This time tackling multiple countries at once. Which ones, I hear you think? (correction: I anticipate hearing you think unless you are one of the two Indians consistently looking over my shoulder)
From Tehran I flew to Dubai, where a retired French teacher befriended me and convinced me to spend my long wait for the transfer with him on a quest for booze and drunken adventures in the city. The first thing I noticed was the complete lack of Emirati citizens. A feeling that Dutch people might recognize from the Rotterdam subway slowly crops up, like all of it is solely employment for foreigners from less fortunate countries. The Emirati’s make the money, but the hotels, taxi’s, restaurants and even the traffic police department seem staffed only by Nigerians, Indians, Pakistani’s and whatever you call citizens of Bangladesh. We sneaked into a seven star restaurant on the heels of some slutty-looking rich Russian girls to see the mind-blowing extravagance that is yours to enjoy if you are willing to spend more than 10.000$ a night. Proceeding by golf cart along the pier to the 360 bar in the middle of the ocean, my sextagenarian companion let out a whoop of excitement full of youthful zest that decades of teaching had been unable to suppress. No matter the beer was 11 euros per bottle, we were now among the world’s elite, and he wanted pictures of himself all over the place, wearing his charming purple-rimmed straw hat.
Only hotels have licenses to sell alcohol so the drinking began in earnest in a seedy Indian style theater bar where there were Bollywood movies at screaming volumes: preferable to the adjoining rooms which features Iranian and Indian belly dance.
With my last dirhams I took the futuristic metro back to the terminal, where I fell into a fitful sleep crammed between a couple of affluently fat African men.
Eight hours later I set foot in Kathmandu, Nepal, where my luggage had been misplaced so I had to wait another eight. But if it weren’t for this delay, I would never have met Ali, the Nigerian/Serbian/Libanese businessman/boxer with whom I shared the taxi to town. We recognized each other as the sole people who were in need of a taxi, in contrast to the horde of Nepalese taxi drivers in between us very much trying to offer us taxis. The bottle of whiskey was uncorked in the cab and in good party style we drove into a great Friday evening in Kathmandu. My first long week was spent getting drunk, getting food poisoning and making friends at the Jazzmandu festival in Kathmandu and in Pokhara on that beautiful lake in the shadow of the Himalayas. After that back to the Kathmandu airport for an event I had been anticipating intensely for more than two months: the arrival of my Albanian love I had pawned my heart to months before. With her I spent a blissful, love-filled week in a nice apartment in Kathmandu, making trips to surrounding villages, restaurants, temples but most frequently to our bed. Our Air-BnB host graciously but naively offered us to use his motorbike. Turns out the crowded, chaotic traffic of Kathmandu is not the right place to learn how to ride old grumpy motorbikes. Special thanks goes to the chickens and goats who refused to get out of the way so I ended up letting the engine falter right in front of them. Bijzonder lullige vertoning.
Neither was it a good idea to attempt a nightly drive to Nagarkot, a village some 30km away. The road turned to a trail of mud and stones, leading through the jungle with occasional rocks and stream intersecting the path. We agreed it was a bit extreme for the first day on a motorcycle when we finally arrived, covered in mud and scratches.
After a nearly-tearful goodbye I spent a couple of days jamming and drinking in Patan before returning to Pokhara to search for my diary, which I had left there somewhere during my last visit. I wasn’t particularly hopeful, but it turned out some guy who had my number decided to take it to Kathmandu for me! If only he had actually used that number to inform me of his decision, or at least to tell me my diary had been found, things would have been easier. Despite his helpful demeanor, I spent five days waiting for it, which were filled with setting up jam sessions in the Babylon cafe, doing some studio work for a would-be radio hit and a lot of drinking.
With Stephane my Flemish brother in arms I travelled first to Lumbini (the birthplace of the Buddha which has been turned into an excuse for buddhistic countries to do a cheesy temple competition) and onwards to Varanasi, the holiest city in the Hindu religion. This part of India is just utterly crowded, filthy, noisy and intense. In Varanasi people, religiously burning corpses, holy cows and monkeys are everywhere, a hectic experience. The street food is very nice and diverse but alas! your faithful reporter overindulged and got another nice case of food poisoning. Just arrived in Calcutta from where I intend to travel to Bangladesh, before flying to Thailand to spend New Year’s Eve with old friend Endo Voet before finally returning to Europe to be reunited with my love in France. Fare thee well!