Useless tuk-tuk Tour (Cambodia)

Cambodia ~ Siem Reap – 2016

I know it’s a little bit easy and uninspiring to do this, but I still feel it’s always a decent option to take a tour when you are in a new foreign country. I’m aware this goes against all of the present wisdom which suggests you should just cycle off into the sunset without a map and perhaps you will stumble to the moon or make friends with a talking frog who regales you with all of the native knowledge you never thought you would learn. I know that, but I am still standing by my stance. Tours are okay, okay?

And no you don’t have to pull your socks up to your knees, or wear Crocs to be allowed in the group…any age can apply and these are simply suggested uniform items as opposed to mandatory.

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Anyway aside from that this tours are a great way to swot up on history and hidden parts of the land’s culture; and there’s also a comfort (especially for the solo traveller) in going with a few other people. You’re a lot less likely to be jumped and glassed in the face as some nameless rogue runs away with your passport or currency wallet – and anyway even if that was to happen the OAPs would without doubt back you up, clubbing the assailant with their walking canes until he cries for forgiveness and/or offers cut price beer. Some of that medication they take is powerful X-Men shit, I tell you truthfully!

So in short yet again, tours are okay. Let’s get on with it.  

With this in mind, and my overriding fear of Cambodian dead babies still ingrained in my core…I knew that the only way to go would be to have a nice tour of the nearby temples (Angkor Wat, Angkor…I forget now; ESSENTIALLY THE TOMB RAIDER PLACES THOUGH) and perhaps befriend an old widow or two in the process; we could play bingo afterwards, or I could learn how to knit. Who needs a talking frog when you have (imaginary) old widow friends? Exactly. If things went to plan this was going to be a dream…

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I ended up setting up the tour through the hotel after reading horrendous story after horrendous story of how horribly miserable a time people had experienced by rolling up to tour companies on the spot. This is actually a top tip because these days with the booking sites, Trip Advisor and whatever else, places are really afraid of suffering due to a bad review. So if I am driven off a cliff, or made to dance naked in return for the safe return of my camera during the tour then I won’t be so happy, and traumatised people don’t make for very positive reviewers. So they only try and go with those they trust, makes sense. YA SEE! GOOD!

The fella turned up early, and he was friendly enough – we shook hands, and I thought “why aren’t your hands sweaty, it’s boiling here?” but didn’t say that because a.) he had limited English and b.) that would be a very very odd thing to say to a person upon your first meeting. The reason for the early start was that I am white. Whiter than the whitest whites they always brag about on cleaning commercials…I am ready and willing (for a fee) to be a spokesperson for such advertisements – “WANT YOUR SHEETS WHITER THAN WHITE” then point to me. It’d be great. They’d make millions. Call me!

The guy, Vrim…or Vrom, no…Vhrin – V. Let’s just call him V, found it pretty funny when I told him we are on a timer and then pointed to my skin. I didn’t want to be out all day in the baking hot sun, and the factor 50 I had lathered on my skin could only do so much…it’s not magic after all. It doesn’t suddenly turn me into a glistening beach ready day walker, sadly. 

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It was immediately obvious that it was just going to be myself on the tour, as my new pal V pointed to an empty tuk-tuk as opposed to a cosy air-con bus. What’s a tuk-tuk? Well to those that don’t know it’s essentially a motorbike that someone has attached a little back wagon bit for to wheel people rather precariously about in. Think…Julius Ceaser’s chariot but a present day economy version. Fun at first mind, but soon I felt too exposed and unprotected from the Tattoine-esque climate.

On the journey I saw many other bewildered tourist faces in the same situation. Some of them nodded as if to say: “oh, you too huh?” And then it was back to eyes forward as we slipped around on the seat and gasped for air in the thick hot wind (I have never experienced hot wind until Cambodia). The tour as it was wasn’t exactly a tour…at all. It was just a guy, who again was very pleasant, just pointing at things on the way every so often:

“That is museum…that is museum…and that is museum…”

Well yeah V mate I figured that as they all say museum on the front in English. But thanks anyway! Around the temples he would stop outside and then hand up a hammock in his tuk-tuk and take a rest shooing me away with a smile to have a look around…here I was met with other guys offering tours of the temple…I thought I was already on one! Whaaat?! Once I had seen enough of one spot we’d go on to the next one, sometimes he would offer little tid-bits on the way which was largely lost to mumbles due to the fact he was wearing a thick visor…

“…hummmbleee-ummmm-gummm-king temphugksosos-the king…”

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And for some reason this made ME feel bad, because at least he was giving some effort – so I would just reply with oooohs and aaaahhhs, just repeating back anything which I gathered into a statement and hoping that would satisfy him. Something completely moronic like: “aaah the king…so that’s why it’s a good one. The king would get a good one.” 

I would sound like a pandering knobhead even if I was talking to a three year old, or a dog with mental difficulties – never mind a guy just trying his best with limited knowledge.

As it turns out all you need in Cambodia, and south-east Asia at large is a bike. If you have a bike then you can give a tour. I know most will tell you that perhaps you should have studied ancient history at university, or at least be well read in the subjects and have a deep interest in it…but no. That is certainly an option, but the other option is to just get a bike – attach a seat to the back – and then charge for tours. It’s basically the same fucking thing, don’t be ignorant please.

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Elderly Children

The other day I laughed like I haven’t done in months…and it wasn’t from a well-crafted and intelligent political barb either, or an amusing satirical comment on Western society’s culture – or anything else that demands some level of brain activity to “get” – noit was a lot more simple and pure than all of that, but not any less meaningful. Well, maybe a little…

Anyway it was undoubtedly something silly; and it came about by me walking into a classroom, and coming across a rather strange sight – a small hunched character who couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. It was one of those moments where it takes a few seconds to take it all in and process…

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You see this kid had pushed his shoulders up, and his head down – basically eliminating his whole neck…making him look vaguely reminiscent of  both Frankenstein’s monster and a penguin with a spinal problem at the same time. To keep the shoulders in shape he was forced to waddle as he walked to maintain composure…and felt it was necessary to emit a few R2-D2 style “BOOP-BAP-BEEP”s every now and again, which (thanks to his missing front teeth) had an eerie and creepy sound to them…this was all probably necessary though,  just to remind people he was still there circling the table.

I also noted that he would occasionally outstretch his right hand slightly as if reaching for an imaginary walking stick which he had sadly misplaced…which led me to believe this was perhaps an older Frankenstein’s monster penguin model. But that was of course an assumption I am still yet to verify. Either way I felt in my heart of hearts that if I had some spare teeth lying around I wouldn’t hesitate to offer them to this bizarre yet amusing creature, he was just trying to live dammit – and seemed like a pretty nice guy.

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There was just something about the whole spectacle which made me burst out laughing, and as he inevitably began to giggle too the shoulders began to droop slowly but surely…and the beeps turned into baaps, and the baaps quickly turned into “ba-ha-ha-ha”s. Before I knew it we were both in hysterics with laughter, and so the rest of the kids in the class took the baton: copying the same character, busily circling the table with their now neckless bodies.

Such little weirdos, seriously!

But it made me think though…where do we lose this? And when…and WHY?! Because I know I still behave like this – but I’m seen largely as stupid, childish, or immature (there are other words but it’s a family show). However I do feel like if we were all a little more like this, just having fun and amusing both ourselves and each other…then life would be that little bit more enjoyable. In other words if the elderly had as much of a laugh imitating children as these kids had imitating the elderly then this world would be a lot less dreary.

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All I know is I’m writing a mental note to do the Frankenstein’s monster penguin shuffle at age 93. Don’t let me forget…okay? Even if I scream at you to get off my lawn and begin a rant about “kids these days”…make me do it.

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Failure = Bacon

It seems more and more common in this day and age to force ourselves to do things which we know to be uncomfortable, or in some cases totally impossible…

We sign up for classes in which you actually pay money to jump up and down until you feel like your intestines are about to fall out…we buy books and download language apps – promising ourselves we will be fluent in French, Chinese, and Elvish in one year…we say we’ll never drink again: but the thing is this kind of talk is as far from reality as Legolas himself – it’s a complete fantasy land, or at the most too much of a pain in the arse to ever be worth it. But it’s this whole “no pain, no gain” mentality that pushes us on, as if it only really counts as an achievement or a success in the end if you suffered, cried, and almost died to get it. But why is that? Why do we have to have a horrible time for it to be something worthwhile – what ever happened to just enjoying life?

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I’m rambling, I know, I know. I’m just upset because amidst the Halloween celebrations on the weekend I overdid it and spent an absolutely monstrous amount of money…and I’ve being hating myself ever since because I was trying to force myself to save money for next year’s travel budget. I was planning on living like a monk – very minimalist; perhaps I would treat myself to a sprinkle of salt over plain uncooked rice every now and again – but aside from that it would be a rather grim and unexciting existence, days spent staring at blank walls to avoid being suckered into buying things, refusing to listen to music in case Jay Z convinces me to splash out where I know I shouldn’t.

But apparently when I dress up as a vampire I become an entirely different person, like a Jekyll and Hyde transformation…and suddenly I’m buying people I don’t like drinks, and announcing it’s no big deal that guys have to pay double the amount that girls do into clubs (I mean, what?! Why?!) I almost had a heart attack the next day looking at my bank balance – and then ate some bacon to make myself feel better, so a real one may be coming any day now…that’s not a lofty target, that’s just science unfortunately.

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I need to set realistic goals, as does everyone else – making huge claims and promises are all well and good…but normally you’re never going to meet a finish line which you have placed a million miles away, it’s just not going to happen. So I’m rethinking my savings forecast and being a little more lenient, allowing for splurges here and there…whenever Count Drac decides to surface for large pizzas, imported ales, and tequila shots: hate and love that guy. In the meantime I will try and take on a little more work to make up the difference financially, after all it is true that most good things don’t come easy, but all work and no play makes Jonny and Drac very dull boys indeed.

To put it simply: pain and barely any gain – just make a person insane; so don’t be so hard on yourself.

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2016 Travel Plans…

Here is a brief run-down of my plan for 2016…it’s rather comprehensive – but if I pull it off then that’ll mean a whole host of new stories for Storytime with John! 

So wish me luck, please!

Oh, and if you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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Tokyo Tantrums

Japan ~ Tokyo – 2015

Tokyo has a big city sort of reputation to it, an air of grandeur accompanied with a sense of mystery somewhere within the non-stop luminous glare of the lights and the 24/7 rush…

So many films have painted a picture that has made an impression on me, and because of this it was high on the list of places I wanted to see…so when I realised I had a long weekend coming up I didn’t hesitate and booked it up straight away! Just a couple of hours to get from my home in Korea to the unknown world beyond – armed with nothing but a friend’s recommendations (which proved invaluable) and a feeling I was soon to be in my very own Lost in Translation remake…

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Sidenote: when travelling you really do need to think long and hard about who you will actually travel with. Well maybe not too thorough – nothing too ridiculous, but at the very least you need to see a clean bill of health (both physical and mental), a criminal background check, and dental records. Also check their voice and typical conversation topics as otherwise you may be locked in with the most boring groaner on the planet – which is never going to be fun. With this particular adventure I was meaning to go alone originally, and then at the last minute a lady friend of mine tagged along…which brought some erm, shall we say – complications? 

Anyway I mean this sincerely when I say that Tokyo is a marvel. So much to see and do, a far cry from the more reserved and traditional parts of Japan I had visited earlier in the year.  But oddly I found it manages to retain a fantastic balance between the two often conflicting sides; you see one second I’d be staring up at a 60 foot tall science fiction juggernaut in the form of the powerful Gundam, the next I was wearing a traditional yukata and relaxing in an onsen…then I’d blink and be back to the mad rush of the Shibuya scramble crossing! I was completely in my element, roving around searching for the weird and wonderful, straining my neck to try and see as much as I possibly could…it was everything I had dreamed about for so long, and so much more…

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But yeah: the ghost at the feast…the wasp at the picnic…the drunk and slightly creepy uncle at the family reunion. Hmm, that last one was a bit weird, but you get my point – this is the part of the story where I say what didn’t go so smoothly, and most of it had to do with my travel companion: hence my warning earlier. You see I try my utmost to remain as friendly and light hearted as possible during trips, as from experience I understand that it can be a pretty stressful period if you let the small things seep in and truly affect you…if you do that suddenly the foul smell of a certain street, the incessant honking of horns on the road, or perhaps even your friend’s breathing can have you suddenly enraged beyond all comprehension: like smashing an axe into a locked door screaming “heeeeere’s Johnny!”  sort of level rage. So it’s best to take a deep breath instead, and just let most hiccups roll off your back…

However, my lady friend didn’t share this ethos…which meant that any small thing became the reason for a monumental day-ruining mood. Juxtapose that dark rain cloud along with my attempted cheery sense of humour and you had quite a pairing; something like if Voldemort was to meet one of the Teletubbies. Well actually that’s unfair (to he who must not be named): it would only be like that if Voldemort had the emotional range to both grimace and groan about public transport, and literally burst into tears about the levels of salt in Japanese food…as it stands I don’t think he is quite on her level yet.

I can understand the frustration though, Tokyo is huge and it’s far too easy to become dazed and confused by the sprawling subway system: which I honestly think was designed by someone throwing spaghetti at the wall, and saying: “that’ll do just fine.” We took many wrong turns during our days there, and the hours were long and well travelled…but I don’t see how it helps remaining silent or dragging your feet along as if you are a pathetically non-threatening zombie, or almost defunct robot:

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There is an answer to such problems though, and one which I will gladly share with all of you…and that is; beer. Yes, you heard it here first! The golden elixir is the perfect remedy to all sorts of ailments, including the frustration you may feel when a friend (or something more) is becoming more than you can bear. Thankfully there was a so-called “English pub” just off a side street near to the Shibuya crossing…where for three times the normal price I could enjoy beer, ales, and all that good stuff as if I was back amongst the smoke and laughing guffaws of my homeland…“Wait, it’s how much?! Jesus tap-dancing Christ!? It’s not worth that!”

But yeah, that’s how things go! Ups and downs, smiles and frowns…you have to take the good with the bad, and try to carve out memories that will last: and despite all the issues we were still able to do that…pretty much.

However I must now look for an AA meeting in South Korea: so yeah, wish me luck. 

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Simple Tips for Novel Planning (Video Request)

I’m currently working on a new novel…rather excited about it actually – I promise I’m going to come through with this one (motivation through “wooooo, you can do it!” calls would be greatly appreciated!) so it is rather bizarre that I got a wee video request asking for tips on planning out novels…

If you have any advice for myself or other writers then remember – sharing is caring! Would love to hear what has worked, and what hasn’t worked for you! 

Oh, and if you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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The Age of Wisdumb

I’ve noticed something lately, and I can’t seem to get away from it wherever I turn…it’s on every corner, on every page, on every video, and on every programme…I suppose it’s always been there to some extent – it’s just that now it seems to be reaching alarmingly high levels…

I’m not sure what set this in motion exactly; perhaps it can be linked to the  climate of dumbed down media, or the rise of questionable facts in the form of the internet (oh hi there Doctor Wikipedia!) – or maybe, just maybe there’s some weird X-Files type stuff going on with the water supply (excuse me while I adjust my tin-foil hat…but let’s not rule anything out) – ahem yeah – but seriously whatever the legitimate reason(s) are, the unfortunate situation still remains the same:

…that I feel like I’m surrounded by people with little to no knowledge about fucking anything, who still feel that they have all the answers.  I mean just look around; no one is willing to learn, or should I say…no one is willing to admit their ignorance…and because of this these clueless morons feel they don’t need to be taught as they already have quite enough false wisdom to last for all of eternity…

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And that’s precisely why I have begun referring to this epidemic of prolonged stupidity as ‘The Age of Wisdumb’…gone are the days of the apprentice learning from the master – as in its place we have now replaced that entire archaic story arc with something else…that of the completely unaware but confidently vitriolic humanoid who is always sat in front of his/her computer spouting off hatred and self-assured claims at regular intervals through a variety of different social media platforms…how lovely.

But wait – don’t poor sods like this need guidance then? Instruction from the seasoned masters as they are nothing but empty beginners? Shouldn’t  they seek out the help of someone who has been there and done that, so that they can try and educate and better themselves?

Well no…they don’t have to do any of that silly stuff – as they’ve already watched “like a gajillion YouTube videos”, are rarely not searching something up on Google, and even tune into the news every now and again to keep up on current events…

And it is these reasons, and these reasons alone why many in this cycle have employment positions on Facebook which are legitimately listed as ‘BOSS at GETTIN DAT MONEY’…or something along those lines anyway! Because they’re blatantly all bosses, and they’re blatantly all getting that money.

So anyway, in this world where it is so easy to crown yourself a king, queen, or indeed the aforementioned boss – despite the fact you haven’t done a single thing to  warrant possessing these lofty impressive titles – there is a lot less motivation when it comes to actually working hard, and picking up knowledge through true experience to achieve something real. I mean, why would you do that when there is seemingly an endless supply of easy short cuts?

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Think about The Lion King…without his father’s tutelage Simba would have been even more of an arrogant prick than he was as a kid, and would never have grown into the fine figure of a lion that he ended up being in the end. Or what about the Karate Kid, and Mr. Miagi’s “wax on, wax off” training? Or Star Wars, and Yoda?  The Mask of Zorro? Leon?! The list goes on, but they always follow the same perfect formula; young yet enthusiastic characters eagerly  soaking up vital life lessons from seasoned veterans…and despite the initial frustration of having to accept that they basically know nothing; they end up better, stronger, and smarter as a result of listening to their respective “master” figure.

But consider the storylines of those well-known films set in our present culture – they would be very, very different! I mean take Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back just for one of many examples…

Yoda: “A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”

Luke: “Pfft! Fuck you, don’t tell me what to do – I’mma boss! I’m out of here.”

Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

Luke: “Yeah whatever you lil’ scrotum face – never preach to me again!”

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Sorry Yoda. That wisdumb has people talking recklessly these days…

But what’s the reason for all of this all of this ignorant flexing? Why is it that people seem to feel it demeans them to admit not being anything but an expert? Why do so many consider that asking for help or guidance makes you a weaker individual? It’s simply ridiculous…

Take myself for an example – I used to be shy and unsure of what I’m really about…you know, who I am. But nowadays I can be rather unequivocal in my self-assessment: which is that I am a complete and utter moron. I pretty much know nothing! Actually every day I find out new things, which were actually just the old things I was supposed to learn but didn’t ever get right the first time around…so in essence I know less than nothing – which is actually quite liberating in its own lobotomized way. (If not a smidge patronising and depressing).

But other people don’t appear to share my acceptance of my own lack of functioning brain cells…and this coupled with the fact that we don’t really have heroes anymore (not like we used to anyway) – spells disaster. Or to cut to the point directly, it leaves us with a long line of people who aim for overnight celebrity as opposed to something more lasting and meaningful

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Because why not, right?

(Alright anyway, so suspend disbelief for the next little bit please). You see, I could theoretically make a rap song like the above with a controversial video…and go from a resolute nobody to an overnight success (my rap name would be MC Sukkadick and the song would be called “I Hate Everyone’s Grandma”; just so you know) – and then the established artists would be calling up to collaborate in a desperate attempt to stay relevant with what they see as the fresh new talent just because it’s catchy and people are clicking on it a bit. So when the consumer sees things like this happen then the idea of putting in work, building your craft, taking notes from those before you, and basically having heroes you model yourself after is, well…lost. And in it’s place we have a whole slew of entitled, and impatient characters, eager for instant-gratification despite putting in next to no hustle…

Or simply put we have a burgeoning population of overly-confident but largely non-skilled people who preach their wisdumb across social media – and this really upsets my miniature low-functioning brain and I; it really does. Because what they could be doing is listening to those before them, making plans and sticking to them, working hard and following their deepest ambitions even during the hard times, and eventually taking pride in all they  accomplish.

Rather than say…taking a picture of their butt for the entire world in the hope of a few likes. Or taking a video which humiliates their best friend in the hope it will go viral. It’s like…why?

Urghhhh…just take a look around these days, it’s bleak –  there seems to be a lot less artistry and creativity out there than before, but a whole load more content. Largely because there seems to be a lot less people respecting and taking unofficial lessons from those before them; instead people point and say, “if you can do it I can”…which is true, but isn’t so if you skip all of the years of tutelage, hard graft, and knockbacks. So perhaps it’s time we dropped the wisdumb so many seem to be holding on to, and started to seek out wisdom instead…as it’s only through that in which we can truly grow.

Just ask Luke Skywalker…

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