Anjuna Beach

Anjuna Beach

The Kathans from the south of Hampi come to Goa to sell the handmade trinkets and bangles molded by their families in the villages. These former adivasis have become over-pressuring tourist touts, selling any kind of drug one can imagine, providing the hippies and backpackers with infinite distraction.

The touts here speak German, English, Hebrew, Hindi, Tamil, French, Spanish and Portuguese. But they mostly know the bad words; what would be inappropriate in any other country has become modern parlance for the Goan locals. They shout them at tourists to alert them and make conversation, picking them up from foul mouthed backpackers. They timorously shout shit, fuck, shize, panpcha. baka na, merde, madar chod.

Goa collects the profanity of the traveler, hides it in sand, lets the ocean waves carry it into a bleak and forgettable ocean.

Afghani Chicken

Afghani Chicken

The women selling bangles on the beach join me for a chai; one tells me her husband has a daily ritual of going out and playing with his friends, leaving her to find employment and support him and her child. As she is confessing that she cooks and cleans, the girls all quiet down when an Indian man comes to survey them. He shouts something and almost all of them run away.

I wonder if they are just trying to sell me bangles. Later, as we bargain for a price, she uses her troubling anecdotes to close: If you buy at this price, my husband get angry, beat me beat me!

I think they are just trying to sell me their bangles.

Kingfish cooked Indian Style (I have no idea what that means)

Kingfish cooked Indian Style (I have no idea what that means)

The beach is inhabited by these touts, along with the aged expats, who sit near the ocean from morning to night, iniquitously trying any drug the touts recommend or suggest. They stare at the ocean waters, listening to loud house music, as if they are at a Pink Floyd light show. Many have been here for years, some for over a decade. They lie on the beach and do not move when the waves crash on top of them; it is all a part of their trip.

Hills near Vagora

Hills near Vagator

I am kept up all night at a bar by a martial arts teacher high on LSD, tearing apart little bits of napkins onto his leg. I see reckless Israeli’s running into the hills, crazed out on ecstasy, tripping on every stump, never realizing how bruised and bleeding their bodies have become. After I tell a Scottish guy to be careful of the coconuts, that if one hits him on its way down there will be nothing but a convulsing carcass, he starts whacking at every palm tree he finds, trying to make them drop on his forehead. Because it would look cool.

“Cabron!” Someone shouts.


The sights from the train, welcoming me to Mumbai

The sights from the train, welcoming me to Mumbai

Scrubbing off layers of dirt can be addicting, once you start at it you simply find layers of aggregated dust formed upon every inch of skin, and if you are ever to finish such a fastidious project, you soon find that the patch of skin where you began has been coated with another layer of dust, waiting to be scrubbed.

Being in India makes any reasonably clean person feel like Sisyphus.

India Gate

India Gate

On the train to Mumbai, India’s CIA factbook statistics come alive, concretized in the masses of tenebrous shantytowns, prodigious slums and gated suburban housing. India contains 1/6 of the world’s population. Only 7-15% of that population works in formal employment. 70% is rural. At least 40 million have been displaced by big dams that generate little electricity and frequently fail to supply water to the villages that need it the most. These dams are almost uniformly funded by investment from western companies and the World Bank.

The sale of emergency contraceptives increases by 50% every month.

The Beach

The Beach

In Mumbai, 53% of the population lives in slums, but unlike Delhi, the casual traveler could venture throughout the city without ever having to face the real faces behind this harrowing statistic. The slums here are segregated into blocks mostly in central and northern Mumbai.

I visit Dhavari slums with a guide from an educational NGO. It is the largest slums in the world, sandwiched between two railways; it is the heart of Mumbai, as the shape of the slum from a birds-eye view appears in the shape of a heart.

Dhavari in Blue

Dhavari in Blue

Rent here ranges from $25 to $4 a month. At more than one million people per square mile, that adds up to some prime real estate. According to Mike Davis, the slums began when the French began erecting walls and sewer systems around the poorest areas of their colonies to keep sickness away, as germs had yet to be discovered.


Now Dhavari is a 21st Century stain, a heart-shaped hole in the Universe where mankind’s soul has been substituted for cheap leather, clay, plastic, tin, aluminum, and other raw materials that the toxic factories of Dhavarti produce. Here, the leather for Gucci bags are made for about sixty rupees apiece, just a bit more than one U.S. dollar.


The incredibly small, smoky stone-walled factories make the world of Charles Dickens look like a British tea party. The men here work hard for a few years, die of poisoning or lung cancer, and are replaced all too effortlessly from the convenient surplus population of 2.5 million slumdogs. The superfluous, supernumerary people who drop like lemmings.

This is called the informal sector.

Slums near the sewer

Slums near the sewer

The residences are even more appalling. By day, children play atop mountains of garbage, unzipping their pants and excreting whenever and wherever nature chooses to call. At night, these same streets are a malaise of moving death, invaded by hoards of gigantic rats at the bottom, while at eye level the smoke from the lit cotton of the pottery kilns blind the residents in thick black clouds.


To walk through Dhavari is to recall the story of the three little pigs, as you pass small houses with the smell of animal feces, each built of straw, tin or brick.

And the big bad wolf comes in many guises. He is in the government of Mumbai, who blithely rezone Dhavari a bit more each year, forcing residents out and jam-packing the people into every tighter quarters. He is in the foreign banks, who fund gigantic machines to help produce larger quantities of raw material, only to garrote the slum dwellers by keeping them infinitely in debt. He is in the slum lords who refuse formal housing contracts for their diminutive family rooms, and, when the rent goes unpaid, are known to dip cats in lighter fluid and set them aflame, letting them run through the houses where everything easily catches fire.

Dhavarti is one out of an estimated 2,000 slums in Mumbai. Just south of the slums, real estate is more expensive than in Manhatten, and the wealthy live in lofty thirty story condos made with glossy contemporary architecture. But on the rooftop of the slums, among the piles of garbage and the toxic fumes spewing out from the factories, I cannot help but notice an aberration: satellite televisions upon the tin, hollow rooftops. This is Mumbai, I remind myself.

Let them eat Bollywood.

Victoria Station

Victoria Station

In a pensive mood I take the train to Central Mumbai station, perhaps to visit the Samos shopping mall for a taste of air-conditioning, perhaps to wander in whatever direction the stars see fit to guide me for the night. When I arrive the streets are dark and full of silhouettes, but the Mumbai skyline is too bright to see any stars. Tonight the moon becomes my alabaster; I follow it with no reservations.


I pace upon the shadowed streets for nearly an hour, gigantic bats flying above me and stray dogs howling all around me. I imbibe the smoked corn from a street stall. Suddenly a hand grabs me, it is soft but punches me and I see that it is a girl in a red sari, her face divinely made up in matching blush. Sir, sir, she says, smiling. I begin to assess my surroundings. Dozens of demure women in brightly colored saris line the street, smiling towards the passing cars and Indian men. Some are more slattern, they wave at the men from the window sills, from every street corner, from every block and down every alleyway, cooing, grabbing at my belt.

Oh, the red light.

The Street of a Thousand

The Street of a Thousand

As with all of India, it is the amount of people that leaves me particularly disturbed. The streets filled with these sex workers seems to never end, like a funhouse where you believe yourself walking down a long hallway, only to find that you’ve been on a conveyor belt. I walk purposefully, expecting the lines of Indian women to end, and soon I am convinced I have gone in circles, but no, I am on the same street. There are thousands of them.

The women must think of me as an object of fun, for they begin to call from the windows and streets, some grabbing my hands while others crack jokes and point at the traveler who has somehow wandered so far off the beaten path, into their effete world of Johns, drugs and human trafficking. Just as I begin to see an end to the trail of women, a Muslim man in a white robe screams American! and I flee towards the nearest intersection, followed closely by a gang of ruffians.

Is it my accent? The backpack I carry? The Ipod bulging from my pocket?

When I sense them just behind me I turn to my trusty last resort: appearing so incredibly drunk, that to do me any harm would not actually cause me any harm, and therefore defeat the purpose of harming me.

I stagger, do my best John Belushi impression, gaze at them in a simple stupor. They say something in Hindi and leave me in the road.

Shiva and Pavarti

Shiva and Pavarti

Where the red light district ends, night markets fill the streets, and at midnight they are filled with bodies sleeping on the curbs, families under green mosquito nets. After half an hour wandering through the labyrinthine alleyways, another gang of boys are following me.

What am I so worried about? Could it be that they just want to say hello? Am I totally absurd for fleeing from every gang of men who take an active interest in a traveler?

I look back, see them with their arms crossed, advancing quickly now, and I, craven as ever, flee again, so thoughtlessly this time that my foot ends up lodged in someone’s blue tarp rooftop. I am again lost, on the edge of a shanty town. The boys fall down laughing as I attempt to repair the makeshift rooftop.



I spend a week in Mumbai, in utter exhaustion.



“Be bewitched by this fairy-tale city,” the guidebook says, “where ocre-shaded hills encircle the whimsical, snow-whit lake palace.”

“Marvel at beautiful Udaipur, then wander beyond into the Aravalli hills.”

“Watermarked by whimsy and splendour, the Venice of the East holds stage as one of India’s truly seductive cities.”



To escape the touts I dash between two pillars of rock engraved with cartoonish elephants. I am followed by four children who throw stones at a pack of street dogs, and emerge finally onto a ghat bordering a luscious green lake. Only ten days before the lake was nothing more than a crater in the earth, now there is a tide upon the river that blows with the wind, as green as a field of long grass.

The stairs into the water are wide and the stone planks shift when I burden them with my weight. At the edge of the lake, women in orange dress smack large black paddles against wet clothes. A man bathes in his black boxer-briefs, his hands creamy with soap. Stalkes of long grass stick out from the thick green water and a group of young boys play in the lake, tumbling over a black inner-tube. I talk with a gang of young boys, we joke together until an old woman comes and yells at them in Hindi.


“Very funny sir, I see you, very funny sir” a teenage Indian boy says, he looks like an older version of the children, his blue-plaid shirt and whitening pants are nearly identical to the other Indians. He introduces himself as Bari, and the boy has a kind face, but even after the innocuous introductions I still find it difficult to shake off that presumption of suspicion that so encases the traveler into a mind-bubble, equainimous to whatever the locals recommend or suggest.

You go to school? I ask, intending to ask more questions than answer.

Yes, first year sir.

You live in this city?

No, my home, he stuttered it out, East.

We find his village together on a map, of Kashmir, he points to a dot where the railroad intersects. Near there, sir, he says.



A moment passes where no expectations seemed to reappear, we comfortably listen to the laughter of the other teenagers struggling for the inner-tube. Bari tells me that everything coming from Bollywood now is vulgar, not Hindu culture.

“You mean language? Language vulgar?”

“No sir, girl. Girl vulgar.” This is true, there has been kissing in two recent Hindi films.

The man bathing had already dried himself off, another group of women have come to gossip near the water. A child swims on the ghat with his black trousers still on. Another boy in white underwear makes an angel in the green water, his back floating upon a Styrofoam case, perhaps found in the garbage disposal just beside the water, where rabid hounds and cows came to feast.

A boat ride to the sacred temples on the lake runs somewhere around sixty USD. If you want to eat dinner or get coffee, you’re looking at least $120. The man running my three dollar motel room is, in his spare time, a factory worker for Versace.


Auspiciously, I come across three young British Indian girls, North London posh, just as I am about to march up a three mile hill ridden with mosquitos and wild monkeys. I find their circumstances so different from mine, so unapologeticly disengaged. Their fathers have organized their entire trips for them; they have hired a driver for four days to whisk them from monument to monument in a fully air-conditioned van, while their tour guide, Bobby, delivers them to each “sacred sight,” taking care of any other amenity for them, from feeding the beggers to where to shit.

“We have been looking so hard for other young people to meet.”

I find this hard to believe, as I am burdened constantly by the amount of white young tourists, the herd that I have come to think alike.

“For instance, at our hotel there is only old people.”

I was going to add rich.

I agree to spend the day with them, perhaps providing some entertainment and American color between their cell phone calls, text messages and replays of Rahman songs from Slumdog Millionaire.

As we visit the Gujurati heavy temples devoted to Hare Krishna, then the five hundred year-old cone-shaped temples devoted to the Brahman[s Lord Shiva, the girls seem genuinely troubled by the street children. As they are approached by gangs of bedraggled urchins, they quickly tell me that they have just come from an expeditious volunteer project with an English-education NGO, and about how good it felt to do volunteer work.

In much of Thailand, temples, welfare offices and generous families are constantly providing food and indecent housing for no cost to the individual, so giving away cash always seems like providing an unearned surplus. How wrong was I to assume that things are the same in Thailand as they are  in India, which is supposedly a socialist, non-aligned country. Bobby attempts to put it in perspective.

“What happens to the street children?” the girls ask with glimmers of hope in their eyes.

“Nothing, they just survive or die.”

“The government?”

“Takes their money and hopes they die.”

“The NGOs?” I ask

“NGOs!” Bobby slams his fist on the radiator with such sudden passion that the girls jump out of their seats, and for once, put away their incessant text-messaging. “Corrupt! Corrupt!” Bobby spits out, as if he has repeated it so many times before the words have gained some chant-worthy, sacrosanct magic. “You must not believe they care.” he says.

Shocked, that glimmer lost, one of the girls says at last “Well, our NGO helps them.” As urchins knock on the tinted car window, the young girls holding infants withered from marasmus.



Sixteen hours to Jaipur, sleeper class, I lie on the upper berth of a crowded train, my arm suspended at head level like a crane. I easily grasp onto passing soft drinks, samosas, or the heads of children with sticky fingers. Outside the train, the sunset is straddling the horizon. I see rice fields and farms, a line of trees, electrical towers that look like steel angels in the dark.





Feelin' the love

Feelin' the love

Spotted on the Amalfi Coast: Jackie & Aristotle Onassis, Sophia Loren, Clark Gable, Vladimir Lenin, Bridgette Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Graham Greene, Humphrey Bogart, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Richard Wagner, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra… …and delicious hazelnut flavors.

The first night in Jaipur, the capital of Rajastan, a fuse blows at my five dollar hotel. We move to another room and that fuse blows out. The next day we relocate to another hotel for three dollars a night. It is ridden with ants, spiders, pleas, mosquitos, cockroaches. The mattress is a cot on wooden planks. It reminds me of living in Las Vegas. We wake up with new places to scratch. This is called Budget Travel.


On the street, past midnight, I feed a cow rotis. A man in a white turban and thick mustache takes my hand, says: “Good luck feed cow.”

“Good luck?”

“Yes, because cow is God.”

“Oh, of course.”

“You no feed street children. No good luck. Only feed cow. Cow is God. Not feed children. Feed cow.”

“Because cow—”

“It is God.”


I feed God another Roti.


I read Arundhati Roy, writing about India in 2001: “More than 400 million of our people are illiterate and live in absolute poverty, over 600 million lack even basic sanitation and over 200 million have no drinking water.” She tells me there]s no such thing as an authentic Indian. She tells me that every Indian is a minority. She tells me that if you look hard enough, you can find Coca Cola in the Vedas. She seems to greatly dislike Indira Ghandi.

I am very grateful to be traveling around India with a woman, without her many idiosyncrasies would be lost. Everywhere, men follow her, with their eyes, their steps, their hands, and occasionally, with their lips, though none have been reciprocated for their desire. In the Guide it warns that “Indians are known for harassing women in Western style clothing”. This begs the question of what the guide means when it says “harassing.”

It means men asking you for kisses, asking how many people you fuck and whether you use condoms or not. It means obscene stares from the young men around you and being followed by gangs of them while walking home at night. It means always being served last at restaurants. It means that when you order beer the waiter assumes you are only doing it for the men in the room. It means constant whistles, taunts, and arms and hands “accidentally” falling upon different parts of your skin. It means men standing near you with such propinquity as to peak down any portion of your body where the distance between the fabric and your skin might reveal the curve of a breast or thigh.

It also means getting to stand in separate, shorter, faster lines.

My fork is too small...

My fork is too small...

A Tuk Tuk driver drives drunk. The other drivers hate him; they attempt to run us off the road. He swears at them in English, in Hindi, in Spanish, calls them charlatans. His name is John Travolta. We visit a temple full of monkeys. The Hindu priests call it the Sun Temple, the touts call it the Monkey Temple. On the way are cobras, goats, cattle, monkeys. Again, they attack me:

What they saw

What they saw

What I saw

What I saw

Jaipur is a destination with a great observatory, humongous forts, the largest canon in the world, the greatest collection of silver objects, rare and precious stones, a rich cultural history of Kings, epic battles and reformist laws, an old city completely bathed in pink paint, and a gaudy theater house.

At a bar a man named Christopher delivers a jeremiad against Indian employment. He is a well off businessman, frustrated with the “chai culture” of Indian entrepreneurs. “What takes a day in the U.S. takes a week in Mexico, takes a month in Vietnam, takes a year in India.” Apparently he owns manufacturing companies throughout the third world. He tells me the venal labor laws in India disallow him from firing his workers when they do not show up for work, or when they harass his female workers, or when they deliver shipments incredibly late.

Rich, he buys all our drinks.

India is still consistently India. And Jaipur is a city full of Gods, Kings, monkeys, and street children. They work in groups, perhaps. I give rupees whenever I see Mani, a fifteen year old with a baby covered in flies. I like her because she always takes my money and never asks for more. She takes food when I buy it for her. The street children just take the food I buy for them and then toss obscene gestures at me that say in so many words: “fuck you, cheap America!”. Mani gets it, so I always give her money. This is called selfish giving.

All hail the priest of the Micee D's

All hail the priest of the Micee D's

I spend a five days in Jaipur, revising India with clarity and conscience, July 30th – August 2nd.


Recumbent pilgrims lie scattered on the white marble of the Golden Temple. They look identical: long dark beards, white turbans, aged soles of their feet. Here we are far from the anomic lifestyle of Seattle, the bathetic pathos of Seoul, here people must have touch, must express total equality even in their style of eating, must cover their heads in humbleness not only to an imaginary God, but to each other. In a state of quiescent repose, we face each other as beings of the same universe.

Golden Temple

Golden Temple

The gold surface of the temple is grandiose. One wonders who built it, in what conditions, etc. Ostentatious displays of wealth certainly arouse suspicions in any puritanical American. Even the deserts in Amritsar are marked with filigree; delicate real silver tops off my rice pudding and looks like tin foil.

I encroach upon the sacredness of yet another religion, as I turn my back on the temple, deliver a wad of flem backed up in my nasal passages by the pollution of the city. Apparently you’re not supposed to do that.

Free food at the Temple

Free food at the Temple

I rid myself of the tourist monuments like passing difficult excrement. To find myself in a new city, one must survey the perimeter, as a canine around his new home, before he cane take in the pleasure of the streets. As soon as I am released from the injunction to see the tourist sites, I walk in random directions, towards whatever seems exigent or within my proximity—a broken down building, a gathering of Indians around a well-lit street, a strange figure in the dark. Very often I simply float within the crowd, unthinking and unassuming flaneur, imbibing in the aura of the city and its people, retreating from certainty, trusting the void wherever it leads.

We chase the beaucratic fairy around the train station from one ticket counter to another, filling out forms, getting things stamped, carrying our luggage on our backs with the body-heat of the Indians in our nostrils. The bearucratic and taxonomic obsession with getting things right, perhaps instituted by the British, has been popularized among travelers of India by V.S. Naipaul, where, in one short story, his wife faints from exhaustion after running from one passport office to another. The denouement of our confusion and utter exhaustion is only to discover that there is no train left for Jaipur.


The plains of Punjab

The plains of Punjab

On a train from India’s most dangerous city to its least dangerous, from one of the most slum-ridden cities to the richest city in all of India, I spot the sun embellish the countryside through a cloud’s sharp contours. My feet hang from the side of the train, the gravel in strokes of grey paint below my broken sandals. The train feels like a rollercoaster.

 Chandigarh is a city of bigness, with its large streets, double-decked buses and parks, its grandiose shopping centers. Planned by western architects, primarily Le Corbusier, the city feels modernist, bureaucratic, the blocks are renamed sectors; the streets are in a grid.


Rose Garden

Rose Garden

Primarily Sikh, Chandigarh is the disputed capital of Punjab and Haryana, but the Sikh name Singh predominates every restaurant sign and motel. As a burly Indian Sikh told me, after realizing that I was already familiar with much of Sikhism, modern Sikhs imbibe in three main pursuits: chicken, beer and gloating. By gloating, he tells me, he means fashion. This explains not only the inescapable shopping centers, but also the underground bars, where, surely enough, everyone is eating chicken.


Chicken, beer and style!

Chicken, beer and style!

An elderly Sikh invites me to his home, feeds me Tandoori chicken, egg curry and scrambled eggs and tomatoes. He doesn’t speak a word of English, but we drink whisky and speak in our mother tongues and it feels that we understand each other. We watch the wrestler Triple H take down Mysterio. WWF is huge everywhere I go.

Two high school boys meet with me; their questions are typically high school. You have girlfriend? You kiss her? You fuck her? How many girls you do this with? Very common in America? They are obsessed with white women. Very naughty, very sexy they say. I ask them about Indian women. Very naughty, very sexy, they say. The first boy tells me he has proudly slept with seven to eight Indian girls, all of them his friends, though the second boy tells me they are all prostitutes. The second boy has a meeker sex life however, at two to three women. What’s with these ambivalent numbers?


In India, the Indians, are silly.

In India, the Indians, are silly.

A drunk Aussie tipping his barstool, as if meaning to appear helplessly inebriated, tells me he “hit the jackpot” in Goa. “I had to ask her guardian” he says. “I told her guardian I was going to sleep with her and maybe stay with her. After the guardian said it was ok, it was so easy!” “Then?” I say. “And then I left.”

 He was a fat, white, old fuck.

Nek Chand's Rock Garden

Nek Chand's Rock Garden

 What do you do for fun in Chandigarh? I ask the many within Sector 17.

 Shopping, they say.


Everyone is Indian. The very cause for surprise is itself a shameful shock. The first Indian I contact, handing him my visa, spends ten minutes reading through my books and pointing to the pictures. No one in the long line of passengers behind me thinks to complain, we wait for him.

I buy a prepaid taxi and a fat tout takes the receipt, walks me to the airport parking lot, asking: This your first time in India? Where you from? How you like India?

And I: I come here once a year. I am from London, Manchester. India is great but has some problems.

He sees a policeman in the parking lot then gives up his game, leads me instead to the long line of taxi-cabs spewing black exhaust.


In the old city the street urchins fill the streets, their skin is far darker than most other Indians, their hair clumped up, their bodies covered in dirt so thick that when they move a cloud of dust follows. All over the streets are dogs and cows, desiccated with humongous sagging udders. The streets are as dynamic as a Wagner opera; I try to balance every new sight, sound, smell and the scorch off the sun into some comprehendible narrative. A street girl has her hand in my right pocket, loquacious women walk by with their bellies and stretch-marks exposed to the sun, I step over an undulating stream of piss coming from a small boy facing a brick wall, smashed cow pies surrounded by swarms of flies on the sidewalk, the tusk of a bull nearly guts the neck of a man dressed for club hopping, riding a motorbike.


An old woman holding a lifeless infant in her arms slaps my wrist and begs for money. A red jewel in her nose, she speaks in Hindi gesturing for food. I stand awkwardly, as if I had come to a best friend]s birthday party but forgot to buy a present. The eyes of the street urchins burn my back, wondering perhaps Where does he keep his money? How cheap is the American? Her begging has drawn too much of a crowd, I say ceallo and keep walking.

Tai ho, meaning, praise, victory, but according to the Indians, its connotate is closer to “it is written”. In the Philippines, the way to accept one’s fate, no matter how miserable, is bahala na, happen what may. It is written. Sleeping on the sidewalk, Tai ho, bahala na, radical acceptance, it is written, it is written.


New Delhi is no better. Thousands of people living in the slums are displaced and bulldozed in preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth games, the place looks as fake and its people as displaced and desperate as the poor in Beijing a year before the 2008 Olympics. Squatters in boxed houses are at every intersection, new shantytowns spring up overnight to get turned out in the morning. The slums are terrible labyrinthine eyesores to man and God, the people there live in tremendously difficult conditions—but the slums are a community, they have schools, doctors, and some reasonable sanitation. To bulldoze these eyesores for a sporting event is to ferret out the population, to separate the squatters from a way of life they at least find bearable, to cast them under bridges, to divide and conquer.

Renewed, I take to the streets. Dogs, piss, cows, shit, camels, geckos, touts, urchins, legless beggars, singing street children, dancing street children, cockroaches, fleas, dirt, exhaust, heat, the sun, heat, heat so unbearable, heat so inescapable.

I find refuge in a coffee shop at Connaught place. The air conditioning makes my breathing easier. This is what civilization means—air conditioning!

I meet many Indians, most of them named Raj. Raj I invites me for a drink, just before leaving for Moscow to marry his mail-order bride. Raj II is retired but has traveled the world, asks me about massages in Thailand, but I realize he really means sex massage.

Raj III is in the India Gate Park in the middle of the night playing Cricket alongside hundreds of other players and watchers. He tells me that the nightlife in Delhi only exists in parks; it is a city on the verge of change. He tells me the government is getting rid of the cows, gentrifying everything for the Commonwealth games. There is still no where to go when the sun sets.

Even in the backpacker’s district, no stores are open at night and the disposition of the young men sitting about does not seem pleasant. There are very few bars but there are coffee-shops, where I overhear conversations: “Don’t go to study in the United States, all the professors there are Marxist, they only want to take away political rights” comfortably, sipping a mocha latte, breathing easily from the high air conditioning, as far away from the detriment of the slums as one can get in body and mind.

Buying $6 hotel rooms, sleeping to the sounds of bulls mooing, touts shouting and horns honking, waking up covered in sticky sweat, I navigate the traveler’s district of Pahar Ganj. Touts follow me the moment I step out of the hotel room, offering marijuana, claiming they are trying to practice their English, selling marijuana. To them, a traveler who comes to India without hoping to get as high as possible is an anomaly.

The kids here have no idea how to properly jip a foreigner of their money, even the drivers don’t know where the popular places are, and the kids selling drugs lack any tact. Perhaps there is just too many of them. “Sir, sir! Wear your backpack on your front!” is always a dealer. We learn to ignore them, their bedraggled faces become as tolerable as the hum of a refrigerator.


I eat samosas from street stalls wherever possible, I make friends easily; we travel around the Taj Mahal talking politics and romance. We pull pranks on the touts. We sweat profusely, in the rain, marching in the sun, waiting in lines, on the trains. At night urchins are asleep everywhere, on the gravel, on ladders, on rooftops, on the walls that follow the street. We tread very softly, walking among scattered eggshells, stepping on faces in the dark.

I spend a week in Delhi, with resignation and acceptance. July 16 – 24.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

I’ve just given up sleeping on the buses here. I get sick, fall over in an old man’s lap (or he falls asleep in mine), and smell vomit throughout every bus ride. I give in to it now. It’s fine.

I met a man from a kibbutz in Israel who farms dairy cows and is fine with that until the day he dies. Another man from a kibbutz in Israel seems to want nothing more than the perpetual high that Cambodia can offer, since every drug is available here. Both of these men are named Edo, and they never met each other.
I was witness to a Cambodian party, where teenagers did traditional dancing (barely moving with their hands in waves) to songs like “SHE HIT THE FLOOR–NEXT THING YOU KNOW”. The men copped out early.

Counter-Strike has officially swallowed Asian gaming. In PC rooms in Korea, Thailand and now Cambodia, I hear the sweet sounds of “HEADSHOT”

I met a group of three Germans, each one from a different part of Germany. None of them had ever heard of Hegel or Heideggar. I spelled it out for them. Still nothing. I think I was taught that these philosophers were of epic importance to Germans, but apparently they find it hard to give a shit. I ended by singing a verse from Beethoven’s 9th symphony to placate our cultural wars.

Most travelers I meet can be separated into three groups – sexpats, drugpats, ecopats, and the few people who just criticize all the others. I fall into the latter.

I arrive in Siem Reap with a man holding a sign that says “Kris,” Apparently the last hostel had given out my information. He took me to a very nice hotel with no running water that was $3 a night and had some hot black girls from the U.K. so I thought I’d stay.

People are extremely nice in Seim Reap. After walking some friend home, I was lost at around 1am last night in my usual “Ï dunno where I am–shit here comes a storm cloud!”-phase. Some Cambodian guy picked me up and drove me around for half an hour looking for my hotel, and never asked for money.

Cambodia has bedbugs. And nude children running around everywhere like in a diaper commercial. It’s hard getting to know Cambodian people when they keep asking you for money. The only ones open to harmless chat seem to be the ladyboys, who just like the attention.

The temples at Ankor Wat are gorgeous, amazing, and old as hell. You might remember some from the Mortal Kombat games:

My favorite was the “jungle temple”:

So that’s Seim Reip. Now to jump on a motorbike back to my hotel, and get offered to sleep with Cambodian girls for “Cheap cheap!” I always tell them I have a girlfriend and she would get mad, they always say: “Yes, I have girlfriend too, they no ask!”
Good times…
And so, prostitution makes its comeback! Let me get this straight: Every male in South East Asia is a pimp and a drug dealer.  That’s an extremely racist epithet! Yet once the sun goes down, it’s difficult to walk the street for more than five seconds without someone coming up to you, spouting: “You want a girl?” then “you want marijuana?” then “how about…” and the list of drugs goes on.
Not all of these people have drugs or women to sell, but they do know where and how to get it, and (I’ve heard) take “finders fees”. Even in the hostels I stay at, the male workers will always ask: “You want girl?” and when I say no, they lower the price. Apparently the bargain deal is $10 an hour, about as much as a ticket to see the new Batman movie.
I should clarify, since my mom reads this blog and I know she’s curious–I don’t sleep with prostitutes. I have nothing against it personally, but to me it would be like getting to the top of Mount Everest by paying for a helicopter.
Naturally there’s a movement even in Cambodia to legalize it (don’t criticize it). I fully agree with this, as well as legalizing marijuana, though I’ve never smoked a joint or paid for sex. These women need rights, not imprisonment:
At any rate, I think I’m supposed to be in Seattle soon, for…something?

American Traveler

So far on this trip I have had yet to meet many Americans, especially in the backpacker’s districts of Khao San, or in the laid-back eco-tourism of Laos.
But in Vietnam, the American backpackers are proliferating in every city, hostel and “couchsurf”. In the dorm room I’m in, there are six beds, and each one is taken by an American traveling alone. I thought the way I traveled was unique and a bit haphazard, but every American backpacker I meet seems like an urban traveler, searching for the same thing I am–whatever that is.
On the bus I met two lone Americans, and for the first time, traveling with people wasn’t a burden. They actually wanted to do the exact same things I did–walk around aimlessly, every now and then hitting a cafe to read our pocketed books, taking all the side streets, walking through the schools and backyards, hitting the museums and art galleries, going to bars that had Locals, not just foreigners.
Apparently I’m not an urban traveler at all. Or an “ascetic” traveler, or a “localist” traveler, or a “hardcore” traveler. Just an American traveler.
Why Vietnam? The War, of course. The Americans I stay with are concerned with the similarities of the Iraq War with the Vietnam “police action”. Fact-checking, changing our perspectives and seeing ominous similarities everywhere, and discovering the hard kernels about what the American schools taught us. The hard-fact is this: There was no “Communist Threat” to America, they didn’t give a damn about us, unless we tried to get involved. The Gulf of Tonkin was a fabrication, and if we had let the Vietnamese deal with their own issues of Independence, they would have ended up Capitalist anyways–just a Capitalism “in the name of the people.”
Countries gaining Independence, historically, are susceptible to Communist Ideology, being a new country concerned primarily “with the people,” in fear of the petty Bourgeois that comes in capitalist third-worlds in Africa. But Communism is an irrational economic system, something that doesn’t take too long to figure out. The War was a meaningless atrocity. It was never about economics to the Vietnamese, it was about being a unified, independant nation, owned “by the people” (as in, by their own state). Americans should have known, from our own revolution, that such a war was impossible to win.
I need not go into great detail about the misinformation of American education with Vietnam. Vietnam has a capitalist economy, a destructive totalitarian government, and a people so nice, energetic and enthused that when they find seven Americans together, instead of berating us for the war, they barrage us with questions about America, while we do the same to them about Vietnam.
So the museums have been emotional. American dog-tags from soldiers KIA, letters from American POWs, stolen American armory, portrayals of the “solidarity” protests in America during the war…the prison where McCain and many others were kept during the war.  
It’s difficult coming to a country like this after living in Korea. The Korean war was a conflict so similar to Vietnam and Iraq, except that it was very short, and now considered successful. The difference is had to explain. It may have to do with the fact that the Americans wanted to get out of Korea asap. Unlike Iraq and Vietnam we let the Koreans do almost all of their own fighting, and we were urgent to end the war at the DMZ, letting the Korean government take over almost immediately afterwards. I don’t know what the difference was, the situation was almost identical. One was a vast success, the other an infamous error.
Also, in Korea, there was no “Gulf on Tonkin” or “Sept. 11” that turned soldiers into overzealous killing machines. We had come to assist, then leave–not for vengeance, racism or economic gain.
So many Americans, the ones concerned with the Iraq War, do what the Bush regime wouldn’t–they come to Vietnam, and try to figure out what went wrong, and how to avoid it. Personally, I’m amazed at how intelligent these Americans are, and how dedicated they are to knowing the hard truth beyond the “authorotative texts”. The journey so far has been emotional, and extremely depressing–not because the Vietnam War was so hazardous, but because it’s so clear now that all the mistakes from Vietnam have already been made in Iraq, as if we started caring five years too late.
For now, more Museums, more exploration, more unanswered questions. They call our war the “Anti-American War of Vietnamese Liberation.” I suppose it’s only fair. I don’t remember calling it anything as I was growing up but “the F*ck up.” 
One last part about McCain–I trust that nobody is fooled by his VP pick. He intends to steal the Hillary supporters by choosing a female, playing identity politics, selecting an unknown female to represent all women, as if such a thing is possible. She doesn’t represent “all women” any more than Obama represents “all blacks.” These candidates should be judged on their own merits, not their race or gender. Pick accordingly. 

Bangkok III: Chinatown. Sukhumvit Road

Sukhumvit Road, infamous for so many reasons. Cowboy Road (“Soi Cowboy”) is full of middle aged white men with their Thai girls, (s)exploiting the 3% Thai economy devoted entirely to its prostitution industry.

There are numerous “how to” books found in the bookstores here, all of them a tad entertaining:

Being an anti-prohibitionist, I don’t find anything particularly appaling about this particular part of Bangkok. For foreigners, prostitution is isolated to three key areas in Bangkok: PatPong, Cowboy Road and Nana Plaza, also in Sukhumvit. At least that concentration gives the police one thing left to worry about, and keeps the debauchery in controllable areas. We Americans are naive enough to think that we can just illegalize the oldest profession in history, and that will stop it. The Thai seem to know what they’re doing. And it’s not like the vast majority of sex work in Thailand isn’t patronized by locals themselves.

Still, walking along Sukhumvit Road, it’s hard to look at Thai women the same way. When you’re jumped by dozens at a time, all feigning interest “where are you from you so handsome blah blah” for some quick cash, it’s hard to leave that area and see all the other Thai women as sincere. Suddenly they become generalized and you become suspicious of every word they say. If only it were as easy to isolate our perceptions…

Thailand has the sorry reputation of being a sexpat haven, which I must say it is, but Bangkok is so much more than that. It’s disappointing that when white men sometimes meet Thai women, the first thing they ask them is questions about prostitution.

If you look up “Prostitution” in wikipedia, there is a picture of Cowboy Road in Bangkok. SERIOUSLY.

But they neglect to mention that the world’s most famous prostitution street has tons of elephants! Baby elephants, momma and poppa elephants. Sadly I did not wear a Cowboy hat once while on Cowboy Road…

The advice of a foreigner, his arm around so many Thai girls he could barely balance on his barstool: “Jesus’ best female friends, including Mary Magedeline, were all whores. Dirty, stinky, Biblical whores.” Sip sip.


Like in most cities around the world, the most carefree, cheap and fascinating area to go is Chinatown. It was better than when I went to China. I’ve ended up in Chinatown three times, each on a long journey back to my $7 hotel in Khao San. Every time was unforgettable, packed with people and incredibly small markets; Chinese food that they sometimes just give you; respectable bands of people living in dark, wallowing apartments.

Did I mention all the buildings in Bangkok are delapidated as hell? Chinatown though makes the rest of Bangkok look like a four star hotel. The buildings here aren’t just dilapidated, they’re half-torn down as if from sub-atomic blast, and are on fire! Seriously, I saw at least two of these buildings burning down as I passed, with shrugging Chinese watching and eating eggrolls, while the fire trucks went on with business as usual.

I just applied for my Visa to Laos. Exciting.