August 28, 2008

Nepal this in the bud

Posted by gornzilla

Getting my bike shipped from Australia to India didn't work out. I don't remember if I explained that on the blog. Too many countries involved (US, Canada, Australia, India). Do I buy the Indian version of a Vespa and stick with the Italian theme? I don't like riding on scooters but if I get one, I'll get used to them. Do I buy an Asian made motorcycle? Quick, light, reliable, good mileage and small. All of which I love. But of course, we all know I'm an idiot so I'll probably buy an Enfield. Large, heavy, mediocre fuel mileage, unreliable. That sounds like me (short, fat, unreliable and hard mileage).

I'm in Nepal now. Getting my Indian visa extended. It's very nice here and a vacation away from India (where I'm on vacation).

India is a punk house. Some of you will understand that but some won't so I'll explain. Houses where punk rock kids live (and that's the honest cliché of "kids of all ages") are poor, usually completely filthy shit-holes, but overall nice places. More than most places, they're very honest and you can spot the bad punks a mile away 99% of the time. Filthy but laid back and relaxing. That's India and punk houses. It's a nice place to live in your teens and early 20s, always a nice place to visit, and it's also nice to get away from.

I took Raju the 28-year-old bicycle rickshaw driver with me. I got drunk and invited him one night in India. It'll end up costing me about US$100, maybe $150 after paying for dancers for him, for two weeks. I thought about backing out but he's never left Varanasi except one short trip to Delhi and he was very excited.

Part of my trip was financed by DH, a guy who sent me money, so I like to think that he paid for my plane ticket to India and Raju's trip to Nepal. DH hadn't read what I've written but he sent me money to buy a small Italian bike for the Giro d'California ride. I didn't do that ride. Thanks, DH. Raju now calls me the Hindi word for "Big Brother".

Raju understands about 100 words of English. Mostly enough to talk to tourists. He tells them that his family is dead (which I think is true) and enough to take them places to earn a commission on sales of what they buy. That's the thing in tourist areas. Everyone lives off commission.. I know enough Hindi to count to 12 and say "thank you" and "how much money will this cost".

Varanasi is the center of the universe in Hindu religion. It's where almost all the gods live, and there's 330 million of them. There was a period where the gods moved out and Shiva, the main god, was at a spot near Kathmandu. There's a temple there called Pashupati Nath. It's the 2nd holiest spot in the Hindu religion. So that's why I brought Raju to Nepal. A short pilgrimage.

As an aside, Christians have a thing about polytheistic religions. They have no problem with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost being three gods yet one. In the Hindu religion, the 330 million gods are manifestations of the one main god, Shiva. Maybe Brad will post a comment expanding on that. Brad?

As a rickshaw driver, Raju has street smarts so I figured he'd be good to have around. I don't understand most customs of India and Nepal, as if anyone could, so he should be of help, right?

We spent two nights in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. That's the tourist center. It's where Westerners are constantly asked if they want drugs. Less than every 3 minutes during the day and less than every 30 seconds at night. I'm not exaggerating at all. I kept trying to count to 30 and rarely made it to 15 for the 200 meters where it's at it's worst. I had 3 drug dealers approach at once where they would've competed for price if I wanted drugs. Here's the basic conversation:

"Want marijuana?"


"Want heroin? Hashish?"


"Oh, so it's coke you want. I have that too".


"Sure. You say that now but don't worry, I'll be here all night so you can get your coke".

No really, I just drink and not even that much anymore.

"Yes, don't worry, I have your coke".

I was hanging out with Elke, a very cute girl from Belgium, and we took Raju to a dance club called Tequila Underground. It's the Nepal version of a strip club but girls and guys dance, not strip, on stage. The least amount that girls wear is nothing less than the full-on 1960s Annette Funnicelo surf movie bikini but it's often way more. Hollywood actresses at the Oscars usually wear less. Guys are fully dressed. Even when they're both on stage dancing together, it's less risque than "Dancing with the Stars".

Girls in India are very conservative. Most won't even kiss until after marriage. I wasn't thinking about dance clubs when I said I'd take him up here, but most of the Indian friends I have in Varanasi figured I was coming up here for dance clubs and hookers. I started thinking this way I could get Raju a hooker since he's poor and probably will never be married. I don't hang out with guys who go out to get laid so it was a surreal thing to do. I should've introduced him to some frat boys.This isn't Bangcock but there's still plenty of Westerners here for sex and drugs. I think Raju is still a virgin. Elke asked him if he's had sex he said of course, he has many foreign girlfriends. I still have my doubts.

I worked for an escort service for a while nearly 20 years ago. A girl I knew ran one and I helped out driving hookers to their dates then parking somewhere close to wait. Once it was over they'd page me (remember pagers?) and I'd show up and drive them back. The girls had good stories. "Man, that guy was over in 20 seconds" and "That was another guy who just wanted to talk about his life, so no sex involved" where some of my favorite comments. Many also had horror stories about being raped and molested growing up. Most of the hookers would spend their money on drugs. It was always, "I make so much money at this that I'll start saving tomorrow" but that rarely happened. It's a hard life being a stripper or a prostitute (and there's a lot of overlap in the two).

We showed up and the girls loved my moustache. It doesn't get as much attention in Nepal as it does in India but who doesn't love a handlebar moustache? I'm actually over mine. I'd like to cut it off but there's a Salvador Dali photo where he has his moustache up to his eyes with flowers that I'd like to replicate. Then out comes the shaver.


I'm not sure how dance bars here work. I know there can be prostitution involved but the girls want to sit next to you so you'll buy them fruit juice at US$4.25 each which is 2 or 3 months rent in the big city of Kathmandu. Here's some girls making fun of my moustache. One girl did her entire dance with a napkin moustache.



I've been to two strip clubs in the US. It's not my cup of tea. The first just to see what it was like. It was like working at the escort service. Guys are using the girls (she did this for money) and girls are using the guys (all I had to do was this for money). It's a 2 way street of disgust most of the time. I spent time talking to a girl about her job. She liked the break of not doing the ol' dry-humping-for-money which was good. She said she enjoyed her break with talking with me, but since I wasn't tipping she had a living to earn and went off to the VIP room. The other was a steak house and strip club in Portland called the Acropolis.

The owner has a ranch so steak there is good and inexpensive. I went with a friend and his girlfriend on his birthday. We sat in the back, and saw a stripper strip for the first time. She didn't take her top off during her first song, so the people near the stage left in obvious, almost pantomime, disgust which must've been horrible for her. Another stripper came up and told her she needed to actually strip. She took her top off during the 2nd song but still looked very uncomfortable. My friend's girlfriend tipped her heavily.

It didn't take long for me to want to leave the dance club. I was there to see what it was like, and to make sure Raju could find a hooker. After having 3 or 4 beers, Elke and I left. I'm glad she went since she was a blocker for me. Although it was probably that I wasn't buying juice that kept the girls away.

Pictures were allowed but I found out when I tried to take a short movie, that movies aren't allowed. My speaker is screwed up so I don't know if you can hear the owner telling me no movies. He was wearing a Sex Pistols shirt, too.

I gave Raju 1,000 Indian rupees. That's about $25 which is a lot of money in Nepal and India - it's about a years rent in Varanasi, India, and Raju sleeps in his rickshaw instead of renting a place. They take Indian rupees all over Kathmandu. I was told they hold their value better than Nepali rupees. We got about a block away and Raju came up behind me asking for another 1,000 rupees. I had to borrow it from Elke and we left figuring Raju would lose his virginity for sure. I told him that was all the money he was getting out of me for the rest of the trip but he was happy.


Back at the guest house, I hung out with Elke and Ewan. Ewans a Brit volunteering in Kathmandu. Elke left to get some sleep before her trek the next day and 90 seconds later, Raju showed up. He came back completely shit-faced drunk. He bought juices for "many many girls" and drank "many many whiskey" but had no sex. I gave the guy 2 years worth of rent for sex but it didn't happen.

He then kept pestering me to bring Elke into the room. I kept insisting that she was asleep and not to bother her. Elke said that when her sister was in India with her boyfriend, they met a guy who they trusted. He came to their hotel for a little drinking and socializing. After he had a few, he asked them to have sex in front of him so he could see what it was like. I wonder if that's what Raju wanted. Indians are very open and up front about death, but sex is a secret that begins when a couple holds hands (really). Raju kept asking Ewan and I to get Elke. We kept saying she was asleep. Raju finally passed out, started drooling, woke up, asked for the 20th time to bring Elke in, then finally passed out for real.

The next day, Raju and I moved to a guest house outside of Thamel. I like walking through Thamel, but I can't take it very long. The vendors aren't nearly as bad as India - trying to get you into their shops - but the non-stop drug dealers get old fast.

Last night Raju and I walked around and we met a tour guide that I'll call Ground Chuck (named after a guy in Sacramento who lives on disability insurance and used to have a speed problem although this comparison isn't fair to the actual Ground Chuck). Tour guides in India and Nepal are often street kids that learned enough English to seem helpful as they try to squeeze as much money from you as possible. Some from commission from taking you to shops. Some from sob stories about being an orphan or taking care of their disabled mother. Basic grifter stuff to lighten your wallet. They sniff a lot of glue but if they can get money from you they can move up to a better class of drugs. We went to a fancy pants restaurant and had some Nepali beers. On my bill, of course.

I told him up front that I have a few US and Kiwi junky friends and that he wasn't going to get any money from me. All he'd get was a beer or two.

I got him to explain to Raju that some of my friends in the US are the rickshaw drivers and tour guides of the Western World. I explained that I don't make much money and live very cheaply while I save up for going overseas but the scale of economies rarely translates. Westerner = Billionaire. Ground Chuck said he had been addicted to drugs but went to rehab. He wanted money to go back to his village to get an ID card so he could get a job. I asked what he'd been addicted to, expecting heroin, but he said ketamine. It caught me off guard and I laughed.

Special K, as ketamine is sometimes called in the US, is a cat tranquilizer. Some of us visited my friend Avel in Seattle and his roommates were taking it. You go into a k-hole where you turn grey like you're dead, while you just sit there completely vegged out. I'd heard about k-holes but hadn't seen it before and was pretty sure one of Avel's roommates was going to die since she was so grey. I asked her if I could sleep in her room so I could wake up next to a dead girl. She mumbled okay but oddly enough, when I woke up she was gone. She was pretty embarrassed and stayed away while we were there. She'd call up twice a day to see if we had left yet.

I didn't realize you could get addicted to it and I have my doubts. But anyway, Ground Chuck tried again for some money from me. I spent almost all my money I had at the bar. When I travel, I take two wallets with me. One is real which I keep hidden in my luggage. The other has an expired license, an expired credit card and a day's worth of money. I figure if I get mugged, the mugger leaves happy and I don't lose much. My days worth of money was mostly gone.

Of course the one time I've been mugged was in my hometown. I got knocked in the head with something heavy, left for dead, but I did pick up a nice case of epilepsy. They got no money, but I would've paid them to skip out on the head trauma.

Ground Chuck, Raju and I went to a street food vendor since Chuck needed some food. A skinny junky who drank 2 large bottles of beer on an empty stomach needs his food, you know. I spent the rest of my money buying a 65 rupee (90 cent) bottle of Scotch and got Chuck something to eat. Chuck tried to get me to buy food for his friends but I said I was out of money. Raju, showing his Indian street smarts, kept pulling out his wad of rupees telling me that he had plenty. I kept telling him to stop doing that but no luck.

Some tall drunk Nepali showed up and asked if I wanted marijuana. I said no and he told me, "fuck off bitch" and started talking to Raju. Raju speaks Hindi, not Nepali. The Nepali language is close to Hindi (think Italian vs Spanish) and they watch a lot of Bollywood so Nepalis understand Hindi but Hindi speakers don't understand much Nepali.

I told him that Raju didn't understand what he was saying but he said, "Listen fucker, all Nepalis don't want your fucking money so fuck off". I said, "Hey Mister Potty-mouth, we've all been drinking, so don't worry". It didn't help. Maybe because he didn't understand the sarcasm of being called "Mister Potty-mouth". Chuck was a few feet down next to a Japanese girl working his sob story for cash and sex and I told Raju we should split before things got ugly.

Nepalis can be pretty tough and Westerners tend to blow them off since most Nepalis are short. In my experience, it's never a fight, I just get my ass kicked. I didn't want to fight this guy. I don't know if Nepalis bluff but in the US we were about 2 minutes from when I would've had my ass kicked. I started thinking about my roommate Skipper. I saw him get close to a guy who was trying to fight him and he head-butted the guy to the nose off guard. With luck, you break the nose which should stop the fight. It got surprising that I was even thinking about that. I'm not going to get in a drunken fight overseas if I can help it. Besides, I'm short, so it wouldn't be as funny as watching a short Nepali kick a tall Westerner's ass.

He got distracted drunkenly yelling at some other guy and Raju and I left. Raju decided to go to a dance bar for sex. I say I have no money but he pulls out his wad of cash again. You'd figure a guy could import his Varanasi street smarts to Nepal, but no go. We find a dance bar and the girls go to me since I'm Western. I say it's my friend with the money not me. The girl next to me kept saying, "buy me juice" and I'd say, "I do not understand". She say, "Buy me juice". We had that conversation about ten times. I tell her my first wife was a stripper and I know it's a rough life but she doesn't understand English. She just knows a few phrases probably from rote memory.

[I've only been married once actually and that's the current marriage. A friend of mine married me to pay for my health care while I travel. She has an actual fiancé but they're waiting for me to finish my trip before they get married. They're not in a hurry. The marriage to the girl who later became a stripper wasn't legal. Click here to read the story if you'd like.]

It seems like Raju is going to have sex so I leave. The owner stops me and says Raju doesn't have enough money. I have a couple hidden Indian 500 rupee bills. Shops aren't legally allowed to take Indian 500 or 1000 rupee bills. Of course he has no problem and presents me with an inflated bill that the 500 rupee bill just covers.


The streets in Nepal shut down around 9pm and it's 11pm so I immediately get lost. Most of the lights are off, shops have the front gates pulled down, so my references are mostly gone. I head roughly in the right direction and after about 30 minutes on what should be about a 15 minute walk, I found some soldiers. I asked for directions and they point me in the direction I came from, so that doesn't help. The streets were mostly empty except for packs of dogs. They bark and follow me. I whistle which for some reason stops them. That happens about every 100 yards with a new dog pack.

Some guy walked behind me for a few minutes. Most Westerners have an imaginary personal boundary. Usually we stay about an arms length away from people. Indians need to touch the stranger in front of them in line or someone will crowd in. At lonely streets at night in the US, even a 100 yards is often too close. This guy was about 5 feet behind me.

In the US that's a neon sign flashing "DANGER!!!" but I ignored that and asked for directions. He had parked his motorcycle in a guarded lot and was walking to his restaurant that he lived above. He gave me a cup of tea, introduced me to his family and we talked for a while. He lead me to the right street and it was about a 7 minute walk back to my guest house. Hopefully I can find his place again. I gave him a card for the guest house and asked him to call to give directions.

I go to the guest house restaurant hoping that it was open so I could get a beer to cap the night before sleeping, but no luck. That's to say, the kitchen is closed but the restaurant is open. There's a Basque man and an Italian man smoking hash and they invite me over. We talk politics which I try to avoid. I'm open about saying I'm from California so that happens a lot. Many American tourists pass themselves off as Canadians since we're not popular in most of the world. The Germans have it the worst, what with the Nazis and all, but sadly the US is second and we're working double-time to catch up. Having a president who's open about torturing prisoners and who declared the Geneva Convention as outdated, plus an economy that's seen as 90% selling weapons and 10% Hollywood, doesn't help.

After a couple hours I go back to my room and Raju showed up. He said he arranged to have two Nepali prostitutes come over and cleared it with the guest house night watch guard. Like I said, every single conversation with Raju takes a while since there's not much common language. A conversation where most of it is "Nepali inside sex inside Nepali sex". Sometimes it takes a while for me to figure out what we're talking about or I just start laughing.

I was trying to figure out how to get out of this one. I don't want a hooker not even at the expensive price of US$7.14 or 500 Nepali rupees. And I really don't want to be in the same small room while Raju has sex. I figured I'd take my hooker to the restaurant and hope the hash smokers will still be there since she won't speak English and I'd have the smokers to talk to.

Raju figured out he'd been pick-pocketed by the hooker and her pimp. I think pimp - he's hard to understand. They took his rickshaw drivers license which will cost him (or probably me) 2,000 rupees when he gets back home. Maybe he was born to be a virgin.

Finally, I get a chance to sleep. Life can get pretty weird which is what makes it so enjoyable.

Oh yeah, artists have been doing a project of painting characters from Space Invaders. They're all around the world. I've been seeing them for the last 2 or 3 years. I saw this one on my way back from the dance bar where I got lost.


Posted at New Orleans Restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal. The guys at the table next to me are talking about drunk dialing when they're working in the South Pole.

Posted by gornzilla at August 28, 2008 03:29 AM

Ground Chuck? I remember him. Is he still alive? Do you remember running into him at the Ramones concert? I think your frined Erma was there.

Posted by: steve at August 28, 2008 06:55 AM

I like your description of yourself. Plus I thought you'd be smoking all kinds of hash as that's what you said you like. No common hippie weeds for you.
Oh yea, when you get back, bring Elke with you and some juice. Then I'll have the sex in American you.

Posted by: Skipper at August 28, 2008 12:13 PM

A mighty nice travelogue, sir!

Posted by: Mr. S Lyle Mar at August 28, 2008 10:59 PM

...but i don't hold to groveling to pretty women unless I'm running out of money...

Posted by: at August 28, 2008 11:23 PM

You've done it again. This is one classic read. I hope that you have time to get more observations down, but not so much that your note-taking doesn't get in the way of cool adventures.

Posted by: ed at August 30, 2008 09:15 PM

The original Ground Chuck is still alive and well. It's odd how he's one of the people that I've known the longest and still see. He draws art with chalk in midtown that I think some places pay for. He also sells painting of Nordic death metal musicians. Some guy almost took him out to Norway to see death metal bands but it didn't happen. That's part of the reason why I took Raju to Kathmandu. If it would only cost me US$150 to take Ground Chuck to Norway, I would.

Maybe it's the Irish in me that that I prefer drinking than drugs. I like hash better than weed (which I've smoked about 4 times in my life) but I'd rather have a Guinness than hash.

I've got the runs from eating water buffalo or homebrew rice beer. Ah, life is good.

Posted by: Davesmith at September 1, 2008 12:57 AM

Your story was a 2 parter for me. Awesome!!! I have a book about some anthropologist that stayed up in the mountains of Nepal for a year.It`s called under a lavender(maybe wrong color??) sky. She talks about how she makes homemade beer and dog called "the red bitch".Also how they smoked alot of ganja or something else.I`ll find it,dust it and mail it if ya want.Anyways, I moved to Nagoya sans Family for work.I will make a 2 week commute home for about a year.The 2nd most spoken language in Nagoya is portugese,amiga.Will send some moola your way..

Posted by: jay at September 1, 2008 02:32 AM