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Monthly Archives: June 2007

Elephants, Ladyboys and Working Girls in Phuket

So Tara and I check into our hotel and the pool and everything looks quite inviting at night.

The next morning, you know it’s gonna be an interesting day, when you finish swimming on the beach by your hotel and there is a baby elephant walking about his own business in your hotel.

After swimming and everything, Tara and I decided to go grab some lunch and for the most part walking along the street, it was fairly quiet and mundane, aside from the old European men walking around with their thai “girlfriends” (of course, everyone of them were younger than 18 or looked younger than 18 – you tell me if they were!) but we a bit hungry and decided to go for some lunch. It was again pretty standard fare except for the garlic prawns which cost about 5$ and looked like this

If were ordering these in Toronto, the price of the dish would have been somewhere in the 30-35$ range easily just for this one Garlic Prawn entree. Ah you have to love eating in Thailand for sure. The rest of the action started later on when we decided to go see a Ladyboy show.

Now don’t ask why we would do this, especially when I live at Church and Wellesley and I see enough of this sort of action for FREE, every weekend, but it’s something to do.

From the pictures, you can tell that was a different type of show, but it was entertaining and well worth the money, if you have never seen a ladyboy show. The one question, I always tried to figure out was, “Where did they hide their packages?”. Well we got the answer after the show. They use tape and tuck them back… and of course, they are Asian after all :) Nuff said!!!

Next, it was on to grab some drinks on the strip, so we grabbed a Tuk-Tuk and we were off!

Once we had taken off about 3 years of our lives in that Tuk-Tuk ride, we hit the strip with me in my Aussie rugby shirt! That shirt always gets attention, no matter what!!

Now the bar were just filled of tons of young girls looking for drinks, work and who knows what else. It was about 11pm and the place was just getting started. So of course, I’m trying not to make too much eye contact with the majority of girls, since I know they are working, but of course having Tara next to me was also a good Thai hooker/bar girl detterent!!

Now beer bars in Phuket are small open air bars with up to 8 girls working and they will do everything they can to lure customers to their bar. Trying to walk past a bar without your girlfriend or Tara, it isn’t uncommong to see a couple girls surrounding you to drag you into their bar and also grabbing your arm for something more private. It could be a lot of fun for any single guy but if you don’t want to drink at that bar you will have to fight your way out. 

After ordering a drink one of the girls will try to start a conversation. They usually begin with asking: What is your name? Where do you come from? Do you like Thailand? How long will you stay? Have you Thai girlfriend? If you answered no on the last question expect to get lot of attention, you will not be bored. And later she will be more than happy to accompany you to a disco and show you around in Phuket for so long you want. If you decide to take her with you, a bar fine has to be paid. The bar fine etiquette is far to detailed to go into here…..google is your friend here!

But somehow or the other while we were looking around for a drink, Tara and I ended up playing some drinking gambling games with some thai girls looking for a date.  The name of the game I was playing was called “Hit nail with Hammer” – get it! Quite subtle I tell you!!

The purpose of the game “hit nail with a hammer” is using the sharp end of the hammer to drive the nail deep into a wood block with the fewest tries.
Simple enough and of course on my first hit, I rammed the nail into the wood! Score 1 for me!

Now from the look of concentration on my face, you could tell I was not going to let any Thai hooker beat me in a game of “Hit the Nail”, but what one did not consider was that these girls have considerable practice in this game, since this is how they hustle “farang” out of their money for drinks. Thankfully, I wagered buying a round of drinks for the one girl who beat me.

In the end, all ended well and we made new little friends

Of course, you couldn’t help noticing the strange sights while walking around downtown Phuket; like the Thai dominatrix beating some hapless wanker… I couldn’t help but watch and laugh at the poor sod!

A good link to check out more on the bars would be http://phuket.baronbonk.com/tiger_plaza_bangla_road_patong_phuket.shtml

Exeter : 6.30 – June 22nd … 4 days till my birthday…*sigh*

So long day so far…. But everything going ok.. decided to spec a box and what not and oh Nick decided to tell me that they are going to have a child. I don’t know how to take this news, since this has kinda thrown me for a loop. I guess I am getting a bit old now and what now, with my birthday coming up in 4 days. So one more week in Europe and then I am back home for some time by myself. My boss supports my decision to head home and all, and get some R&R time. The people at the UK office are absolutely nice and have shown me a pretty good time. I see a lot of scope on the support perspective and ideally since we are turning the corner in the company, it is a pretty nice time to be in the company. I should hopefully be heading a team of consultants in the near future. The idea of being a cornerstone of the new vision of the company is pretty exciting, and in the end the idea of options and having some good money come about for me.. fits nicely into my plans for the future. Ideally, I definitely see myself finishing up the traveling in about 2 years or so, then heading back to school is pretty nice as an idea. I would need to have a nice little cushy pad of money and all, then do some more traveling and maybe some consulting work for clients. On the HRMS side, I see HR analytics as a real strength within the organization and the ability to leverage the tools within the HR enterprise will lead to much more opportunities in the next 5 years.

What I need to find is a company that will allow me to take more training and do more in terms of the vision of setting up the enterprise scenarios and moving those companies to the next level. There is an astonishing myopia at the HR executive level and I think there is a lot of scope from the business process consulting perspective to get companies there.

Anyway time to crystallize that thought. I wish I had Kyle’s number in London, could really do with a nice drink or so right now. In addition, I have to figure some plans out for touring London tomorrow, and maybe meet up with Nerissa on the weekend. I am sure I could get a flight from here to Paris in the morning, but I figure I will just do a side trip specifically to London or so. I should start researching a couple things tonight on the CHRP and the MSc in Decision Sciences or even find a school that will allow a joint masters program for me. I think this would be the ideal situation for someone in the multi-disciplinary fields that I am in. Again need to put some thought into what I need to be doing.

Also need to put some thought about the financing for this.

But anyway on the way to Exeter, I had to pass through Stonehenge, so this was an awesome drive to kill two birds with one stone

The traffic station at Stonehenge

Exeter : 5.30am

Well this was an early start to the morning, so got to the station, and proceeded to crash all through the 3.30 hr train ride to the south of England. The weather was absolute rubbish though: cold, damp and muggy…hence typical English weather!! Checked in at the hotel at about 9.30 or so, and then got to work for about 10am. Nice little office we have here, and very nice people we have working for us. I can definitely say that I am learning a lot about the trials of having remote offices in different places in the world. Just like there are interoffice politics, there are politics that are across offices and countries, and there are cultural nuances that one needs to be aware of, in terms of business conduct and how business is conducted in different parts of the world.

Lots of work, till the end of the day, then a drink at the bar with Norman Whitehall and then back to the hotel room in typical consultant fashion. The kicker here is that there was NO internet connection in the hotel…. Seriously!! NO INTERNET!!!! So I had my steak in Madeira sauce and then headed to bed at about 8pm!!! You heard it… 8pm!!!! Seriously, I think this was the earliest that I had gone to bed in like a couple years without being deathly sick or something.

London – 9am in the hotel room

This was a busy, busy morning, since I was booked in London but there was mass confusion at the HC-UK office and no client visits were scheduled and hence I was being seriously stressed out by Heather, but some IMs between Alan and I, cleared up things nicely. A call from Scott also helped to realign things quickly and it was decided that I would go to Exeter to meet the UK team a bit early. Hotels were cancelled and rebooked, new train arrangements were made. By this time after everything, it was about noon. So of course, called up Fiona and Nerissa and made plans. Now I try not to be indecisive about things and im not indecisive about plans, but Fiona spent 3 hours trying figure out her plan, when I knew the plan was Oxford Street for some shopping…. Well I didn’t know Oxford Street but I knew shopping.

Eventually we went out for shopping, ended up at a very nice Spanish restaurant for Tapas and Sangria. A delightful combination indeed! Nerissa joined us at the middle of the meal. With my assistance, they ordered the Artichokes (whch I would eat in a second but they tried they wouldn’t try it, and a awesome scallop, pancetta and monkfish skewer. Quite tasty, if I do say so myself; with this great tomato and anchovy sauce. Im not an anchovy fan per se, but this sauce gave me great ideas for something different. In fact, this whole trip with all the Arabic and Middle Eastern flavours, it has really perked my cooking interests.

So after this nice meal and drinks, there was the consequent buzz in mind from the 3 pitchers of sangria, we proceeded to walk down Oxford Street for laughs and a trip to the Gelateria : Strawberry for me!!! Then back to the apartment at Vauxhall. Quick nap and we decided to head out for shisha. Now there has been a lot of Shisha in the last 4 months… 3 times, which is a lot for moi, seeing as though I don’t smoke at all. So the plan was to head to a Lebanese bar that served shisha… I didn’t know it was a Lebanese restaurant, else I actually might have vetoed, given all the Arabic food I had in Israel – but this would have been a mistake.

The food was excellent, with some great shish taouk, and of course seeing that the girls never really had lots of Lebanese food before, it was nice for me to play food guide for them… so I did all the ordering: Tabouleh, Falafel, Shish Taouk plate with Zata, Spicy Merguez, Lahem B’agine, Hummus, Moussaka and of course tons of pitas and drinks.  This was a lot of food, but the main entertainment was the people watching and the belly dancing. Those belly dancers would be awesome back home, no doubt. There were two girls who pretty much rocked the house, and one girl would have done a West Indian winer girl proud for sure.  Took a couple a videos of the Belly Dancers, I had seen a couple Belly Dancers before, but these two girls were awesome.

We didn’t end up doing any shisha, since the restaurant didn’t have a license but it didn’t matter, we had an awesome time. So grabbed a cab and headed back to the apartment till I had to leave at 4.30am for Paddington Station to head to Exeter.

Arriving in London – about close to midnight

No big sets of worries here, got in fine, no customs troubles, which I expected having come in from Israel. No issues with the tube from Heathrow and no issues getting to the hotel. However, the Thistle Victoria hotel, is a grand old hotel in the middle of London, but it is OLD… did I say Old? I meant dusty and moldy and mildewy and stuffy and the bed was uncomfortable and the shower small, and the hallway creepy and almost haunted at night. So of course, in true diva fashion, I made a fit and wanted to check out that night, but I thought it prudent to just chill and instead head to Fiona and Nerissa’s place which wasn’t too far from my hotel.

Since I didn’t know where I was actually going to, I decided to head to the station and try to find a cab. Now the thing is that it isn’t as simple as grabbing cab around Victoria station, since it was a major hub. So of course, I got in the queue for the cabs, when out of nowhere, some guy asks me if I need a cab, and me seeing the line for the cab, went along with the gypsy cabbie. Now, I know what the comment is… never get in an unlicensed cab in a strange country, but this was London, the Big Brother capital of the world, so I’m sure there was some camera that caught the whole transaction. In fact, the number of cameras around London actually seriously unnerves me. It is something out of a sci-fi novel, in that, it is moving to a police state mentality. Anyway, 15 pounds later, I get to the flat and we hang out there for the rest of the evening into the morning.

Leaving Tel Aviv for London

Leaving Tel Aviv was something else on this trip. Since I thought that the majority of the security was actually when you were coming into Israel, I was typically relaxed on my journey back. From the hotel, I had to get a cab from The Dan Tel Aviv to the airport. So I got a cab in front the airport and typically when I asked the fare… his response was 150 shekhels. From the initial trip to the hotel from the airport, the flat rate that was charged was 130 shekhels, so naturally I was like “WTF?!?!”. So I countered with a 120 shekhels, he countered with 140, then I stuck firm to 120, he came down to 130, and I stayed firm again and then he came down to 120. Of course, he took his sweet old time in getting to the airport, but for once I planned lots of time ahead since Heather had told me about the difficulties she faced. Now of course leavinga great view like this

and a boardwalk like this

 

is kinda tough!!

Well when I finally got to the airport… check #1, a guy looks at me coming and ignores everyone else and pulls me out of the line to question my documentation, however I had Peter’s explanatory letter in hand and printed for such an occasion. The guard read the letter and sent me along my way. Before I got to main gate, I was stopped by another guard, another passport check and again went along. Finally I get to the security line up, and then the trouble started. I get this retarded girl who spoke poor English, and then proceeded to question me about everything under the sun, including my parents being from T&T. In fact, I was really getting annoyed by the irrelevant questioning. So I told her so, so she brings a supervisor, of course I realized that I’m going to get through the grill anyway and they were going to search everything in my luggage, so I just went ahead and did the whole piss poor tourist thing, including telling them that their questioning was stupid and irrelevant.
Of course, I am taken out of the line and of course duly searched and my luggage is taken apart and searched as though I were Osama himself. The good thing though is that they check you in and everything, when they decide to screw you, and of course send someone to cuddle with you like the real thing, when it is over. By that time though, I had decided I had enough of Israel and was time to leave. The duty free section in Tel Aviv was like a shopping mall though and I found two bottles of 30 yr old Rum but I was so pissed about the whole searching experience, that I decided that I didn’t want to buy anything from the country. So of course I got on my flight and headed to Vienna and then London.

Working at Ness in Tel Aviv – 18th June, 2007

Final work day with Hagit at Given Imaging, got most of the SAP data issues under control, got the position to position issues completed via custom RFC. Long day as usual. Once the day was done at 6pm or so, Itai and I headed off to the hotel, but I expressed my insane craving for a bacon burger, since being in Israel, there was a precious lack of good beef or anything resembling bacon. As much as I liked the breakfasts at the hotel, I was pretty sick of the same breakfast in the morning of Coffee, Fresh Juice, Tabouleh, Pine nut cabbage salad, hummus and some tuna salad. This sounds great if you have to have it for 2 days, but when you have some variation of it for the past 8 days or so, you’re pretty sick of it after a while.

So we went to a place called the Burger Bar… and it is exactly as it sounds, a bar that sells decent burgers. I got the biggest patty, which was about a 1 1/2lb of beef, some guacamole, stewed onions and 4 slices of bacon. Break out some shoestring fries and a Strawberry daiquiri.. and you have a champion meal. So some good conversation and what not, then back to the hotel to get ready for the trip to London in the morning.

Floating in the Dead Sea? Don’t open your eyes!!

Getting to the Dead Sea is fairly easy – in fact it is quite easy and you can approach from a number of directions in Israel.

  • From Jerusalem (39km from Northern Dead Sea)
  • From Eilat (220km from Southern Dead Sea)
  • From Tel Aviv (98km from Northern Dead Sea).

Since, I was situated in Tel Aviv, then it meant taking a tour from Tel Aviv will also subject you to the mandatory tour bus shopping experience. This is always my main pet peeve about these organized tours. I have no desire to eat at the sponsored restaurant and I have no desire to shop for anything. However, if you want convenience, then this is the price to pay, in addition to your valuable shekhels.

Of course, one doesn’t really need to figure out that it is an awesome tourist attraction with facilities to match. As the lowest point in the world at 394.6 m (1269 ft) below sea level. That being said this area is saturated with pricey resorts, day spas (many people believe that the mud of the Dead Sea has special healing and cosmetic uses), and admission fee-only beaches ready to gouge as much as possible out of visitors.

The Dead Sea is about as much of a surreal experience as you’ve been lead to believe. Normally, I don’t really subscribe to hype but once you wade into the “waters”, you’re hit with a myriad of sensations. Before explaining, one has to understand that the salt concentration of the Dead Sea fluctuates around 31.5%. It’s about 8.6 times as salty as the ocean—and anyone can float easily because of the natural buoyancy. Think about that … almost 1/3 of the brine is solid salt.

A rock could float here, so no matter how terrible a swimmer/floater you are, floating is beyond effortless. Your main mission here is to avoid the liquid touching your face and head. instead, all of your energy and attention is diverted to keeping the salty brine from entering your eyes, nose or mouth. The water is very gritty and noticeably thicker than any other type of ocean water I’ve ever encountered.

Of course, me wanting to “experience” this nonsense … I just had to dip my head in the brine. I’ve tasted some foul, bowel retching things during my travels, but I’d be happy if I went the rest of my days without such an experience again.

  • Think about putting a pound of salt into a glass of water and then trying some of that.
  • After that, take some epsom salts and then put it in that glass and try to mix that. Now try that.
  • After that, take some rotten eggs shells, break them up and toss them into the glass. Now try that.

Combine the smells and taste from that mixture and you’re just starting to approach what my tastebuds had to endure. In sampling the Dead Sea, there is an instant inescapable convulsion of spitting and gagging that leaves your mouth in misery long after you’ve guzzled the last of your water.

Now after tasting this nonsense … there are other things to worry about, in that the salt immediately crystallizes on your eyes – hence opening them becomes almost impossible unless you like the burning sensation in your eyes. Then all your skins starts pickling – note that I took a shave 3 days before going to Masada/Dead Sea. It felt like someone was taking a cheese grater to my skin. Every little nick and cut on your body instantly starts screaming, while your body pickles at an alarming rate.

Additionally, in walking through the mud, the solid salt deposits will scratch your legs and back, if you fall in. Prepare for pain, as each scratch will feel like a sword in your chest.

That being said … would I do it again? Hell yes! Floating was awesome, free facial and body scrub … good for my skin. Next time, I’ll know better than to dip my head into the brine.

Lessons learned for next time:

  • Wear Sandals
  • Don’t dip head into brine
  • Don’t taste brine
  • Before using a towel … use the showers. They’re there for a reason. Towelling before showering will require a new towel.
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Masada and the Dead Sea……

So leaving from the Dan Tel Aviv was a chore in itself this morning, since I had to rise quite early as Masada was a good two hours away from Tel Aviv. So on the way was pretty uneventful except for the young soldiers you pass on the road with those huge machine guns. Once you get to Masada there are two ways to get up the mountain. Now a bit about Masada :

Surrounded on all sides by deep ravines, overlooking the Dead Sea and cut off from civilization by the Judean desert, the fortress of Masada was built for the personal needs the Jews or the Romans would try to overthrow him, so he built for himself this private, luxurious fortress-palace.

Herod diverted the floods of the Judean desert into cisterns carved into the plateau of Masada, and stored there huge quantities of foods, and weapons – all for his personal use. Remains of Herod’s luxurious palace-fortress have been uncovered on Masada; so have the Roman bathhouse, storerooms and northern palace.

About 70 years after Herod’s death, Jewish Zealots turned Masada into their final bastion. The Romans, in their desire to lower Jewish morale, sent several legions to Masada. Their aim: to destroy the 960 men, women children who had fled Jerusalem after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.

Unable to live their lives in the tradition of their forefathers, the defenders of Masada chose to die at their own hand rather than fall into the hands of the Romans and fall into slavery.

  1. Snake path up the mountain in the 43 degree desert heat with no water or break in between with a steep climb. This is the route of the old times and it takes about 2-3 hours to climb. This route is circuitous and long.. and of course we all know I am not about those things at all!
  2. The second way and the way I took, which was with the Masada cable car. Transportation up the mountain is basically a ski lift… the lift is fairly new and it is huge and can fit a lot of people inside. If you’re someone who is afraid of heights, you won’t have much anxiety as the cable car is quite large and it has seats. The views going up the Masada cable car are spectacular. The cablecar is pretty much the same style I saw in Zermatt going up the Matterhorn.Looking to see how far we travelled up! Definitely not for someone who is afraid of heights … but they can always close their eyes!As you dock into the Fortress, this is the view coming up!

    So once you get to the top of the Cable Car run, then you are greeted with this amazing panorama and it is possible to see the Dead Sea in the distance. The machinery itself doesn’t look stable in some ways but it is maintained very frequently; well so I was told by the guides up there.

    masada top

Once you are at the top, there are large sections cordoned off by walls and each section is well labelled and tells you the history of Masada, who occupied the rooms and what happened to the people in them.

So once we were done exploring Masada and getting the story, then it was off to the Dead Sea.