Wednesday April 1st
Was awake at 7-00 a.m., had a wash and we collected our things together in preparation for the court hearing today.
Each of us had pretty mixed feelings about what the day holds. We were let out of our cell at 8-15 a.m. and had some visitors. Ead came for the first time and didn't look too happy for us. Graham, Aja and Marie, John and Michael were all there as well.
Exchanged some small talk but as nothing was certain everyone was very nervous. About 9-00 a.m. we got all our things together for imminent removal but did not leave until nearly 10 a.m.
They handcuffed us together with three Thai guys and we were escorted outside, where we managed to get some quick hugs from Marie and Aja along with good luck handshakes from the guys.
We were led outside (the sunlight was really dazzling after six days in the cells) and put into a wired-up open truck which then transported us to another cell near the court, where they herded us all together and checked that we were all there.
After half-an-hour we were taken to the courthouse and all sat down on benches. Two minutes later the ‘judge’ came in and called out our names. We had to stand up and acknowledge that we were there.
Then after signing a form we were all herded back into the truck and driven to the prison where we arrived at 11-30 a.m. Stan had been taken off somewhere else so Andy and I went to the prison alone. A Canadian guy, Jim helped us.
We had all our possessions searched and our money taken from us (599 baht) although they let me keep the lucky Irish £1 note Bobby had given me. The British consulate was at the prison so I was able to see him for a short while. I gave him all the details with specific instructions that he shouldn't inform my parents.
He will, however, inform the Foreign Office but I don't think that will help me at all. Andy and I were then escorted to another office where more details were taken and our possessions thoroughly searched again.
We were then escorted to a cell where there are already five other western guys, several South Americans, a German and a Swede. Hopefully we can stay in this room because the alternative would be with a bunch of Thais, which would not be pleasant.
Stan joined us later in the same cell so at least we are all here together.
I'll try and describe the prison apart from the cell which is crowded and there are plenty of junkies about so we will have to be careful. The prison is basically a square and the central area looks quite pleasant. At least we have the chance to walk about in the fresh air and get some sunshine.
The atmosphere seems fairly relaxed although I imagine it could get heavy sometimes with the amount of people in here and the number of long-term prisoners (a lot for heroin).
Stan and Andy went down during the afternoon and talked with lawyers and various outsiders and found out that the going rate for release with immigration is about US$850. It is sometimes not possible to get out for a month or so without any bribery but everything still seems very vague.
Shit knows what the outcome will eventually be. As long as we all stick together at least we have the others moral support.
Andy already seems to be making us accepted here because he is performing acupuncture on Pepe, a guy in here, who is in acute pain from back and lumbar troubles.
All eight of us were locked in the cell at 4-30 p.m. and will be let out next at 7-00 a.m. tomorrow. The one light and a fan are switched on at 6-00 p.m. which reduces the risk of mosquitoes but of course the light is left on all night.
Andy, Stan and I seemed to have livened the cell up, especially Andy who has interested the others (who are all heroin addicts, have seen them shooting-up several times so far). They also had to pay a lot of money here for the privilege.
Just from some of their confessions to Andy about ‘the monkey’ and withdrawal symptoms have convinced me that I will never ever get into it. By the time I leave I am sure that I will be even more convinced, although if I ever get the chance I would still like to experience smoking opium.
The guys in here are all pretty cool though and it is probably going to be alright if we decide to stick it out. I think at the moment that whatever decision is made will be a joint one.
One fact that I've forgotten to mention is that there are rumours going around, I'm not sure of the full details, that there has been a coup d'etat in Bangkok and that the military have taken over. It is very difficult to get accurate information from anyone. I just hope we don't get stuck in the middle of a war, we could be in here for years.
At 8-00 p.m. all the Thais, at the ringing of a bell, broke out into the Thai national anthem, so the king must still be around.
Sat around chatting for a while before going to sleep at 10-00 p.m. We had to speak in whispers as there is meant to be silence. Heard many stories; there are forty Westerners in all and we are quite lucky in that we can return to our room during the day. The Thais and others are not so lucky because they have to spend all day outside.
Thursday April 2nd
Awoken at 7-00 a.m. by the morning bugle and we all had to assemble in the yard for the morning head-count.
Then we returned to the room. Had a restless night's sleep (they had confiscated my valium at the gate yesterday) disturbed by several of the guys who had cramps and an Argentinian guy who is really suffering withdrawal symptoms.
I had a really weird set of dreams, a lot I wish had been true. My whole world is pretty mixed-up at the moment so the dreams are helping release all those pent-up emotions so that when I am awake I can still stay fairly cool.
Stan is pretty upset because of course Marie leaves today but Andy is the one I am worried about, he is getting very on edge and I just hope he manages to maintain his cool. The only thing helping him is there are some Chinese around to whom he can speak during the day and although Pepe is not a very receptive patient (because of the heroin) at least he is having a chance to practice his acupuncture.
We sat on the steps for a while chatting with various other Westerners. Andy walked around and found some Chinese to ask for information. We found out that our cases are fairly rare and that the prison authorities must be either trying to squeeze us for money or playing the waiting-game with us.
The longest people normally (in our sort of case) stay here is two or three weeks so unless we hear anything to the contrary we will probably wait it out. The soonest we can get out without paying a bribe is a week on Monday (13th).
We also heard some news about the coup in Bangkok. Apparently some of the military have taken over the government but the King is backing other forces in the north and east so there could be a civil war in Thailand if a peaceful resolution isn't reached soon. I know it sounds selfish but I hope that our cases are not complicated by the situation.
Spent most of the morning sitting around the cell, talking a little, writing and resting. About 10-00 a.m. we had visitors, Marie, Aja and John, who are still a great comfort to us and they brought us some food and water. Marie is going to try and extend her visa at the immigration office because of the trouble in Bangkok. I hope Graham is alright because he travelled down there yesterday.
A Thai girl, Pat will come to see Stan at dinnertime and try and make the situation clearer for us. If we had to make a pay-off I have got enough with the money from the girls outside for all of us but it would be the end of my trip.
Returned to the cell where everyone just seems to lie about all day (some with no hope and others with a little hope). The irritating thing at the moment is the military music being played all the time on the radio which the guard has on outside (the same tune is repeated literally every five minutes).
I slept very deeply from 10-30 a.m. until 1-00 p.m. and got a good rest.
Stan woke me up and all three of us had to go down to the front office where we filled out some more forms for the prison records and had our fingerprints taken again. Stan managed to see Pat, the Thai girl, but missed Marie by ten minutes.
She has had to leave to go to Penang, hopefully she will get through Bangkok alright. If everything goes well then she will be back here in about a week. I really hope that things eventually work out for her and Stan.
Pat is going to try and see the Chief of Police today in an attempt to speed up Stan's opium case especially but also the processing of the ganjha (local name for grass).
We also received some food and water but tomorrow we will have to get a lot because there is no visiting allowed on Saturdays or Sundays (we are going to try and buy everything from outside as it is much cheaper).
Aja is keeping an account of everything and Stan, Andy and I have pooled our baht from outside to cover the costs.
We spent most of the afternoon walking around (managed to collect a couple of extra blankets), sitting on the steps in the sun and talking. I had a shower in our bath/toilet before we were locked in again at 4-30 p.m.
Had a good chat with Stan and Andy is getting on well with Heinz and achieving his wish of brushing up his German. At 6-00 p.m. the light and fan came on which was a great relief.
There seems to be a little disharmony between the junkies at the moment but we are staying out of it (it can involve a lot of hassle over money and fixes). There are definitely two different ways of life going on in this cell and I am just glad we are part of the straighter one.
A couple of other details I found out today are that any letters we send out must be censored so I will not risk sending this diary until I leave prison but will send a postcard to Janice instead, advising her of the situation. I might even have to let Rita know something but will decide on that later (it is even more complicated with the political situation).
Also discovered that our next court appearance cannot be the 13th because the water-festival runs from the 13th to the 15th and the court will be closed then so we will either appear on the 10th or the 16th (although of course we may then get another twelve days).
At the moment I feel relatively happy and am at least learning to accept this as another of life's experiences, even if it is a hard one. I just hope that not too many people are worried because of the political turmoil which must be quite big news in the west.
Chatted and read most of the evening. I even had a long talk with Heinz in German to prove that I'm not forgetting too much. Tried to get to sleep at 10-00 p.m. but was very restless and didn't drop off until a lot later.
Friday April 3rd
Had a very restless night's sleep with many varied dreams. Stan had the same problem. Perhaps we are picking up vibes from the junkies.
They are shooting up maybe three or four times a day (which is costly and dangerous). They are all caught up in a vicious circle, not only from the addiction but because of the money they owe and the constant risk they run of getting a second charge.
Some of course are no-hopers (in here already for very long sentences) and in some ways I can't blame them for relieving the monotony when there is nothing left to live for.
At 7-00 a.m. we were all roused and trooped outside for the head-count. After ten minutes we returned to our block but the Thais had to endure an hour long service (perhaps extra-long because there was some propaganda to do with the military takeover).
We are not allowed newspapers in here so it is very difficult to get any accurate information from outside about what is happening in Bangkok. At 8-30 a.m. Stan, Andy and I made a tour of the camp which is in a lot of ways quite regimented, especially for the Thais.
They work in various factories making bamboo and teak furniture, some go to school and others work on the gardens and keep the place clean. The Thai junkies who are brought here do a rigorous series of exercises to sweat out the ‘cold turkey’ although the Westerners are left alone because they are always reckoned to have money.
For any work the Thais do they receive the princely sum of ¼ baht a day so it's not easy to save money here. The Westerners don't have to work although there is an English guy doing it to try and learn some of the basic crafts.
Andy also found out some more news of the troubles today. The King and his forces have demanded the surrender of the new military government and if they do not step down then there will definitely be some fighting.
At 10-00 a.m. we had visitors, Sharon (who it was really good to see again) and Willi who had come back with her from the hills. Scott and Marie are still up there. They didn't have much more news about the revolution except to say that it is mostly limited to Bangkok and that the majority of Thai people are behind the King and his forces.
Willi has to leave early next week because his visa runs out but Sharon and Aja will definitely be staying around with John to give us moral support. They stayed for half-an-hour, supplied us with some coffee from a flask which was really good and also a small supply of food. Someone else will come by this afternoon hopefully with enough food, water and cigarettes to last us the weekend.
I then returned to the cell and grabbed a bit more rest and did some reading. Slept really deeply for an hour or so and woke at midday much more refreshed.
Went to a Thai class with Andy at 1-00 p.m. The Thai guy who taught us was really good. We were the only two students and in an hour we had gone through the basic 44 characters of the language several times.
We were surrounded by Thai lads who tried to give us some help and encouragement, cheering when we got the tones right and sometimes laughing when we got it wrong. Between us though we seemed to do surprisingly well. Andy with his Chinese knowledge and me with my English pronunciation and other times both of us with our German
It was an enjoyable way of relieving the monotony. I just hope we're not here long enough to learn really good Thai. As soon as we'd finished the lesson we were immediately summoned to the front where Stan was already talking with John and Aja who had some good news, but as there were so many people around he told us later on.
Scott and Marie also came and brought us our weekend allotment of food and water. There are not enough cigarettes but we'll get by. It was good to see the two of them again. They had a great time in the hills and although Scott was a bit upset at the problems we had been through, the prospect of good news had helped cheer us up and so take the burden off Scott and Marie a little.
We parted company at 3-00 p.m. and then the three of us talked as we walked around the courtyard several times. Stan filled us in on details. John and Aja had managed to speak to the Chief of Police who seems to be being exceptionally reasonable for this place. Perhaps he even feels a bit of sympathy for us.
Anyway his offer is that for US$200 each the analysis can be speeded up. This is much cheaper than any other offer made (even though it doesn't include everything) so Stan has accepted for us and we agreed unconditionally with this. Stan's opium case should then go to court next Monday or Tuesday.
Aja will pay the money this evening and hopefully everything will work out for the best. All the cases for ganjha will then come up next Wednesday or Thursday and after paying our 500 baht fine each, the cases should be settled.
On top of this he has offered that if we pay another 1,000 baht each we can stay free in Chiang Mai for four days (which hopefully will include the water festival) before being deported. If our luck holds then we could all travel to Bangkok together.
It still works out as an expensive experience at about US$300 each but will save us a possible stay of up to a month more which none of us want, and works out at a third of some of the other bribe prices quoted. The news really lifted our spirits although we were unable to let on to the others in our cell because of the resentment it might have caused.
The bad news was that some sporadic fighting has broken out in Bangkok and that the airport has been closed. The rebel forces only have Bangkok apparently under control but the rest of the country is staying loyal to the King and his forces. Hopefully the situation is resolved fairly quickly and peacefully.
We are all worried about Graham and Marie who may still be in Bangkok.
We have the weekend to face now which means no visitors but apparently we also get the chance to have a lie-in. The nightly ‘shoot-up’ was delayed as there were still guards hanging around but some of the boys don't seem to care what risks they take.
This experience has taught me a lot but especially that I will never get into heroin. Apart from the addiction it is also a drug which from the outside (my point of view) makes people too egoistic and selfish.
Maybe I am still very naive but life is always a learning process and I have still got so much to learn.
Sat reading for a while, had a really refreshing shower and then lay for an hour or so having a really interesting chat with Stan. It is not yet 8-00 p.m. (the Thais haven't started singing their anthem yet). At the moment I am feeling really relaxed and my mind is more at ease than it has been for quite a few days.
Sat through the 8-00 p.m. anthem and the 9-00 p.m. bugle. There were some petty arguments between Heinz and Nito which kept us awake but I eventually fell asleep at 10-30 p.m.
Saturday April 4th
Woke at about 7-00 a.m. after a restless night, tossing and turning with some really weird dreams; constantly being disturbed by a couple of the others who seemed to be talking, shooting-up and bickering half the night.
I should mention a couple of the dreams which I can most vividly remember.
One involved myself and two other guys racing around in an old bus searching for a restaurant. All I wanted was a beer (a Fosters for some reason). We eventually found a small cafe but there was a big Fosters label on the door so I said it was alright and we went in.
The other two ordered muesli and yoghurt and I ordered a beer. They were served quickly but I just waited and waited.
Another dream was of me taking off on a plane but literally, hanging onto a section on top. The plane didn't reach the proper speed and the take-off had to be aborted. I could somehow here all the communications between the pilot and the control-tower and the pilot was instructed to bring the plane back via a roundabout and along the motorway.
The next image I had was of shouting to an air-stewardess to let me inside as I wasn't happy travelling on the outside. I was let into the plane which was crowded like a bus. The last vision I can recall was that of suddenly realising I had no clothes on and shouting that I had to go and get all my luggage, but by that time the plane was taking off again.
Weird, I really can't understand half my dreams, even when I can remember them.
There was no roll-call this morning so I had a wash, walked around the courtyard for a while and then after writing sat outside reading. The atmosphere in our cell is too electric at the moment.
Andy chatted with some Chinese while Stan tried to help a couple of Thais learning English. We also found out that the attempted coup in Bangkok has now been put down and that the old government supported by the King is back in power
Today the Thais didn't have to work so there was some entertainment from a band and later on some Thai boxing.
It was getting too hot outside so I returned to the cell where I spent most of the rest of the day reading and dozing, also day-dreaming about when we get out of here.
The cell was locked as normal at 4-30 p.m. followed by the regular ‘shoot-up’ session. Andy, Stan and I are all a little tight on food and cigarettes this weekend so our meal was very basic, bread, sardines and an orange. We have cut our smoking right down (although we still seem to be giving a lot away).
I spent most of the evening reading. Always at the back of my mind is the anticipation of getting out of here and the hope that nothing goes wrong with the arrangements already made. Dropped off to sleep at 10-00 p.m.
Sunday April 5th
Got up at 7-45 a.m. after a disturbed and restless night’s sleep.
Was woken up at least four times during the night, what with Pepe knocking things all over the floor, Sven stepping on my toes, Nito screaming in his sleep and Heinz and Pepe fixing up at some early hour of the morning.
It seemed that every time I was woken up I was in the middle of a dream. The end result was a bizarre night of mixed-up dreams and an unrested and grumpy Fred when I eventually got up.
Andy and Stan also had a very disturbed night's sleep and with the prospect of not much food or many cigarettes today it could be a long one. We are all just dying to get out of here and back to some sort of normality.
The flag was raised as normal at 8-00 a.m. I had a wash and some coffee before sitting outside for a while reading. When it got too hot I retired to the cell where I dozed and read.
About 1-00 p.m. we all cleaned out the cell which gave us something to do but on the whole it was a pretty uneventful day. At 3-30 p.m. we ate the rest of our provisions and at 4-30 p.m. were locked in.
Shortly afterwards I finished a 750 page novel, ‘Taipan’ by James Clavell which I only started yesterday.
Really looking forward to tomorrow when we get visitors again and hoping that things will be resolved quickly next week. The taste of freedom again will be unbelievable (when it eventually happens).
After the national anthem at 8-00 p.m. I sat around chatting to Stan and reading before going to sleep at 9-30 p.m.
Monday April 6th
I woke at 6-30 a.m., after another restless night’s sleep with numerous vivid and strange dreams.
We discovered that today is a Buddhist holiday and there was again no roll-call. We will also probably not be able to see visitors although they may be able to pass food through to us.
When the door was opened at 7-00 a.m. Stan, Andy and I had a little walk before sitting for half-an-hour or so, on the steps outside. We hardly said a word.
Although Stan has confidence that we will all get out this week I have this sinking feeling that nothing is going to happen and that the money to speed up the analysis will have been wasted.
There is a lot of tension in the cell at the moment between the junkies because of the lack of heroin and accusations are flying around. There seems to be some sort of power struggle going on at the moment and I'll just be grateful when we get out of the whole situation.
We are all feeling that the punishment we are getting mentally is much worse than the ‘crime’ we committed. Perhaps, when I get out I will be able to see it all as an experience in a slightly better light but at the moment I am just sick of the whole situation. A very depressing morning for all of us. Even Marc (the French guy) who is normally very quiet, lost his cool for a while.
We received a small package at 11-00 a.m. from Marie, Aja and Sharon but there was nothing substantial to eat and no cigarettes. There was a note inside saying that they couldn't get to see us and would be by tomorrow at 9-00 a.m.
Sat around reading and trying to doze but was very restless and pissed-off which was only accentuated by my empty stomach.
About 1-00 p.m. Stan and I (against our principles) decided to open a credit and went to the shop where we had a fried-up Chinese meal which was quite good and put us in a slightly better frame of mind.
Sat around in the cell most of the afternoon reading. We were pleasantly surprised when Willy dropped another package and note for us at the gate which we collected at 3-00 p.m. It contained some cigarettes (at last), chicken + rice, nuts and some bags of water. This cheered us up a lot (it's amazing what small things can do in this sort of situation).
The door was closed at 4-30 p.m. but there was not the normal shoot-up as there is very little heroin around, tonight could be difficult. Nito has some methadone (synthetic heroin) and Andy is trying to help Marc and Pepe with some acupuncture to help any withdrawal symptoms.
Both Pepe and Marc are long-term prisoners here (over thirty years to serve). Although I feel sympathetic I have just promised myself, after this experience, never to do anything that would or could possibly put me in a position of no-hope like that (I don't think my mind would ever adjust to a situation where there was no possibility of freedom in the foreseeable future).
We are hoping that Stan's opium case will be tried tomorrow and that nothing unexpected happens. Also praying that the other cases are sorted out before the weekend so that our ‘paid-for’ days of freedom coincide with the water festival at the beginning of next week.
It was a surprisingly quiet evening which I spent reading. The only problem later on was with Marc who had bad withdrawal symptoms for a while. Managed to get to sleep at 11-00 p.m.
Tuesday April 7th
Woke up at 6-20 a.m. after a good night's sleep with a couple of interesting dreams.
One involved me being at home with my family on a certain date in 1981 (I can't remember which) but convincing my family that I was utterly mad because they all knew it was only 1978 and produced proof such as newspapers and radio news.
My brother was trying to analyse my problem as at that time he was halfway through his university course in psychology. I tried to convince them that I knew what was going to happen in the next three years and then suddenly realised that I could make a lot of money on events that had not yet happened by betting on certain winners.
It was at this point that my sister broke the news to me that it had all been an elaborate hoax.
We all went outside for the roll-call at 7-00 a.m., then stood talking for a while before I came back to the cell to wash, brush my teeth and write this.
At around 9-30 a.m. we had a lot of visitors; the three Swedish girls (Sharon, Aja & Marie, who also got to talk to Sven), Scott, Willy and John. It looks as though if we pay another 500 baht each then the court cases could come up tomorrow.
I will worry about the money-side of things as soon as we are out but all I want now is to get rid of the uncertainty and be free.
Also got two letters today, one from Rita (she sounds a lot better and happier now) and a short one from Wendy in England which I wasn't expecting and was a nice surprise.
Sat around in the cell reading, feeling very lazy but not relaxed, until nearly 2-00 p.m. when we had visitors again. Somehow Scott, Marie, John & Willy managed to get back in (normally they can only wangle one visit a day). They bought some water and cigarettes but in their anxiety forgot any food. We were unable to get any at the store so we are on a starvation diet for the night.
Marie is leaving this evening so we said our goodbyes to her and after half-an-hour chatting went back to our cell. We were locked back in our little home at 4-30 p.m. and I spent most of the rest of the evening reading and chatting with Andy & Stan.
We should be appearing in court tomorrow so we will know our fates by the evening. The least this whole affair can cost me will be 5000 baht (4000 speeding up analysis, 500 speeding up court and 500 fine), that is if by some possibility we are not deported.
If we are, then it will cost me another 1000 (for 4 days in Chiang Mai), 1000 for immigration (to be taken to Bangkok) plus the air fare to wherever I decide to fly, probably Penang.
The whole thing, however it works out, will have knocked a big hole in my budget and taken the edge off the trip a bit (maybe I'll feel different once I'm on the road again). Got to sleep at 10-00 p.m.
Wednesday April 8th
Woke up at 6-30 a.m. after a good night's sleep to see Stan, next to me, taking off his beard (he's had it for ten years) for court today.
Went out for roll-call at 7-00 a.m. and then returned to the cell where we waited around and Stan finished cutting his beard off. I sat reading a book which I started yesterday called Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill. It is 1100 pages long and I am already on page 450.
We had visitors at 9-30 a.m., first Sharon, Aja and John who told us our case is to be at 1-30 p.m. and that they have hired a lawyer for Stan at a cost of another US$50. The two Thai girls also came to see Stan. After half-an-hour we had to leave and I returned to the cell, still nervous and hoping against hope that we are not deported (unlikely from all we have heard).
Sat around the rest of the morning trying to calm down and reading my book again. At 11-00 a.m. Andy passed on some good news to us, which took quite a weight off my mind and also his. The friend he had contacted in Bangkok has sent him an amount of US$1000 which will cover all his costs so we don't have to worry about complications lending him money.
This lifted all our spirits and hopefully we can take it as a good omen for this afternoon. We waited and waited until nearly 2-00 p.m. when they eventually called for us.
We dressed in our ‘court clothes’ and then had leg chains fixed before being taken in a truck to the waiting room outside the court. Had to wait for half-an-hour before filing into the court at 3-00 p.m. where Stan's lawyer was and also our five faithful friends, Willy, Scott, John, Sharon & Aja.
The judge kept us waiting for another half-an-hour in a sweltering courtroom, sweating it out and getting more and more worried. He eventually came in at 3-30 p.m. and Stan's lawyers face dropped as he saw him. He had prepared a petition pleading medical use for his opium and ganjha but when his case came up the very worst happened and we were all reeling at the thought.
Stan was sentenced to 6 months, 3 months for the ganjha and 3 months for the opium.
We sat stunned as mine and Andy's cases came along. I was first, stood up, pleaded guilty through the interpreter and waited for the bad news for my 1 gram. First he said the sentence was 1 year + 1000 baht fine which I couldn't believe (still stunned by Stan's sentence) but then said that as I had no previous conviction I would be fined 500 baht and deported.
Andy was given the same sentence and although we should have been pleased to be free we felt too much for Stan who was in a really bad way. After sitting through the rest of the cases, all really depressed for Stan, we were taken back to the jail to have our leg chains removed.
We had to say a really difficult good-bye to Stan who had to return to the cell again with the prospect of another 5½ months (although he can appeal and hope for a more lenient judge). When we left him he was talking about getting money from a friend in the States to get out as quickly as possible, but he will have to find anywhere upwards of US$15,000.
After leaving Stan, Andy and I had to sit around for another hour before being escorted back to the police station. We were locked up in a cell for a while before the other six Westerners in here now got us out to join them.
They have paid a bit of extra money to have the cell unlocked and there are a couple here on heroin who are also getting their regular supply. Aja, Scott and John came to see us and are still working hard for Stan.
Tomorrow we will return to the jail for Andy's possessions and money (everywhere was closed at 4-30 p.m. when we returned from court) and also try and either get freedom in Chiang Mai over the water festival or go with the immigration tomorrow evening to Bangkok.
We were bought some food and then after saying our goodbyes until tomorrow morning we cheered up a bit chatting with an English guy, Andy (from Mansfield) who is a great laugh. At least this place is a lot livelier than the last time we were here although everyone goes to court (and prison) tomorrow or Friday.
Sat around until late talking and didn't get any rest until nearly midnight. People were sleeping all over the place so I just picked a spot and tried to get some sleep.
Thursday April 9th
Woke up at 7-00 a.m. after a very restless night's sleep on the wooden floor again with the dripping tap and cockroaches.
Had a wash and tried to freshen up a bit before seeing our visitors who arrived at 8-15 a.m. with coffee, sandwiches and some cheering chat. We made some arrangements with them because we are going to try and go down with a Greek guy who is being accompanied by immigration to Bangkok this evening.
As things worked out (the Chief of Police helped us a lot and said how sorry he was for Stan) everything went like clockwork although we had to pay a little more to oil the works a bit. At 9-00 a.m. we were taken to the prison where we collected remaining belongings; Andy his watch, jack-knife and money and me my 600 baht (I wasn't charged for the 60 baht credit I had run up).
Then we were taken to the police station again where I had a chat with the Chief of Police. We still owed him 2000 baht for speeding up the cases in court and I will be paying off everything that Stan owes and what I owe to the others.
I therefore got a police escort down to the bank where I changed DM1500 to cover all expenses (received 14,292 baht in exchange). Was taken back to the police station again where I handed over 2000 baht to the Chief and 500 baht to cover our two fines. We got a reduction of 20 baht a day for every day inside so the fine was only 200 baht each. The other 100 I gave him for his help and he said that he would rush his report through so we could leave this evening.
We then sat around for a while trying to relax but it was very difficult. I was informed by the Chief that he had sent the reports to immigration and that we should send a friend over to confirm this and send the money over. Scott and John came by at 2-00 p.m. and went straight over to the immigration office (I also gave them the money for everybody).
Scott came back after 20 minutes with the news that it would cost us another 2000 baht each (because the papers were rushed through) but that if we paid then things would be moving by this evening and we would be in Bangkok by tomorrow morning.
Having handed over the money and can now count the cost of the whole escapade, it comes to nearly US$350 each for Andy and I but has worked out much cheaper than any other offer of quick release we were given.
We have also saved ourselves a possible stay of another month (the maximum allowed without proper trial is 45 days). At the end of that we would still have had to pay immigration so the true cost of speeding everything up has been US$250, still expensive but at least we will be free soon.
Scott and John went first to the lawyers to pay the rest of the money over and then to collect our bags ready for the move.
It is now 4-00 a.m. and I have just had a really refreshing shower and we are waiting for the last moves to come together. It is two weeks ago at this time that we were being arrested at the guesthouse. It seems more like two months.
We were called outside at 4-30 p.m. and a little while later the Greek guy followed us. Scott and John hadn't arrived with the bags at 5-00 p.m. and Andy was getting really worried. We left though, after showing the driver the address of Isra House where we supposed the luggage still was.
In fact, we headed quite a way out of town to the immigration office where Scott and John had been faithfully waiting for us for over an hour. There we had to fill out forms again, some of them eightfold, on which we were thoroughly fingerprinted once more. I don't think there is much chance of us getting back into Thailand again.
We said goodbye to Scott and John at 6-30 p.m. and were taken in a little ‘beemo’ truck to a photo shop where they took mug shots of us and copies of our passports. We then drove to the bus depot. It was great to feel the breeze in our faces again and we even had a tour of Chiang Mai before reaching the bus at 7-15 p.m.
We are certainly travelling in style (included in the 2000 baht) on a Cosmos tour bus which is air-conditioned with food and drinks served and reclining seats. We are being accompanied by a middle-aged Thai immigration official who is quite pleasant and treating us well (no handcuffs or anything).
The bus set off just after 7-30 p.m. and we are due to arrive in Bangkok at 4-30 a.m. tomorrow morning so I don't know what the arrangements will be then. Hopefully I'll be able to book a flight to Penang (Malaysia) tomorrow and depending on specifications laid down as to our stay in Bangkok, will fly out as soon as possible (maybe Saturday morning).
I won't feel completely free of this until I'm safely on the plane, looking forward to a relaxing time in Malaysia and then Sumatra (Indonesia).
We were provided with a head pillow and blanket so I made myself comfortable, had the snack given to us (really tasty) and then rested and slept. There was a change of drivers at 1-00 a.m.
Friday April 10th
I was woken up at 4-00 a.m. by the hostess with a cup of coffee and a moisturised tissue, a nice way to wake up.
We were already well into the suburbs and arrived at the depot at 5-00 a.m.
After collecting our luggage we were taken in a taxi to the immigration office where we were escorted to the fourth floor and handed over to the care of an officer who was acting as night-watchman. We made ourselves comfortable on the benches and I spent the next hour or so re-packing my bag.
Chatted with Andy for a while and then shortly after 7-00 a.m. we were bought a cup of coffee each. I don't know what the day holds for us except that I'll have to get an air ticket to Penang but whether we'll be allowed any freedom I don't yet know.
The weather is hot, humid and sticky, a sharp contrast to the dry heat of Chiang Mai. I am a little annoyed at missing the water festival at the beginning of next week in Chiang Mai (when incidentally it becomes Thai year 2525).
Sat around for a while and wrote a couple of postcards (one to Jan to let her know I'm alright and will forward the next part of this diary, fifty pages so far, as soon as possible).
At 8-30 a.m. we were led downstairs to the second floor where we sat around for ages while officials processed our reports, passports and God knows what else. In the meantime I wrote a letter to Rita telling her all about the situation but also telling her not to worry because it was all over and I would be leaving the country very shortly, little did I know.
It was already 11-30 a.m. when we were led upstairs and more forms were pushed around and the time just melted away. We asked several times about booking tickets but were just fobbed off every time.
At nearly 1-00 p.m. we were taken downstairs and across to the illegal immigrant and transit section where we had to go through all the hassle of filling out more forms and having our fingerprints taken again. Things seemed to be getting heavy again and the Greek guy started to lose his cool which didn't help matters at all.
After a while we were taken first to a photo shop (where we had to pay 60 baht for 12 photos) and then to a restaurant where we had some food and a couple of glasses of beer (it was a great taste to savour again after two weeks).
An Australian guy who already had his ticket out this afternoon treated us to the meal and beers (perhaps he knew what we had in store).
We returned to the transit depot, which is full of Cambodians, Laotians, Vietnamese, amongst other nationalities, still demanding some attention and the right to book our tickets. Then things started getting really heavy and even I lost my cool a bit.
They searched our bags and then bundled us upstairs against our protests to the cells. We stood outside the cell demanding the right to make a telephone call which they finally let us do. Andy went off to try and arrange something.
The Greek guy and I went into the cell which is a real shit-hole, with maybe forty people in here. We managed to get some space in a small room off to the side with only five other people but it is still open to anyone who walks in so we'll have to be super-careful with our things.
The floor is quite clean but that is all that can be said for the place. It stinks to high heaven and seems to be full of all sorts of vagabonds and thieves.
Andy came back at 4-00 p.m. after making two telephone calls, one leaving a message for his friend Bill to get in touch and the other to try and get flights organised.
It would be impossible to fly out tomorrow, Sunday or Monday because they are all holidays. The earliest flight possible for me would be Tuesday at 11-00 a.m. (cost US$115) and Andy's earliest would be on Wednesday.
This thing just drags on and on (they now tell us it will cost us an extra 400 baht to be taken out to the airport, the Chiang Mai guy assured us that everything had already been paid for). I will just be so relieved when I am eventually on a plane out of Thailand but first we have to endure at least four or five nights in this hell-hole.
The conditions were better in Chiang Mai but at least here we are one step closer to getting out. That's how I'm trying to look at it anyway. We receive some food twice a day and Andy and I have vowed to give up cigarettes so that we don't spend any money in here.
No one has any money in here so we are protecting our cash carefully by locking it all in Andy's case and I hide the key in different places on my body or in my case; hopefully that should be secure enough.
We were brought some fried rice at 4-00 p.m. which didn't look very appetising although no doubt I'll be digging in to it by Sunday. I gave it away to the only other English guy here, a middle-aged fellow called George who comes from Manchester.
Also had a short chat with him but spent most of the afternoon looking after our bags, writing this, feeling disgusted that we didn't get everything sorted out and also trying to get used to the smell and the heat. Andy and later on Stavros (the Greek guy) sat in the larger room where they talked with George and some others.
I wasn't feeling very sociable anyway after today's antics and buried myself in the writing of this, reading and used the excuse of looking after the bags as my reason for not joining the others. It is much cooler in the other room with a fan and even though it is now nearly 8-00 p.m. it is still very, very hot and sticky. I am sweating like a pig.
Spoke with various people during the evening. Perhaps my judgement of thieves and vagabonds was a bit too harsh. Many seem to be unfortunate and maybe desperate (still a reason to look after things), and I felt sorry for some of them who have been here many months, working off huge fines at 20 baht a day for overstaying visas or having no passport.
At least there is no heroin problem although that is not good news for Stavros who will have to do a cold turkey in here. He has a ticket which isn't yet confirmed and will have to get his embassy to help him with money, of which he has none left. The last he blew on smack in Chiang Mai jail.
About 9-00 p.m. I went and joined George and a couple of guys from Bangladesh in the main room. Had a chat, some coffee and some unusual cigarettes.
They were made up from a small amount of tobacco with some special headache powder all rolled up in ordinary paper and tied at the end with a little cotton. The tobacco costs 1 baht a small packet and the powder 1 baht for three packets so that they work out very cheap.
They tasted very sweet but had a good effect. They are relaxing and as I discovered later on, help one sleep really well. Went to bed at 10-30 p.m.
Saturday April 11th
After a really good night's sleep (even with the light on) I woke up at 8-00 a.m.
Sat on my blanket for a while thinking and reading. Still feeling pretty fed-up at not yet regaining my freedom although this place doesn't seem as bad as I first thought (it still stinks though). Food was bought along at 9-00 a.m. and I picked at my fried rice, eating with my fingers (right hand, true Indian style). I eventually managed to eat about half of it.
Then sat around talking to George and Andy for a while before helping with the cleaning which is done every morning when the water is turned on for a couple of hours. I also had a quick shower.
Dozed off again at midday (still quite lethargic from the ‘sweet cigarettes’). Slept until 4-00 p.m. when Andy woke me up to get my food. Ate the whole plateful this time and even found the rice quite tasty. Am also drinking the tap water so the next two or three days won't be costing much.
There is nowhere to go in this cell as we are locked in all day so I am just hoping we can get out on Tuesday to book tickets.
Lay reading on my blanket until 8-00 p.m. when I went out to join George and Andy in the main room. I haven't smoked a cigarette all day although I will probably smoke a couple of ‘sweet cigarettes’ later on to help me sleep again.
The time seems to be going fairly fast here although I'm keeping myself to myself a lot of the time, just hanging around for a happy end to this whole nightmare. When I do get out (if it ever happens), I will value my freedom so much and appreciate things a lot more, although how long before that all fades I don't know.
I stayed in the main room for an hour although I found George’s repetitive and simple-minded (although still kind-hearted) attitude bored me very quickly. Had a couple of the ‘sweet cigarettes’ before retiring to bed and the escape of sleep at 9-30 p.m. Was restless and disturbed by the heat and noise around me but eventually dropped off at 10-30 p.m.
Sunday April 12th
I woke up at 8-30 a.m. after a good night's sleep, suitably sedated.
When I awoke I was thinking (if not dreaming) of my friends in Frankfurt and what everybody would be doing at the same moment in time, 1-30 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Went and had my breakfast with George (who provides the coffee) and Andy.
I was a little bit irritable today and not very talkative (dying for a cigarette but resisting the challenge well).
About 9-00 a.m. Andy went out and was allowed to make a phone-call. He was able to leave a message for his friend although he wasn't at home again. Sat around talking with Andy for a while before I returned to my bed sheet again and sat reading a collection of H.G. Wells’s horror stories.
At 1-00 p.m. the water came on and a lot of people started working. That excluded me and three or four young guys from Bangla Desh who had constructed a bong from a shampoo bottle. I had three good blows of nice Thai ganjha which brightened up the afternoon a lot.
I even had a light-hearted dig at Andy's anxieties over Stavros, who has blown all his money and is now expecting Andy to lend him some. We have both agreed on principle not to because, as we'd found out, he has already blown 3000 baht on smack, which was given to him in the jail in Chiang Mai.
We have suggested that he contact the Greek embassy and get them to help him. As bad as we feel, whatever we give to him will only get blown. Hopefully his embassy can help or maybe our soft hearts will weaken before we leave.
Later in the afternoon I discovered how desperate he was getting with nothing left. He was scrounging from a lot of the others, cigarettes, ganjha and trying to find anyone with heroin to whom he would have literally been willing to give his shirt.
At mealtime, Andy's friend Bill arrived which cheered him up a lot. They had a long chat swapping stories and Bill will collect a ticket for him and also one for me. He has also agreed to help Stavros a little although not with money.
I handed Bill 2000 baht + US$25. This should cover the cost of my ticket and hopefully I'll be flying down to Penang by Wednesday, some definite good news at last, although Bill can't book the tickets until Tuesday.
Also had a shower in the afternoon which was really refreshing and generally had a relaxing, lazy and stoned Sunday afternoon. About 5-00 p.m. I got out my radio and gave it to the young Bangla Deshi guys to play with. Soon there was a whole crowd around listening, watching me write my diary and having another small smoke.
Stavros was around and swapped one of his shirts for a couple of smokes. He is really desperate and I feel quite sorry for him, coming off heroin. He has a bit of a death wish complex at the moment and is convinced he'll die in this place.
Got quite friendly with the group of lads (all Burmese and Bangla Deshi) and had a good laugh with some more smokes during the evening. We listened to the radio and they kept finding different programmes to amuse them. A really friendly crowd, young, full of life and it really didn't matter that most couldn't speak English, we were still able to communicate really well.
This place is certainly proving to be a lot easier-going and happier than the jail and prison in Chiang Mai.
About 9-30 p.m. I went out to see George and his little crowd of friends and had a couple of ‘sweet cigarettes’ with them. Andy was already asleep but Stavros was there trying to sedate himself as well. I sat around there for an hour before returning to my little room.
Andy and Stavros have moved out to the main room because it is cooler there. I prefer this place and am starting to feel quite at home (dangerous, you must be stoned Fred). Had another couple of blows before the crowd dispersed. I then I sat around writing and reading until 11-30 p.m. when things quietened down and I went to sleep.
Monday April 13th
Woke up at 8-30 a.m. to the Buddhist New Year, but there were no real outside celebrations provided at the transit centre.
We provided our own entertainment later on and had a really lazy, laid-back day. Ate my breakfast and had a wash before being surrounded by a small crowd again, all raring to go and have another smoke.
I didn't disappoint them (even managed to drag Andy in for a couple of blows) and was soon flying again. The morning went by very quickly. If the whole three weeks had have been like this I don't think I would have minded so much. They certainly wouldn't have got so much money out of me.
Spent most of the day in ‘my’ room reading or just resting until 2-30 p.m. when we all had to troop into the other room for a number check by immigration officials, there are 48 of us.
Stavros has been getting on everybody's nerves today. He's in a real state and keeps sleeping on other people's beds. They are also complaining that he never washes and that he smells (I don't think he gives a shit, he has just become a parasite, a survivor).
I still feel a bit sorry for him but he doesn't do anything to help himself and is a disturbing influence on the relatively peaceful atmosphere that exists here.
About 3-00 p.m. the weather bought its own contribution to the water-festival (of which we won't see anything) with a really violent electrical storm which took the edge off the humidity for a while.
Had our meal at 4-00 p.m. of which I eat everything now, am not as choosy as when I first came in. The rest of the late-afternoon/early-evening I had a shower (the water came on at 6-00 p.m.) and also read a James Bond book, ‘You only live twice’, which was quite entertaining.
At 9-30 p.m. I joined Andy, George and their faithful companions where I had a couple of ‘sweet cigarettes’ which were laced with some Burmese ganjha. Really good and a very mellow high.
Tried to teach a young Burmese guy some German which was very difficult but we managed to get quite a lot done. By the time I left to go to bed it was already midnight.
Time has gone by very quickly here, unbelievably. When I first walked in I couldn't have imagined how good it could be but it has proved to be a very relaxing time. Went to sleep at 12-30 a.m.
Tuesday April 14th
Woke up several times during the night, once because of mosquitoes (I lit a mosquito coil) and another time because it was cold (put on a T-Shirt). However, both times I got back to sleep quickly.
Got up at 8-30 a.m. with a slight cold and a headache. I had a cup of coffee with Andy and George. Bill arrived at 10-00 a.m. with some good and some bad news.
The good news was for me as he has booked a flight for me at 11-00 a.m. on Thursday and will bring the ticket in this afternoon (it is with Thai Airways, US$115). So I have two days left before being free again. What a great feeling that's going to be.
The bad news is for Andy who can't get a flight before next Monday to Calcutta, although he could fly to Delhi on Saturday. Also for Stavros who must be put on a waiting list, the first available flight being next Monday (he is really cracking-up and I just hope he doesn't do anything stupid).
When I got the news I'm afraid I weakened and had a celebratory cigarette. I then went and had my breakfast (fried rice isn't so tasty in the mornings but still fills a gap) before writing a letter to Stan in prison which I'll get Bill to post when he comes in this afternoon. Read for a while and then slept until mealtime.
Bill came back at about 5-30 p.m. with my ticket for Thursday morning and also with Andy's ticket for tomorrow evening (which cheered up Andy no end).
Bill had also been to the Greek embassy. The earliest flight he could get for Stavros was Monday but the embassy will also help him with money, food and medication so we don't need to worry about him anymore.
The only reason Bill managed to get Andy on so quickly was because he explained the situation to the office and they had some sympathy. The same was true with Stavros. If Bill hadn't said anything then he would have waited another couple of weeks which might have killed him.
The light at the end of the tunnel has visibly brightened for all of us today, even Stavros.
At 6-00 p.m. I bought some ganjha with some of the change I got from my ticket. Got a small stick for 30 baht (there was more on it than the amount I had when I got busted). Six of us had a good smoke of a third of it and all got nicely stoned.
Sat around with Andy for a while, reading through the diary for the last week which made surprisingly good reading. Then a Chinese guy gave us both a really good massage. I was a bit worried about it but he did it very professionally and I felt really relaxed afterwards. I gave him 5 baht which was all he'd take for his troubles.
Later on I went and joined the crowd in the main room and had a few more ‘sweet cigarettes’ (although I'm getting a little sick of them now they are still really good at sending me to sleep). Although Stavros has been given some tablets he was still pacing up and down like a caged animal.
Had a relaxing evening and am feeling quite good. Andy is chuffed at going tomorrow and has been talking a lot about what he wants to do in India and Nepal. I am now able to start planning again as well.
My plan is to stay in Penang for a week or so before going to Sumatra and meeting up (hopefully) with at least four friends from Chiang Mai. I will stay there a month (visas for Indonesia only last a month and can be difficult to extend) before heading back through Penang.
I will see how I feel after five or six week’s freedom before I decide whether I will attempt to enter Thailand again. If not then I will head down through Malaysia & Singapore and get another Indonesian visa so I can visit Jakarta, Bali & Java.
After that I will have to see how the money situation is before deciding whether to go onto Australia or head back to Europe (through Sri Lanka and India). I will leave the decision open though as I will have plenty of time again soon.
Went to bed at 11-30 p.m.
Wednesday April 15th
I woke up at 8-15 a.m. after a good night's sleep and had my breakfast (of fried rice for a change).
Sat around with George & Andy part of the morning, had some coffee, chatted for a while and even managed to get hold of an up-to-date paper, today's Bangkok Post. The only really interesting news was that the Americans have successfully launched and brought back to earth their Space Shuttle.
Went back to my room, had a shower as the water was on again and then sat around for a while reading. Later on I made up a small joint for Andy and I which we smoked in the ‘bathroom’. Got really stoned and spent most of the rest of the afternoon resting on my blanket, thinking, talking to Andy, reading and dozing.
We will probably smoke the rest of the gear early this evening so that Andy can say good-bye in the right fashion. I might even put a little on one side and have a small smoke before I leave tomorrow morning.
Our meals were brought along at 3-30 p.m. and I took the opportunity of giving my ticket to one of the immigration officers so that everything can be prepared early enough. I hope to be able to leave at 8-30 a.m. so that I have plenty of time at the airport before the flight at 11-00 a.m. (on my own preferably, once I'm through immigration and customs).
Today is going by surprisingly quickly but so has the whole time in this transit centre. It's hard to believe that tomorrow it will be three weeks since we were arrested. So much has happened in that time, an incredible experience but I hope the only one of its kind in my lifetime.
Andy got off alright. He was fetched at 9-00 p.m. for his flight at 11-40 p.m. to Calcutta, where he will stay for a few days before heading off to Nepal. We had a smoke at 7-00 p.m., the last of my stash, which put the evening on a nice level with both of us really eager to be on the move again.
After Andy had left I sat around with George and some of the others smoking some ‘sweet cigarettes’ and drinking some chocolate. Feeling a little bit lonesome again as Andy and I had been through so much in the last three weeks that we had become good friends.
Little did I know that I would be following in his footsteps towards India (but that story is yet to come). Sat around until 11-30 p.m. when I went to bed and fell asleep making plans for Penang and Indonesia, also was really looking forward to seeing Sharon, Aja, Willy & Scott again, it was not to be.
Thursday April 16th
Woke up first at 7-00 a.m. but rested on my blanket until 7-45 a.m. when I got up, had a wash and started to get ready. If I'd known what the day held for me I would have stayed in bed.
The meals arrived at 8-30 a.m. and a missionary came along at 9-15 a.m. I couldn't eat and was really nervous, pacing up and down, and anxious that they had forgotten all about me. I was eventually called at just after 9-30 a.m. and accompanied by a young immigration guy who I had to give 400 baht to. We headed out of the transit centre.
We got a taxi for which I had to pay another 100 baht (I thought it was the last squeeze so paid willingly). After a hectic drive through the heavy traffic of Bangkok and out to the airport we eventually arrived at 10-30 a.m. with half-an-hour to go before take-off.
Rushed to the check-in desk where I was being allocated a seat (one of the last) when they saw my passport (as I did for the first time). Two pages have been plastered with various stamps and writing which apparently classify me as a narcotics case and a real undesirable.
Was informed that there was no point me going with the plane because drug cases from Thailand weren't allowed into Malaysia. I got really annoyed with the immigration guy because they had known about the ticket for two days but there was nothing he could do about it.
After a while I was taken up to the immigration department at the airport and we then got a lift back into Bangkok with one of the bosses who was taking a lot of papers back to the main office. I was really pissed-off but managed to stay cool enough to chat to the big-wig who sounded quite sympathetic towards my case.
Managed to persuade them that I needed help firstly to get a refund on my Penang ticket and then arrange another ticket. Back at the transit centre I left my bag and was informed that I must fly back to England. My heart sank and I felt utterly defeated.
I talked and talked and eventually they agreed that I could get a ticket to Europe (I was thinking of Athens) and I hoped to get a stop-over in India so that I could at least salvage some of this trip. I then went with the young immigration guy and a plain-clothes guy who could speak quite good English.
Spent the next three hours dashing around Bangkok in taxis (cost me another 100 baht plus 300 baht for the other two guys time). We enquired about a refund firstly at Thai Airways, then at Cosmos Tours, who eventually directed us to ‘Where Travel’ who had issued the ticket.
We arrived there at 2-00 p.m. By this time I had bought a packet of cigarettes for one of the guys and also had a couple to try and calm myself down. At the travel agency things started to go a little better. I was able to get the same ticket that Andy had bought but with a stop-over in Delhi rather than in Calcutta.
It cost 8300 baht (quite reasonable) with Air India and flies Delhi-Bombay-Rome and then Frankfurt, so it looks as though fate has decided I must return to sunny Germany. I booked the Delhi section of the ticket for Saturday evening (22-30) which was the earliest possible time to fly.
We returned to the transit centre at 3-00 p.m. after the two guys with me had drunk a couple of whiskies courtesy of the travel firm. I was put back into the same cell at my request and had to fend off half a million questions as I made my surprise re-appearance.
Everyone was trying to be kind which helped a little. I must just accept that although my money is now down to DM 2000 (could last two or three months in India & Sri Lanka as long as I get an entry visa, not just a transit visa), I have a return ticket to Europe, and a lot of my great plans about Asia have now gone to pot (so to speak).
Sat in the cell trying to adjust myself again to the environment and prepare myself for another two days of waiting. This whole situation has turned into a real nightmare; hopefully there is a good ending somewhere along the line.
I'm trying to think how I would feel if I have to return to Europe soon. I think it would be mostly my pride that would be hurt and it would also be difficult to explain the situation to some people (especially my parents).
Ate my first food of the day at 6-00 p.m., fried rice again, and then settled in for the evening, trying to review the day and sort out my thoughts again.
I had to do something about the way I was feeling so I bought some grass and had a smoke with some of the Burmese lads. I certainly got high but kept getting jerked away from it by thoughts of the future.
Sat in the outside room for a while, having decided to sleep on the patch of floor Andy had vacated. Had a few ‘sweet cigarettes’ with George, Dang (Burmese guy) and Robert (a guy from Bangla Desh). I was getting pretty tired and fed-up when at 9-00 p.m. Dang asked me if he could listen to my radio.
I looked in my bag where I had put it this morning but it wasn't there. The police had obviously taken it while my bag had been left with them downstairs. This plunged me even deeper into the depths of despair and I was feeling pretty sick by now.
Sat around moping for a while and feeling very sorry for myself (I shouldn't be; I have more, money-wise, than any of them). Robert cheered me up a little by telling me some things about India and how cheap it was (I'm still very worried about whether I get in or not).
Later on I had another blow with two of the Burmese lads which gave me a bit more life (and more to think about). Cheered up a little bit after this smoke but still felt as though I had a lot on my mind.
It is midnight as I write this and although I'm still feeling pretty down it helps me ‘talking’ my thoughts out as I write. I feel really mixed-up after all that has happened today. My plans have been turned upside-down again.
I can't help feeling that I'm in the middle of a bad dream and that some sort of hand (fate) is guiding my steps, limiting options left open to me. I just wish I could wake up from that dream. Hopefully everything will look a little brighter tomorrow (or the day after, when I fly).
Had some hot chocolate and then tried to get to sleep at 12-30 a.m.
Friday April 17th
It is my brother, Alastair's birthday today. I wonder where he is at the moment. He was planning to return to France again and will probably be there by now.
Woke up at 8-30 a.m. after a good night's sleep with some dreams but only one memorable one (someone shooting heroin into me and the after-effects as my brain imagined them). Still feeling down and had a pretty lazy day.
Had a smoke at 10-30 a.m. which brightened things up for a while. I have also returned today to not smoking ordinary cigarettes.
I spent most of the afternoon sleeping, which helped the time pass a little more quickly and then had a shower and a meal at 5-00 p.m. It was a restful evening which went surprisingly quickly. Had another smoke at 7-00 p.m. which took me through the evening quite nicely.
There was very little powder so we were only able to have a couple of ‘sweet cigarettes’ which had the required effect along with some hot chocolate.
I went to sleep at 12-15 a.m. in a mixed-up mood, not knowing what to expect in the next day or so, but just hoping for the best.
Saturday April 18th
I woke up once at 2-30 a.m. disturbed by a really heavy thunderstorm, but soon went to sleep again. Slept then until 8-00 a.m. when I fetched my breakfast in.
Then slept some more until nearly midday when I ate my food and had a shower. About 1-30 p.m. I bought some grass from the room-leader who gave me a lot for 20 baht. It must have been three or four grams so I definitely won't be smoking it all myself.
At 2-00 p.m. we had a good smoke from about a third, enough to get the six people crowded into the ‘bathroom’ well and truly stoned. I then lazed around most of the afternoon and even got round to playing two games of chess, which I lost.
George cooked up a meal at 5-00 p.m. which came at the right time as I had the munchies really badly. At 6-00 p.m. it was back to the little room for another smoke to set me up for the evening ahead.
Am now sitting around pleasantly stoned and ready to tackle the world, well, almost. The police should come along to take me to the airport at about 8-30 p.m. so this will be my last entry until I am either in India or even possibly back in Germany. It's going to be a tough few hours ahead and I just hope things work out alright. Here's hoping and fingers crossed.
Well, it's now 3-15 a.m. Sunday morning and after acquiring a new pen I can pass on the news that everything seems to be going well again. I am sitting on the right side of immigration in India after getting through with no real problems.
Anyway I'll try and retell the story of yesterday evening. I was fetched much earlier than I expected at just after 7-00 p.m., so I didn't have time to get worried about them being late.
Packed all my things in a hurry and was then whisked away by the two who had ‘helped’ me the other day. I think they wanted to extort every last penny they could as I had to pay them 700 baht (400 overtime + 300 return taxi fare for them, 50 baht more each way because it is a Saturday). We caught a taxi which fought its way through the Saturday night melee of Bangkok and then out to the airport where we arrived really early at 8-15 p.m.
I felt a little self-conscious with the immigration guy constantly by my side but was soon able to get my baggage checked and a seat allocated. I then sat outside the terminal for a while with my two escorts before being taken to the head of immigration at the airport just before 9-15 p.m. I was stamped out of the country.
In all, the Thai entries now cover four pages of my passport and can only cause problems (although of course no-one can understand the Thai writing). Sat around outside the little immigration office, had a beer and also submitted to the last squeeze when I gave the guy 60 baht to get him and his friend some American cigarettes.
The boarding of the aircraft was called at 10-00 p.m. and I was then left to go my own way to freedom (at last). I sat on the plane just relaxing. I had chosen to sit in the no-smoking section to reinforce my attempt to resist smoking again.
Took off an hour late at 11-15 p.m. (or 9-45 p.m. India time). Had a good flight (although at times it was very turbulent) with an excellent meal and a beer (US$1 extra). It was a great feeling to know that I was on my own again and able to taste freedom.
The plane arrived in Delhi at 1-30 a.m. and we were soon disembarking and before I knew it I was through passport control. He just asked me in which country I had collected all the stupid writing.
My passport was stamped although I'm not sure how long that permits me to stay here, at least I'm in. I had to wait around for a while before collecting my luggage. This seemingly antiquated terminal seems to work in an Indian fashion.
It was nearly 2-15 a.m. so with no intention of getting a hotel I headed through customs.
Sunday April 19th
Headed out of the customs area and was mobbed by taxi-drivers and porters. All of them took ‘no’ quite quickly for an answer. One young lad latched onto me though and showed me where the bank was.
I changed US$15 for 120 rupees. They wouldn't change my Thai money so I will have to do that in the city tomorrow. He then led me to the restaurant where I bought him a cold coffee (5 rupees) of which I also had one, quite tasty.
After telling the boy that I would sit the night out in the terminal he showed me a fairly quiet spot. I gave him US$1 and told him that was all he'd get so although he pestered a little more he was very friendly and knew the score.
At 4-00 a.m. I told him to go and find someone else so that he could earn a bit more money. Sat around writing this, relishing the thought of being on my own and choosing what to do of my own accord again.
Will head into the city at 7-00 a.m. and have a look round for a cheap room where I can rest up for a few days while I find out a little about India and what I'll be doing for the next couple of months.
I know virtually nothing about India except the names of a few cities and the fact that Delhi is in the north, so I will be starting out completely from scratch, could be interesting.
Sat around until early morning when I wandered around for a while, bought a paper and a couple of aerogrammes. I must write a letter to mother as I haven't written for a month and also one to Rita who thinks I'm safe in Penang.
I bought a ticket for the bus into town (8 rupees) which I caught at 7-00 a.m. I had also bought a packet of Indian ‘Wills’ cigarettes (10 for 3 rupees) and smoked one while waiting. Exchange rate for the rupee is roughly DM=4, US$=8 and £=18.
Had an interesting bus ride into Delhi. Saw a lot of rural northern India before coming to the city which is quite spread-out and the centre (Connaught Place) doesn't seem like a central district at all. There is a park in the middle surrounded by a circular road on which stand a lot of shops and houses (but none more than a couple of stories high).
On arriving I was again mobbed by a friendly group of taxi-drivers. Indians seem a pretty vociferous but not offensive race in this way. I was quite tired so I let one of them take me firstly on a short guided tour of the central area on his scooter-taxi and then a little way out to a slightly cheaper hotel than the central ones.
He took me to the Natasha Hotel where I was shown quite a nice single room with fan, double bed, shower and toilet which I took for two nights. At 50 rupees a night it is quite expensive but alright for a short period as I orientate myself again. Arrived at 8-00 a.m. and must leave before that time on Tuesday or pay another night. I will look around for a cheaper place tomorrow.
I slept from just until midday when I was woken up as they wanted to make some repairs to the electrics. They changed me to another room which was slightly better and I sat writing for a couple of hours; this diary and letters to both Rita and mother which I'll get posted today. I will post the diary to Jan tomorrow.
The weather is very hot but the fan in the room is a great help (even though it blows my papers all over the place). I am still in a bit of a daze at the moment but hope to get myself together again in the next couple of days.
At 3-00 p.m. I went out to explore some of the city and although quite tired I had a really interesting afternoon taking in the atmosphere. As it is Sunday most of the banks and main shops were closed but there was still a hive of industry along a lot of the side streets with market stalls, shop-front ‘factories’ (making furniture, repairing bikes & scooters and so forth).
Had a really interesting time wandering through some pretty poverty-stricken areas but wasn't hassled too much. Felt really strange surrounded by Indians in their natural surroundings. The glimpse one gets of them in England doesn't really reflect how they live in their homeland (not explained very well but I hope that gives the gist of what I mean).
The weather is very hot but dry and quite bearable. The traffic is noisy but a fascinating combination of horse-drawn traps, bicycles, scooter-taxis and cars (most look like the old Ford Prefects which existed in England 20-30 years ago).
Also walked back up to Connaught Place where I had a meal of sweet & sour vegetable for R5-50 and an ice-cream for R2. Had a look around the area for a while and also went into the park where a lot of Indians were having their Sunday afternoon nap.
Was approached several times and asked whether I wanted a massage or to buy various things, but again there was no hassle when I said no. Didn't see many other Westerners around and I was the object of a lot of attention as I walked about.
Delhi is a fascinating place. I have seen so many new things today it is difficult to describe them all but I hope I've given some idea of what it's like.
If I can find cheaper accommodation then everything else seems to be really inexpensive. Will go down to the tourist office tomorrow and get some info on this area and also the rest of India so I can get some idea of what I plan to do.
Must also change my remaining 2000 baht after which I will have DM2000 left, which will hopefully last me at least 2½-3 months. Also need to check how long I'm allowed to stay in India as my entry stamp gives no indication of this.
Had another bright idea today; instead of smoking cigarettes I will smoke the Indian version, ‘beedies’ (herbs and tobacco wrapped in leaves and tied with cotton). I bought 25 today, cost 1 rupee.
Returned to my room at 6-00 p.m. where I had a really refreshing shower and also washed some clothes. Then sat on my bed writing and resting. Feeling a lot happier already, now that I am in India, have my freedom back and looking forward to the challenge of exploring the country, should be a good time.
Must also try and get another book tomorrow to continue my diary because I have nearly filled the two books I bought from England, an average of one book (100 pages) a month, although obviously I wrote much more while in prison.
Went out again at 8-30 p.m. just to get something to eat, but I ended up wandering around some of the side-streets near the hotel for quite a long time. Saw a lot of examples of the poverty in India; families sitting outside their shacks on the streets, washing themselves and their clothes at the many water-pumps.
Lots of people also sleep outside, many on straw beds outside their homes (I suspect partly because it is cooler than the crowded conditions inside). There were many interesting looking food and drink stalls although how hygienic a lot of them are I don't know. After prison I shouldn't be so worried about that and I'm certainly not as wary as I used to be about drinking tap water.
Also passed a temple where I could hear a service going on, presumably Sikh. I passed the same place later on and saw a couple of gentlemen in resplendent clothes sitting by an altar in a side room.
At 9-30 p.m. I found a restaurant with tables on the pavement so I sat down and watched the people (and cows) of Delhi passing by. I saw a lot of cows wandering the streets, very different from the variety I know, being much larger, with horns and some even with humps. They seem to have their own sleeping places alongside the road and are of course tolerated because they are sacred animals in India.
Had a really nice meal of chicken masala curry, egg curry and chapattis, all for R14 which was excellent value. I also really like the anis-tasting seeds they give you at the end of the meal which freshen your mouth up after the strong taste of the curries.
After the meal I had another drink of sugar-cane juice before checking on the prices of a couple of hotels in the area. One was the same price but another one with rooms just as good as the Natasha was only R35. I will ask around tomorrow to compare other prices but I will definitely move to another hotel on Tuesday.
Returned to the hotel at 10-30 p.m. feeling exhausted after my first day of freedom. Did a little writing before going to bed. I am looking forward to tomorrow when I can find out what I'll be seeing and doing for the next month or two.
Monday April 20th
Woke up at 8-00 a.m. after a good night's sleep although my leg muscles were stiff after all the walking I did yesterday.
Went out at 8-30 a.m. and tried heading into town a different way but got well and truly lost. Everywhere was very crowded today as Delhi went back to work.
I had a fascinating wander around before catching a scooter-taxi into the central district (R4). I then headed out to the big post-office which was about twenty minutes’ walk and on the way called at the tourist office where I picked up some booklets and maps.
Arrived at the Post Office at 9-45 a.m. only to discover that, like the banks, it didn't open until 10-00 a.m. Hung around until it opened and then bought stamps for the two letters (R5-85 each) containing the last 94 pages of my diary, which I was sending to Jan.
I then went back to the central area where I looked around an underground (and air-conditioned) bazaar, which was very interesting, before attempting to change my 2000 baht into rupees. A couple of banks weren't interested (including American Express) so I eventually had to go to the State Bank of India who obliged and I got R790 in exchange.
With money in my pocket again, I headed back to the central area. After looking around several stationary stores I found a suitable ‘diary’ book (with carbon paper) for R11 which is larger than the others but serves the purpose alright.
I searched four or five different bookshops for a suitable travel book which was surprisingly difficult to find. Eventually I settled for a hardback edition, ‘Foders 1981 guide to India & Nepal’ which although expensive at £7-95 (R159) should prove invaluable as I intend to spend quite a long time here.
Also asked about my permitted length of stay whilst at the Tourist Office. As a British subject I am allowed to stay three months before registering myself, but there seems to be no specific limit on my length of stay. It was now 12-30 p.m. so after buying a beer at one of the special shops (India is partially dry) I headed back to the hotel.
Back in my room I attempted to cool the bottle of beer by putting it under running cold water for half-an-hour but wasn't very successful. When I did drink it, it tasted more like bubbly ‘pop’ and only succeeded in giving me a headache which I didn't shake off for the rest of the afternoon.
I then sat around reading some of the literature I had picked up and started to get some real idea of the size of this country (almost as big as Europe with a population of over 600 million, mostly Hindu and Muslim). Some facts which I gleaned, such as the weather, will affect in which order I do things.
At the moment it is their short ‘summer’ which lasts only a couple of months and from June it is the monsoon season in most areas except the south-east, which receives most of its rainfall in January/February.
I have now got some idea of a rough itinerary. From here I will head to Agra for a few days before going to Nepal for a couple of weeks (as long as I can get a visa, will go to the embassy tomorrow). After that I will probably head down to Madras and then Sri Lanka which aren't affected so much by the monsoons.
Am really looking forward to all the travelling, especially to Nepal, which sounds like a dreamland. Trains are really cheap. A trip from Delhi to Madras takes 40 hours but only costs R146 for an air-con/chair-seat. Really slumming it on a hard seat would be only R75. After reading a lot more on the background of India I fell asleep at 3-00 p.m., not waking until nearly 6-00 p.m.
I then spent ages wandering around the main night bazaar which is situated very close to the hotel and covers an amazing complex of streets. It is a mad confusion of stalls & shops selling every conceivable type of thing and with many exotic smells from the joss sticks and people cooking meals on little stoves alongside the road.
Sampled various snacks which were really rich but very tasty. Also had a small meal of dhal (a vegetarian dish) with chapattis and a beer soda (made from non-alcoholic fruit beer & soda) which only cost R6-50. Enquired at a couple more hotels & guest-houses as to prices and found some very good deals.
I settled for a place called the Prakash guest-house which is up a little side street, near to the bazaar and only five minutes’ walk from the Natasha Hotel. I booked a room from 8-00 a.m. tomorrow morning. It is a single with a fan, quite simple with a bathroom down the corridor. The price was very reasonable when I was quoted R20 a night but without any effort at all on my part the guy dropped the price to R15.
Returned to the hotel footsore and weary at 10-00 p.m. and after a little more reading about the delights of India went to sleep.
Tuesday April 21st
I woke up at 7-00 a.m. after a restless night's sleep, disturbed by various noises around the hotel and also my dreams were right back on form again.
Had a wash and then got all my things packed before leaving the room. Went downstairs to check out and in the process learnt a couple of things about Indian hotel practice.
Firstly there was a service charge of 10% so I had to pay another 10 rupees. Secondly, the guy in charge asked me why I was leaving to which I replied that I was going to another hotel. He then said that if I had mentioned that I would be staying for longer he would only charge me R30 a night. He suggested I return again tomorrow.
Took all my stuff round to the guest-house and was shown a room (different from the one I was shown yesterday). It was quite satisfactory with a single bed, bedside table (with water), fan and outside a toilet and shower.
I chatted for a couple of minutes to a New Zealand girl who is also staying here and is obviously an experienced Indian traveller. She has spent 4 months here, 1 month in Sri Lanka and 2 months in Nepal.
Stayed in my room for a while reading before I headed out to try and get my Nepalese visa (must also get some photos) at 9-30 a.m. I tried again to find a quicker way through the main bazaar to the centre of town but after half an hour of walking I had only succeeded in walking round in a big circle. I was then able to orientate myself a little better and headed into town, arriving there at 10-15 a.m.
Went to a photo shop to get some photos for my visa. They were very expensive at R25 for the first 3 and R5 for each extra one. I ordered 6, not knowing how many I will need for the Nepalese visa or if I will need more in the future. Next time I travel in Asia I will get a whole batch of photos done before I leave, as they work out more expensive in the shops than in the photo-booths of Europe.
I had to wait half an hour before they were ready so I went to an Indian cafe to have some breakfast which was really good; a spicy vegetarian dish with a couple of pastries (something like toast fried in a light batter) and a cup of coffee, which cost me the grand total of R2-45, very reasonable.
After collecting my photos I started the long walk out to the Nepalese embassy to make my visa application. It took me a good half-hour to get there but was well worth it just to see the building and its beautiful garden setting. Went inside to the visa section where a little old man sat taking in all the applications.
I had to fill out several forms and hand over two photos, my passport and R90. Will have to come back tomorrow to collect it and if successful I will be given a 30 day visa with an option later on to extend for another three months. As the monsoon season starts in June, 30 days should be sufficient.
Left the embassy at 11-30 a.m. and crossed the road to a library and reading room, where I sat and cooled off for a while reading a beautifully illustrated book on Indian customs. This gave me a real insight into the effect that religion has on the Indian way of life.
I then walked back a slightly different (and longer) way to the centre of town. A little way before getting there I stopped off at the Jantar Mantar Observatory which consists of six large monuments built first of all in 1710 and renovated again in 1910. They are set amidst a garden of palms.
There is one large central monument, the Samrat Yamtra, which is shaped like a right-angled triangle and acts as a huge sun dial. I climbed up to the top and got a good view of the five other instruments which indicate the movements of the sun, moon and various heavenly bodies.
I sat down on the grass for a breather and to give my feet a rest. With all this walking I’m developing blisters again. Also had a couple of glasses of nicely cooled water from one of the many wagons which are parked at almost every street corner. Very useful and much needed sometimes in this heat.
Then headed out to New Delhi railway station to find out about trains and how to buy ticket. On the way I saw many men urinating against walls and in side-gutters, which seems to be an accepted practice here. So is litter, it is simply discarded along the street which all tends to add to the general confusion of the place.
Reached the station to be confronted by a melee of people, many sleeping or sitting on the floor, with huge queues to all the ticket windows booking advance tickets. I was unable to learn much about procedure but after a struggle managed to get hold of a timetable entitled ‘Trains at a glance’ (R2) which, when I later tried to translate it, proved very difficult to understand.
About 2 p.m., after a drink of coke (here called Campa-Cola), I headed back along Market Road through the bazaar and found my guest-house fairly easily. Had a shower (of sorts) and then read for a while before having a siesta for a couple of hours, again with some really weird dreams. The two I can remember both involved me being victimised by crowds of people who reminded me of my schooldays and friends that I had then.
I went out again at 6.30 p.m. just as it was starting to get dark. If I can get a ticket tonight I might try and see one of the Indian films on show. Managed to get a ticket in the dress circle at a cinema nearby for the next showing of a film called ‘Ladies Tailor’ which should be interesting, even if it is in Hindi (cost only R4-50).
The streets were really crowded with people and there were the usual greetings from children and young kids (they are usually friendly although sometimes with the older ones you can’t be sure). I was also approached by the normal selection of rickshaw drivers, scooter-taxi drivers and others asking whether I wanted to ride anywhere or to buy some hash.
I bought a selection of six different ‘cakes’ which were really delicious (R4-60) and another sugar-cane drink. Am really enjoying the food trip here, discovering many different tastes, most of which although unusual to the western palate, are remarkably cheap and good.
This afternoon I had a ‘masala dosa’ (pancake filled with assorted root vegetables) with a side dish, which was really filling and cost only R1-50. They always provide water with the meals which costs nothing so there would be no chance of starving here and if really hard put to and sleeping rough one could probably live for R5 a day.
Went back to my room at 7.30 p.m. where I rested my feet again and did some more reading. The Foder’s guide is providing some good background material which helps me understand the Indian way of life a lot better (although it is very intricate and one cannot generalise).
Left my room again at 9-00 p.m. and went to the cinema. As I arrived the other showing had just finished so I was able to go straight in. I got a few funny looks as I was the only westerner there. The building was quite nice, holding maybe 200 people with massive fans on the walls which kept the place cool. The film was good (it was in Hindi) and lasted over 2½ hours.
It was very melodramatic with a simple story line and no real sex or violence. When the star was shot in the arm, for example, he was alright again five minutes later. I found the whole thing refreshing and also quite entertaining and the rest of the audience obviously enjoyed it.
The show finished at 12-15 a.m. and I headed back through the darkened streets to my guest-house, where I arrived just as the place was being locked up for the night.
If I had arrived five minutes later I would have been sleeping out on the street with the local population. Got to sleep at 1-00 a.m.
Wednesday April 22nd
Was woken at 9-00 a.m. by the guy in charge of the hotel and paid him another R15 for tonight.
Sat in my room for a while writing before having a shower and then going out at 9-45 a.m. Headed into the central area where I wandered about for a while before walking out to the Nepalese embassy.
The weather was really hot today and I was grateful for the shade provided by the many trees lining the streets on the way out of the city. Along the way I got rooked by a shoe-shine boy who kept pestering me and eventually I let him clean my shoes.
He made an excellent job of cleaning them and also did a bit of repair work to the insoles. He wanted R12 which I though was too much, but with a crowd gathering I gave him R10 just to keep the peace.
I then stopped for some breakfast, a couple of battered toast with a veg. side dish, at a roadside shack. That only cost R1-40 which restored my faith in Indian nature a little.
I collected my visa alright so I can now start making concrete plans for heading to Nepal. Will probably get a train to Agra on Friday or Saturday where I’ll stay for four or five days before going on to Kathmandu.
Walked back to town again where I had a really refreshing strawberry milkshake. I was also hassled firstly by a French guy and then two Germans for money. I’ve got used to refusing Indians but found it much more difficult seeing westerners in trouble so I gave them a couple of rupees. Hopefully I’ll never be in that sort of position myself.
I bought ten postcards as well (R1 each) and stamps (R1-40 each) plus some aerogrammes as I intend to catch up on a lot of writing to people that I missed out on whilst in prison. Walked back to the guest-house where I arrived at 1-00 p.m. really exhausted and with even more blisters on my feet. Must really get them toughened up if I want to do any trekking in Nepal.
Had a siesta from 1-30 p.m. to 3-30 p.m. and then spent the rest of the afternoon writing postcards. Wrote to Willie at Lake Toba to explain why I hadn’t made it, one to Andy to see if we can meet up again in Nepal, another to Penang Post Office to re-direct my mail to Nepal and others to people in Germany and England to let them know how I am and what my plans are.
The water had been off most of the day and eventually I had to wash my hair under a tap about a foot off the ground, great fun.
Went out at 8-00 p.m., posted all the cards and wandered around the bazaar for a while trying to build up an appetite. I also booked an excursion for tomorrow to look around Delhi and New Delhi. It starts at 9-45 a.m. and finishes at 4-30 p.m. and seems incredibly good value at only R12.
I then found a little restaurant serving ‘western’ meals which I thought I’d give a try. Had a fry-up of chips, eggs, beans & tomatoes and a bowl of porridge. Also bought a French guy who came in asking for money a bowl of corn flakes. The meal was very filling, surprisingly tasty and the bill only came to R8-50 (including the corn flakes).
India is going to spoil me for cheap food and I’m going to have a hell of a shock when I eventually go back to Germany. After a drink of sugar-cane juice I returned to my room where I wrote a couple of letters, one to Rita to tell her my plans and also to suggest she might like to come to India for two or three weeks holiday.
She finishes at the firm she has been with for thirteen years in the middle of May and is free until the beginning of August when she starts a business course in English. I’m not sure whether she’ll be able to afford the flight for such a short time or even how things would be between us.
I’ve always promised her that we could have a holiday together sometime but have always been dubious of how it would work out. It’s worth a try anyway.
Finished writing about 10-30 p.m. and fell asleep shortly afterwards.
Thursday April 23rd
Fell asleep last night thinking how lucky I had been health wise on this trip. Woke up at 4-00 a.m. a lot sicker than I’ve been for a very long time.
I had really bad stomach cramps, was sweating a lot and had a very high temperature. Rushed to the toilet where I had the shits really badly, probably from the sugar-cane juice last night. I took a couple of Metifex, which usually work really well against stomach infections, and then fell back into a restless sleep.
Woke again at 6-00 a.m. as it was getting light, feeling even worse. Had to rush to the toilet again and then took another tablet before trying to get some more sleep. Was up and down for the next couple of hours until I was convinced that there was no more waste material left inside me and I was feeling really rough.
About 8-30 a.m. I decided to try and go for a walk, firstly to refund my ticket for the trip today (which I was in no condition to go on) and secondly to get a cup of black tea. Walking down the street I felt as though I was in a nightmare avoiding all the traffic. My temperature must have been really high and I started to feel nauseous from the various cooking smells around.
After a hundred yards I stopped for a black tea which certainly had positive effects. Two minutes later I was vomiting really heavily in the gutter. I felt absolutely terrible and started back for the guest-house again. Got to my room feeling very weak and lay down on my bed trying to get myself together.
I rang for the hotel guy who seemed quite concerned when he saw the state I was in. He bought me some water and a really sweet cup of tea which helped a little. I spent most of the rest of the day dozing, sweating the temperature out and getting rid of any more poisons left in my body.
Didn’t eat or smoke all day and just lay on my bed sleeping and trying to let my body sort itself out. Didn’t really come around properly until nearly midnight when I felt well enough to write this, although my body feels absolutely drained of energy with my kidneys and stomach feeling very sore.
Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be feeling well enough to try and organise getting my train ticket to Agra, we’ll see. Fell back into a restless sleep again at 1-00 a.m.
Friday April 24th
Woke up at 7-00 a.m. feeling a lot better, although my kidneys are still giving me a lot of pain and my temperature is still there.
Was bought a cup of tea at 8-00 a.m. which tasted really good and perked my spirits up a little. I left my room at 9-00 a.m. after paying R30 for last night and tonight.
Headed up to the tour office where I explained why I had been unable to go on the tour yesterday. They said they couldn’t give me a refund, and were also unable to get me on a trip today as the coach was already on its way picking up people from various hotels.
I then went to the railway station to try and book a ticket to Agra for tomorrow but was told that a reservation was not necessary and I could get a ticket in the morning. As long as I am feeling up to travelling tomorrow I will catch the 10-15 a.m. Toofan express.
Walked back towards the guest-house and on the way had breakfast of porridge, toast and tea to try and build up my strength a little. I got back to my room at 10-30 a.m., still feeling pretty weak and listless. Lay around reading, writing and dozing for most of the rest of the day.
Had a shower at 6-00 p.m. and then did a little more reading before going out for a meal. After a wander around the bazaar I went to a restaurant which seems popular with westerners. It served Chinese, European and Indian dishes all at pretty reasonable prices. Had a meal of chicken & vegetable and a pot of tea. Although it was tasty, my stomach found it very difficult to take.
Went to bed at 10-30 p.m.
Saturday April 25th
Woke at 6-30 a.m. after a very restless night.
Was in two minds about moving on to Agra and by the end of the day was still uncertain whether I had made the right decision or not. I left the guest-house at 8-00 a.m. still feeling rough from my stomach complaint but otherwise not too bad.
Got a scooter-taxi out to Old Delhi railway station from where the train would leave. After a little wandering around the station finding my bearings I bought a second-class ticket. As things worked out it would have been cheaper to buy a first class air-conditioned ticket (R76) than the R13-50 I did pay.
I went to the platform at and the train was already there and filling up fast so I jumped on. Found a place in the corridor by a window where I had to sit on my bag as there were no seats left.
When the train started at 10-00 a.m. the compartment was absolutely jam-packed and there was absolutely no room to move. Even so they managed to pack in more people at a couple of stations along the way. We stopped at one, at 12-30 p.m. when things started to go wrong.
I had been perched on my bag reading and getting covered in soot and dirt from the steam engine and for the first time had to move as the platform came along on my side.
It wasn’t easy, to say the least, as I battled against crowds of people and became pretty dazed fighting to get away from the door. Only about ten minutes later did I discover that my wallet was missing.
After a search round with the help of virtually everyone in the carriage I came to the conclusion that someone getting off at the previous station had picked my pocket. I was really upset and annoyed at myself as this was the first time in all my travels I had been a victim of anything as basic. Usually I am much more careful.
There was R290 in the wallet which was quite a bit but at least I still have my passport and travellers cheques. That is one thing I’m learning on this trip, when something has happened it is normally not possible to change it so one has to look on the bright side. This is what I tried to do today although I don’t know if I succeeded very well.
The people in the carriage were good to me, they first helped me look for the money and when we realised it had been stolen they started a small collection, which at first I tried to stop. Everyone put in one or two rupees (quite a lot for many of these people) and in the end they collected nearly R80 which was given to me.
I was really grateful and couldn’t thank them enough. They wouldn’t have any of it saying that they wanted me to leave their country with a good impression not a bad one (I wonder if the same would happen in Europe, I doubt it very much).
The train got more and more crowded until we eventually arrived at Agra Central. Got there at 2-15 p.m. and from then on just let things happen as they happened.
Two guys, in a scooter-taxi, latched onto me and so I decided to use their services. What happened for the rest of the afternoon was solely due to their persuasion and my gullibility (although I won’t be able to judge that for another week or so).
After a wash and a couple of drinks of water for my parched throat they led me out of the station. I had decided not to report the loss of my money as it probably wouldn’t have done any good.
They took me to a place called the ‘Tourist Lodge’, situated somewhere near the centre of town although I have yet to find out exactly where. There I accepted a really nice room with double bed, bathroom with shower and toilet and a fan (cost R30 a night).
The friend of the taxi-driver seemed quite a nice guy and had been telling me of some interesting ways of getting my money back. This involved taking gems to Nepal where they sell for two or three times the price, or Europe four times as much. Agreed to go with him later to a friend’s shop and look at some.
Following my new policy for today I am just letting fate take me by the hand. I had a shower and rested on my bed for a while thinking about what I had done wrong today. Decided that it was probably getting up.
Had a couple of cold drinks to try and quench my incredible thirst but they only succeeded in setting my stomach churning again. Then had a pot of tea out of which I squeezed five cups. Have decided not to eat again today to try and resolve the fight going on in my stomach.
About 5-30 p.m. the guy came back and we drove with the same taxi to the jeweller’s shop. I sat for an hour drinking tea and looking at countless different semi-precious stones. Having come this far I had to believe the guy and trust his knowledge.
He helped me select a range of stones; twelve different sorts with three or more from each type making a total of over fifty different stones of assorted size, shape and colour. The total came to R816, which could either prove to be the biggest waste of money I’ve made for a while (which I somehow doubt) or provide me with a little profit to buy some things in Nepal.
I left the shop at 7-00 p.m. and was driven back to the hotel. I gave the taxi-driver R10 for all the driving around he had done. He will come back tomorrow at 9-30 a.m. to take me to a bank or hotel where I can change some money.
Forgot to mention that I have the stones with me and they are hidden away safely. The guy must be on the level giving them me without payment, I hope so anyway.
The taxi-driver’s friend escorted me to my room. I gave him R10 to get me some hash and I got a nice chunk in return. As I said, today I decided to let fate lead me by the hand, what the hell.
Sat around writing for a while, had another pot of tea and listened to some music from next door before making up a little joint at 9-00 p.m. Am just about to go and smoke it, let you know later.
Pretty good, had a nice blow in the bathroom and although I didn’t get a ‘clean’ high (what can one expect after a day like today) it was very good and pretty well knocked me out. I was incapable of doing much which was alright as the electricity went off at 10-00 p.m. I just lay on my bed doing a lot of thinking and fell asleep at 11-00 p.m.
Woke up again at 1-00 a.m. with some mosquito bites. Went outside to get some drinking water and then shortly afterwards the power came back on so I was able to put the fan on to discourage any small insects.
Had another look at the gems and the dope (black, probably Nepalese) before being convinced that today had really happened and trying to sleep again at 1-30 a.m.
Sunday April 26th
Woken from a very good night’s sleep at 9-00 a.m. by my helpful friends from yesterday, to be taken to breakfast.
Had a pot of tea and some toast before leaving and gave the guy, whose idea the gems were, one of my long-sleeved shirts. He says that is all he makes from this work but I am sure he must get commission as well (or maybe I’m just getting too sceptical).
Went to the gem shop where I sat around having a small breakfast and talking with the guy, Babar, again. Was also joined by another guy, Max, who later on showed me his shop of sitars and quoted me a few prices, on which I was of course promised big profits again in Nepal and more in Europe.
He was a lot pushier and made me more sceptical as even a small sitar is quite bulky and a bit too fragile to carry around all the time. I was invited to tea tonight though and have said I’ll make up my mind tomorrow, although I’m sure already that I won’t be buying anything from him.
Jamil, my guide, then took me to a marble workshop where I saw the inlay work being done. It is very intricate and takes a long time, maybe three or four months, for a good table which would cost about R20000 (a bit beyond my budget I think).
I was also shown around a brass emporium by a highly educated Indian with a degree in English. His accent was perfect and he explained all the various deals to me where one can pay 30% down, have the goods shipped to your bank, and then pay the rest on receipt.
Was unable to change my money today so I will do that tomorrow and then afterwards Jamil will take me to the station to reserve a ticket for Tuesday. He will also take me this evening to the Taj Mahal before meeting Max for some dinner and a couple of chilled beers (sounds inviting). I was taken back to my room at midday.
The weather is extremely hot, almost unbearable. It will be really nice to get to the cooler climes of Nepal. My stomach is still ‘queasy’ and I don’t yet feel so good but things seem to be looking up again. I have decided just to take the stones to Nepal as they are easy to transport.
For all the other shops I am sticking to the story that I’ll be back in June and will know better then what I can afford to buy. After writing for a while I had another small joint which was good although it made me feel a little nauseous. It is also very heavy on the eyes and I know that I’ll sleep for most of this afternoon.
I dropped off to sleep at 1-30 p.m. I know that I am being anti-social as there are other westerners here, although they seem to spend most of their time sitting around the place getting stoned as well. Hopefully I’ll be feeling a bit more sociable and happy by the time I reach Nepal (probably on Thursday or Friday).
Woke up again at 3-30 p.m. after some fairly pleasant dreams. Then had another small joint to relax me for the rest of the afternoon. I did a lot of thinking, especially critically of myself and my personality traits. Have also started to realise how mentally unprepared I was for this part of my travels.
Having had my expectations geared to South-East Asia and my ideas adjusted to accept that, I was within two days plunged into India and a completely different way of life. Whatever happens during the rest of my time here in India and Nepal, I don’t think it will be quite the same Fred returning to Frankfurt that left in February.
I was picked up at 5-30 p.m. for what turned out to be a very interesting evening indeed. I am writing this diary now at 11-00 p.m. by candlelight (the electricity has failed again), also under the influence of a couple of rums and a joint I’ve just smoked.
Was taken to the Taj Mahal by Jamil’s ‘brother’. Still pleasantly stoned when I arrived, it proved a very interesting introduction to one of the 7 wonders of the world. It was very different from what I had expected, a good deal larger and much less macabre.
Had a fascinating look around and it was really good to be on my own with no one hassling me under the guise of friendship, business or whatever. I will now try to describe what I saw, which could prove rather difficult as it is really a place of impressions.
Just to give some idea of the grandeur of the whole thing. If the Taj Mahal was ever rebuilt again, it would cost about US$70m at today’s prices. It was built as a mausoleum to the king’s wife who died suddenly. It took 22 years to build and eventually housed the king as well as he didn’t outlive the building of it.
The Taj consists of a massive outer courtyard of red stone built on the banks of the almost dry river running through Agra. Inside is a huge garden with many pathways and a central canal (to put it simply) which leads up to the main monument which is made of inlaid white marble.
Having taken my shoes off, I walked barefoot around the monument (the marble was still very hot). Looking at the four towers, one on each corner (leaning slightly outwards so if they fall then they miss the Taj), amazed by the amount of vultures down by the river and perching in the trees. Also saw a lovely sunset over the side of the Taj with many reflections across the river.
I left shortly before 7-00 p.m. intending to meet Max outside but found him and two friends sitting on the grass nearby. A Japanese guy was also persuaded to join us and we sat talking and listening to the sounds of the many different birds as it got dark.
We then went to the shop of Max’s for a drink and later something to eat (made by his sister). Travelled by rickshaw which cost me another R8, leaving me exactly R4 in cash.
Sat around for ages as different people came into the shop (including a big brother who is a member of parliament) and drunk a bottle of rum (provided by a big brother who is an army officer). The rum was very good and we were given some nuts as well which helped keep away the hunger pangs.
After a couple of drinks Max started to get really pushy with the Japanese guy about buying a sitar. By 10-00 p.m. I was giving up on the prospect of food and becoming increasingly annoyed at Max who was getting very pushy indeed, even embarrassing his two friends and the Japanese guy’s rickshaw driver.
We made our excuses and left quickly. I felt annoyed enough to even have second thoughts about the ‘gem deal’ although I still think that I’ll take that risk. After a cup of tea we were taken back to the rest-house where the Japanese guy discovered he had left his bag with camera at the shop.
I don’t think it will be a problem but if it is not returned then I won’t pay for and return the gems as a protest. I’m sure everything will be alright in the morning though, it usually is.
On returning the electricity was gone so I got a candle before going to my room. I made a joint which I smoked in the bathroom. It was very good and after the drinks as well I felt very mellow.
After another joint at midnight I floated off to sleep but with my mind still turning a lot.
Monday April 27th
After waking several times during the night I woke up properly at 8-30 a.m. after some very strange dreams indeed.
I had a small breakfast of toast and a pot of tea before leaving at 9-30 a.m. with Jamil to cycle to the jewellery shop. Babar’s nephew had gone to school with the key so they spent half-an-hour tracking him down and recovering it before being able to open the shop.
Then went with Babar on a scooter to the State Bank of India where I changed DM500 at a rate of 3-73 so I received R1865 in exchange. We then returned to the shop where I had some more breakfast, a bun and some tea (am really getting to like Indian tea, sweet, hot and refreshing).
Handed over R816 for the gems and discussed the best places to sell them in Nepal. The best profit would be to tourists but as I don’t think I make a very good salesman, I will probably try the small shops hoping to make at least a small profit (enough to cover the money I had stolen, which was the whole idea of the deal).
At 11-15 a.m. Jamil and I headed out to the railway station where I tried to book a reservation for a train tomorrow. This proved to be more difficult than expected but eventually after half-an-hour’s wait I got a second class sleeping reservation to Varanasi. From there I’ll have to get another train to Raxaul on the Indian/Nepalese border. It will all be quite a lengthy journey.
I start tomorrow at 23-10 and arrive in Varanasi at 15-30 the next day (the ticket cost R46). We then returned to the rest-house where I was changed to another room with the Japanese guy. It will cost only R10 for tonight and is quite simple with two separate beds and a toilet & shower outside.
Gave Jamil R50 for all his help. Without him I would have been pretty lost here although of course he’s made money out of the deal as well. Feeling too lazy to roll a joint I ate some hash which gave me a mild buzz later on. Did some reading and writing but spent most of the afternoon just resting.
Jamil came back at 6-30 p.m. with his baby son and asked if he could have R10 which he needed and would in return bring me some hash tomorrow. I then had a small joint and an hour later (in between electricity cuts) I ordered some food.
I just hope that my stomach accepts everything as I really want to start eating properly again. Waited quite a long time for the meal but it eventually arrived at 8-30 p.m. The soup was very tasty as was the rice (although I only managed to finish half of it). Also had a Lassi, a yoghurt-like drink which was excellent and topped off the meal nicely.
Spent the rest of the evening resting and later on had a short chat to the Japanese guy, whose name is much too difficult to remember. At 10-30 p.m. I smoked the last of my hash just as the electricity went off again. It remained off most of the rest of the night.
Tuesday April 28th
After a restless night’s sleep plagued by mosquitoes (because the fan wasn’t working) I slept in the morning until nearly 10-00 a.m.
Then had a pot of tea and some toast to try and wake myself up. My mouth is parched and although I’ve tried quenching my thirst with water, tea seems to do the trick better.
I spent a relaxing morning reading, lying on my bed and also had a really refreshing shower. I got my things together as I’ve said I’ll vacate the room by 3-00 p.m. Will probably get a rickshaw down to the fort before coming back, collecting my bag and heading for the station at 9-30 p.m.
Left my bag as planned but as it was quite an overcast day I decided to walk the three or four kilometres to the fort. Many rickshaw drivers stopped me and none of them could understand why I wanted to walk at all. I persuaded them that I took some perverse sort of pleasure in getting some exercise.
I arrived at the massive park which leads up to the Taj after half-an-hour and then headed westwards for another twenty minutes before arriving at what at first seemed a rather drab-looking fort, compared with the splendours of the Taj Mahal.
Agra Fort proved to be a fascinating place even though a good half of it is blocked off and used as some sort of army depot. The admission cost was R2, same as the Taj, and I spent two hours exploring the parts of the intricate building that were accessible.
It was possible to get right up onto the ramparts of the fort (with only a knee-high wall to prevent one going over the side). Although the day was cloudy it was still an impressive view over the river towards the Taj Mahal.
The fort is still in a pretty good state of preservation. It was made out of red sandstone and the worst damage seems to have been done in more recent times in the form of various types of graffiti.
At its height it must have been virtually impregnable because on one side it was bounded by the river and was completely surrounded by a moat backed by seventy-foot high walls and then another large buttress before the even higher walls of the fort itself.
I had a very interesting wander around inside. I then walked along a footpath and the road until I was on the opposite side near to Agra Fort railway station where I stopped for a refreshing cup of tea. After all the walking I was feeling quite weak so obviously I’m still not fully recovered from my bout of illness.
After the cup of tea I wandered around the streets behind the station which were interesting, a very crowded community with the people obviously battling constantly with poverty. The whole area was really filthy and run down but fascinating all the same.
Had a couple of waters to quench my thirst and then got a scooter-taxi back to the rest-house. I sat around outside writing for a while and then chatting with a German girl who has been travelling for thirteen months around the world and will return home in another month.
We had a very interesting talk and even told her about my Thailand experience and in exchange she told me a few stories from her time in Thailand, including a bad experience with mushrooms in Ko Samui.
Had a meal of vegetable biryani which my body didn’t accept very well and it left my guts feeling very heavy and me pretty grumpy for no real reason. Got a rickshaw to the station where I arrived at 10-15 p.m. The train is due to arrive at 10-50 p.m. and hopefully I’ll be able to find my berth alright and get a good night’s sleep as I’m feeling very tired.
On the train I found my berth fairly quickly. It was right on top of a three-tier bunk. The bed was basically a wooden board so after dusting it off I got out my towel to use as a blanket and used my bag as a pillow.
The train eventually left at 11-30 p.m. and I fell asleep fairly quickly.
Wednesday April 29th
Woke up at 5-30 a.m. after a good night’s sleep to discover that I was lucky having a top tier ‘bed’ because the middle one is collapsible and the bottom two are converted to seats during the day.
Because I had the top one I was therefore able to get some more sleep during the morning above all the tumult and confusion that was going on below me. The train stopped frequently at stations and sometimes for a long time, up to an hour on one occasion. It is something I’ll have to get used to travelling on Indian Railways.
At a couple of stops I bought cups of tea, which cost only 40 paise each and were really refreshing. I was feeling a lot better today although still very uncertain how my body feels about food at the moment. As the stations rolled by I dozed and listened to the myriad different noises that accompanied the train’s progress across the countryside.
It was mid-afternoon when I took my bag and sat down by the window as the crowds had by then thinned out. I had a chance to look at the countryside which was largely barren and very flat with settlements every so often dotted along the railway line.
I saw one crowd of workers sitting in the shade at the corner of a field after a morning’s work. I also saw a man working clearing debris from nearby and a whole chain of women transporting the rubbish on their heads to some distant dumping point. Also saw a few camels being used to aid farm-work plus goats and some cows trying to feed from the dry ground.
Arrived at Varanasi Central an hour late, at 4-30 p.m. and headed for the reservation office where I hoped to book a ticket to Raxaul. It proved more complicated than expected. There were no reservation forms so I had to use a scrap of paper to make my request.
I got chatting to an Australian guy in the line who advised me to get a ticket to Chapra, from where I’d be able to get a bus up to the border. He attempted to get a ticket for me but was unsuccessful as the guy (who seemed to take ten minutes per person) would only accept one request from one person at a time.
Eventually got to the head of the queue at 6-00 p.m. after waiting well over an hour. Also got chatting to two English guys, Andy and Charlie, who I got on really well with and who were getting tickets to Bombay before flying back to England next week.
Whilst we were waiting Charlie also bought a couple of drinks which were really needed in the sweltering heat. I eventually got a ticket for tomorrow evening, leaving at 9-30 p.m. and arriving in Chapra at the unearthly hour of 4-30 a.m. Friday morning.
Went with Andy and Charlie to an area of town near the Ganges. On the way our scooter-taxi driver had an accident with a rickshaw (which was his fault). A whole crowd was literally starting to lynch him when the police intervened.
Luckily for the driver they made him drive away from the scene of the accident. We had been getting worried about being involved ourselves.
After looking at the river for a while and being bothered by countless beggars we went for something to eat at a nearby restaurant. I attempted to eat chicken curry with chapattis but was not able to force much down although I was very thirsty and drank a lot of lemon and water.
I decided to go with Andy and Charlie to their hotel, the Himalaya, which is not too far away from the railway station. We got a scooter-taxi back and arrived there at 8-30 p.m. I managed to get a double room (no singles left) for R20. It is really nice with a shower and a toilet.
After a shower I joined the other two for a while and had an interesting chat over a beer I bought (R10). It was chilled although still not cold enough.
Went back to my room at 9-00 a.m. and after writing this went to sleep fairly quickly.
Thursday April 30th
After quite a good night’s sleep, disturbed several times by mosquitoes biting, I eventually got up at 8-30 a.m.
Had another really refreshing shower before getting dressed, doing a little reading and then ordering a pot of tea which was delicious and thirst-quenching. Left the hotel after arranging with the two English guys to meet them later and use their room for the afternoon while waiting around for the train.
For the next three hours I had a very interesting look around. First of all along some of the main roads, where I was hassled by quite a few people, but later on through some fascinating back-streets where, apart from a few shouted ‘helloes’, I was left alone.
The weather was very hot and I even burnt my neck a little but it made a nice change to walk around relatively unbothered. Looked at some of the temples and shrines (of which there are over two thousand in Varanasi) and also at the people walking about, busy doing their different things.
A very enjoyable morning of simple entertainment which gave me more of an insight into the way Indians lead their lives outside of the big cities. I was able to see things happening at a much easier pace and was therefore able to take much more in.
After a snack and a couple of teas I went back to the hotel and sat around chatting about various things. Charlie is a doctor so a lot of the conversation was medically orientated. We also chatted about Nepal where the other two have just come back from. They gave me some hints on where to stay, what to do and how to get about, along with some Nepalese change to buy a few cups of tea with.
We went for a meal in the hotel. I had a vegetable dish with chapattis which was really tasty and with a drink cost R9. It was the first meal in over a week that I’ve been able to stomach properly so I was really pleased and hopefully I’ll be fit for the rigours of Nepal.
I left the hotel at 8-15 p.m. after saying goodbye to Charlie and Andy who were very good company. I then caught a rickshaw to the station. Went to the platform where the train for Chapra was due to arrive and got talking to a Swiss couple and a Dutch guy.
We all had reservations in the same compartment and when the train arrived at 9-15 p.m. we also teamed up with a nice young Danish couple. Everybody had great fun in near pitch-blackness trying to sort out who was to sleep where. Eventually with the guard’s help we sorted it all out and started to get settled in for the night.
The railway in this direction is different in that it is metre gauge as opposed to the broader gauge I had travelled on before. The wagons were pulled by a steam train and as we chugged along it felt as though we were riding along with Casey Jones (made especially realistic with the hooting of the steam whistle).
Our compartment was only dimly lit which made everything even more mysterious. It got even more so when the Swiss guy produced a couple of joints of some really good Afghan gear which we smoked. Got off really well and the journey turned into a bit of a fairy tale as we headed off north and I started really appreciating some of the finer points of travelling on this sort of railway.
Really enjoyed the company around me and the journey as we stopped at lots of stations, heard the myriad calls of ‘Chai’ from the guys selling tea (stoned, it all merges together and sounds like a herd of sheep). After a couple of cups of tea myself I eventually fell into a really deep sleep at 12-30 a.m.