Me and the boys, we have a tradition. We call it ‘going big’. It’s a recipe for hungover flights and, on more than one occasion, use of that inconspicuous vomit bag tucked between the in-flight magazine and safety brochure. The price to pay is painful, but that never dissuades us from extreme intoxication the night before we are to bid transcontinental adieu.
And so, in that central Kenyan patch of dust called Naivasha, the night before we each head in our own separate direction (Bangkok, Arusha, Los Angeles), you could find us walking down the main strip Reservoir Dogs-style, trying to appear as confident as possible while darting between the murderous motorcycles and lorries.
The previous night – a peaceful Thursday – we had found success: a fun dive bar with a crooked pool table on the outskirts of Nakuru. But Naivasha could offer no parallel. It was a Friday night now and the dusty air carried with it a scent of danger and foreboding. Walking back outside of a second story bar that was the opposite of welcoming, a 10-year-old kid bumped into me, holding his hand out for change. He had a leering grin that grew even wider when I told him I had no change. He pulled a flask out of his beaten-up jacket, took a swig, and smiled again.
I knew I’d have to break with tradition. I went back to the hotel room, read the last chapter of my book and immediately fell asleep.
Thank god. For that was the last full night of sleep that I’ve had in the six days since. First were the fitful bouts of shuteye between Nairobi and Doha, Doha and Bangkok. Then waiting until 1 a.m. for my laundry to dry before waking up at 5 a.m. to get to the Bangkok airport. Next stop: Kuala Lumpur and a work+work+play+work itinerary that somehow kept me going from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. every single day.
My days in Kuala Lumpur deserve at least a couple of posts – the kindness and hospitality showered upon me by my good friend Jeff Ooi and the entire KL blogging community is far beyond what I could have possibly imagined.
But first, catch-up. I’m now in Jakarta, which I think takes the prize of South East Asia’s noisiest and most chaotic metropolis. I’m embarrassed to admit that once again, the only refuge I’ve found is Starbucks’ corporate formula of decent jazz and plush fabric chairs. Joel, if you’re reading this, maybe you can point me toward somewhere better?