Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nights in Koror: Cab-Driving Pimps, "Karaoke," Buai and Kabui

Palau's not known for it's nightlife, so here's a good strategy which might transcend Palau and apply to all of the lesser-visited nooks of the third world: hire a cabbie and start asking him questions, they can usually show you how to have a good time.

In Koror that cabbie should be Ninus A. Kai-Ichi.

Ninus was our first, and after a mis-guided stint with a few randoms including '#1 Lu' and 'James Bond,' during which we realized they're all more or less c-grade vice peddlers, our truest and last.

But it was fate at first that led us into Ninus' capable hands as the bellhop at the PPR hailed him to hump us into town. En route, Ninus, who can't stop the faucet of hilarious anecdotes delivered in a hard-to-pin accents, gives us the lowdown on Palau's various leisure-time activities.

'Massage parlors, all the Thai ladies left, now it’s Chinese massage parlors that will make you very happy.’

‘Happy endings’ my dad lamely quips.

‘No it’s not that kind of place,’ says Ninus, but those things can be obtained as well and he recommends the 'KTV' karaoke bars which are literally fronts for Chinese brothels.

In the afternoon, our first stop with Ninus is to get the betelnut set up: beletnuts or buai and leaves, kabui, and lyme, which can be had at seemingly any shop in Koror.

From there, you bite the buai in half, and place it taco-like in the kabui, sprinkle a little lyme powder on the exposed flesh of the nut and then wrap it up into a little packet which place between your molars and work over like cud. Once your saliva's glowing red like blood the betelnut magic is happening and pretty soon you'll be flushed with a buzz like your first experience with a serious amount of nicotine. Be wary of adding too much lyme, as my brother did, because it can burn the inside of your mouth.

Betelnut seems to be about as addictive as cigarettes. I didn't see folks in Palau smoking, but everyone chews betelnut most any chance they get. It's a proxy for tobacco, seemingly, and it wasn't uncommon for people to see my bag and try and bum a nut. Down the road, the habit gives your teeth nasty black stains.

After a quick betelnut we got massages from the the Chinese ladies (#s 5, 10 and 26 – like ordering Chinese food) who bongo our buttocks, massage our eyebrows and perform an ungodly ear routine consisting of individually horrible wet willies, ear stretches and claps that taken together is somehow wonderful.

Afterwards we dined at the Taj, which serves up solid southern Indian food, we had tandoori chicken, goa fish, roghan ghosh, cucumber raita, and aloo gobi – all strong and among the better restaurants in Koror.

Ninus greeted us in the parking lot and made his last pitch at swinging us by the KTV for a little late-night action. We declined and hit the sack by 9pm.

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