Author: misschryss

Ejo #90 – Drunk In….. Hoi An

David and I just got back from Hoi An!! Vietnam, bitches! And, as always, we had a rip-roaring time. You might recall that we’ve been to Vietnam before, on a far more daring odyssey. In 2012 we rode old Russian motorbikes into the remote mountains of the central highlands, going WAY off the beaten track and totally off the tourist trail. It was scary as hell, and bloody amazing.

This time we were visiting our friend, Cath, who has recently upped stumps from Melbourne and moved to the beautiful and cultural, historic town of Hoi An. There were no fearless adventures this time. The gutsiest thing we did each day was to venture out of Cath’s house, and into the searing sun and withering humidity. This might not sound so heroic to you, but I cannot stress enough how UNBELIEVABLY hot and sticky it was. You’d think we are accustomed to high temperatures, having lived in Dubai for eight and a half years, but we spend very little time outdoors during summer. I tell you, I have never been so hot and so sweaty in my life. But hey, we were there to get drunk in Hoi An and we had no choice but to brave the hostile outdoors so that I could bring you this month’s ejo.

So, the first thing you do after arriving in Hoi An on a hot day is to get an ice cold beer into you, preferably under some shade, and ideally next to a fan. Air-conditioning is rare, so just get used to having rivulets of sweat constantly pouring down your body, and enjoy the hell out of that beer. And the next one. Beer in Vietnam is literally cheaper than water, and we paid less than 60 cents for a can. So crack one open and start hydrating. You’re gonna need it.

00

Biere Larue, a local beer, cost less than a dollar a bottle and is a necessity in the searing heat.

 

BA LE MARKET

After arriving at Cath’s house we headed to the local market and walked around to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the local bazaar. Cath had mentioned that she’d spotted a huge pig’s head the day before and I was really keen to see it, so off we went in search of it, but alas it was gone. Luckily there was a cornucopia of other produce to stimulate the senses. In the morning heat, the meat and fish section was particularly stimulating.

00a

The hubbub of Ba Le Market – we went by the market at least a couple of times a day.

 

01

All the fresh produce you could think of under one roof.

 

01a

Super fresh fruit and veg, at super cheap prices.

 

02

Fancy some fish?  How about an octopus?

 

03

Some beautiful fresh fishies being chopped up for someone’s delicious dinner.

 

We rushed through and quickly made our way to a refreshment stand for a little pick-me-up of Vietnamese coffee. Now, Vietnamese coffee isn’t your regular cup of joe. It’s very strong syrupy coffee, slow-dripped onto lashings of condensed milk. In hot weather it’s always served with ice. It’s certainly a heart-starter and we made it a morning ritual to get up early every day to beat the heat and head on over to our favourite stall to sit down in little plastic children’s chairs and slam a couple of these down in a row. Trust me, your hangover will thank you for it.

06

You can get Vietnamese coffee, and juices (including the ubiquitous sugar cane juice) at any of the multitude of market stalls, but this one was our favourite (it’s on the main road – look for the sign) and we were there every single morning for our double dose of Vietnamese coffee.  They laughed at us the first time we ordered a second round.  But after that they started greeting us with a smile.

 

07

Strong, sweet Vietnamese coffee.  SO good.

INFO:
Lê Thánh Tông, Hội An, Quang Nam Province
0500-1900
CLICK FOR MAP

 

MADAM KHÁHN: THE BÁHN MÌ QUEEN

So what makes bánh mì so special? Have you ever had one?? If so, you wouldn’t be asking. The best bánh mì is served in a freshly baked crusty, French baguette smeared with pâté and then stuffed full of goodness with all sorts of yummy ingredients depending on the region, or the shop owner. Bánh mì was one of the things we really wanted to try on this trip, so one sweltering lunchtime we grabbed a cab and took off for Old Town Hoi An, straight to Madam Khanh’s. We were offered no menu, just a choice of vegetarian or pork bánh mì. We got the pork, with a little extra spice and, of course, beer! This is PERFECT hangover food. Greasy, delicious, comforting and filling. I couldn’t finish mine, but I had the rest later at home while we were laying low to avoid the heat, and it was even better, as all the flavours had intensified and soaked into the bread. My mouth just had an orgasm, remembering how good it was.

08

The famous Madam Khanh herself!  Still making bánh mì every day at the age of 79.  Hers are a special mix of pâté, pork char siu, sausage, fried egg, homemade pickles, papaya, carrots, parsley, chili sauce, soy sauce, and her secret sauce.

 

09

Seriously.  Look at that.  To die for.

INFO:
115 Trần Cao Vân, Sơn Phong, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam
+84 90 666 03 09
0800-1900
CLICK FOR MAP

 

AGRIBANK ATM CUBICLE

Why am I featuring an ATM cubicle in a Drunk In….. ejo?  Because it’s the coldest 2m³ in the whole goddamn town.  No joke, keep this one up your sleeve.

BuddiesInc

You know it’s hot when all three of you pile into the eensy-weensy teeny-weeny little ATM cubicle just for a few moments of respite.  © Cath Grey

CLICK FOR MAP

 

WHITE MARBLE WINE BAR & RESTAURANT

David and I don’t usually go for wine bars in South East Asia (it feels too much like a western concept), but Cath insisted we try this place for dinner one night and I’m really glad she did. The food was so good, and so authentic, that we went back again the next day for lunch and then again on our last day (it was those Money Bags damn it, we just couldn’t stay away). Each time we also consumed plenty of beer, tonnes of sparkling water and tonnes of sparkling wine. That’s how we roll, kids! The service here is impeccable and the food consistently amazing. Highly recommended.

13

That Napoleon Bonaparte knew a thing or two, didn’t he?!!

 

14

Hoi An spring rolls

 

15

The best damn Money Bags I’ve ever had in my life.  Probably the best you’ll ever have too.

 

16

Super fresh rice paper rolls stuffed with prawns, lettuce, mint, coriander, carrot, pineapple and vermicelli noodles.  So fresh and tasty!

INFO:
98 Lê Lợi, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam
+84 235 3911 862
24H
CLICK FOR MAP

 

HOI AN OLD TOWN

We took a few trips into historic Hoi An. There are heaps of restaurants, shops, bars, cafés and stalls to while away several drunken hours, if not the entire day! One evening when we were rather drunk, we walked around the crowded riverside stalls, fending off overly friendly expat club promoters trying to beguile us into having a drink with them. As we navigated the thronging streets, one particular stall caught my eye, and even though I was absolutely stuffed full of Money Bags I just HAD to have a freshly made Vietnamese banana pancake. I’m a sucker for these things, and you should be too because they’re bloody delicious. Eggs, butter, banana, condensed milk. What else could you want? It was the perfect end to our evening out (because I shortly thereafter slipped into a sugar coma – totes worth it). But fear not, the party continued on Cath’s balcony with plenty of bottles of rosé and prosecco to revive me.

17

These are made fresh to order with your choice of condensed milk or chocolate sauce on top.  Condensed milk wins for me ever’ damn time!

 

BananaPancakes

Yes, you should.  © Cath Grey

 

NA SPA ESCAPE

Exploring the watering holes and eateries of any city is hard work and sometimes your body just cries out for some TLC. We made sure to look after ours by getting a restorative massage at Na Spa Escape. It’s a lovely, peaceful and air-conditioned (!!!!) oasis from which to escape the heat and noise of the city for just a little while. We were given the choice of a firm-pressure Asian blend massage, or a more relaxing Swedish massage. We all went with the firm choice. We needed it! And though the massage itself ended up being not as firm as I would have liked, I certainly walked away from it feeling super rejuvenated, relaxed and ready to take on the challenge of more eating and drinking!

12

The calming interior of the Na Spa Escape retreat.  We were asked if we wanted to go for the three-way massage, but we politely declined.  David and I had a romantic couple’s massage and Cath went solo.  I think it was for the best.

INFO:
100/5 Le Thanh Tong, Cam Chau, T.P. Hoi An, Quang Nam
+84 235 3914 199
0900-2200
CLICK FOR MAP

 

TAM THANH MURAL VILLAGE

It’s never a “Drunk In…..” experience without at least a pinch of culture thrown in for fun. We’re not heathens, for god’s sake!! This time we hired a driver for a half-day trip to the seaside fishing town of Tam Thanh, also known as Mural Village for the multitude of murals painted onto the houses along its only street. About a year ago the South Korean government, in a lightbulb moment, commissioned a bunch of Vietnamese and South Korean artists and asked them to jazz up the tiny town with a lick of paint. The locals were supposedly a bit nonplussed about the whole thing, but they were completely shocked when people started coming from far and wide, just to take pictures of the wall paintings. It seems as though they still haven’t really recovered, because there’s not a whole lot of trade going on, which actually makes it a very charming little place. Everyone smiles and waves at you and no-one makes you feel like you’re intruding on them when you take pictures of their house.

19

Vietnam’s second most popular mode of transportation, after motorbikes.

 

20

Two types of local fishing boats, pimped up!

 

image2

Gorgeous artistry.  © Cath Grey

 

22

Murals everywhere.

 

23

Tam Thanh is a super gorgeous village.  I reckon I’d love to spend two whole weeks here, doing nothing but drinking beer and coconut juice and gorging on fish.

 

We had plans to go to a local beach restaurant for lunch but at 9.45am it was still way too early, so when beckoned by a group of locals, we took a break under the shade of a tree on some tiny plastic chairs and ordered three coconuts, stat! The lady of the house (and it really was just the front of some woman’s house) chopped the coconuts right on the ground with a huge machete, and served them up with straws. Perfecto! We slurped up all the juice and then she split each coconut in half with her big-ass knife so we could get at the young, juicy pulp. So much goodness. When it was time to pay, she totally fleeced us and kept increasing the number of fingers going up until our faces started registering shock. Then she put up one more finger for good measure and everyone in her posse laughed heartily, as we willingly handed over the extortionate sum of $4.50, which is about double the price we should have paid.

24

Three coconuts please!

 

26

The remains.

CLICK FOR MAP OF TAM THANH

 

NO NAME BEACH RESTAURANT

It was almost time for lunch, but the coconut had given me some, uh, shall we say trouble in the trouser department, so we headed off to the Tam Thanh Beach Resort & Spa’s Ocean Breeze bar for a couple of refreshing beers – and the opportunity to use the only nice toilet in the vicinity. If you come to gorgeous Tam Thanh, I’d definitely recommend coming to Ocean Breeze afterwards to use the facilities, and of course to have a refreshment.

18

Tam Thanh beach (dotted with fishing boats).  It’s gorgeous, but it was brutally hot out there and we couldn’t even muster up the fortitude to venture down to the water.  Luckily, Ocean Breeze has toilets, beer and an air-conditioned lounge from which to gaze upon the lovely scene above. 

 

It was finally time for lunch, so we sauntered across the street to a row of open-air beach restaurants and made a beeline for the one on the far left (since that was the one that Cath had been to before).  I bet they’re all amazing though, and I bet they all serve the freshest seafood you’ve ever had. We negotiated the confusing, handwritten English menu with the help of the staff and kicked back with some beers and peanuts, contemplating what a lovely day we were having. If you’re looking for any recommendations, I will have to insist you get the calamari and the crabs. These were incredibly fresh and delicious. And even though we were quite full, the calamari was just so good we had to order another round.

27

Fresh peanuts while you wait.  A perfect beer snack.

 

27a

Coz they could see us coming a mile away, they brought us a little cooler full of beer and ice. Which was most welcome.

 

28

Coriander, pepper and lime salt.  Delicious on EVERYTHING with a squeeze of fresh lime on top.  We went through six plates of this stuff.  Sure, some of it ended up on the plastic table cloth – but that didn’t stop us from dipping our food into it.  Waste not, want not!

 

29

The crab was super fresh.  How fresh?  Let’s just say that those lovely crabs sacrificed their lives for us about ten minutes after we ordered them.  Best crab I’ve had in 30 years.

 

image8

What was left of the fish that we didn’t really mean to order.  © Cath Grey

 

31

The calamari was so good we ordered another plate of it to the bewilderment (and amusement) of the waitress.

INFO:
Get yourself to Tam Thanh Beach Resort & Spa where Ocean Breeze is located. When you’re ready to go to the No Name Beach Restaurant, just cross the road (DT614) and head to the restaurant closest to the beach.
CLICK FOR MAP TO TAM THANH BEACH RESORT & SPA

 

RESTAURANT 328

At the end of nearly every day of our stay in Hoi An, we ended up at Restaurant 328, a local dining establishment where Cath was greeted like long lost family and David and I were welcomed with open arms.  And every time we went, we each devoured one of these delicious, home-made frozen confections, delightfully (and aptly named) Mango Delights.  And how delightful they were.  The first day when we excitedly ordered them, Aunty told us that she had only just popped the ice-cream in the freezer 15 minutes earlier and that it would be too soft to serve.  I guess the traumatised expressions on our faces convinced her to offer it to us anyway.  This stuff alone is worth travelling to Hoi An for.  My mouth is spurting just thinking about it.  Oh, it’s spurting.

33

Is it any wonder this is called a Mango Delight?  LOOK AT IT!!  It’s fucking delightful!!!!!

 

On another visit we ordered three Mango Delights and three shots of their home-made rice wine to wash it down. Uncle was chuffed and proudly brought over a plastic water bottle filled with the potent clear liquid, and poured out three measures for us. This stuff is STRONG. I’m not ashamed to say that there was some enthusiastic table banging, and a little bit of strident gasping for a few minutes there, but it’s still something I’d definitely recommend. It’s wine. Made from Vietnamese rice. Of course you have to have it. On our last visit to the restaurant, Aunty somehow knew that we were leaving the next day and wanted to give us a little surprise.  She furtively crept up to our table and burst into fits of laughter as she revealed what she was hiding behind her back. Yep, the plastic bottle of rice wine and three little glasses. Of course we had to partake. Twice. It would have been rude not to.

34

Rice wine.  Tastes like a mixture of sake and petrol.  With slightly more petrol overtones.

 

aunty-328

After I started writing this ejo I asked Cath if she wouldn’t mind going back to Restaurant 328 to get a photo of Aunty and her plastic water bottle of home-made rice wine. Unfortunately Aunty had better things to do that day, but Cath figured that this wonderful drawing was a pretty good substitute.  I tend to agree.  (But seriously, Cath, lay off the rice wine, OK?) 😉

INFO:
328 Cua Dai, Hoi An, Quảng Nam
+84 235 3862 095
CLICK FOR MAP

 

BIG BOWL PHO – NO BAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

C’mon, we had to have one final hit of phở before we left Vietnam.

35

A farewell meal at the airport.  There are some airports around the world where I much prefer to eat in the terminal rather than the airport lounge.  This includes pretty well all the South East Asian cities.  This farewell phở really hit the spot and helped to ease the anguish of leaving Vietnam.

INFO:
Level 3, Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi
CLICK FOR MAP

 

CATH’S PLACE

Yes, we did.

32

When the going gets hot, the hot get in the blow-up wading pool.  Sure, the two little girls next door laughed uproariously at us as we were filling it up with water, but in the end we were in a pool and they were not.  So, who’s laughing now little girls?!

Ejo #89 – Airbnb & Me

David and I stayed in our first ever Airbnb apartment in San Francisco in May 2011. Since then we have stayed in 59 houses, apartments, cottages, studios, pool-houses, a houseboat, a palazzo and even a converted hospital.

Pool-house

The pool-house we stayed at in Adelaide on our most recent trip to Australia.  We had free run of the pool which was nice coz it was HOT!!!!

Palazzo

A palazzo.  In Barcelona!!!!!

It’s no exaggeration to say that we love Airbnb. But I’m not here to sell it to you – I know it’s not for everyone. One of my closest friends loves staying in five-star hotels and there’s no way I can convince her that staying in someone else’s pad could be better than 24 hour room service, someone making your bed every day and fresh towels on demand. So, this ejo is for people who may have heard a little about Airbnb and are interested in trying it but would like to know more before they commit.

Our experiences have, for the most part, been excellent*. One or two have been mediocre. And one was absolutely awful, but more on that later. Each and every one of the dozens of Airbnb dwellings we’ve stayed in has been a learning experience, and over the years I’ve got better and better at picking the right place. And I’d love to impart some of that knowledge onto you.

This isn’t a tutorial. I’m not here to tell anyone how to suck eggs. The website is very easy to navigate. You put in your desired city, your dates and your budget and voilà, you get to delve into the lives of people willing to open their homes to you, allowing you sleep in their bed, eat the food from their fridge and shit in their toilet. Oh, it’s intimate, folks. Before you gasp in horror and refuse to read any further, you should note that these days most places get professionally cleaned, before and after your stay. Of course you pay for the convenience but it is nice to know that the toilet has at least been scrubbed before you sit down on it for the first time.

And that leads me to my number #1 rule when making a selection. Cleanliness. If a listing has even ONE review saying anything negative about cleanliness, I nix it, right then and there. Even if it looks like my dream rental. I used to be a little more relaxed about this, giving hosts the benefit of the doubt if I read an iffy review, but then I got burned. So it’s become a very firm rule. Unfortunately, the only way to know if someone’s had anything bad to say about a listing is to read the reviews. All of them.

Unlike on TripAdvisor, the Airbnb host also gets to appraise you as a guest in return. And they can also comment on your review. Because of this, reviews on the website tend to be a little on the, shall we say, diplomatic side. Which is exactly why you need to pay attention to any negative ones. Someone is trying to tell you something, and sometimes that hint can be subtle, so it behooves you to read the reviews carefully.

OK, so not everyone has the time to read pages of reviews. If you find yourself stuck for time you can still get an idea of what previous guests thought of the state of cleanliness of a listing just by looking at the star ratings (though of course, it’s not as accurate). If either the cleanliness rating or the overall rating are lower than four, I move on. So should you.

Ejo 1

I don’t think we’ve ever stayed anywhere with less than a 4.5 overall rating. 

 

Something else I look for in a listing is the response rate and time of the host. I like to see a 100% response rate and “within a few hours” response time. I will persist if these are just a little bit off the mark, but I don’t even bother with hosts that respond only 34% of the time or “within a week”. I don’t have the time, or the inclination, to sit around waiting for some faffer to get back to me – or leave me hanging in the wind.

I also look for these auto-posts in the review section. So ominous.

Ejo 2

This has never happened to us before – because we stay away from hosts that cancel a lot. 

 

Even more ominous:

Ejo 3

Shudder.  I just can’t even with this.

 

Can you imagine booking a very special place to stay for your honeymoon, and then finding out when you arrive at the airport that you’re homeless??!! Of course sometimes there’s a very good reason for a reservation to be cancelled, and hosts are now able to leave a comment explaining why they did so. So one or two cancellations are fine, but if you see too many in a single listing, think twice before booking.

Let’s move onto photos. There are a lot of things to look for in the photos. Firstly don’t be fooled by the Airbnb photographer’s wide-angle lens and over exposure. They can make a couch that is this wide:

Ejo 4

 

look this wide:

Ejo 5

Same room!!!!  Look how wide the couch (and the map of Australia) looks in comparison to above.  Very deceptive. 

 

So, it can be a little misleading. I like to look at all the pictures, and then try to reconstruct the layout of the apartment in my mind, before looking at them again. You can usually get a better sense of scale that way. I tend to be drawn to the places that have had verified photos taken by Airbnb’s photographer. It shows the host’s professionalism and commitment to providing great accommodation. And I can usually tell from the cover photo if a listing is worth clicking on to inspect further. If I see a picture like this:

Ejo 6

C’mon, why is that cabinet door open??

 

or this:

Ejo 7

Where am I going to put my shit???

 

or this:

Ejo 8

I hate when a host leaves ALL their toiletries in the bathroom.  And WHY is the toilet seat up?  

I steer clear. It shows a lack of engagement, and if the host can’t even go to the trouble of tidying up and taking a nice photo of their place, it doesn’t bode well. Some better examples (of places we’ve actually stayed):

Ejo 6a

What a beautiful living room.  An apartment in Madrid. 

Ejo 7a

Look at all that space – and none of the host’s personal belongings.  An apartment in Amsterdam. 

Ejo 8a

No clutter.  Room for me to spread out.  A bathroom in London. 

Also, I like to see at least one photo of each of the main rooms. The living/dining area, the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom. If any of these are missing it raises alarm bells and I move on. No point lingering – there are SO many other options out there. For instance, I have NO idea what this place really looks like. It might be super nice, but I’m never going to find out.

Finally, be wary of close-up images. These tend to mask a problem with the bigger picture – otherwise there’d be a photo of the bigger picture, right? I learned this on a trip to Copenhagen when failed to properly inspect this photo:

Ejo 9

 

Unfortunately the only way to get to the shower was to climb over the toilet (ew!). And you can’t really tell that from the photo. Rookie mistake. Don’t make it.

So, it’s time to hear about our one crappy Airbnb experience? OK, so here’s how it went down. Airbnb #21. Hackney, London. April, 2014. We checked into the place and I immediately felt that it hadn’t been cleaned for a while. I honestly don’t mind if there’s a little dust here and there. It happens. But we had paid £40 for cleaning, and that gives you some expectations. The couches were absolutely covered in dog hair and when I tried to brush it off with my hand, plumes of dust rose up. Now, I am not a fussy person, but there was no way I was sitting on those couches. So, I set about cleaning the place. I intended to do a quick sweep and dust, thinking that would be sufficient.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a broom and dustpan so we had to walk to the local store to buy one. Yep. Also, it turned out that the problem was more extensive than I first thought and it took me over two hours to clean it to a level where I felt comfortable to sit down on the couch and walk around barefoot. Oh yeah, and to add insult to injury, when we opened the fridge there was a plastic container full of mouldy mushrooms that made the whole place stink.

Ejo 10

Here’s the dirt I collected in just this small area.  The whole house was as filthy.

I kicked myself as I swept and dusted because I remembered stupidly ignoring the warnings of a couple of reviewers, one of which had mentioned that the place “needed a bit of a hoover”. The other one was from a woman who had said that there was dog hair throughout the house. But the real clue that I glossed over when I made the reservation was the host’s response to that woman. He attacked her personally, calling her “bizarre” and claiming that she was being unpleasant towards him because he’s gay. He insisted that other hosts not “deal with this person”.

Unfortunately for me, after our trip was over, he did almost the exact same thing to me. I left him a pretty nice review, considering the state the house was in. And in “private” feedback to him I made the comment “I’m not OCD, but I like a clean house.”

Here’s the review he left for me.

Chryss, in your extensive private feedback you sent me you mentioned OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Perhaps this is something you should explore with a professional. Sadly, I cannot say you would be welcome in my home again, at least not until you’ve addressed your OCD.

This really, really hurt me. I had 20 amazing Airbnb reviews under my belt and it just stung to know that there would be an incorrect, but public, record of me being a shitty guest. Potential hosts might see it and decide it’d be too risky to let me to stay in their homes. My reputation in the Airbnb community was tarnished and I was pretty devastated about that. I remember posting a woeful status about it on Facebook and being inspired by some of the comments to actually write to Airbnb and ask them to delete the nasty review. I knew they had a policy of not doing this, but figured it would be worth trying because the comments made could actually be deemed libellous. This was the response I got from them:

Airbnb

 

Amazing. It made me love Airbnb even more than I already did. And we went on to have another 38 wonderful experiences. I know we’ll have many, many more and I hope that you do too.

* One was particularly excellent. We loved our 41st apartment, an Amsterdam pad, so much that we asked the owner if she was interested in selling it. The answer, sadly, was no.

Ejo #88 – My Diary: Who’s The Boss?

Day #1
I’m not drinking for 25 days.

Huh?  Well, the Department of Health in the UK has recently decreased the recommended daily intake of alcohol, and as air traffic controllers we are subject to these guidelines. I recently had my annual medical examination for work, and it turns out that I should probably reduce the amount I drink. What better way to do that than to go cold turkey? So far today I’ve only felt an eensy weensy yen for wine. Nothing major. More out of habit than anything else, I think.

Day #2
Today I woke up feeling sluggish, stiff and swollen. Exactly like a hangover. What the hell? After getting out of bed though, I felt a lot better and I’m hoping it was just a vestige of the last few days of drinking. I’m actually committed to doing this, which is a new thing for me. I usually say to myself, “OK, I’m not going to drink today”, and then halfway through the day I’m gagging for a gin and tonic. What feels different this time is my attitude. I’ve decided. Like a switch has flicked in my mind, and it ain’t no thang. Of course it’s only the third day, so let’s talk on Day 18 and see how I feel.

Day #3
I’m wondering when the morning clarity and freshness is going to come, because today I woke up bloated and groggy again. What gives?? Is this detoxing? Is my body getting rid of all the shit from processing alcohol in my liver? Let’s go with that. Hopefully I’ll be bounding out of bed in no time.

Day #4
Today I had a pang, just a tiny little pang, for wine. Out of nowhere. It disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared, but it definitely stood out, as it’s the first time a craving has shown its face since going on this crazy journey (oh yeah, I’m living on the edge with my 25 day booze challenge!!!).

I feel good. I feel clear. I actually think that sometimes I drink to make myself more interesting (if only to myself) but it’s nice to see that I’m pretty much the same and don’t need alcohol to feel good. I still write silly emails, laugh like an idiot at funny videos on YouTube and jump up to dance when a good song comes on. I’m still enjoying life, sober. And that is pretty great.

Day #5
The end of day five and just as I suspected, being sober on a day off work was hard. There were several times throughout the day when I could have killed a glass of crisp rosé. And I know that David felt the same way. Extra kudos to him because he never actually signed up for this and he’s coming along for the ride anyway. Maybe to be supportive, maybe because he knows it’s probably good for him too. Either way, I appreciate the hell out of it.

Day #6
Well, this is really sucking right now. There are so many reasons I drink – to relieve boredom, to reward myself, to inspire creativity, to relax. And suddenly my outlet for all that jazz is gone and I have to find something else to fill all those little holes. So far I’m having trouble finding a suitable substitute.

I can’t be bothered cooking dinner.

Day #7
So, last night we ordered Indian for dinner, but what I realised is that ordering takeaway (especially when I’m supposedly trying to be healthy) is a substitute for drinking.

Mind. Blown!!

I’m just finding it a little boring not drinking right now. But, I need to get over that and recalibrate my boredom meter. That’s what this whole challenge is about.  It’s been a whole week, and I’ve noticed rather amazing changes. I’ve always had oily skin, but lately it’s been some serious Deepwater Horizon shit. Seven days later, this has improved noticeably. I’m also sleeping a bazillion times better. And not waking up in the night as often. Getting up in the morning is still harder than I’d hoped it would be but the quality of sleep I’m getting is markedly better. Which is pretty awesome.

These things keep me motivated.

Day #8
It’s getting easier. New habits are forming – old habits are breaking. I’ve read that a habit takes 21 days to catch. To become automatic and natural. I’m already feeling something changing in my brain. I’ve never been physically dependent on alcohol – and if I was I would give it up completely. But I definitely have an emotional attachment to it. And it is this attachment that I feel softening, cracking, melting away. Huzzah.

Day #9
Uh, so why am I putting on weight? I mean, come on. Normally, if I skip the booze for a couple of days I see a drastic reduction on the scales. But no, in the last nine days I’ve actually gained weight. Sure it’s only 200g but… what the fuck? I don’t get it. I was really hoping to see some weight loss. Having said that, my clothes are definitely fitting a little bit better, so I guess something is going on. I just have to persevere.

Day #10
Today I was nostalgic. For some reason pear juice popped into my head, and I remembered this amazing organic pear juice we once bought in Amsterdam. We brought it back to Dubai, and made incredible cocktails with it. Good times. These thoughts differ from the ones I had a week ago, when I was craving booze. Today, it crossed my mind, pleasantly, and then faded away with no real urge to follow up on it. Progress.

Day #11
Today I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. It’s frustrating because I’d always imagined that a long stretch without alcohol would be some kind of panacea for my health.  So why aren’t I waking up feeling good?

I am definitely noticing improvements though.  My days are just better. I feel sharper, and more engaged. Which is a really nice feeling. I’m starting to have little mini-fantasies of continuing with this booze challenge once the 25 days are up. Today I even (just for a second) had a fleeting thought: maybe I’ll never drink again!!!!! It was summarily dismissed, but it actually felt like a plausible option. This would not have been the case 12 days ago.

Day #12
Another day down. It’s getting easier and easier. I feel like the habit’s back has been broken. Tonight, at 10.30pm I kind of wanted a nightcap to unwind after a long day at work. But this was less a physical urge than a mental one. The physical urges have essentially disappeared, but I guess the mental ones might take a bit longer to tame. We have another 13 days.

Day #13
Being teetotal is a completely different mindset. It kind of simplifies life, and makes a lot of things easier.

Day #14
We are nearly halfway through. How do I feel? Fucking great. When we first started not drinking I thought I would miss it every single day, all day long. But that’s not the case. I honestly thought my life would be taupe without booze, but it’s just as colourful, if not more so.

Day #15
I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up alcohol for a while. I don’t think I have a drinking problem, but I do like the idea of being completely in control. And then, out of the blue, a friend declared on Facebook that she was giving up booze for a whole year (shout out to Nancy). Twenty five days seemed easy in comparison. It was perfect timing.

Day #16
As part of our job, David and I are subject to random drug and alcohol testing. So this isn’t just a health-kick for us, it’s something we need to do in order to ensure we keep our jobs. This is serious stuff.

Day #17
I thought that giving up alcohol would make my days drag, stretching out empty and bland. But in fact, they are filling up because I am being more productive. I am ticking things off my ancient to-do list like a demon. There just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything that I want to do. Shit is getting done!

Day #18
I am so frustrated that I have been alcohol free for 18 days (COUNT THEM) and I have not lost a single ounce of weight. I mean come on!!! I am not eating any differently, in fact I’m eating better. I am active. I’m getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of water. I’m really bloody pissed off about this.

Day #19
Not drinking is the norm now. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to fight the urge anymore, because the urge is gone.

Day #20
Here’s my dilemma. I actually really enjoy drinking. I like inventing cocktails. I appreciate a fine wine. When it’s hot, I like nothing better than a cold beer to cool me down. And I actually trained myself to like whiskey (how’s that for dedication). I don’t like all booze – you couldn’t pay me to drink Jägermeister or Sambuca (blech). But for the most part, hell yeah, I like it.

What I don’t like is being really drunk. I don’t drink to excess, because I’ve been there and it’s shit. I know where my line is and I tend not to cross it. I love being in that glorious tipsy zone, and I manage my alcohol intake to ensure I stay there.

Day #21
Three weeks. The challenge is nearly over. So far I can’t say that there has been some kind of profound lesson learned or epiphany experienced. The challenge has done exactly what I’d hoped it would do, which was to break the spell that alcohol had on me and to prove that I could do it. To show alcohol who was boss.

It’s me.  I’m the boss.

Day #22
I feel so good about blitzing this challenge that I’d like to focus my newfound discipline towards other areas of my life, like diet and exercise. A lifestyle change might be in order.

Day #23
Today I had a bit of a sad spell in the afternoon, and in the past I might have been inclined to have a little glass of something – a drowning of the sorrows, if you will. I only realised afterwards, that the thought never even crossed my mind.

Two more days.

Day #24
It’s lovely, and somewhat surprising, how easy it has been to adjust to life without booze. We are fast approaching the end of this challenge and I haven’t really started to process how I feel about that.

On the one hand, I feel like I could continue not drinking. That, perhaps, I should continue not drinking. On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to a drink. On the third hand I’m a bit scared of drinking again. And on yet another hand I almost feel as though having a glass of wine will mean the undoing of all the hard work I put in to get to this point. And it will have all been for nothing. So many hands. Only one more day to figure it all out.

Day #25
Well, that’s it. The end of my no-booze challenge and I’m about to go to bed, having not allowed a single drop of alcohol to cross my lips. I have actually really enjoyed not drinking – the physical improvements to my life and also the mental improvements. It really does feel like my body and mind have had a nice little vacation in the last three and a half weeks.

It’s almost a shame to subject them to alcohol again, isn’t it?