Randomness is part of travelness. And as travelness goes, tonight was filled with randomness. I bumped into a group of six (newly-acquainted) people this evening: four Germans, and two Austrians. Just walked past them on my way down to towards the beach, here at Ton Sai; and next thing I knew, I was off to "The Kasbah" with them, to join in on dinner and drinks. Then, what do you know: just after dinner, it was happy hour — 2-for-1 on Sang Som (Thai whisky) and coke — so out poured the rounds. And what's more: amidst the rainbow-coloured décor and the haze of weed smoke, we managed to find a Jenga set; and we enjoyed several hilarious rounds of this game (always funnier after a few drinks). Strange night, but good times.
We were a bit hot and worn-out from our wicked motorbike ride; so this afternoon, Marie, Claire and myself cooled off by taking a dip in the Pai public pool. The pool is located up on the eastern hillside overlooking the Pai valley, and it's run by a kind old Thai couple. We met a few other people at the pool, and we splashed around for a bit; but mostly, we just ended up relaxing in the large deck chairs, enjoying the gorgeous view (and the divine sunset), sipping fresh juice, and playing cards. Life sure is strenuous here in Thailand... I don't know how much more of this I can handle :P.
Seven (or "Sevens") is one of the easier card games I've ever played. Gameplay is simple enough: people start by putting down sevens, and from there you put down cards (of corresponding suite) in order from eight to king, and from six to ace. First person to get rid of their hand is the winner. Sorta like playing dominoes with cards. Late this evening, at the waterfall camp where we spent the first night of our Doi Inthanon trek, myself and some of the other guys played a few games of Seven. The game is really too civilised and boring for my liking (don't forget, I've been playing card games with such names such as "S$#%head" and "A$$hole" all year), but it's a good time-passer nonetheless.
I'm relieved, and a little amused, to find that "the old tour agency game" that I played so many times back in South America, can be played here in Thailand as well. And the rules are virtually identical, too. Here in Chiang Mai, it's the usual setup: there are a hundred different agencies, all offering similar activities, and all quoting slightly different prices. But in the end, they all ring up exactly the same people who actually run the tours, and they all send you on exactly the same tour; and really, it's all exactly the same thing. So you may as well just visit 5 or 10 of them, pick the one that quotes the cheapest price, bargain them down further still, and go for it — because the price and the agency doesn't matter in the slightest, it's all the same tour. Thailand also operates by the standard "book when you get there" rule: it's cheaper to book things when you arrive in Chiang Mai, than to book them from Bangkok (same as booking in Cusco vs Lima), as more cities away only means more middlemen, each of whom will take a cut as they call the next friend down the chain. C'mon, Thailand: you think I started backpacking yesterday, or something? I know this game, you don't fool me!
We were entertained by several card tricks. We had more than a few to drink (I bought a bottle of Jim Beam yesterday, and it was received with glee in the Snowbunnys lounge this evening). And then, it was time for a CARDFIGHT! I never before realised just how fast and how hard you can throw a playing card: but as Jake and Mitch proved, they're actually quite aerodynamic little buggers, if you know how to flick 'em right (they hurt, too). So the Aussie brothers started flicking cards. And then everyone else started flicking them back. And after that, everything went way downhill.
It seems that Jake and Mitch, Kitzbühel's favourite two Aussie boys, never cease to entertain. The "red card black card" trick looks simple, but leaves you in awe. The way it works is as follows: the trickster deals the entire deck face-down into two piles, and picks a volunteer. Each time that the trickster deals a card, the volunteer says either "red" or "black"; and the card gets accordingly dealt to one of the two piles — the "red" pile, or the "black" pile. Exactly halfway through the deck, the two piles are swapped — i.e. all "red" cards now get dealt to the black pile, and vice versa. Through the entire dealing process, neither the trickster nor the volunteer sees any of the cards: the calling out of "red" or "black" is a completely random choice, decided each time by the volunteer. At the end, the trickster turns over and fans out both piles: and unbelievably, they're both exactly half-red (all together) and half-black! Check out the video.
Hammerschlagen is a game with a simple set of rules, and a very difficult gameplay. In this centuries-old German / Austrian social game, you have a tree stump (with its surface flattened and smoothed), you have a hammer, and you have a bunch of nails. Each player takes a nail, and hammers their nail a few millimetres into the stump. Then — using only the thin, axe-like side of the hammer — each player in turn attempts to whack their nail all the way in. For this evening's après-ski in Kitzbühel, we kicked off the night with a visit to Chizzo (an outdoor bar in the main street of town), where they have a Hammerschlagen area set up. Jake and Mitch introduced the rest of us to the game: here in Kitzbühel, the rule is that the loser (the last person to hammer their nail in) shouts a shot of Jäger to everyone else who played. Check out the video.
When you backpack around the world for a year, you become introduced to quite a few card games. Also to quite a few drinking games. Sometimes — as in the case of Circle of Death, which I learned this evening — you get introduced to both at once. Circle of Death is a simple enough game: a deck of cards is fanned out in a circle on the surface of a table; and each player in turn pulls a card out of the circle. Each number (or royal) in the deck has a certain action — failure to achieve the requirements of the various actions results in the loser(s) drinking. Very fun game, and a great way to turn a group of sensible, amiable friends into a bunch of loud-mouthed, hammered knobheads. But, hopefully, still friends.
You can't say you've been to Argentina (or to South America, for that matter), until you've seen some live fútbol here. Tonight, I went off with the Clan crew to fulfil this sacred Latin backpacker's duty: we visited the stadium of the famous Boca Juniors, and watched Boca kick the a$$es off of São Pablo (a Brazilian team). It was a pretty easy victory for Boca, who beat their Portugese-speaking rivals 2-1. And as for the fans, with whom we were packed in at one of the (standing-room only) spectator areas: they were absolutely wild. Even if you're not crazy about fútbol, you still gotta go and see a Boca's game — it's a sight in itself, being chucked into the middle of a crowd for whom fútbol es la vida, y la vida es fútbol.
For the past few days, myself, Chris, Leila and Christina have been playing a card game called Yaniv quite a lot. Leila and Christina learned it from some Israelis a few months back (it's an Israeli-invented game — hence the name). It's quite a fun game, although Chris and I seem to lose at it most of the time. Great way to pass the time, and always good to learn new card games.