Monday, 23 December 2013

Snakes on a Plate

01/28/2012 - My eyes shot open from the nap I thought would become a coma. Disoriented, with no concept of time, I only knew the sun had gone down. Squinting and working to hold myself up, I slowly felt my way down the bright, vacant corridor. I made it to the door on the end, on the other side, an exuberant mob laced with liquor. Oddly being on the sober side of the crowd, I found myself a computer and contemplated dinner.
Snake Liver & Skin Stir-fry
             Through the foggy emptiness in my head, I heard a voice calling my name. I vaguely heard the Hanoi Backpackers Hostels announcement for the snake village tour, which would take care of dinner and my urge to devour some reptilian flesh. Two birds stoned at once.  Having some prep time for the night ahead, I grabbed a couple beers to begin priming my stomach.
Snakes Bones & Spices
             The nine of us pile into a van and flew down the streets of Hanoi. Suddenly he relaxes on the gas through some seedy roads passing sign after sign advertising a ‘tasting menu’ of snake.  Coming to a jarring halt, I assume we have arrived and not the only ones drinking. Greeted by the manager, she showed us to the holding facility of these fascinating, yet surprising delicious reptiles. As we approached, the handler lost his hand in a burlap sack to reveal two, three foot long ‘house’ snakes. Not sure of the actual species, I thought of it as a house wine. The other option on the more visual list was the daunting spitting cobra. It has a subtle hint of venom. Watching the handler antagonize the cobra into strike position, which led to squealing, I was holding a house snake as it glided up my arm and around my shoulders. I love snakes, but not wanting any nibbling on my ear I had it removed as we were shown to our intimate dining area. A low, long table ringed with cushions, in a dimly lit open pavilion encompassed by ponds and garden.
             Three house snakes were on offer (any more was just a little extra, and cobras about 10 dollars), for our warm fresh hors d’oeuvres. I had my hand up before our guide finished talking claiming one. Only two others decided to join in on the fun. The snake handler remaining almost completely in the shadows brought with him a burlap sack and a tray with two glasses of rice whiskey. Jumping up to take that first bite, this is what I came for! Pulling my victim out of the sack, he directed me to the whereabouts of the necessary incision and handed over the blade. Shocked that I got to do the knife work, without hesitation I put blade to flesh. While draining the some blood into the rice whiskey, he pulled the still beating heart from its resting place exposing it to all the elements. Getting the go ahead, I went for it, embracing my animalistic side, I placed my teeth around it and ripped it out. Still beating on my tongue, for a few seconds, I could feel blood running down my chin and adrenaline pumping through my veins. Swallowing it whole, I chased it with some bloody rice whiskey. In some sense it was like an oyster, open it up, eat the sweet, fresh morsel of flesh chased with its natural liquor. The stomach was sliced open next to drain the bile into the second glass of rice whiskey. The blood was apparently a male aphrodisiac, and the bile, female.
                After the opening festivities to our six course meal, cushions were taken and snakes blood shots were poured. Watching most hesitantly drink, I slammed mine back, personally thinking the blood made the rice whiskey taste better. I was more concerned about the bile, everyone knows it tastes horrid coming up. It was stirred, turning the whiskey a murky grey. To say the least it was memorable. It was bitter, pungent and choked down by all. As the shot glasses were thrown down, so was our first course, and the rules explained. As each course is presented to us, before a chopstick touches the plate another shot must be absorbed. Down the hatch, I just wanted to dive in. Snake meatballs were first, followed by springrolls. There was no distinguishable flavour telling me this was snake, but none the less bite-size crispy, deep-fried delights. Two more shots, two more dishes, and a little more my style. Liver and skin stir-fry and a plate of what was described as the bones crushed up with spices and dried chilies. Served with a rice cracker, it was similar to an Egyptian or Middle Eastern dukkah. Large plates of rice topped with the bone mixture were dropped next, which worked out well soaking up some of the rice whiskey. To finish off the meal, the grand finale was plates of snake ribs. A part I never put much thought into thinking they had. It was a miniscule amount of meat, but with a sticky glaze, finger licking!
                Walking away from a meal of many firsts, with a sense of accomplishment, striking off another edible adventure with quite the buzz, I felt I was missing something. My last night in Hanoi, I returned to the village of snakes and finished my quest by eating the heart of a cobra. As they pulled the teeth out to prevent it from spitting at me, I went for it...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Hanoi - A week I'll never forget, if I could only remember.

01/24/2012 – “Hold on sir.” As the customs official looks curiously at my passport and waves over some more suits. Oh shit, I’ve been red flagged. They’re talking and pointing at me, now they’re walking this way. I can see the door, should I run for it.
                Okay, so really my passport was just damaged. They were deciding on whether or not it was fit for travel and if I should be allowed entrance into Vietnam. He steps back in his booth, stamps and I’m in! As I’m waiting for my bag, my name is announced to report to the luggage desk. I thought they changed their minds, I advanced with caution. Expecting to be shown to departures, I received better news, not to say good though. My bag apparently didn’t make the plane change in Bangkok. I could deal with this, so I gave them a description. If it was found they would deliver it to my hotel. Here’s the catch, for that to work out, you need to know where you’re going! I took their number and left, just wanted to get outside.
                Second guessing wanting to be outside, it was much colder in Hanoi than I expected. I thought Vietnam, South-East Asia = sandals, sunburns. I was wrong indeed, it wasn’t Canadian winter cold by any means, but it was far from warm. Sharing a cab with someone I met on the plane into the Old Quarter (backpacker district), they had a bed booked at the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel. Turns out extra beds were available and for less than ten dollars a day, I think so. They even called the airport for me, to more easily communicate.
                Arriving on the second day of Tet (Vietnamese New Year), I had no idea of its significance. One of the few public holidays, just about everything was closed, other than a handful of restaurants, bars and shops. Not quite sure of my course of action, I bunkered down for a couple days awaiting the reunion with my belongings. A few of us walked the streets, eating, drinking, eating and drinking, a complete debauchery of the senses. Beer was or par with the cost of water, they make my decisions for me, and a bowl of pho was about the same.
                “Hey, are you Jason Mullin?”
                “Umm, yeah, I think so.” As I barely opened my eyes.
                “We leave in ten minutes for Halong Bay, are you coming?” It was an employee rounding up all the slackers. I managed to roll out of bed, pack my stuff which was returned late my second day when I booked this overnight ‘cruise’. While brushing the polluted taste out of my mouth, I realized my chin was caked in blood. Washing it off, vague memories flooded my foggy brain of being convinced, which most likely was not difficult, to do the worm. Of course I went for it, only to split my chin open on the floor. Not having much feeling and a reasonably successful worm, I think, other than the chin spitting, I just held a napkin to it and continued on. I saw the wound and had an angel/devil experience. One telling me I should probably get stitches, then thankfully he was silenced and I was reminded I forgot travel insurance and had a bus to catch.
                Four hours of what I have to consider sleep on a stool in the aisle of the bus is all I get. Another day, another drink! According to rumor, it’s about to begin again when we board the junk boat, drunk overindulgence.
                Out on open water, maneuvering through the thousands of limestone islands and junk boats, I walked around the boat mystified by the haze that hung over the bay all day. Once being shown our cabins, most of us grabbed a couple roadies for the kayak, and from this moment on the buffalo rule was in effect. Paddling into a tunnel taking us through one of the monoliths, we stopped to explore a small grotto, whose mouth opened just above the turquoise water. Finishing at a fishing village, we got a ride back to our boat and dinner was ready. While we ate another boat crept up and was tied to ours. Not that everyone wasn’t well on their way, it was time to load up and jump ship. Double fisting, I split a bottle of rum with a couple others and a forty person game of Kings ensued. The night got blurry quickly, and then I heard the mass wake-up call at 7:30. Running off last night’s fumes, I drank my way through breakfast to keep me going until the bus back to Hanoi, where I could slip into unconsciousness.
                Back in the Old Quarter, dreading the moment the bus stopped, I felt and I’m sure looked no better than a grotesque pile of gauno, but I wasn’t alone.  Staggering to the hostel desk, I booked another tour for the following day going to Tam Coc, which was a couple hour boat ride through more limestone caves, then headed for an enormous bowl of pho ga. A Vietnamese noodle soup with chicken (pho bo – beef). Every time I play with the condiments, to find the perfect balance of spice, salt, sweet and sour, that would be debated by the whole country. While walking back, planning a night of recovery, I was intercepted by a friend I met and learned of their departure the next day. This only meant one thing, cheap Hanoi vodka from the street to kick back into high gear.
                Keeping it tamer than previous nights, I managed to get my befouled self up for a much needed but undesired breakfast, before pushing through the day. Getting back in the early evening, I finally justified some time for a nap. Surprisingly rejuvenated when I awoke, I was also starving. Deciding what’s for dinner, the snake village tour was being announced. This is a whole other story, but to say the least, it was a hooch filled dinner party.
                It was my sixth day in Hanoi now and before I kept drinking myself in circles, I bought a sleeper train ticket south for the following night. Keeping in touch with a friend I had met on my jungle trek a couple weeks prior, he had close relations to the Vietnam Friendship Village. Eagerly, I accepted his offer to see their welcoming doors. The Vietnam Friendship Village provides medical care, physical therapy and education to the young and elderly with a range of illnesses. Run by volunteers, their dedication is unparalleled. Due to the holiday most of the residents went home to be with their families, but we were shown some of the rooms where they stayed and learned. The playground they tried so hard to maintain and the very necessary football field (real football, European football). What amazed me the most was the garden and the small farm, making the community as self sustaining as possible.
                The following day was one of the staff’s only real days off where a sort of pilgrimage took place. Taking us with them, we hiked up at least two thousand irregular steps to a striking monument, proudly overlooking the surrounding stunning countryside. Afterwards we joined them for a bountiful family style feast. Being a guest, they graciously served me, refilling my bowl constantly. It was difficult to get explanations of the dishes we ate, but one described to me as a small seabird, was roasted and glazed. Amongst many toasts of vodka and beer a head was offered up to me, I think as a joke, thinking I wouldn’t eat it as they chuckled. About the size of a timbit, one bite, beak, bones and brains, down the hatch. The skull cracked open to a savory explosion as the brain burst. Do you remember gushers? Same idea.
Buddha's hand at the market
                After an unforgettable meal and experience with the Vietnam Friendship Village, I was driven back to the Old Quarter hoping I would return again. Sitting around the hostel, getting ready for the train, I was asked if I would make up the final person for the snake tour. Well I had a train to catch at 10:00pm, and the tour returned around 9:30. Sure, why not, cutting it close but that snake was good!
                Managing to get on the train with a bit of a sideways shuffle and some rice whiskey I took to-go, I had a few more to Hanoi and woke up in Hue.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Back to School

‘Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I'm not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don't get in a fight.’ – Adam Sandler, Billy Madison

Day 1 01/2012 – It’s eight in the morning and the urge to stay beside my ‘not so’ porcelain throne is looking better each minute, after some dicey Indian food two nights before. I’m supposed to get picked up by the shuttle to go to the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. I hear the honk so I grab my bag, pop a couple Imodium and duck walked out the door. I going to have to sneak some tapioca starch! I managed to make it through the meet and greet and the drive out to the cooking studio on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. 
                The first demo began with an introduction to some Thai ingredients, talking about kaffir lime, lemongrass, chilies, ginza(galangal), coconut milk and cream. The dishes we made were for the most part recognizable to the average westerner. This took me back to culinary school, sitting in a demo theater, watching, listening and taking notes. He started with Tom Yum Goong(hot and sour prawn soup) and Thai fish cakes. A traditional pad thai and a green curry with chicken finished up the lunch menu. For the green curry and all the curries we made over the following couple days, coconut cream would be reduced until the oil separated. This would be used to fry the curry paste and start the magic. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really stomach a whole lot, although I forced some of everything down and glad I did, if only my body agreed. After lunch, we made a minced chicken salad and water chestnuts with coconut milk and crushed ice for dessert.
                Once I was dropped at my hostel, I had a cleansing shower and walked to a vegetarian restaurant, where I laid dormant for the remainder of the day in the hippie loft drinking countless banana and mango lassis.
                Day 2 – Off to a better start, the chill time last night must have helped. Not having eaten much in a couple days, I was hungry, very HUNGRY! Opening the day with an introduction to making fresh authentic curry pastes, I was exposed to a couple new ingredients. I had never before seen Thai cardamom or fresh mace. Getting my own granite mortar and pestle, being brought in back time with this ancient piece of equipment, I began to gently pound and grind the spices and chilies until my Panang curry paste was created. Waiting for everyone to finish their paste, I was chomping at the bit to get lunch started.
                The first of the four was a Panang curry made from the fresh paste we had just produced. It had a balanced heat and intense spice flavour. Next was fried fish with a simple chili and basil sauce. This was followed by a regional curry, surprisingly enough called Chiang Mai curry with chicken and a basic sweet and sour vegetable stir-fry, done extremely well. This was quite the personal buffet, and I was about to feast, bib and all!
                After lunch and a much needed lounge break, we made a spicy glass noodle salad, and for dessert, the best rice pudding that ever entered my mouth. Black sticky rice pudding with fresh coconut cream on top, simply divine. My knees buckled, as I plopped down to savor every mouthful.
           Stuffed and feeling like getting a little sauced, a couple people who were in the cooking class and I decide on a night of bar hopping. After numerous Changs, sitting outside of a tattoo shop, a cart stops in front of us brimming with little fried critters. Of course I want some, I didn’t just get over food poisoning or anything, might as well chow down on some crunchy insects. After sampling a few we decided on a plate of crickets with fried kaffir lime leave.
               Day 3 – Due to the budget of a backpacker (or lack thereof), this was my last day. It began with a trip to a local market. It was so helpful to have a guide for once, to finally explain and answer my countless questions. We were shown the process of how fresh coconut cream was made, buckets of blood curd, squirming fish and bags of frogs. I became mesmerized by the smorgasbord of pig, while I watched a woman debone a hind leg. I caught up with our guide to check out banana flower for the first time. This was a ‘kid in a candy store’ experience, a little paradise inside a paradise. I could lose hours in here with a thousand questions.
                After my eyes had a feast, I was ready to cook some lunch. Starting with chicken in coconut milk soup, it was my new go-to feeling ill chicken soup. Instead of removing the lemon grass and kaffir, they were left in as an inedible garnish.  Red curry with fish and a mushroom stir-fry finished off our lunch. Getting to make one of my favorite salads authentically using a mortar and pestle, papaya salad, and a steamed banana and coconut cake had me on cloud nine.
                Receiving an apron, cookbook and my last ride back into the city, I sat reflecting on the last three days at how much I was taking home from this experience. Not that I would take this advice since I eat just about anything, but stay away from questionable food before hand to get the absolute most of the class, and go experience the fresh intensity of Thai cuisine.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Into the Mist

Day 1, 01/2012 – Hanging off the back of a rust bucket as it hauls our group of seven through rural northern Thailand towards Doi Inthanon National Park. I was up too late and too early for the noises and scrambled egg like feeling inside my head from being bounced around these ‘oh so smooth’ roads. Inhaling some much needed H2O, trying to gather my thoughts I knew I wanted to enter the misty haze that submerged the jungle, where weakness is not tolerated.
                Making a pit stop at a small town market to pick up some last minute supplies, I needed breakfast of some sort and a flashlight. It comes in really helpful when trying to use a squatter at night. As I curiously browsed through most of the market, I came across a man frying chicken legs and thighs in a huge wok of oil. I wanted a set of those around my lips now. So juicy, and crisp. Grabbing a few bananas and snacks, we were herded up like sheep back into the truck to ascend into the hills.
                About another thirty minutes of being inside of a pinball machine, bouncing along the winding roads towards our drop point, and I could see them. The elephants, so prominent and peaceful. We pulled up to platforms built so we were easily able to board the carriages on the backs of the elephants. Being the odd man out, travelling solo, I got to ride on the neck of one of these mighty yet playful animals. Feeling every powerful step he took underneath me as we worked our way through the trees and river. I made sure to feed him sumptuous amounts of bananas and bamboo, as I to would expect from some random cruising on my shoulders.
                Leaving the elephants behind, I hoped another chance to work closer with them will present itself in the future. From here our own feet took over as we disappeared under the lush green canvas. Waters crashing in the distance, we must be close to the waterfall. A perfect time to wash the sweat off my back. I dropped my things and ran to the pond, my feet went in and my nipples could cut glass. This is definitely going to cool me down. Actually being able to walk under the waterfall, I had to go in. The force of nature knocked me on my face the first time I tried standing up under the heavy falling water. Realizing to brace myself it was like a refreshing massage, not as good as the cheap ones in the city though.
                The sun lit up the clouds makings the hills glow like fire as we made our last ascent for the night into a small village. We were shown the squatter, cooler of refreshments and our communal sleeping room. Everyone had a thin mat and mosquito netting, more than enough after getting into the cooler of Chang Beer by the fire.
                After watching the guide prepare some of dinner, I went for a short walk around the village to get a view of what life might be like there.  When I got back dinner was about to be served. What seemed like bottomless rice, family style bowls of green curry with chicken and a sweet and sour vegetable stir-fry were on the menu. Helping myself to a Chang, I grabbed a seat in anticipation. For the remainder of the night we enjoyed the company of new friends, divulging our lives at home by the fire until late.
Day 2 – I awoke to the sun dimly lighting the room and sound of rain on the roof. The shroud of mist stretching out over the hills was back, leaving a sense of mystery, yet comfort with me. While everyone was gathering themselves, tea was kept warm on the coals. As the rain fled, our goodbyes and thanks were given for the hospitality shown. Leaving through the village, we got a quick tour of the school and playground.Before getting back on the trail, we were introduced to an elderly couple. Nearly blind, the woman hulls rice daily with an ancient wooden machine, while her husband weaves the baskets she uses.
               Battling the mud, I listened to the guide's stories of his village and opium. Entranced by my surroundings, the two hour hike disappeared. My stomach says its lunch time, and I happen to agree. Soon we entered another quaint village built in a valley. We had a light lunch and watched half the village free a vehicle from the muddy grasp of the path. Leaving, we schlepped through fields, rice paddies and over streams, until we re-entered the endless maze of trees.
                I heard water flowing nearby. The path opened to a beautiful little oasis with two bamboo huts, a fire pit and a squat toilet, all beside a small waterfall. Getting to know our hut and relaxing for a couple of hours, dinner was made. Another infinite amount of rice, yellow curry with pork and a pumpkin and egg stir-fry.
                As the sun went down, the fire was lit and beers opened. Two local villagers from nearby joined, bringing with them ‘monkey games’, which are good drunken fun brain teasers, and a bottle of their homemade whiskey. They passed it around to the willing, since it’s rude to decline, I took a swig. If I said it was good I would be lying, but that didn’t stop me from happily accepting more. Slowly everyone retired, and I spent a couple hours trying to sleep but shivered instead. Due to the elevation and the water flowing thirty feet away, it made for an unexpected cold night. Giving up on sleep for the night, I manned the fire, keeping it low for tea in the morning. I sat in awe as I watched the sun rise over the glistening trees drenched from the mist that had returned yet again.
A harvested field of ginger.
                Day 3 – Everyone joined me by the fire around eight, and we had a light breakfast of toast, fruit and tea. Not too long after we were on our final descent out of the fortress of Doi Inthanon. We made one last stop at a farming village for a chance to get some local memorabilia and a bamboo raft ride to the road to Chiang Mai, just in time for the Sunday walking street market.
                I met an extraordinary group of people over these few days, sharing meals, drinks and each others company. Caught a glimpse of life in the villages and their connection with the misty hills I’ll never forget.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

My First 24 Hours in Bangkok and of Solo Travelling

11:00pm January 5, 2012 – Ugh, finally out of the airport. As I walk through the exit or entrance in my view, slightly disillusioned into the humid air, I wonder,” Is this real?”
                Then the swarm of taxi drivers closed in, yelling and pointing,” You need taxi, I take you,” and the honking of drivers who already have their prey sets in.
                Holy Shit, I`m actually in Bangkok!
                After escaping the hungry mob and taking a breath, I jumped in not a cab, but with someone who offered to drive me for 400 Baht. After working it down to 300, which is about 10 dollars, the roller coaster is off!  For the first bit I was lost out the window. Then snapping back to reality the driver asks,” So where I take you bro?”
                That shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, most people have something booked for when they arrive, right? I had no idea, so I ripped open my travel guide for a quick fix. Not having slept much, if at all in rounding 2 days now, I just needed to collapse. The notorious Khao San Road (the backpacker haven) will have to wait until my return in a few weeks. A cheap, quiet place is in desperate need. The Atlanta is what turned up from my panic search, 600 Baht a night, good enough! I do my best to pronounce the address and assuming it was a terrible attempt at their language, I passed him the book and pointed to the address.
                We got off the highway and started driving down some seedy looking roads, full of bars and hookers. I couldn’t wait to walk through it all. I found myself curious whether we were lost or if my driver had too much fun slapping my shoulder, pointing and laughing at ‘Lady Boys’. As much as I was enjoying the tour and interesting introduction to Bangkok, it was one in the morning and my hotel was around the next corner. Dead on my feet, I checked in and my bed found me before I found it.

6:00am – Noises of the city coming alive entered through my balcony. Without any idea of what to do so early, I listen to my instincts, in this case my stomach. I need fuel and the streets are calling my name. I head out to test my gastrointestinal tract on the local fare, in a ‘sure this way’ fashion. To say the least, I quickly become lost, but found as an intoxicating aroma encompassed me. At that point my schnoz did the walking, until stumbling upon a stall with meat hanging and a makeshift kitchen. Immediately grabbing a seat, a man came over and introduced himself as Sun. As we began talking, I almost forgot why I sat down in the first place. My stomach quickly reminding me, he noticed my eyes darting back and forth from him to the steaming pot of heaven that drew me in. I ask him if I could get a bowl of whatever was calling to me from that pot, and something else he recommended, since I had no idea what to order.
                When the bowl is placed in front of me, I take a moment to bask in all its glory. Excitement kicks in! Tripe is very apparent (in this case buffalo stomach, which I’ve never had the opportunity to try yet) and what looks like some other odd bits. While losing my virginity to tripe, I forgot Sun was bringing more, which turned out to be barbecued pork, sticky rice and a chili paste like condiment. About to attack this head on, I notice an icy mug on another table. There’s no better time than now to try some local brew, so I ask Sun if I could get one. “Oh, we don’t sell... but I go get for you!” as he jumped on a scooter and rode off into the concrete jungle.
                Not sure what to make of this, I turn my attention back to breakfast. A spoonful of chili goes into the soup, as I submerge some rice in the broth.  The pork gets slathered in the chili. What a way to introduce the palate to Southeast Asia. Thinking my first meal couldn’t get much better, Sun pulls up with beer in hand. Just in time to quench my growing thirst. He grabs me a mug full of ice, opens the bottle on the side of the table and pours the sweet nectar. Mutually curious about each others backgrounds, we continued to talk while I finish my breakfast. As he was clearing my almost licked clean plates, I asked if I would be able to get another beer and if he wanted to join, one for himself. This put the day on a direct path of beer and Sang Som, the local Thai rum.

                As I sat with Sun, savoring my sweating mug of Leo beer, taking in all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes, responsibility came to give me a quick slap. I remembered the one thing I needed to do was apply for my Vietnamese tourist visa, which unlike some countries can be received upon arrival. Also, I needed a bus ticket north in a couple days. Before the ability to make competent decisions picks up and leaves, I settle up with Sun, graciously thanking him for an unforgettable opening meal.
                While packing up to leave, I ask Sun for some brief direction to a travel agency. “Ah, T.A.T. (Tourism Authority of Thailand) not far, I take you there,” insisting. I couldn’t resist and I was dying to get on a scooter. For someone who never grew up with dirt bikes and less than a handful of motorcycle rides, I knew this was going to be a wild one. Explains why I was so anxious to buy the ticket! The short 15-20 minutes got my adrenaline flowing as we wove in between cars and people I could reach out and touch. While watching the organized chaos, just holding on to the seat underneath my ass to stay balanced, I realized how extremely unqualified I am to even attempt at navigating myself on one of these. Although, poor decisions do tend to be made.
                Slowing down to the curb, he points to the building, and tells me he’ll be back. Thanking him again, I walked inside. For the inexperienced backpacker, they helped me exponentially, answering all my questions. Providing me with pamphlets, ideas, a bus ticket with hotel pick-up and most importantly my tourist visa application was sent off after getting a quick set of photos taken. The process can take a little while, and turning over your passport is part of it. Hesitantly, I handed it over, after receiving a couple photocopies and determining my whereabouts in a few days time, so they could mail everything there.
11:00am – After spending around an hour getting myself organized, I entered the scorching street once more to actually find Sun there, waiting for me. He had done so much already I did not expect to see him. He asks if I would like to shoot pool. Of course I do, I felt better about getting inebriated now that it was at least closer to noon, and I had my ticket north with my passport meeting me there. On the way back, we took what seemed like shortcuts, through narrow alleys dodging people left and right. Suddenly entering the street again, we were back to the spot that had burned a place in my mind. Parking the scooter, we walked on down the road to the first bar on the left.
                Developing quite the glow after half a dozen pints and games of pool, some lunch was in order. Leaving with some travelers in hand, I tell Sun I’ll have whatever he’s having, keeps things simple. Some sort of fish that had been grilled and some rambutan were set in front of me. I immediately jumped on the rambutan, ripping the clothing off to its grape-like flesh. Tears welled in my eyes, it was indescribable.  Making sure I didn’t miss any sweet morsel of flesh, I watched and mimicked Sun as he tore at his fish. After comparing the carcasses, I didn’t do a bad job. As the plates went down so did the last of our beers. A sad thing indeed, this must be fixed.
2:30pm – Upon my return from what I grew to know as the ‘Happy room’, and grabbing another round for Sun and I, two of his friends sat down. With them, a bottle of Sang Som, which they kindly gave me a thorough introducing to. The remainder of the afternoon consisted of beer, Sang Som, cigarettes and blurred lines.
6:00pm ish – I noticed my eyes setting with the sun. Hoping to still be able to get up early, I decide to call it a night before things take a turn for the worse. The last thing I remember of my first 24 hours is stumbling to a cab and making a worse attempt at the address then the first time.