Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Las Vegas (Fear and Loathing and all that)

Las Vegas Strip is a gaudy, 24-hour affair of fake plaster sights, fountains and lights, tourists and limos and big video screens, enormous hotels, lots of marriage chapels and both porn and pawn shops galore. It's great for about five minutes before you start getting tired of the vacuous emptiness of it all.

Basically the idea is that you gamble. But I have no money with which to do that, so for me it's got to be 25c slot machines. Since these are unbelievably dull, it's really not worth doing. Where ordinary pub fruit machines have features, holds, nudges, intrigue and strategy, these have... er... pulling a lever. Zzzzzz...

So it leaves me with nowt to do but wander around and look at the sights. Which isn't exactly a hardship - for the most part they're enormously impressive. In the last 48 hours I've seen circus acts, replicas of Michaelangelo's David, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, several fountain and light shows, and (of course) eaten myself bloated at all-you-can-eat buffets. It's great.

But, like I said, the ultimate emptiness of it all does start to wear fairly quickly, as does the amount of walking I have to do, since The Strip is enormously long and the casinos themselves are huge. At least the alcohol is cheap...

We're off to San Diego tomorrow night, on a night bus as ever.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

It's not all fun

To recap: Last you heard I looked like some sort of ruffian due to the large graze on my face, and the right hand side of my body hurt and was grazed and cut in a lot of places (knee, shoulder, hand, ear). Yesterday I felt rough in general, but I put that down to a hangover. How wrong I was, though.

After a night spent failing to sleep, rolling about in delirious fever, and with a sore throat, I realised that - yay! - I've once again managed to contract tonsilitis. I've just been to an American Doctor, and trust me on this, what they say about medical care being pricey in the US is absolutely true. Ouch. Hopefully I'll be able to get some of the money back from my insurance - after all, that's what it's there for, right (arf)?

All told I'm not a happy bunny at the moment - unable to sleep on my right side, or at all, no money, stuck in a country crammed with Americans. It's not rosey. This morning at 6am (my time) you would have found me on this very computer, having given up the charade of trying to sleep, looking at the cost of flights home. I reckon I'll hang in here for as long as I can, but still - if something else goes wrong...

So who knows? Maybe see you soon!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

San Francisco

San Francisco is a lovely place - small enough to feel like a proper city, large enough for stuff to be happening. Trams (or as they call them here, cable cars) wind their way through the city, the grid street system means it's easy to navigate, and it's all wrapped around the bay (sorry, The Bay) which is marvellous (although the famous Golden Gate Bridge is underwhelming - it's red, for a start). The only things about Frisco that aren't great is that apart from the fabulous art gallery there isn't much to see, the sport is rubbish, and there are a ridiculous amount of hills.

Speaking of which, last night, after a few beers, I was running headlong downhill along the road (as you do) when I tripped and landed on my face. Fortunately my glasses didn't break, and I'm ok, but I do have a rather nasty scrape on my face. I knew my good looks couldn't last forever, but I didn't expect them to go in that manner! Still, as I said, I'm fine (so don't worry Mum).

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Great American Ballgame

Baseball. The Great American Sport. Tonight, I saw a game live - the San Francisco Giants against the Arizona Diamondbacks. And by God, it's dull.

For those who don't know, 9 innings per team. 3 outs per innings. Pitch after pitch after pitch, with almost every one of them being missed by the batter. Absolutely nothing happens. For hours. Then someone shanks a hit into the front row of the crowd, and that's the game won. Tell me - does anyone know of a worse sport (not including women's football)?

What amazed me most tonight was the crowd, however. They spent more time trying to get on TV with absurd antics and exhorting other fans to stand up and cheer than they did actually cheering themselves. They had two chants, both the same: "Let's go Giants", the only difference being the number of handclaps/footstamps between them. Perhaps because they're too stupid to recall anything more complicated.

Seriously, though, Americans are amazing to me. An entire people, apparently without the least trace of irony or self-consciousness. They couldn't be less like us Brits if they tried - where we thrive on introversion, they are extrovert in nature. I wonder how long I'd have to live here before I enjoyed the enormous portions sold, the absurd conversation and movements. And most of all, before I enjoyed the sports. Any of them.

Oh, how I miss football...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

United States of Insanica

I'm now in San Francisco, but having arrived yesterday on an overnight bus I spent most of the day asleep. So I shall leave my thoughts about Frisco for another post (if I remember) and instead concentrate on LA some more.

In particular, I shall be concentrating on Los Angeles' large population of utter mentalists. I've never been anywhere so crazy as Hollywood before. For example, Kings Cross in London has more than its fair share of lunatics, I think you'll agree. But they tend to be of either the shouting at themselves so you know to avoid them, or probably harmless (right up to the moment you lean too close and they stab you in the eye with a syringe) tramps muttering to themselves. In Hollywood, however, the number and variety of madmen and women is truly astounding.

There was the bloke waiting for a bus who mumbled to himself and then with a yell of defiance leapt and stamped on a paving slab, a routine he continued every 45 seconds. There was the man who looked perfectly normal, until when you walked past him you realised he was singing one extremely high-pitched note to himself. There was the man standing just down a side road off La Brea (a large road) smoking a fag with his left hand and jigging about, while his right hand pulled up the right leg of his shorts so that he could pee in the gutter, a long arc of piss splashing on the road while he pranced around. There was the old woman on the bus who snapped "Don't sit next to me" in a tone reminiscent of The Exorcist at my mate's polite request to occupy the vacant seat adjacent to her. There was the man crossing an intersection in his car, who appeared normal until you noticed he was eating his dinner off a plate with a knife and fork while driving. All these, and lots more. My theory is that, seeing as Hollywood is a silver screen paradise anyway, the government figured that no one would notice a few genuine madmen amongst the quirky and eccentric actors, those crazy from years of drug abuse, and the weirdo super-fans and stalkers. Thusly I think they simply poured several asylums in to the area, and won't let the crazies out. Everyone else can continue to come and go as they please. Rather than being "care in the community", it's "the community".

Anyway, that's all for now. It remains for me only to point out that Mental Health is in fact a very serious issue, and rather than laughing or being scared of men wizzing in the street or eating dinner whilst driving I should be trying to help them.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Live in Hollywood

Ladies and Gentlemen, this post comes to you live from an internet cafe on Hollywood Boulevard, home of the walk of fame, with all those stars' names on the floor!!

Though actually, the second thing I've learnt since getting here is that most of the names are of people I've never heard of in my life. I presume they're all old TV stars or something. IT's rather odd, anyway. Though not as odd as the fact that the only current film star I've seen written down there is Cuba Gooding Jr., or as odd as the L.Ron Hubbard army handing out things to try and get you to follow Cruise and Travolta down the Scientology path. It's the land of the weird, folks - last night a man walking up and down the intersection outside our hostel with a sign reading "George Bush won because Jesus is Lord" on one side, and "There is a war in Iraq because that is the will of God" on the other. And here's me thinking that the Good Lord had given us all free win to vote and war as we saw fit. Still, I'm no theologist...

The first thing I learnt about LA is that it's precisely what you'd expect it to be like. Having seen so many films and TV programs set here, it seems strange to me that it's actually real. I have difficulty accepting that the people I see are real, and not characters. Or extras.

On the plus side, the third thing I learnt was that the booze is cheap. Though not as cheap as it would at first appear. You see, when you buy something, it's more expensive than you'd have thought because they add on sales tax (presumably the equivalent of VAT) at the till. So if you think something costs two dollars, it'll actually cost slightly more, due to sales tax. This means you can't ever prepare exact change to pay with, because you don't actually know how much anything will cost. Great system. Still, at least sales tax is piffling compared with VAT.

Right, that's all for now - I've only been here just over twenty-four hours, and most of that time was spent sleeping off jet lag caused by a flight that left Fiji at eleven o'clock at night on the sixteenth of April, took ten hours, and arrived in Los Angeles at half past two in the afternoon of the sixteenth. Damn international dateline. The upshot is that I haven't got a lot to talk about, hence the preceding ramble having no focal point.

I'm off to look at more names on the pavement (or, as it's known here, "sidewalk").

Monday, April 11, 2005


According to Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption, Mexicans say the Pacific has no memory. I'm not in Mexico yet, but I am in the Pacific. But never fear, I haven't forgotten you all - here I am, to prove it, writing my first post in Fiji.

The reason it's been so long is that I've spent most of the intervening time swimming in crystal clear waters over coral reefs, watching tropical fish, colourful coral, starfish and molluscs and the occasional sea snake (three times more poisonous than a King Cobra, don'tchaknow). Along with eating coconuts that have fallen straight from the trees (narrowly missing me on several occasions) I've also been drinking lots of gin and rainwater (the only mixer available), and going swimming at night. So it's a wonder I'm still alive, really, what with this being the arse end of cyclone season as well. Actually, best keep quiet about that last one - I'm not leaving Fiji until the 16th...

Apart from Caqalai (that's the island I was telling you about above), I've been to Levuka, which used to be the capital of Fiji during the brief period betweem 1874 and 1882 after Fiji had become a British colony and before the capital was moved to its current location in Suva (where I am now). Before Fiji became British it used to be a rough shoreleave destination for whalers and sailors, and much of it still looks like a cross between a Wild West Town and something out of a Conrad novel. However, these days the nightlife is more or less non-existent - it's hard enough trying to find a restaurant that's open after seven, let alone get a beer!

Last night we tried to go to the (in)famous Ovalau Club, the only relic from those times apart from the Royal Hotel, the bar of which is guests only. But, just to show how much times had changed, the Club was closed. Ishmael and Ahab wouldn't have been pleased, let alone Nostromo (hmmm... mixed literary metaphors). We eventually found ourselves a comfy berth (of sorts) at the Levuka Club, however.

From the outside, the place looked like a run-down warehouse. The inside did nothing to change my opinion of the run-down aspect of this place, but I realised that in fact it resembled a rugby clubhouse, youth hall or scout hut in severe disrepair. Behind the bar the Indo-Fijian proprietor served up drinks while shouting to be heard over the DVD of some Christian epic at full volume on the TV (with Hindi subtitles). The only other punter in there was an old American fruit, who had a thin grey 'tache, a tropical shirt and some brief shorts, and wasn't a big fat party animal. He was very concerned about the possibility of us not getting visas for the US, bless him... Fortunately we could drink in the back room. Sure enough, to complete the dilapidated scout hut theme of the place, the back doors were wide open and looked to have been broken in that fashion after someone had clambered in through a broken back window. If there had been needles and spoons about I wouldn't have been suprised... All in all it was a bizarre place to have a quiet drink - the three of us more than doubled the number in there.

This morning we got a bus at 5am to the other side of the island of Ovalau, from where we got a ferry across the Koro Sea to the main Fijian island. Then our bus continued to the capital Suva, where we arrived at 9am. A weird journey - who knows why they didn't just leave at 8 and arrive at 12?

Mind you - if I think Fiji is this strange, what am I going to make of LA?