Tag Archives: alcohol

What’s with the late night karaoke bars?

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Karaoke, baby. Just sing!

I hate karaoke but South America loves it. A slight conflict of interests, a potential deal breaker in our relationship. So when other travellers that I met in Sucre suggested that karaoke bars were the after bar choice, I can’t say that I was delighted. Hanging out with them, sure, but the singing? Really?

Ever since I was a thirteen year old girl thrown on stage with new holiday friends to sing a song I didn’t know, I have been scarred. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun came out as

Girls just Need To Have Singing Lessons,

or in my case,

Girls Just Need to Have Access to Modern Music and Listen To the Radio And The Top 40 (and Not Get Brought Up On Simon and Garfunkle, The Beatles and Beethoven) So That They Can Fit in With Other Normal Teenagers.

It’s only now that I’m grateful for the musical education of my childhood (which went beyond the aforementioned) but at the time it was crippling. I had a lot of catching up to do. Whilst I’d never be cool, I could at least work towards fitting in.

So now here I was in Sucre, a beautiful South American city sitting at an altitude of 2,750m and composed of colonial and neoclassical buildings, Bolivia’s judicial capital and a Unesco Cultural Heritage site. Somewhere, then, that I should be broadening my understanding of the country’s history and traditions.

But oh no! Instead I found myself with a great bunch of other travellers playing dice games in bars with locals and indulging in a few too many mojitos and tequila shots as evenings pushed on into early mornings. Capirinhas and coke flowed freely, propping people up for nights in the bars and the clubs… and the karaoke bars.

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Oh no! Tequila makes an appearance

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Pit stop for cow heart kebabs

Each time I ended up in Vitrolas Karaoke & Discoteque, I searched the song list for a good while. Maybe, just maybe there would be something that would jump out at me, where I’d think hell yeah, I know it so well, it’s the right pitch for my voice, I can get up and sing and not make a total tit of myself, but it never happened. Maybe I should have joined the coke crew. All I really needed was some courage. Some people had it in natural abundance. Not me, in relation to karaoke in any case.

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The terrible trio take to the stage. Not terrible singers, just terrible trouble. In a fun way.

And then after the karaoke bars I would dash back through a quiet, daybreak Sucre, back to my hostel and into a room of sleeping strangers that I knew I’d never meet because they’d pack up and leave before I awoke.

Too soon it would be midday; I’d get up and over brunch greet fellow partiers only just returning from continued hedonism. ‘Are you heading out tonight?’ they’d ask before disappearing off for some sleep. ‘Nah, need a break’, I’d say, but then night would arrive and peer pressure kicked in. Not that I tried very hard to fight it.

My will to go wild and have fun was strong, but my body wasn’t having it. It didn’t take long.

I crashed and burned.

So Sucre, time to see what else you have to offer. I sure love singing, whether it be in the shower, dancing about in my house or with friends around a campfire, but karaoke, save me the heartache.

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The typical gringo bars in Sucre include Joy Ride, Florins and the Amsterdam Bar (all with good WiFi), which also all serve (pricy) food – like pastel de quinoa – and regularly host cinema screenings. I spent a good few evenings in Biblio Café Classico to catch up with a friend who, following a midnight session dancing on the bar, had landed himself a job there.

Clubwise, I only got to Mooy, which cost $15b. entry for females and 20b for males. Saturday night drinks there started at 18Bs. for a caipirinha and 14Bs. for a bottle of beer. In Mooy the crowd was predominantly Bolivian and the music a Western-South American mix. And the oft visited karaoke bar Vitrolas Karaoke & Discoteque is an underground, under populated place fronted by a wild man with long, rock star hair and a well-rehearsed singing voice. Maybe he used to be a rock star after all?! The crowd in there was a real mix of locals and gringos. Friday nights were busiest.

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Filed under bolivia, culture, dancing, music, south america

10 things I loved and hated about New Zealand

1) Open stretches of countryside, green covered mountains and palms and plants aplenty, New Zealand is undoubtedly a place of magnificent nature. Wild, unpredictable weather adds to the drama of the place and the lack of motorways enhances the romance of this wilderness. Mokau Road (which later becomes The State Highway) leading from New Plymouth towards Hamilton is such an example, a main route but a single lane that winds up Mount Messenger through a lush bush, fern and palm landscape. When I arrived into the country, a friend told me that New Zealand tends to get all weathers and all the seasons in one day, and boy was he right! I experienced beautiful sunshine, torrential downpours, serene evenings and battering winds. I also felt the force of the strong sun rays and the lack of ozone protection.

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New Plymouth getting a stormy, summer battering

2) A short and sweet entry, but as a chocoholic, I’m now so done with Cadbury’s having tasted the bliss of Whittaker’s chocolate. The Macadamia Block was particularly amazing. Less sweet and containing 33% cocoa compared to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk’s 23%, I was quickly addicted. Already I miss it.

3) Arriving into Auckland, one can’t help but notice the racial diversity of the city, particularly a mass Asian population (the Chinese represent the highest amount of immigrants after the Brits) with over 350,000 making up 12% of New Zealand’s overall population. A lot of foreign students are also choosing to study here rather than in the UK because, as one Saudi guy who I met said, New Zealand came with higher recommendations, and ‘it’s just a better place to be‘. Come on! – the UK is okay!

4) I loved the musicality of the Maori language with its repetition and rhythm. Take some of the place names, for instance, such as Paritutu and Papatoetoe. With the language having somewhat of a resurgence and the fact that so many signs and names are in Maori, it gives a sense that there is pride in the culture alongside a real acceptance and integration between Maori and the pakeha (non-Maori New Zealander) populations.

5) Hitchhiking in New Zealand is easy with friendly people always willing to stop and give you a lift. When you meet so many good people, it’s easy to forget the reality of the bad people out there and the potential danger to hitchhikers.

6) I couldn’t get over the quiet emptiness of many places thanks to the low population of four million, two million of who live in Auckland itself. People are friendly and will stop for a chat and the roads don’t feel too crowded at all. This quiet, relaxed pace comes with its downsides, like the Yot Club in Raglan shutting at 1:00am just when my dancing feet had woken up, but overall it’s a laidback country with an attitude to match, and a real want to welcome you in. In fact, along the road from Taranaki back up towards Hamilton, two consecutive signs read: WHY? followed shortly by We’d love you to stay! Not surprisingly, they are trying to encourage folk to make New Zealand their home, especially now that the latest statistics show more people emigrating than immigrating.

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Another jar, please

7) I had always been under the impression that the Aussies were the big drinkers but as one guy brashly put it, ‘us Kiwis would drink them under the table’. This is supported by statistics that show 25% of the adult population are binge drinkers and where ‘harmful alcohol use’ is said to cost New Zealand somewhere in the region of $4.9 billion per year. The drinking culture in New Zealand, as in many places, ranges from tanked-up nights out in Auckland through to groups of lads refusing to hit the town until the crate is empty (‘it’s an NZ rule’, some told me) or sipping tasty home brew in a fairly mellow setting. Although young people are said to drink far more than recommended, the majority insist that they don’t go out with the intention to get drunk. Yeah right. In fact it seems like a fair few Kiwis are actually in denial about just how much they drink, so much so that FebFast has come into existence: get sponsored to go the whole of February without a drop of alcohol.

8) The romance-less nature of guys on the pull quickly became apparent. I had been told that Kiwi guys aren’t a good catch (by a Kiwi girl, before you say anything), that their style was overtly direct and that they played a game of averages. Others argue that alcohol is absolutely necessary to fuel the fire, so to speak. When I met Tim in a bar in Auckland he quickly said ‘I’m here to pick up a girl’, whilst another guy I barely knew from the hostel blurted out: ‘I’d love to see you in a really short skirt’. Eeeeuww! Well it’s never going to happen. Goodbye! But maybe this honest approach makes for less misunderstandings?! And it’s also worth remembering that on the whole, Kiwi guys are a good-looking, straightforward and athletic bunch. With a supposed drought of single Kiwi guys, if you’ve got a good ‘un, hang on to him!

9) People on P scare me. Since being in New Zealand I’ve been warned on many occasions to stay clear. And as one old boy told me whilst puffing on a joint: ‘I used to live in London back in the ‘60s, tried everything going, but I won’t touch P. It’s bad news.’ Clearly it brings out the worst in people and does some bad, bad stuff to the body.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthpicturegalleries/6454944/Faces-of-Meth-the-long-term-effects-of-crystal-meth-or-methamphetamine.html

P (standing for ‘pure’) is methamphetamine, often cooked up in ‘clan labs’ – people’s own kitchens. It is shown to be highly addictive and massively destructive to families and communities. Many Kiwis I met talked about problems with P, and statistically, it’s clear that New Zealand is doing some serious battle with the drug.

10) I was on the lookout for a hooded black top and decided to try on one of the Icebreaker merino tops. It was amazing. The sleeves were perfect for my long, gawky arms, the material lowered beautifully at the back and the overall fit was snug. On a travelling budget, I couldn’t justify the price but wouldn’t it be sweet if the guys from Icebreaker decided to send me a free sample so that I could advertise it in action as I travelled?! Ah! A girl can but dream.

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