Everyone loves to travel—usually somewhere sunny, relaxing and comfortable. Most of the time Americans tend to migrate towards destinations like Hawaii or the Bahamas for their sadly short corporate-mandated two weeks of vacation a year. This generally comprises the entirety of their traveling experiences; cruise ships, resorts, basically mini-Americas in another country. Fucking boring. There are a subset of us Americans who don’t really see the point of traveling if we are going to end up in a place that is just like America, except not technically in America. We are those weird sorts of people that like danger; enjoy and seek out novelty; and actually travel to get away from the banality of middle American culture. Drugs, parties and hookers are also pluses—this is where traveling to third world countries comes in handy.
While rough, third world countries can be ideal for many reasons. No rules, tons of corruption and the ability to really get anything you want; so long as you have the money for it. Thankfully, economic collapse often follows government corruption and societal breakdown, so handily enough, most third world countries are also great places to go to stretch your hard earned dollars and buy items that are illegal in the US for pennies on the dollar. Breaking rules and living like a king for all of $10 bucks a day is pretty much the ultimate.
Another highlight of third world countries are their pharmacies, which are fabled world over for being pretty much like drug supermarkets, with any and every drug available over the counter and‚ again, for ridiculously cheap prices. As both a human drug vacuum, general degenerate and well-traveled woman, the prospect of visiting third world countries always gives me a thrill—not so much due to the shit filled streets or homeless beggar-children with no teeth, but more for what I like to call “shady-as-fuck-pharmacies.”
Now—for obvious reasons—“shady-as-fuck-pharmacies” are every party girl’s wet dream. You walk in and it’s pure Willy Wonka shit—everything you want is right there in front of you, available immediately. No having to deal with Elvis doctors, no blowjobs in the back office in exchange for a few scripts, no “oh I was on this boat and I dropped my script into the ocean, whoops I’m so sorry, can you refill a month early?” No sir—in these third world paradises, every drug you need is right there, right now, just waiting for you to come along, spend money and get loaded.
Sadly though, these free-for-all pharmacies are much like Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster. Everyone talks about them like they really exist, but for the most part, they don’t. I’ve gone looking for over the counter morphine, ketamine, valium, you name it in pretty much every third world country and about 98% of the time, the pharmacists see an entitled white asshole and insist that the drugs you want don’t exist, or are not stocked in their country, or better yet; that they do stock these drugs but the law prohibits them from dispensing to you. Which is laughable when you also notice that their six-year-old son is working in the back stock room, loading an AK-47 for daddy. The law prohibits dispensing of morphine to white tourists but yet allows children to clean AK-47s in a pharmacy stock room. Ok there, buddy. I am firmly convinced that there’s some universal rule that dictates that all pharmacists must be fun-hating pricks.
Recently, I found myself in Nepal. Initially, I had imagined that Nepal would fall somewhere close to a second-world destination, with a bit of first-world in the capital of Kathmandu, but how wrong I was! As soon as I landed in Kathmandu on my Jet Airways flight from Delhi, I realized that I was in for what I’d like to call “a crash course in basic survival.” Put it this way—the “baggage claim” was an outdoor, rusty shed across the street from the airport, where luggage was stacked on dilapidated wooden platforms, and the only way to get to it was to exit through a dingy shack of an airport. Between the exit and the baggage claim, the next step was to wade through a seething mass of humanity that consisted of cabbies, porters and starving filthy children begging for “chipatis” or “1 rupee.”
I found myself in Kathmandu due to my insane craving for my boyfriend’s penis and Indian visa issues. Long story short, I date some Indian polo-playing prince of something or another, and I had decided that after a month of amazing sex with him, followed by 2 weeks drowning in an LA summer, that flying back to Asia to see him for more sex in five-star hotel rooms would be an excellent ideal and much better than having to work in California. However, because Indian tourist visas are complicated, my Indian visa wouldn’t allow me back into India until a certain amount of time had passed. This is how my boyfriend and I both ended up in Nepal.
How I ran out of drugs is obvious to anyone who’s ever done them—you just keep taking them until one day you wake up and you’re fucked. So the situation was this: I’m in this third world country and about to run out of drugs. Do I explain opiate withdrawals via projectile vomit to this 20-year-old kid who barely speaks English or do I just quietly book a flight back to the states and hope to God I don’t start withdrawing in the business class bathrooms?
I had a few other options available, but I felt most of them were too complicated. I was too lazy to call my Elvis doctor in LA to refill my scripts, plus I didn’t feel like dealing with his creepy secretary who looks and acts like a lesbian vampire. Then, there was the issue of having someone pick up the script, fill it at a boutique pharmacy in Beverly Hills that allows drivers and PAs to fill scripts for their clients, you know, find a way to ship it all the way to Kathmandu. Even typing that makes me tired! So I decided that the only way to solve the problem was to find drugs for sale in Nepal. To find one of those famed third world pharmacies where morphine was dispensed like Pez and Valium was .01 cent a pill. I couldn’t part with the 20-year-old dick and the hot body it was attached to—no, no there HAD to be a crooked pharmacist somewhere in this godforsaken place.
My mission went something like this:
8am: Alarm to wake up goes off, both of us sleep through it. Several times.
11am: Wake up, have sex, go back to sleep.
Noon: Wake up for real and realize I have to score drugs or I’m going to be screwed.
1pm: Walk to the front desk of my hotel since the phone in the room won’t work and, and even if it did, there’s no electricity to power the unit. Ask the man at the front desk to call me a taxi to the city center. Get blank stares. Try again to explain what I need and after three other employees are called to help out, still no one picks up a phone to call a cab. So I decide to walk out to the street in front of the hotel and try my luck at catching a driver.
1:05pm: Get a driver almost instantaneously. I recognize a driver from my previous forays into Thamel, the main tourist/shopping area of Kathmandu. The car he drives has no glass in the windows and there is no air-conditioning, but as we begin to drive I notice at least it has some shocks left which come in very handy while we careen at breakneck speeds over potholes the size of small bathroom. The driver explains his name is Ganesh and that he is a monk. I notice a small tuft of hair at the top of his head that looks to be the only hair left he has on his body. I weigh in my head whether asking a monk where to buy drugs is a good idea, and end up deciding that this is Nepal and pretty much everyone will do anything for money, so why not bribe him into helping me get these pills? If he doesn’t know where the drugs are, a bit of cash will at least incentivize him not to be angry and to help out however he can. I offer the extra money, explain myself and low and behold he seems to know exactly what I am talking about and where to take me.
1:30pm: By this point, we’ve hit about 20 different pharmacies, holding up my doctor’s note that no one can read, along with various prescription bottles I always carry with me. People tend to give you more credit if you actually have a prescription bottle with your name on it, and it’s easier than trying to communicate fucked up prescription drug names over several language barriers. Not a single pharmacy supposedly had anything, except Tramadol, which is about as shit of a drug as they come. A few pharmacies offered me the equivalent of Tylenol and one enterprising man tried to push muscle relaxers and Valium on me but I had already loaded up on both in Thailand, where both are sold over the counter at every pharmacy in Ko-Phangan. I was hunting for opiates, and only opiates.
2pm: I am getting desperate by now, and decide to go to a legitimate hospital and try my luck at convincing a doctor to write me a Nepalese prescription for opiates. I knew for sure that these pharmacies had opiates, despite their denials. The just weren’t selling to me, for whatever reason. I asked a pharmacist: “Well what do you give people who are, like, run over by cars?” He looked at me and said “Did you get run over by a car?” and of course I shook my head, and he responded with “Well don’t worry about it then.” Asshole.
2:30pm: I find myself sitting on the third floor of “the best hospital in Kathmandu” (according to Ganesh). It’s very much like a public health clinic in south central LA, and feels shady enough to lift my hopes. I don’t really want the “best” hospital in Kathmandu—I want the shadiest to be frank, and luckily for me the shadiest place also happens to be the best place. While sitting in the waiting area, I notice at least 10 rats running around and a dog with half of his skull missing and with his brains oozing out of his head roaming around aimlessly, all the while people with limbs missing huddle near the door of the “Orthopedic Surgeons” office.
2:45pm: With surprising speed (as a white female tourist, I am automatically bumped to the top of the line), I am ushered into a doctor’s office that looks very much like a Mad Men set, if Mad Men was set in a ’50s slum in Mexico City. However, when the doctor walks in, his English is surprisingly good, which is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. He asks where I am from, to which I respond “The USA.” He then smiles really big and says he did his medical residency in San Francisco. “Oh yes, I live in LA, near San Fran” is my asinine response. This doctor and I then proceed to have this weird moment of shared experience while asks me a lot of random questions. I tell him I need Oxycontin or morphine due to a car wreck when I was 22 (about 20% truth in that statement). He does a few weird leg lifts that suspiciously involve gently attempting to touch my upper inner thigh, and as I push his hand away and look at him sharply, he guiltily pulls out the biggest script pad I’ve ever seen in my life and writes all this info about me on it (22 years old, car crash, USA, blonde hair, tattoos) for no reason in particular (I am not 22, I’m 26, I am a brunette, not blonde), and then proceeds to write me a script for codeine. I protest telling him I need something stronger and he says that unless I want to inject myself with morphine, that’s the strongest pill they have here in Nepal. GREAT. At least it’s better than nothing.
3pm: The doctor waves goodbye, tells me to “say good things about Nepal to my friends,” reminds me that he spent his residency in Cincinnati (wait, I thought it was San Francisco?) and proceeds to fist pump while walking backwards and reiterating “America good!” as he exits the examination room. I pay up for the exam and the script, a total of $30. This whole process takes about 30 minutes—from walking into the hospital and getting seen, to receiving my prescription; all in under 1 hour. Suddenly the $400/month and multiple hours of waiting both in my doctor’s office and in LA traffic seem to be a rip off. (NOTE: I have health insurance in America and I still pay $400/month in doctor fees and prescription costs.)
3:15pm: I walk to the bottom level of the hospital to fill my script at the hospital pharmacy. Again, I only pay 80 Nepalese rupees ($1) for the prescription. I feel slightly ripped off by American medicine for a second time, but on the same level, since my father is also a doctor, I also silently thank America for being the land of expensive and ridiculous healthcare companies because it’s made my family rich. You can’t really be too hateful when your father is rich and you’ve never gone without healthcare. However, it was disconcerting to know that the same exact medicine could cost $1 in Nepal and yet $200 in America.
3:17pm: Standing at the counter, I realize the person who’s filled my script has given me my original script back with my medication, not making a single mark on the paper. So, conceivably, I’d be able to walk down the street to another pharmacy on the next block, and fill it over and over again. There are benefits from not having chain pharmacies and computers that link up all your patient information. Go Nepal! I fucking love this place.
3:30pm: I fill my script a few more times, just in case, and then have Ganesh drive me back to my hotel. I am on cloud nine and feeling fantastic as the worry of withdrawal is now banished (at least for awhile) from my mind and I decide to give Ganesh a nice little tip for hanging with me on this opiate extravaganza. We share a cigarette after pulling up to my hotel bungalow room, and tries to convince me to go to a “spa” which looks more like a Chinese rub and tug joint than any “spa” I’ve ever visited. Ganesh calls it “sightseeing”—I call it a “happy ending” and decline gracefully. Only in Nepal would your cabbie be a monk; whack shack tout, tour guide; and a professional drug runner. The freedom of the third world seems immense and wonderful. I am happy and thankful to be far away from the ridiculous and unnecessary rules of the USA and more importantly, DHS.
3:45pm: I get back to my room, eat four 30mg pills, and cruise on a nice codeine buzz. Life is good. At least, until I run out again somewhere near Pushkar, India. But that’s another story for another day.