Nuwara Eliya 2

Trip Start Feb 25, 2010
Trip End Apr 23, 2010

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Where I stayed
Ceybank Rest

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

21 March - Massi's birthday (Happy Birthday, Massimo!)

I have started reading my fourth book of the trip, and about my tenth book by the famous travel writer Paul Theroux, his latest book "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star", about a trip, mostly overland, and mostly by train, from London to Japan and back. In the chapter about Istanbul, he made the place sound so enticing that I would consider going to live there for a few years.  Of particular interest to me is the fact that Turkey is surrounded by seven countries, six of which I have not visited yet and would like to visit:  Bulgaria, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia and Georgia.  (I've been to neighboring Greece already.)  If Thailand continues going downhill as it appears to be doing, I just might have to change my name to Istanbulrandy.

There is also a line in the book that confirms my suspicion that keeping the masses dumb is a deliberate policy in certain countries.  In the chapter on Turkmenistan, the insane former dictator of the country ended the education of most people at the ninth grade because, he said, and I quote, "Uneducated people are easier to govern."  It took a true dictator to confirm what I always suspected.  (At least he was honest.)  I find it sickening that the ambitions and potential of a whole nation are deliberately stunted - just to make them easier to manipulate by their self-serving leaders.

On my walk around town today (Sunday), I noticed masses of people streaming in one direction somewhat away from the center of town, so I decided to follow the crowd.  Where were they all going?  To the Sunday Market, of course!  There is a market of clothes, food of all sorts and other household items every Sunday.  I bought a paring knife (to somewhat replace the Swiss Army knife that I can't bring on the plane) for use in the daily cutting, peeling - and perhaps stabbing - that one has to do on a trip.  The knife was so cheap (36 cents) that I'll just abandon it when I board the plane to leave the country.

For lunch I tried something different today. The people with whom I had spent the lovely afternoon yesterday recommended the take away box lunch from one of the good hotels in town (The Glendower).   There was a choice between pork, beef, chicken or fish - with rice and vegetables.  The rice was the best I've had in Sri Lanka; the vegetables were fine; and the chicken was tasty - but the amount of meat on the chicken left something to be desired.  I think I got a back and two elbows.  Still, it was pretty good.

The rest of the day I spent doing nothing much in particular:  reading; napping; walking; buying fruit for breakfast tomorrow and a botltle of water for today.  For dinner I had my usual bowl of tasty dhal at the Grand Indian restaurant.  And as usual, I got into a conversation with the guest next to me, a 72-year old Californian George Carlin lookalike.  He is on a trip around Asia, including stops in Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.  He's looking for a place to retire to and was looking at homes in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  I asked if he was looking to rent or to buy and he answered with something that I had not thought about but which, upon reflection, makes a great deal of sense.  He said, "At my age, I don't buy anything that I can't consume immediately."  Ha.

22 March

Started the day with my usual calisthenics in the room.  I opened the window to let in a bit of fresh air, and fresh it was.  Using the thermometer on my watch, I checked the temperature in my room, and it recorded about 20 degrees.  I wondered what the temperature would be outside, so I put my watch on the ledge by the window for a half an hour - and it showed a temperature of 14.9 degrees! (About 60 degrees in American money.) And that was at 7 in the morning - after sunup.  Wow, that's cold for this part of the world.  In my 15 years in Bangkok, I don't think it has ever been that cold.  The week or so that I've spent here has given me the best weather that I've experienced in a long long time.  To be able to just walk around without sweating like a pig is sheer joy for a Bangkokian.

If the weather would be like this year round, I would consider relocating to this place.  However, from my discussions with people who live here full time, this nice weather is the exception rather than the rule.  They said it can be windy, rainy and cold for six depressing months in a row.  So I think I'll stick with coming here during Thailand's summer.  (Or Istanbul's spring?  Ha.)
I visited the school where my new Canadian, American and Sri Lankan friends teach, and it somehow evolved that I agreed to teach a couple of courses next week about money management, investing and such.  It will be a pleasure to pass on to these young people the knowledge of what I have done in my life in that regard, both the right and the wrong.  Hopefully I'll be able to help them avoid some mistakes.

I also had (a vegetarian) lunch at the school and decided to offer to add to their menu by cooking my famous chicken for them tomorrow. 

I'm continuing to enjoy Paul Theroux's book as he visited many places I've been and quite a few that I'd like to visit.  I did find a few mistakes in the book, though.  For example, he says that Gyor is the border station between Austria and Hungary, while anybody who has been there knows that the border station is Hegyeshalom and that Gyor is already halfway to Budapest. (A writer friend of mine who knows Theroux once told me that he, Theroux, sometimes makes up some of the stuff in his books without even actually visiting the places.)  With the internet and a bit of imagination, I suppose it would be possible to make up an entire trip.

The book also gives the impression that he did one, long trip to Japan and back.  But when you consider the seasons during which he is in each place, you realize that he must have broken up the trip with a return home to rest for a few months before flying back out to continue the trip.  That is cheating a bit, but I guess it really doesn't matter too much.

In the afternoon I went out looking for the ingredients for the meal I am to cook tomorrow.  I figured the hardest thing to find would be the bell peppers, so when I found some at the market, I pounced on them.  The stall keeper charged me 400 rupees per kilo for them, which sounded a bit expensive but I didn't have any basis for comparison. Until - I found some even nicer ones at the supermarket a few minutes later - for 190 rupees per kilo.  I immediately went back to the first vendor and told him that I knew he had overcharged me and that I would NEVER buy anything from him ever again.  The only problem is that now I have to make it a point to pass by his stall every day so that he can SEE me not buying anything from him.  Otherwise, as far as he's concerned, I might have left town already.  And what's the benefit of not buying from him if he doesn't know that I'm not buying from him?

23 March

My first task of the day was to buy the chicken that I am to cook.  Should be easy, right?  Well, I heard from my friends that the (socialist) government has placed a limit on how much chickens can be sold for.  They didn't, however, place a limit on the cost of the components needed to raise chickens.  The result:  No chickens to be found in the market.  People, for some reason, refuse to sell them for less than the production cost.

Eventually I found a rock solid frozen one at the local supermarket, but I was really concerned with whether it would be thawed in time for me to cook it for lunch.  I bought it, brought it to the school, and immediately proceeded to try to thaw it in some lukewarm water.  When it had thawed a bit, I asked the cook's helper to try to cut it up for me while I went into another room at the school to work on other things.  When I came back to the kitchen, this guy had in his hand the entire skin of the chicken.  He had pulled all of the skin off and thrown it away - including the skin from the legs.  I found out later that this is the way Sri Lankans eat their chicken.  But, well, that's not the way we do it in Louisiana.  The skin is a necessary part of the cooking (and eating) process.  So I was off to a bad start.

As the remaining part of the chicken wasn't thawing, we decided to use warmer water.  So the cook's helper boiled some water and added it to the mix - resulting in a partially boiled chicken - again, not the way we do it back home.

I was assured that there would be cooking oil, so when I asked for it, I was handed a pack of some solid coconut "oil", another thing we don't use in Louisiana.  I was starting to get a very bad feeling about how my chicken was going to turn out.

And so, to make a long story short, if it is not already too late to do so, my chicken turned out - disastrously.  Even the flies wouldn't eat it.  It was one time that I wished that everyone would be vegetarian.  Still, I put it on the table - and every last bit was eaten - possibly out of politeness.  Actually I would rank it as just barely edible, but since nobody else had ever tasted it before, they had no way of knowing how it should have really tasted.  I , however, felt ashamed.  Nonetheless, it was a good learning experience.  We tend to take cooking for granted, but I just got a reminder of the importance of ALL the details that go into cooking a successful dish: the ingredients, including the chicken and the oil; the pan (we didn't have the right pans either); even the type of stove (they use gas whereas I'm used to using electric); etc.  I've got everything I need at home to cook my chicken to perfection.  On the road, well, it's a little more difficult.

After lunch, on my way home, I made it a point to pass through the market - to not buy anything from the guy who overcharged me for my bell peppers yesterday.  As I was ignoring him, he was calling out to me - and I turned around to face him - and just turned up my nose at him.  Ha.  I want him to stew in his own juices for a few days.  Maybe I'll eventually give in and start buying from him.  He'll probably go out of his way not to overcharge me next time.
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Santa Fe Sue on

Well, if you ever do plan a trip to Bulgaria, Georges and I will meet you there. I can't say that I loved everything about my trip there in 2008 - especially since a few people thought I was a "gypsy" - but the beaches were wonderful.

Enjoy the rest of your trip, Randy baby!

Foodie on

If you haven't left Nuwara Eliya, go to the NE Golf Club, ask to become a temporary member and hang out. The liquor and British esque food is pretty good and relatively cheap, given the ambience...

bangkokrandy on

Sue Baby: Even I thought you were a gypsy the first time I met you. But not because of the way you look. Rather, because I caught you picking my pocket. Ha.

Anyway, we'll meet somewhere again on this earth - Bulgaria, Malaysia, Burma, . . . somewhere.

bangkokrandy on

Foodie: I went up there yesterday and will comment on my experience in my next blog update. Thanks for the suggestion.

Steve R on

Reference the market guy who overcharged you for the peppers (400 rupees versus fair price of 190 rupees per kilo). When you bought the peppers, did you try to bargain over the price? Also, when you returned to the market to tell him he overcharged you, did you try to return the peppers and get your money back? In other words, did he have a chance to redeem himself? If so, then an argument can be made he is trying to steal from you. But, if not, then I'd argue he didn't overcharge you. Then it would be two people making a business transaction and one of the parties (you, I'm sorry to say) didn't know enuf to make an informed decision (thus causing you to buy the peppers) and the other party (the shopkeeper) used that to his advantage. That's free market at play.

bangkokrandy on


To ask for a refund from a Southeast Asian vendor because you realized that he overcharged you would get you laughed right out of town.

Anyway, I said that the guy "overcharged" me - not that he cheated me. To me, the definition of overcharging is to charge me more than he charges other customers, for whatever reason, but most likely because I'm a foreigner. I would even go so far as to say that in most cases, it might make sense for him to overcharge foreigners because most of them only spend a day or two in the town so they are not potential repeat customers. Staying for three weeks, I was the exception to the rule - and so in my case overcharging me was definitely a bad move because he missed out on my business for the remaining period of my stay.

In another example, I found that I was able to get tomatoes at the weekly Sunday market for half of what I had been used to paying at the market in the city. I did not feel cheated, though, because I was paying what everybody else was paying for the tomatoes and the weekly market allowed farmers to sell their produce directly to the customers without the middle man, so they could sell for less. These were two completely different markets with different prices for a rational reason. I have no problem accepting that.

Just out of curiosity, though: How would you feel if supermarkets in Houston, your current place of residence, charged you double what they charge locals because you come from Louisiana? Would you still feel like it's okay because "business is business"? Let's further assume that all Houston vendors "overcharged" all non-Houstonians so that you couldn't just take your business elsewhere. I know: It's a silly question - because such a way of doing business is unthinkable in the U.S. - as it should be.


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