Thursday, 14 November 2013

The end.....

This is it, this is the moment I end all that was and all that has been. It is a long time coming and I haven't forced anything or made anyone work counter to their own speed and time, but have simply followed the principle that everything has a time and this is just one more thing with a start and an end. In this case that time was roughly two years and nine months, or thirty-three months, as I do like my three's. I could go on and create this big moment of suspense before I reveal all but I don't plan on making this an enormous piece, more a finale, or more precisely a goodbye. Have you got it yet?

I'm back in Scotland now and am actually enjoying it, a surprise yes but on the otherhand; seeing as it is The Lonely Planets number two for 'Must See' destinations of 2014, people may understand. I wonder if all those Lonely Planet disciples will spot the irony in their complaints about the peaceful untouched nature being full of tourists, contrary to what their little book told them. I for one hope they visit Edinburgh, buy some shortbread and politely fuck off, the Americans in search of some faux-identity and romantic understanding of their past they believe will bring them inner piece especially. But then that's just me and my issue with tourists, despite being one these last four years.

So if you hadn't guessed it by now I'm making some changes in my life. The main one I guess being that I'm in no rush to leave for warmer climbs, and actually don't find the idea of making a home of sorts for myself too scary. Of course the woman in the marina trying to sell me a boat and describing it as 'my first home' had clearly got the wrong person; with me freaking out at the idea of something so concrete and institutionally boring. I guess it's more that the pace of my life is about to change. I no longer look to sleeping in hedges as a great idea and a free bed, although I still have no intention of paying for anything and doing otherwise, but I feel something is happening and whatever that is it will lead to some type of change; I just don't know what. I still plan on traveling again, although I don't really feel I've stopped, it's more like I'm taking a break in Scotland for a bit, a fantastic tourist destination apparently, one well worth a look. Please, come visit.

Which in my head leads me onto another point; I'm tired of talking about myself, or maybe tired is the wrong word, as I'm still evidently happy doing it, more I can see through my own egotistical ramblings about me, myself and I; the very ramblings that this entire blog is based upon. Now don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed writing it, am still enjoying writing this piece, and am aware that people have enjoyed reading it, but I feel I want to direct my energy onto something else. I can't help but feel that there is more going on other than my little adventures, and although I have conveniently been ignoring this these last few years in order to aid my own journey of self discovery; I feel now is the time to come back to the physical, and more precisely the physical that I feel I can do something about. There I go again, I can't help but bring it back to myself and what I can do, it is hard you know.

But it is the end of a chapter, or a period if you will, and the beautiful thing about ending something is that you get the sheer pleasure of starting something new, which is exactly what I am going to do. So while the man who writes this is not the same one who wrote the first piece on the blog, he will also not be the one who writes the first piece on the new blog. My mind, just like my life is constantly evolving, and the next step will be the first. I thank you for reading this and allowing me and my ego to take up your valuable time. I hope you enjoy what comes next.

I love you all.


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

My Time As An Apprentice Yogi

While I plan on doing many things in life; I am currently approaching all with idea that I will do all, but first will do what comes directly in my path. As a result of this I found myself in India, and then in North India in a place called Rishikesh, and then of all places at a yoga teacher training school, or as I like to call it; ‘Yogiversity’. I am doing a four week course with the aim that I would be at best a fully realised yogi at the end or at the very least will have the abilities to teach yoga, despite not really being overly desperate to do so before. Now, I’m only a few days away from completing the course and we have an ‘exam’, part of which is to write a blog piece on our experiences and put it up on the internet. Naturally I found this quite strange; and rejected the idea of being told I had to do a write-up piece saying how positive my experience was. My first reaction was a simple ‘Get to fuck’, and I decided I would see how much Indians had mastered sarcasm , with my first draft mirroring this, but I have since seen that although there is some justification behind a rejection of the request, a certain amount of egotism certainly played a role in my response. I have since edited it, and below is my final draft

My time at as an apprentice Yogi, by William Home
The setting was to be Rishikesh, India, the vessel was to be Shiva Yoga Peeth, the experience was to be life changing. This was to be me listening to my inner voice, trusting in the universe, in myself, and flowing into something so easily that the decision wasn’t to be a decision at all.
My experience of yoga in India is limited, but despite only ever going to one place previously I had firmly established in my mind that the ‘Indian Style’ of something actually originating in India; perhaps wasn’t for me. Shiva Yoga Peeth has shown me otherwise. Yoga it turns out is much more than stretching, see through leggings and camel toe; it is a life choice, a way of being.
Swami Subhirinanda
Through our Swamiji we learnt how to master the physical aspects of the practice, while being introduced to the Pranayamic breathing; something which turns out to be more beneficial that being able to touch your toes or look enlightened. I now know how to warm or cool my body at will, while curing all bodily ailments whenever the urge takes me. Would that not just be reason enough to come to India itself, let alone Rishikesh and the Shiva Yoga Peeth Teaching Training Course.
With our bodies trained and angelic, it was then time for our minds, and in true Indian style we had teaching which as a westerner you just had to sit back and enjoy for what it was. We had anatomy classes at one hundred miles an hour, and philosophy classes at one mile an hour. Our philosophy class always involved a cuddly chuckle from the lovliest and surprisingly informative Yogiji, who incidentally you can find on both Facebook and Youtube. Modern India constantly raises a smile.
Yogiji demonstating his mastery of the Yogic arts
My time at Shiva Yoga Peeth was certainly one I shall never forget. I found myself with twenty-three equally minded people, all women bar myself and another guy, happy to just go with the natural process of the ashram, and regardless of what came in their path, they questioned nothing and embraced all. Such amazing freedom and spirit to embrace India for what it is, I can but only sit in awe of these women.
The place isn’t perfect, but it’s India, and if you come with fixed western eyes to anything out here you will only suffer. I feel I have learnt enough these last four weeks to be leaving with a solid grounding in traditional Hatha Yoga, to take it on from here with an excitement for the future. For me though; the biggest complement I can give is that quite simply; I have enjoyed myself, and is that not what life should be all about.
Getting Yogic
I write this while sitting on the roof of the Ashram in peace and serenity, and with monkeys frolicking around me and the River Ganga flowing by; I can’t help but feel a real inner warmth as enlightenment spreads out its yoga mat by my side.
I think there is time for one last “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti”, and can I get an “Om Yeah” for Shiva Yoga Peeth Teacher Training School.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Road To Mandalay

It is strange writing about something that happened so long ago, usually I write straight after the event but I created this enormous monster of a plan for my Burmese blog piece that became so good and so big in my mind that it also became so daunting in the process that I just didn’t get round to doing anything. The problem too with writing about a place such as Burma which is changing so rapidly is that everything I tell you about my adventures of the place will be outdated by what Burma can only be now. I haven’t spoken to anyone recently who has been there but having spoken to a few people who were there about six months before myself and realising how much had changed in that short space of time; one can only imagine the changes that have happened in what amounts to almost three periods of six months. I therefore can’t tell you what modern liberated happy Burma is like, but can tell you what slightly less modern liberated and by that logic ‘less’ happy Burma circa November and December 2011 was like. Yes it has been that long. Maybe I should also call it Myanmar as it is this name which will surely become internationally recognised at some point soon, now that the military dictators are wearing suits and not only ‘good people’ but people our leaders, who incidentally only have ours and humanities best interests at heart, can now openly trade arms with and buy gas from. Aren’t the people just lucky to be free.

I don’t want this just to become some angry rant about the real issue’s in the world so will try to keep it fun and talk about my adventures. I do feel one last issue needs sorting out though and that is whether to call the place Burma or Myanmar; so I will tell you the origin of each and let you make up your own mind. The Burmese were originally just one ethnic group in a landmass which my own imperial ancestors decided to claim as their own, rape and name Burma. This land mass was renamed Myanmar by another group of people with strong military power backing them up, although this time they actually looked like those they were killing. They chose the name Myanmar as a nationalistic tool as it is supposed to relate to the unity and strength of the people. Personally  by that reckoning I don’t feel comfortable with either of them but will honour my ancestors and stick with Burma.  

My first impression of Burma was that it is a strange hybrid of India and Thailand. It is a shithole and everyone wears a lunghi, India, but is Buddhist and friendly, therefore Thailand, or how I hear it once was. The people too are a mixture of dark Indian with slightly more south-east Asian features, and because of a lack of Hinduism you actually see women on the streets; which is quite refreshing, although it lacks the insanity of Hinduism, but then that may have just been the Indians themselves. My resounding impression of the people having spent a month there though is that they are no hybrid of anything, they are simply themselves in their own right, and quite a right that is.

Political Prisoners

While in Burma I changed from my usual style of travelling and actually moved at a pace tourists might feel slightly more comfortable with. As a result I spent only one night in Rangoon before heading out to Chaunda beach with two guys who I at first took for gay lovers but later discovered to be Canadians; and brothers. We decided not to take a quick bus journey but instead got an overnight ferry half way there, which felt slightly like I was going up the river with Marlow in Apocalypse Now, although minus the arrows thankfully. It was a bitterly cold night but with the help of my old friend whisky I managed to survive before arriving at port to have my passport checked by a man I took to be none other than the Team America version of the now deceased Kim Jong Il, aviator sunglasses and all, which chuckled me immensely, but somehow only me. From here we squeezed onto a small bus which despite selling every seat to people; it’s primary cargo was clearly rice and having crawled over bags to my seat, discovered rice was also more important than my leg room, so took up some kind of foetal position for the next six hours. It may sound like an awful journey but I actually really enjoyed that bus ride, and it still reminds me of why I am travelling. 

The Mekong?

Getting Foetal

I enjoyed the beach and reverted to my usual style of travel, so spent a week sitting on my arse smiling at local women, who incidentally found this tall blond dirty dreadlocked man of interest and curiosity. My dirty people have still not arrived in Burma through fear of high prices so I was certainly something new to them, and this continued throughout my entire time in the country. The only incident of note was when I was persuaded to go spear fishing with the Canadian lovers for what turned out to be an exorbitant price and proceeded to spend the entire two hours in the waves trying to keep the water out of my goggles and the breath in my lungs. My only moment of glory was when I heroically swam down and wrestled with a sea snail before making it my bitch, and sole contribution, to what I can only describe as a massacre. I feel maybe I am being a little tough on the Canadian lovers but for me they were the type of travellers who ruin places. They almost wanted to pay over the odds because whichever poor person it was ‘had a family’ and who tip constantly despite it not being part of the culture. Throwing money at people doesn’t gain their respect or in the long term even help them, they eventually see you as a walking dollar; who is clearly stupid for throwing away money and evidently has so much they should be ripped off. My fear is that a people who are at present so purely welcoming tourists for what I felt to be human reasons; will eventually become Thailand.

A brief pause in the battle for life

I left the beach refreshed and proceeded to spend the next twenty plus hours on two clean spacious and boring tourist buses to Mandalay; a city I wasn’t going to visit but through circumstances found myself in, and eventually in love with. It was here that the elitist traveller in me came out and I decided the reason I liked the place and nobody else did was because I wasn’t bothered by it’s lack of attractions; I was all about being one with the people. It was here that I felt I really connected for the first time with beautiful people in a way that wasn’t possible in the touristic atmosphere of the beach.  As if a taste of things to come, during one of the stops on one of my boring bus journeys; I dropped some money, and a random guy on the street called out to me and chased after me with it. It wasn’t as if i had dropped a bank card or a camera but cash, and it could easily have disappeared into his pocket, but it didn’t and the honest Burmese character shone through at this moment. 


On my last day in Mandalay I decided it would be fun to walk up to the top of the big famous pagoda on the hill, the name of which I forget, and while there found myself chatting with some young monks practicing their English on the tourists. When they found out I had been a teacher in a past life; they convinced me to come to their school and teach a couple of lessons before I got the train to Bagan. The walk to the school itself way nearly as memorable as the teaching; one guy couldn’t understand why I was walking  when I could just pay for a taxi, so spent five minutes in vain trying to find a space for me on his old bicycle, and then upon hearing where I was going, a taxi motorcycle driver insisted on driving me there for free. The teaching itself consisted of a little teaching squeezed in between me speaking into a microphone and answering questions. I was very pleased to hear George Orwell was their favourite author, probably as a result of ‘Burmese Days’ but interestingly they were well versed in ‘1984’ too. I had an interesting chat after teaching with one of the head monks; who was from the Shan state in the north, an area until recently fighting a guerrilla war with the government. He was one of the monks whose march against military rule a few years earlier had been brutally cracked down by the government. After the protests the government imposed a curfew, and in the early hours when they knew nobody would dare be on the streets to bare witness; marched into the monasteries and doing the unthinkable; beat, kidnapped and killed thousands of monks. As many of the lesser generals and soldiers had refused this order to move against the monks, the military had to go into the rural areas and hire what amounted to uneducated mercenaries to do the work for them. After hearing this I was then invited to explain the current state of Scottish independence; and felt quite ridiculous in doing so. 

English Practice

Mad Mini-Monks

After all this monk talk I decided to play Gandhi on the way to Bagan and travelled with the poor people; I saved a little of my soul and six dollars in the process. The journey itself was unsurprisingly enjoyable and I found much pleasure in finding myself with mice crawling over my feet on what amounted to a hard park bench inside a bouncy castle on noisy wheels. I had another Gandhi esc moment when I decided to share half of my bench with one of the three guys squeezed onto the one next to me. Of course upon arrival in Bagan, the lack of sleep my new found Gandhi ism had led to; brought out a moment of madness. It was about four in the morning, I had about thirty kilos of possession and had barely slept but decided to shun the offer of a dollar taxi journey in the belief I could walk the four kilometres to town. With the help of the taxi drivers; I set off in the right direction and after an exhausting five kilometres uphill I discovered I was going in the wrong fucking direction, bastards. Thankfully a truck picked me up and I went straight past the ten dollar tourist entry check point and into Bagan, it almost made the walk worthwhile. Bagan itself is spectacular. I spent three days walking and hitching around a vast expanse of ancient stupas of varying sizes and legend. On one particular day some young girls who had been batting their eyelashes at me and tying to sell me postcards insisted on cycling my back the three kilometres to my guest house, their just appears no end to the Burmese sense of hospitality.  

The Trekkers

I finally got a chance to really see the countryside when; for the first time, along with three guys I met on the bus, I paid for a guide to take me on a three day trekking expedition.  We trekked from Kalaw to Inle Lake through an area which felt like a combination of dry olive grove southern Europe, red earthed Africa and patchwork England. I was very surprised by the Burmese countryside, continually stopping to gawp at the intense colours and vast red fields of chillies, our timing coinciding with their harvest. Inle Lake is as yet too undeveloped but I believe in time will be, and at present it is an enormous lake surrounded by mountains, with people living in huts on and around the lake; everyone moves around by boat and I got the distinct feeling it is the Venice of Burma. From here me and one of the guys, Ivan, went south to Bago where we explored monasteries, Pagodas and a local market which I can’t help but feel never see’s tourists. We saw a big fat snake which you could make offerings to, played with crazy little mini-monks and were fed by a woman who took a liking to Ivan. 

The Burmese Venice
A Fiery Dinner

Patchwork Burma

Finally back in Rangoon where it had all begun and as we had as of yet not been to one of Burma’s main attractions; the Schwe Dagan Paya, we thought it only fair we sneak in to avoid the entrance fee and have ourselves a little look. While inside we found ourselves befriended by some young Burmese tour guides wanting to practice their Spanish on myself and Ivan, and while discussing Buddhism and Karma; discovered you can theoretically ‘buy good karma’. The idea is that if you ‘do good’ with your money you will get good karma for it, but for me it just raises more questions than answers. Can you do bad things your whole life and amass a vast fortune in the process before spending your last few years honouring Buddha by building golden pagodas, as apparently that brings you good karma. What is good, as you’re then descending into arguments of relativity and ones own notion of a good deed, along with a religions too. Does that mean the people with less money are at a disadvantage to those with the money, and if so does that mean if you’re born with more money you’re also at an advantage in the karma scales? It is simply an idea that doesn’t sit comfortably with me. Money can buy so many material things, but somehow it can save your soul and can therefore buy things in the spiritual world too. Maybe it is the thought that counts and being attached to the money, or is it all just going straight over my head and I’m somehow missing the point? Either way it was an interesting conversation, and the following day to gain a bit more experience they took us on a tour across the river and around some small villages and farms on the outskirts of the city, along with a trip to see a rather effeminate looking lying Buddha statue. That evening a friend of Ivans took us to see a fashion show which turned out to be a brothel where the women would line up and you would pick the one you wanted. Like the rest of the country; I found myself being very popular but these women didn’t have the decorum of the rest of the populace and I was nearly raped as I entered the door, the Mama San even offering to sleep with me for free. I left on my own, with my life and my balls still attached and found it an all together quite an amusing last evening in this friendly amazing land.
Ivan, Myself and our Spanish tour guides
Schwe Dagan Paya

A Pretty Buddha

This has been a long piece and I thank  you for your patience in getting this far; so what is there left to say. Please visit this amazing land as you won’t be disappointed and equally don’t as you will probably fuck it up, but then was my presence not doing just the same thing. It is really hard to find a balance with tourism as it can bring so many benefits but can be equally detrimental, more so in many cases. I read recently that the Greek word Xeno means ‘guest’, so surely the word xenophobe should mean ‘fear of guests’; and while everyone is an individual, I feel comfortable in grouping the Burmese as beautiful people, people who still honour their guests in a way that is rare in this global world we have become accustomed to. Burma has a great deal of problems, despite what our governments and their media now want us to believe, and I often find it hard to read a piece about the place and not become annoyed at what they are either omitting or downright ignoring. But life is about constant change, so the same must be said for Burma too. It is what it is now, and that will be different to how it was when I went there, and will be different again were I to return in the future. Let us all hope, for the sake of such a wonderful people, that the change they both want and expect comes about peacefully and with as little hurt as possible. Let us also hope that our own leaders, alongside the Burmese dictators in suits, don’t have other ideas and finally let a people decide their own future, their own way

The Future?

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Return of The Prodigal Son

And just like that the prodigal son, along with his ego too evidently, has returned for a third time. I won’t come up with excuses but am completely of the belief a combination of circumstances, dependence, Australia and the infinite idle, are to blame for my third disappearance. I am now back on the road though in a different way to my Australia adventure, as much as anything because I now have access to electricity, something we take for granted but which has been until recently a rare treat.

A great deal has changed in the last year and a half. You know this too of course because you too have lived your life, and i hope observed it’s twists and turns along the way. Fot starts I have lines in my face I did not once have, I have new pieces of metal attached to me and my dreds have grown in number, length and ‘coolness’, add to that my computer screen is now damaged and permanently pink and you can have a fair idea of what is reflecting back at me right now. But then as I’m sure you’re also aware, it’s not all about the physical, and I’ve gone through a great deal in this prolonged absence. I’ve smiled, frowned, nearly cried, opened my heart a little, allowing women into it  in a way I haven’t for years, enjoyed the company of those whose friendship I know I can rely on for a lifetime while longing for my own, and embraced my own when finally after eleven and a half months I finally had a day to myself. I allowed the ancient land to make me a man and the city it’s cowering lost bitch. I drove thirty-thousand kilometres in a car nobody thought would get out of Tasmania and experienced absolute silence before absolute noise.

I believe Australia came along into my life at the time it did because I needed to begin my transformation into what I can become. Australia is an ancient wild land and will not only strip everything back to basics but will show you who you really are in the process. Of course it wasn’t just Australia I have been to since you last heard from me as I spent a month in Burma prior to my adventure down under, and at the time had so much to write about the friendliest people on earth that it became so daunting I didn’t write anything at all. But enough of this build up. I have a lot to say but will go into this in the next few pieces. This was supposed to just be me saying hello but I went a got myself carried away and excitable.

 So, hello, and it’s good to be back.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Who would have thought my time in Thailand would be shaped by a meeting in Kolkata of all places. When I was there the first time, suffering and on my deathbed, I met a baba who gave me a blessed prayer bead seed to wear around my neck, and told me that my stomach would be okay now. The next day I finally, after three weeks, passed something resembling what normally comes out of your bottom and I was immediately convinced of his powers. The fact I had been taking antibiotics for the previous four days may have been a factor but I like to believe in the power of the baba. When I flew to Thailand, I went from Kolkata, and having bumped into the very same baba; he introduced me to a Canadian guy who told me of a squat in Bangkok and I made it my plan to set up home there for a few days. The few days turned into nine, then a break in Pattaya and a further six back in Bangkok. To say I haven’t really seen a lot of Thailand would be an understatement. When I arrived I had two conflicting plans, one was to sit on a beach and the other was to go up to Chiang Mai and get a abdominal massage called ‘Chi Nei Tsang’, which unlocks all the bad chi, making you all happy, smiley and cuddly. I did neither.

Thailand was only on the list because to enter Burma, I have to do it from Bangkok, and in all honesty I was not particularly looking forwards to it; “it’s going to be full of clean folk, ‘the horror’”, was one particular thought which entered my mind. The clean folk are here because Thailand has sold it’s arse to both tourism and the west, making it quite a wealthy country in the process, but destroying whatever soul it may have had. My first night I went down Kho San Road, the most infamous of drinking streets in all of Asia, and one not to disappoint. I watched a Lady Boy getting touched up by a tourist and was amused by a policeman doing his best T-1000 impression on a motorbike. Having become fully acclimatised to India and Nepal, I was a mixture of shocked and horrified by this place. For those from Newcastle, it’s like the Bigg Market, and for those with any knowledge of British culture, it’s like one of those awful resorts we’ve created in little fishing villages around Europe. I was sober so I watched it all with clear focused eyes, and found myself questioning, as I watched the pissed Thai girls needing help walking, and the tourists shouting, screaming, making tits of themselves and generally pissing off the locals; whether these are those values we’re trying to spread around the world; I bet the Iranians can’t wait to be liberated. Welcome to civilisation, it’s shaped like a golden ‘M’ with a drunk hanging off it.

When I arrived here I was determined to prove how easy it would be to travel in a country of clean folk and order. “I’ve travelled India”, I told myself, “if I can travel India I can travel anywhere. Step aside Marco Polo, William has arrived”. Unfortunately I was proved very wrong. It’s not that I can’t cope with this country, that part was a doddle, but I realised I’m not actually a very good traveller if I’m on a time budget. My time in both Nepal and India had been quite infinite and for that reason I had simply been able to sit around, soak a place up and in, and then leisurely move on when I felt the time was right. That wasn’t possible in Thailand, I had less than three weeks here, and my birthday was smack in the middle, so I had that to take consideration of too. When I first arrived in the squat it was great, I was staying in a house, not a guest house, where my house is my room, but an actual house, and it was amazing. Throw in the fact the people there were great, especially my little companion Off; so I decided to stay a little while, but a little while as I’ve already said became nine days, and then it was nearly my birthday and after much deliberation I decided against either the beach or the chi, and went and visited an old friend in Pattaya; which is not like a resort town in Europe but is a resort town, and of course Thailand’s infamous sex capital.

Now for all my bravado and ability to give an impression which isn’t always quite accurate, most could easily believe me to be an enlightened saved man. I was once a drunkard who liked a good smoke, yet I now do neither and am actually happier for it, I even contemplated veganism recently; if twenty year old me could see what I have become, he would be horrified.  But if India reveals you for who you are, to a degree so does Pattaya, or at least the darker side. Last year on my twenty-fifth birthday I spent the morning and afternoon in a Buddhist monastery and the night getting a hot oil rub down and a little ball tickle from a fortune teller. I swore the very next day, for as long as I continued to have birthdays; I would never out of curiosity stay sober on one ever again, and never would another man tickle my balls. So this year I had naked Thai girls sing happy birthday to me, and drank enough Thai whisky that I feel I suitably made up for last years sobriety and molestation. I would like of course to point out that I didn’t actual do anything with these naked singing Thai girls, and had no intention of, but it was nice of them to sing happy birthday to me all the same, and it’s a memory I certainly won’t forget in a hurry.

Having embraced the darker side of life; I returned to Bangkok with the plan of going to Chiang Mai and unlocking some of that bad chi I had built up of recent. However, having not sorted my Australian visa yet, and with these few days being the last chance I would have, I decided the sensible option would be to hang around in case of any problems. I feel vindicated in that I had to go and have a chest x-ray to prove I didn’t have tuberculosis and enjoyed my time with my friends in the squat. A few days before leaving; it dawned on me that maybe it would be possible to unlock some chi in Bangkok and a trip to Chiang Mai may not be completely necessary and I was proved right thankfully. With the darkness lifted; I finished my time in Thailand with a skip in my step and a smile on my face. I didn’t do a lot there and there’s not really a lot to tell but I enjoyed my time; and now I’m in Burma, which despite being so close, is, I can assure you, a complete other world.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


I’ve spent over eight months of my life now in Nepal. Whenever I tell this to people who have been there I always get the same look of disbelief, and it always makes me think that maybe I have actually spent too long in that strange little mountain kingdom. The eight months have been shared, rather unevenly, over three visits, and with three being the magic number, I can’t help but feel the third may have also been the final time. That was my intention at least when I went up there from India, to a degree a saying goodbye to the place, but more a few people who will always remain very much in my heart.

With Nepal being so close to India geographically and culturally; it’ll always be compared to it, and this is simply a battle it cannot and will not ever win. If India is ‘same same but different’, then Nepal must be ‘same same but shitter’. It has some very picturesque qualities, but so does India, and although in India people will try and rip you off, they try and rip each other off too which kind of makes it okay. In Nepal they’re just money hungry and greedy with it, but it’s the fact they get annoyed and sulky when you won’t let them cheat you which irritates the most; as if we should because we all have servants back home and we’re in the wrong for not. It doesn’t annoy me as it once did though; I have taken a step back and found myself taking a more amused view on the whole thing, but it has just strengthened my disgust of moneys corrupting values and what it has done to an inherently good people.

And they are a good people, you can see it in their nature, and it is why when money is not involved; I have made some very good connections. I have two families in this world, the one I was born into, and the one which adopted me. Many moons ago on my very first day arriving in Pokhara; I ate some mashed potato in a little restaurant called The Laughing Buddha. My life would never be the same again. Here a family work by day and sleep by night, and rightfully complain about both these things. I spent so much of my time there on my first visit that I became part of the furniture, and in time; part of the family too. Towards the end of my first spell I was being given free cups of tea, the second free food, and by the third I was so much part of the machine I was peeling potatoes and serving food; to both earn my free dinner and just help them out because I wanted to.

My last full day with them was taken up with the Depvali celebrations; a festival as important to Hindu’s as Christmas is to Christians and to Capitalists. It is in honour of the brother, so sisters perform the ceremony; sprinkling water around you and then rubbing oil into you before giving you ‘tika’; the mark on your third eye (your forehead). I was involved in this last year but this time it felt slightly different, as if I really was part of the whole procedure, and I realised then that I was actually part of the family, whatever that may entail. I don’t know when I will return to Nepal, if ever, but if one day I do find myself in that slow, corrupt little place; I know I will put all my effort into doing one thing and it won’t be paying a fortune for the honour of walking up a mountain, it will be to find my Buddha family. I will then commiserate with Imran and Nira about how hard life is, kick Prakash’s idle arse and make sure Rekha is working hard at school and hasn’t been married off to some lazy Nepali by Nira for a few rupees. Ah Nepali life.

But to talk of only one family in Pokhara; would do disservice to another. While The Laughing Buddha became my Nepali home, another one came together from many different countries, continents and cultures, but which was equally strong and open. Thanks to a beautiful Brazilian couple I met first in Varanasi; I was introduced to a group consisting of Brazilians; Germans; Turks; Japanese; French; Indians; Portuguese; Americans and Argentineans. It was an eclectic mix, where bonds were made first at a festival over hallucinogens and a show of solidarity in the face of greed, and then at a guest house; which became our home as we took it over cooking together, living together and ultimately being in harmony together. It was a perfect environment to live in and despite the fact I was tired of Pokhara itself; because of them I didn’t want to leave.

I realised given a bit of creativity things can be reused with a simply needle and thread, that vegan food can actually be really good, that I can be around people smoking a lot and despite it being tempting; not need to be involved in the smoking to not only enjoy myself but to be a part of something, that drinking your own piss only results in partial insanity, and finally that everything can be shared and everyone will always get what they need. I travel to learn and to experience, and while I naturally get both those things from the countries I visit and the local people, this was just confirmation that anyone and everyone around you has something to offer and plays the part they are there to play. Whether you want to cook, be the chai wallah, build the fire, take charge or simply sit back, observe and let people get on with what it is they want to do; people can live together and they can live together in harmony doing it. Of course long term who can say what would happen but in the time I was there, with them, these people showed me nothing but openness and love, and they will always be in my heart for it.

I wasn’t sure about going back to Nepal again but I am really glad I did, and although I may be tired of Nepal itself, it has provided me with a lot, be that experience, learning or simply people never to forget. I hope I see them all again someday, wherever and whenever that may be

Sunday, 6 November 2011

India Through My Eyes


Modern India
Shiva overlooking evening puja

Me in the old derelict Beatles ashram

The Ganga - Hindu's 'Hail Mary'
The same Ganga
Baba Shanti
Sacred India
Goats eat anything apparently

Cows, rickshaws and bikes.

Spiritual wealth coming in the shape of fat, shiny rings and mobile phones during puja

A rickshaw sales room, yes those are chickens

Buffaloes washing away their sins

Religious hysteria and Orangemen; India I think
The daily grind
Being kids before the hardsale

The Goddess Durga

Evening Puja
A cow