found guilty. To achieve this, cruel mental torture is used to attain confessions. Inmates are kept awake for days at a time, screamed at, mentally abused, and shaken like Mount Druitt babies. Basically, any abuse that doesn’t leave physical scars is used. Westerners are only allowed to speak when a translator is around (you guessed it, they’re never around), the menu consists of one handful of plain rice a day, and the sleeping arrangements involve a rug on the floor and some sawdust for a pillow. It would be a horrendous situation to find yourself in.

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While Japanese prisons are almost completely devoid of bashings, shankings, murders and inmate-on-inmate bum sex (that last one might be a negative or a positive, depending on your outlook on life), the conditions are more like a concentration camp than a western prison. No contact with the outside world is allowed, and officials from foreign embassies find it hard to even visit. Through the entire investigation, the prisoner remains guilty until proven innocent (yeah right, like that’s gonna happen!).

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And things don’t get better at the end of the 23 days. After being found guilty, foreigners are sent to an immigration processing centre until all the necessary details have been sorted out and fines paid. This usually takes another four to eight weeks. Before finally being deported, most westerners lose between 15 and 20kg. With the way I’ve been going at touch footy lately, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but I get the feeling that foreign inmates in Japanese prison lose a lot more than a few kilograms. I didn’t know those boys very well, but they seemed like fun-loving, free-spirited dudes. I’m not sure they’ll be the same people when they get out. The Japanese penal system is designed to break people.

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I crawled out of my capsule wearing only my undies, while three cops looked me up and down. Around us, businessmen and hungover travellers stopped and stared at me, perhaps wondering whether they were witnessing my last moments as a free man. My mind raced and spun; I was pretty sure that the police were here to ask about Jimmy and Joey, but I wasn’t certain. Maybe they were here to arrest me for something I’d done while drunk, or had me confused with someone else? After what I’d read, I knew that even if they just wanted to take me to the station, I was in for a bad time and probably wouldn’t be going home that night. The three men spoke in Japanese and then the one in the middle, obviously the interpreter, spoke to me in English.

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After confirming my name and details, they started asking about the events of that evening. While the interpreter was pleasant, and the cops weren’t intimidating, I was under no illusions that it was anything other than an interrogation. They asked the same questions over and over again – which bars did we go to, what were we drinking, who did we meet – and I found it difficult to answer because I barely remembered a thing about the night because I was so smashed. They seemed surprised that I hadn’t been there to witness the fight. Maybe that fact was the only reason they didn’t arrest me on the spot, I don’t know.

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I was doing everything I could to answer their questions, but they kept asking me about Jimmy’s wallet. I told them I knew nothing about it, but it was a topic that kept coming up. After a while, I found out the reason; apparently Jimmy’s wallet had gone missing, and it had been found in my locker at reception. Of course I knew nothing about it, and to this day I’m not sure if they’d made that up to give them a reason to arrest me if they felt like it, or if it had simply been a misunderstanding downstairs. Either way, that could’ve so easily led to me being locked up.

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When they had everything they needed, the cops took a photo of my passport and then took a number of photos of me. They now had the means to prevent me from leaving the country, but I feel that their reasons for photographing me were more sinister. I get the impression that they probably took the photos of me back to Jimmy and Joey and lied about what I’d said, in order to get them to confess. Whatever the story, I was happy when the police left. I spent the rest of the day just killing the hours until my flight back home at midnight. I couldn’t enjoy the day at all, because I was still worried that I might be stopped at customs, and felt bad knowing that those boys were going through hell. Even a visit to the world’s smallest Godzilla barely put a smile on my face. Bloody hell, the real Godzilla is 50m tall and this bastard’s the size of a moderately-sized dwarf.

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I did make it through customs and I did make it home, but the experience gave me plenty to think about. I put myself in a stupid position by getting so drunk in a country with an aggressive police force who rely on WW2-era interrogation methods to abuse foreigners who flout the law. My life as I know it went very close to ending and, while I did nothing wrong, it was my poor decisions that placed me in that position. Being Drunk and Jobless is fantastic, but maybe it’s time for me to stop being Completely Fuckin’ Shitfaced and Jobless when travelling through countries that are looking for excuses to use and abuse me for three or so months. But now, reliving these events has me fanging for a beer. And that, my friends, was my trip to Bali, South Korea and Japan.

I was one hamburger away from spending three months in a Japanese prison

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I loved my time in Japan, and had heaps of unreal experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It’s a strange country full of strange people who do even stranger things, but it’s also an exciting land that must be explored. There are mountains and beaches and temples and cities that spread out forever. But as interesting as Japan is, after three weeks in The Land of the Rising Sun, I wanted to head back to Australia. However, I went very, very close to not being able to do that. I was one drunken decision away from spending months in a brutal Japanese prison. I’m writing this from my balcony in Australia, safe and free, but the other people in this story aren’t so lucky. I sometimes exaggerate in order to create a better story, but everything you’ll read here is 100 per cent true.

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It all started as I was walking back to my capsule after spending a half an hour in a communal bath with a dozen middle-aged Japanese businessmen. I know, it’s a cliche way to begin a story, but it’s the truth. I was climbing back into my coffin after a long day of exploring Tokyo when a young bloke poked his head out of the next capsule and gave me a cheeky smile. His mate poked his head out of a capsule opposite us. It was like something out of The Brady Bunch.
“How the fuck are ya, mate?” one of them asked. It was the first Australian accent I’d heard in a month. Ten minutes later, me, Jimmy and Joey were out on the street, drinking Chu-Hais in Shinjuku, while businessmen and people dressed as robots streamed past us.

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The wild start of the night was an indication of to come. We won stuffed toys from grabby machines, struck out at a baseball batting range, and rampaged through 7-Elevens and Family Marts to buy Chu-Hai, beer, and meat on sticks. Outside one of the stores, Jimmy found the hat he’d been wearing three nights earlier when he’d been picked up by police. It was crusted in vomit. He dusted it off and popped it on his head. We had another Chu-Hai.

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Showing poorer judgement than any of my ex-girlfriends, I followed the boys into a backstreet strip club. We barely made it out alive, after the titty bar turned out to be a cockroach-infested apartment full of huge black men who wanted to rob us. We stumbled through restaurants staffed by robots, danced with homeless men in poorly-lit parks, and tried to pick up beautiful Japanese women with our slurred Australian accents. After weeks alone, it was good to be with people who knew how to have a good time. It was good to be with friends, even if I’d just met them.

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We ended up at a karaoke bar in the notorious Golden Gai district, a clutch of narrow alleyways full of bars and nightclubs. I can only remember snatches of what happened in there – I sang with Tokyo businessmen, bought shots, tried to pick up women. One of my new best friends – either Jimmy or Joey, who knows? – passed out in the street outside. More drinks were poured, more songs were sang, time slid past, songs were sang, drinks were sang, poured, passed out in the songs, drinks. The world spun around me. I was happy to be alive, happy to be in Japan, happy to be going home in a few days. I wanted to go paragliding and sit on the beach. I wanted to kiss that pretty German girl in the corner, and did. I wanted another shot. I wanted another shot after that. Jimmy (or Joey) was tongue-deep in a French girl. I fell and knocked over a tableful of glasses, pulled some Yen out of my pocket and thrust it at the owners. Everything slipped away into a blur of neon and bad singing. I needed a burger, so I fell out the door, telling Jimmy (or Joey, or both) that I would be back.

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I don’t remember buying the burger. I don’t remember if I stopped to talk to people, or to piss in a doorway, or to play pachinko. I just know that I got that burger from some God-awful convenience store and carried it back to the bar, ready to down more shots and drape myself over more best friends. But when I got back to the bar, it was surrounded by 40 police officers and hundreds of onlookers. Jimmy and Joey were struggling in the middle of a sea of blue. They looked up and called for me. I’ll never forget the look of terror and confusion in their eyes. When I saw them, I dropped the burger. I was immediately sober. Well, as sober as I could after 12 hours of drinking.

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Stupidly, I tried to get near them, but was pushed back by a cop. The boys were yelling out for me to help them, asking what was happening. I was helpless, and so I told them to go with the police and that everything would be alright. I thought it would be, I really did. But I was wrong. They were bundled into one of a dozen cop cars and taken away. I could only watch. I bought another Chu-Hai and drank it while the crowd dispersed and the dark sky started bleeding red.

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A Canadian guy told me what had happened. One, or both, of the boys had hit one of the Nigerian hawkers who plague the Shinjuku area. He knew nothing more than that, but told me that they’d probably be locked up for a few weeks, or a few months. I told him he was talking shit, and took another swig of my drink. I didn’t realise that they wouldn’t be back at the hotel the next morning. I certainly didn’t realise how close I’d gone to having the life that I know taken away from me forever.
“You were with them?” asked the Canadian. “Shit, you’re lucky you weren’t arrested, too. The cops here aren’t exactly careful when it comes to arresting gaijins.”
If I hadn’t gone for that burger, and had instead stayed at the bar, I would’ve been arrested, even if I hadn’t done anything. Guilt by association is a real thing in Japan. I wandered the streets for a while and then passed out in my cubicle. It was small, but at least it wasn’t prison. I thought it was the end of the story, but it was only the beginning. Things were about to get much, much worse.

To be continued…