When we arrived at the Karen village today, *Cluck* announced to us excitedly: "tonight BBQ pig for dinner." Most of us accepted the news eagerly — almost everyone loves a good plate of roast pork — and even though I wasn't planning to eat any of it (I've had enough traife lately, thanks), I had no problem with them cooking up some pig on the campfire. But little did we realise just what was involved in "having BBQ pig" — had we comprehended the fact that out here in the jungle, you have to slaughter and butcher a pig before you eat it, perhaps we would have thought differently.
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Thailand is infamous for being a steaming hotspot of all things sex-related. Sex abuse, sex entertainment, sex tourism — you name it, sexy, and they've got it. One of the particularly less appealing of these things is the popularity of sex changes in Thailand. So common are the transsexuals — who started out as men, and who have consumed masses of artificial hormones (and some of whom have also undergone surgery) to become women, and who end up something in between — that here in Thailand, they have a special name. They're called "ladyboys". And they're bad news. Most of them are fairly obvious to look at: i.e. their sexual appearance is totally... well, f$#%ed. But quite a few of them have taken it so far, that you can't tell them apart from real women.
I've heard the stories, same as everyone else. But I must admit, I never took them that seriously. Well, I should have believed — because every tale that ever passed by my ears is 100% true. Bangkok really is full of 50-year-old American men, walking hand-in-hand (or hand-somewhere-else) with 19-year-old Thai girls. And despite the blatant grotesqueness and desperation, most of them stroll the streets loudly and proudly, with no shame whatsoever. It's cliché, it's oh-so-stereotypical, and it's downright sad — but when you look around you, it's undeniable: this is the true story of "Thai love". This is one strange, sleazy and deplorable place: never before have I seen romance being so widely touted to the highest bidder.
Jägermeister is a strong German liqueur, that for some reason has become wildly popular all over the Western world today. It tastes pretty bad (it was originally invented for medicinal use), but makes up for it with its legendary effect. I haven't gone near any Jäger for most of my trip: but here in Kitzbühel, everyone seems to be drinking an awful lot of the stuff — especially in the form of "Flying Hirsch" or "Jägerbomb" shots (i.e. Jäger and Red Bull together). It sure as hell ain't Aussie — and it's not Austrian either (although Red Bull is) — but Aussies in Austria can't get enough of it. Personally, I can take Jäger or I can leave it; and I don't see what all the fuss is about.
From last night's camp at the site of Sabbiadoro, this morning I embarked on the short but pleasant ride north to the city of Syracuse. For part of the way, I took the minor road that stays right on the seashore, and that goes through the scenic area near the resort village of Fontane Bianche; then I cut back to the main SS115 highway, and stopped off at the town of Cassibile. Now, yesterday morning — while passing through the town of Pachino near the southern tip of Sicily — I stocked up on my milk supplies. Sadly, I wasn't able to find any bottles of milk in this small town, so I had to buy a 1L cardboard carton instead. Usually, I only ever buy milk in plastic bottles, with good watertight screw-on lids, so that I can safely shove it in my saddlebag, and use it for several days. However, today I had no bottle — only my cardboard carton, which I'd opened for this morning's breakfast, and of which I'd only used about half of the milk inside. And thus was born the incident with the leaky milk.
I decided to cook some pasta napolitana tonight, at Gulliver's House — I'd already made some last night — but tonight, I had no vegies to put in it! So I decided to chop up a banana, and so see what fried banana tastes like, when simmered with some crushed tomatoes. Piece of advice: don't try this at home, kids. It's edible — but I can see why I've never seen it in a cookbook. Rather disgusting — banana napolitana is a recipe to save only for the most dire of emergencies.
As I've already mentioned numerous times lately, Argentina has fabulous wine, and it's available here in ridiculously cheap abundance. Today, at the Chabad Rosh Hashanah first day lunch, I tried some kosher Argentinian wine for the first time. Sorry, but I can't remember the brand (can't find it online, either). The verdict? About what you'd expect. It was the best kosher wine I've ever had. And the worst Argentinian wine I've ever had.
Went on a morning trip into town (i.e. into Ica) from Huacachina today, to check out the famous Museo Regional de Ica ("Ica Regional Museum"). Chris and I explored the museum's three sections: a history of the region's pre-colonial cultures, and their artefacts and politics; the colonial section; and the most famous section of all, the "anthropology section", which is filled with skulls and preserved mummies of the ancient peoples of the area. All was very interesting; although the third section was downright gross.
Bought this bar of "cacao puro" chocolate at a little market in Potosí, and I decided to crack it open this morning, and to give it a try. Most disgusting chocolate I've ever had. I don't think there's much in it, except raw cacao ground into a powder, and lots of rough sugar. Everyone in the group tried it, and found it equally sickening. We couldn't finish it, so we gave the rest of it to our guide. Keep away from traditional Bolivian chocolate!
I really did get absolutely filthy from my tour of the Potosí mines today. They gave us special protective clothing, which we wore over our own, and then gave back to them at the end of the tour. I had a long and thorough hot shower, when I got back to the Koala Den this afternoon. And I took all my clothes to the lavanderia this evening, for an emergency laundry wash (making a special exception to Jaza's law of washing). And even with all that, I still can't get the nauseating smell of the mines off my person, or the taste of the mines out of my mouth. Really, really filthy place.