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Posts Tagged ‘drinking’

lv 0 trump

lv 1 circusSo Las Vegas it is.  Like some sort of weird oasis it appears out in the desert from far away drawing you to it.  Gold high rise hotels, neon and the promise of good times.  I choose my hotel, Circus Circus, for two reasons – One because its cheap, and the other because of its connection to Hunter s. Thompson – The guy who brought us ‘Fear and loathing in Las Vegas, one of my all time favourite books (and movies, Johnny Depp is awesome as the Doctor, though Circus Circus wouldn’t let them film inside)

lv 2 encoreThis hotel is huge, and so much going on in every corner – gambling, drinking, eating, circus stuff, games, all sorts – though this is nothing to the casinos further down the strip!!  Hunter S. Thompson had this to say about it –

“The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday night if the Nazis has won the war. This is the Sixth Reich”. – Though it’s really wholesome family fun these days.

Anyway,eventually I negotiate my way through the chaos to the outside world and the Las Vegas strip.I walk down the top of the strip dominated by the golden Wynn and Encore hotels, stopping to eat beef head tacos at the amazingly named ‘Tacos El Gordo’, before making it to the centre of the strip.  Here I check out the amazing Venetian hotel – with its replica canals and fresco ceilings.  The sheer extravagance of the place just blows me away.  Feeling out of place I find some cheap bars to hang out in.  In fact cheap isn’t the word.  I’m paying as little as $1 a beer in some places – and for $2 you get a hot dog as well.

8 venetian 2But this place isn’t cheap, the money just seems to drain from your pockets – a couple of dollars for the machines turns into 10, and with poker machines at every bar stool its hard not to resist.  They really know how to squeeze every last cent from you.

lv 3 ceasersI’m happy when I meet a guy called TJ from Chicago and have a couple of drinks.  He’s travelling to Los Angeles to make it as a writer – Oh yes, straight out of a movie. We drink, meeting all sots of crazy characters and end up in downtown Las Vegas, where the beer is even cheaper and the bars more dingy.  At one place we eat a prawn cocktail for $2 – bit of a weird thing to be drinking at 2am in Vegas, but hey, stranger things have happened. After this we crash – heading back to Circus Circus for some sleep.

lv 5 revoThe next day i wake up glad i didn’t get food poisoning from the prawn cocktail and head to the pool for a swim before getting out into the mid day sun to check out some more hotels.  I pass through treasure island with its tropical getaway vibe and xxxx with its endless Beatles advertising, then on to Caesar’s Palace – this place is enormous, with huge Greco-roman statues and endless shopping and restaurants.  Across the road is the Bellagio and Paris, both well thought out, beautiful hotels.  The replica Eiffel tower is so impressive.

lv 4 parisBy this time I’m all hotel’d out.  i find a local microbrew place that sell great new york style pizza and load up.  After this its a case of drinking my way back down to my hotel via any cheap dive bar I can find.  I get back to the hotel and crash out straight away.

The next morning I contemplate staying, but decide not to and hit the road north again through Nevada and into the Eastern Sierra Nevada

Next part 3 – Up the back and over the top

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Tongba

Drinking this Tibetan ‘beer’ is great fun.  I’ts a kind of DIY drink where you get the components and mix it up yourself.  First millet is fermented in vats – known as tongba – then sealed off to mature for a month or so, depending on the outside temperature i’m told.  This is then put into a  another smaller barrel shape tongba which is brought to your table along with a flask of boiling water.  Mix some water and millet, wait two minutes and you’ve got yourself a tasty brew.  Keep topping the water up until all the alcohol is gone.  To avoid sucking up the millet a straw with a crimped end is provided – though drinking hot water through a straw is a dangerous game 

The locals here call it a beer but it’s much more like a grain wine like saki, with that yeasty sour flavour.  It must be a great for those cold winter nights, but I’m not sure i

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Shower Time.

Every Friday night these Kathmandu clubs are packed with young Nepalis, apparently for a dance and a shower.  It seems that not having a shower in many homes people choose to join that activity with their Friday night out on the town. This must save loads of time when their getting ready to go out.

This one is for the even younger crowd.   Nothing seedy about it at all.

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On the way home one night we stopped at a bar, the bouncer bar. Looked OK, almost clean, not too many seedy guys. We even got into conversation with a nice guy talking about the good and bad of the country until a guy came in who seemed to be his friend and took over the conversation, tuning his back to his ‘friend’. He went on to ask us
– Have you noticed, as a tourist, any opportunities for exporting Indian goods to your own country?

– No not really, most things are available there, even cheaper, I replied

– But you know, sometimes, there are for example, diamonds you could take for 10-20 thousand which could earn more money in your country.

– But I can only import £500 worth of good to the uk without paying tax, actually £390 – I checked on the customs and excise website.

– I’m not talking about the UK, I’m talking about Scotland, I’d already told him where I was from.

– It’s the same country, I told him – As much as I hate to admit it.

– But you can import as much as you like to the UK as you want on a tourist visa, he went on.

– No you cant, you have to pay tax or your breaking the law, I was loving this now.

– Excuse me but I know the rules better than you. He said – obviously not!

– I’m a UK national that’s travelled many times outside the EU, why wouldn’t I know what I’m talking about.

– Look, are you interested in making some money

At this point andrea buts in and says lets get the bill. I just want to keep hearing this guy talk shit but I can tell It’s time to go so I ask for the bill. It comes – with 20 roops extra charge! I ask why?

– Tax, 20% the waiter tells us.

– But it says inclusive of all taxes on the menu, and before he answers I say

– Ahh skin tax, sorry I keep forgetting I don’t have a tan.

The embarrassed waiter has to go back to the cash desk where the money man changes the bill to 100 roops. The cash guy looks away when I ask him about the skin tax on the way out.

This is India.

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Mangooooooo!

Did you know that India produces over 50% of the world mango crop, but only accounts for 2% of world trade. These guys love mangoes and in the run up to the rainy season, when the mango season ends they’re on sale everywhere.
he most famous and the most prized cultivar is the Alphonso mango – named after Afonso de Albuquerque, caeser of the east who used to take them on his journeys to Goa. When ripe it has yellow skin and soft orange flesh that’s super sweet and has a fragrant flavour. Its nothing like the flavourless, sour mangoes you see in supermarkets around the world which are picked unripe so they don’t rot during transport. The Alphonso only last for about a week after picking so need to be air freighted to Indian communities around the world.

Alphonso are grown all over India, but the most sought after are the ones grown on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra – These fetch the highest prices at market here and make up the bulk of the overseas trade. In fact the finest mangoes come from a small area around the towns of Ratnagiri and Devgad. These are the mangoes that people are coming to buy in the Crawford market. In fact mangoes seem to take up half of the market.

Although the chunks of fresh fruit are amazing on their own, my personal favourite has to be the mango lassi. The mangoes pureed with curds and served like a smoothie. Its like drinking nectar – I’d definitely choose it as my desert island drink.

In fact I though I’d tasted the best at Kailas restaurant in Aurangabad, where I drank Lassi and pure fruit juices that made it seem that I’d been injected intravenously with an overdose of the endorphins that the juice produces, until I tried the mango lassi at Sai Baba juice bar in Nasik. This was the daddy – Chopped Mango, Mango Puree, Cashews, Almonds, Sweet Curds, dried cherries and A scoop of soft ice cream. I wish I had one right now.

Sadly the Alphonso mangoes are finished for another year, as soon as the monsoon hit’s the fruit begins to rot quickly and a work starts to affect it. Lucky for me, I’m off to Rajasthan where the Kesar mangoes Like this bad boy which must weigh nearly a kilo are still in season.

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No Animals Today

5.30am we got up today to make it on to the first boat trip around Periyar Lake.   Everything was quiet except the muezzin calling off in the distance, there barely a soul walking round town, just a few  at the bus stop, we never even met any autos or taxis  going the other way, but when we got there the biggest rowdiest queue you could ever hope not to find.  Where do they come from? And how can they be so excited at this time in the morning. 

Oh well so much for the peace and tranquillity of nature.  But it didn’t matter too much.  It rained last night and I know from safari in Africa that rain means no animals.  The best place to find animals is by a water source – like a lake, but if there are other places where they can get a drink then they won’t come out into the open.

The bird life is fantastic though.  I’ve decided to buy a book on Indian birds and learn a bit about them.  So maybe I’ll be able to pass on a bit of the Info.

 My only condolence for the lack of large mammals is Kumily town has a bar.  Only the second one I’ve seen in India!  And its only INR65 a beer, bargain.  Gotta go, beer’s getting warm.

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Toddy

It’s amazing what the people here do with the Coconut Palm.  In the Backwaters of Kerala it’s the basis for their whole economy.   The husks are soaked in water for six months and then pounded to produce coir fibre for rope and boat building; The leaves are used to make shelters for animals and sometimes people; The white inside is grated for all sorts of local dishes; The sweet milk inside is drunk; and the they are also dried and pounded to extract the oil which is used for cooking and in some ayurvedic treatments.  It really is a wonder plant for the area.

Beside all this – and for me the most interesting use, the flowers are tapped to extract a sweet sap which is then fermented to produce toddy.  Toddy is the most popular alcoholic drink in the rural areas of Kerala and there are toddy shops all around.  Many of them serve food and are almost like pubs in the UK.

I was quite excited about getting to try some when I was booking a backwater canoe trip in Kollam, but the guy booking the tour told me I wouldn’t see any on the trip.  I was a little disappointed, but this changed when halfway through the trip the guide asked if we wanted to try some. ‘Yes’ was my instant answer.

So off we traipsed through the Coco Plantation to a lean to shack in the middle of some rice paddies, where a very cheery man was sitting amongst some random plastic containers.  For INR60 he filled up my water bottle with some freshly tapped Toddy, but I couldn’t drink it straight away

– Not Ready.  Drink tomorrow morning, he told me

Not really up for getting drunk first thing I asked – What about tonight

– Tonight not strong.  Tomorrow Strong, he insisted

Oh well tomorrow morning it is.  He bid us farewell by saying

– Me toddy Tapper, and beating his chest at the same time.

The toddy was a live science experiment in my hands.  It kept fizzing and lightening in colour as the sugar changed to alcohol.  I tasted the brew at various times through the process and found its flavour changing quite rapidly.  The only problem was it was warm.  I can’t drink warm beer, never mind warm coconut moonshine.  So it sat.  And next morning I couldn’t really face it, and it sat some more.  By night time when I felt like trying it again it was gone bad.  That’s the thing about toddy, it doesn’t keep.  24 hours and it’s turning to vinegar.

So my first foray into toddy didn’t go to well, but a couple of days later and I’m outside Mantancherry Palace, in Cochin, I see a sign saying ‘TODDY’.  I was a bit hesitant but I went in anyway. Inside they were selling Ice cold toddy – much more up my street.  And it was great, almost like a coconut cider, refreshing with a kind of sherbet fizz.  The barman handed me some tapioca with mustard seeds and curry leaves to try.  I’d never tried tapioca on its own but the starchy texture was a perfect accompaniment to the cold toddy.

I’m glad in the end, after hearing so much about it, that toddy is after all a fine product of the coconut palm.

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