The American Traveler (traveling as an American Minority)

Throughout my travels something stood out to me, I am once again the minority.  In three different ways I found myself the minority amongst my diverse group of travelers.

#1.  I’m American (MURICA!)

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Photo cred: Reddit

American backpackers are not as common as the English, Australians, Kiwis, Germans and many others, but why?  Well, It’s simply not built into our culture.  During my initial 3-month European tour I encountered 2 American travelers in Berlin, 2 in Madrid and 3 in Istanbul.  Surely I thought I would have encountered more Americans in every place I visited, after all we have such a large population and overall good economy.  Strangely enough I encountered more Australians than anyone else.  Australia has a smaller population than my entire state, and their currency is weaker, yet you will find one in every inch of the world.  I asked my Australian mate   why this is, and he explained to me that Aussies are so far away from everyone else that they might as well make their trip worthwhile, but there’s more to it than the distance. Their culture encourages travel, and by the age of 25 most Aussies are globe trotters.

Unlike our kangaroo loving mates, Americans are built different.  We are driven by our capitalist nature and our need to achieve the American dream. This success is measured by our achievement in education, career, property ownership, family and retirement.  Derailment from this course is considered unwise and unsuccessful. Because of this we tend to push off traveling till we are older or better yet, till we reach the ripe old age of retirement.  Only then when we are old, fragile, with a small bladder, talking about how much harder life was back in the day, only then is it acceptable to travel. I’ve seen these herds of Americans flock the streets of Europe in their overpriced tour groups.  Because of this mentality I commonly found myself to be the only American in the group.

South East Asia was different, and I began to encounter more Americans, but still are numbers were small compared to others.

#2.  I’m Peruvian (Where in Mexico is that?)

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Photo cred: Xpatnation

The most asked question amongst travelers besides our names, is our place of origin. Typically, I’ll blurt out one of these answers: the states, U.S., California, San Francisco.  A common response I’ve gotten is, “No you’re not.  Where you really from?”

“Ummmmm, the fuck you mean? (confused look on my face).  I’m pretty sure I’m American.” (checks passport for verification) “See, the giant bald eagle on my passport confirms it.”

What people are getting at is what ethnicity I am.  Their doubt comes from the mere fact that I don’t look like the Americans they’ve seen on the tube.  At first glance many think I’m Italian, Israeli, some kind of middle eastern, Greek, Indian, Spanish, a brown Ryan Gosling, and the most dreaded one, Mexican (pukes a little in mouth).

Growing up I was the only Peruvian in my group of minority friends.  The outlier.  As my circle of friends grew outside the minority spectrum (white people) most would assume I was Mexican and when I told them I was from Peru they have no clue where it was.

I leave my liberal home state for Georgia, a place where people believe all of central and South America is Mexico. “Peru? What part of Mexico is that?”

Upon my return to the West Coast things had changed.  My countrymen were suddenly geographically inclined and when I told them I was Peruvian the response I would get is, “Oh man I love Peru! Machu Pichu, Incas, llamas, lomo saltado, fucking love it all bro.”

“Um wait a sec.  You been there?”

“Yea dude.  Hiked the Inca trail, did some ayahuasca and rode some barrels bruh.”

(Confused/surprised look on my face) What the fuck is going on? Somewhere during my time spreading freedom in foreign lands, my birth place had become extremely popular. Not only were people familiar with Peru and its culture, many had actually visited the country.  Peruvian cuisine had exploded in San Francisco and my family and I now had several Peruvian restaurants to choose from instead of one.

I’ve met one Peruvian traveler in all my time globe-trotting.  Like Americans culture restricts travel, but Peru’s economical place in the world is the major deterrent of travel for young Peruvians.

Many of my fellow backpackers had seen more of my birth country than I have.

#3.  I’m a Veteran (G.I. fucking Joe, Pew Pew)

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Photo cred: Pinterest

A fellow veteran once asked me, “What’s it like traveling as a veteran?  Do you they like us? Do they understand us?”

The United States has been at war since 2001, ever since the attacks on 9/11.  After many years of combat several veterans have returned home trying to find their place in the civilian world.  Just about every American has a veteran friend since so many answered the call of duty.  This of course does not mean that they understand us.  There is a great division between civilian and veteran, but over the years many organizations are bridging the gap between both sides.  This is not exactly the case for our allies.

Our allied veterans are not as common in their communities as in the states.  Hardly anyone knows a service member in their country.  This leads to two things, a stigma and a curiosity towards veterans.

Since most foreigners have never had an interaction with a veteran, I am a sudden curiosity.  The questions start flowing in.  What was war like? What’s it like shooting guns? What’s Iraq/Afghanistan like?  What did you do?  Did you kill anyone? I tend to avoid revealing that I am a veteran when I travel to avoid these questions, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.  I don’t mind people’s curiosity, I’m sure I would be just as curious if I was in their shoes. I’m typically very vague with my answers because let’s face it’s hard for them to comprehend my experience.  There are very few travelers I have met where I have felt comfortable enough to share my experience with.  These are usually fellow veterans from other nations.  Sometimes I have fun with it and tell people it’s exactly like Call of Duty.

Then there’s the stigma with being a veteran.  A girl once told me after finding out I was a veteran, “Oh no sweetie, you’re damaged, you’re fucked in the head.”  The only detail she had about me was that I was a veteran and automatically she assumes I have PTSD, some mentally ill soul walking this earth seeking pity.  Yea, no, and go fuck yourself. Usually I play it cool and shake it off, but other times my twisted mind plays along and I recite the last scene of Rambo with my own twist of course.

Back there I had all these fucking guys. Who were my friends. Cause back here there’s nothing. Remember Danforth? He wore this black headband and I took one of those magic markers and I said to Feron, “Hey mail us to Las Vegas” cause we were always talking about Vegas, and this fucking car. This uh red ’58 Chevy convertible, he was talking about this car, he said we were gonna cruise till the tires fall off … We were patrolling the streets of Kabul and this kid carrying a shoe-shine box comes up. And he says “Shine, please, shine!” I said no. He kept askin’, yeah, and Joey said “Yeah.” And I went to talk to the village elder, and the box was wired, and he opened up the box, fucking blew his body all over the place. And he’s laying there, he’s fucking screaming. There’s pieces of him all over me, just…like this, and I’m tryin’ to pull him off, you know, my friend that’s all over me! I’ve got blood and everything and I’m tryin’ to hold him together! I’m puttin’… the guy’s fuckin’ insides keep coming out! And nobody would help! Nobody would help! He’s saying, sayin’ “I wanna go home! I wanna go home!” He keeps calling my name! “I wanna go home, Carlos! I wanna drive my Chevy!” I said “With what? I can’t find your fuckin’ legs! I can’t find your legs!” – John Rambo

Yea pretty fucked up, but if you assume all veterans are fucked in the head than yea you deserve to be fucked with.  Fortunately, this is not common and people are usually respectful and just curious about my experience.

So to my veteran friend I would say this, no they do not understand us but it does not mean they don’t like us.  They simply can’t comprehend our experience since they haven’t lived through it, therefore we can’t fault them for this.  Travel the world and express yourself freely, people will like you for you.  All I ask is to respect them with the same respect you seek.  They also come from a different world and experiences we don’t understand.  In the end we are all the same, human beings trying to understand each other.

I guess that last little part applies to everyone hahaha.  Safe travels fuckers, till next time.

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A Glimpse Into the World of Prostitution

Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession resulting in famous whores throughout history and biblical text.  Hollywood has even romanticized the profession in the flick Pretty Woman, but how many sex workers do you know that have ended up with millionaires.  Go ahead, I’ll wait, I just ordered another pint so we have time.  The sex world is an interesting one and it was through my basic curiosity that I was able to capture a glimpse of this world.  Here are my accounts of that journey.

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

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Photo Cred: Conde Nast Traveler

At the helm of the prostitution world is the red light district in Amsterdam simply out of popularity.  Not only is this a place where horny guys go to score, this is a place visited by every traveler out of a basic human feeling, curiosity.  It is a giant tourist attraction, and yes you will see grandpa and grandma waltzing through the red lit streets.  Of course it isn’t till the late hours of the night that the serious customers reveal themselves.  My fist venture here was during my first European excursion.  Like every tourist I went and checked out the girls flaunting their goods behind a glass window.  I couldn’t tell you price or what is negotiated as I did not inquire with one of the girls.  Instead I walked and stared in amazement for this world does not exist in mine.  I will say the girls are hotter than your average street walker in the states.

Pascha in Cologne Germany

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Photo Cred: Carpe Diem

During my time in Cologne I was informed of a famous brothel named Pascha.  After conducting my research through the worldwide web I discovered that Pascha is a hotel where prostitutes rent a room to conduct their services.  Revenue from clients is solely theirs and the hotel does not take a cut.  They make their revenue through entrance fees and alcohol sales. If you ask me this sounds better than working for an abusing pimp.  Yes, yes I don’t know what actually transpires behind the scenes, but if the information is accurate then it is a good deal in an industry that has a seedy reputation.

Pascha is the biggest brothel in Germany. There was no way I was going to miss it so I convinced my fellow hostel mate to join me in this adventure.

It was quite a walk from our hostel to the brothel but upon arrival we were greeted by a single bouncer at the entrance.  We paid our fee to enter the premises which wasn’t hefty, 15 euros I think.  This was two years ago so I apologize for my memory being a bit hazy.  The place didn’t seem quite populated, but it was early in the night.  At this hour most people are just arriving at the bars and the bros are testing their luck.  I’m assuming after failure and last call the place gets packed.

We made our way through the dim lit hallways, floor after floor.  If a girl is open for business she will have her door open and will usually be hanging by the doorway.  Some are quick to offer pricing and services while others gaze at you and wait for you to make the first move.  Starting price is 50 euros.  This can be many different things such as basic sex, blow job or hand job, all depends on what you negotiate with the girl.  Any additional services cost more.  Of course every girl has different prices but the standard I kept hearing was 50 euros.  We got to the final floor of regular services.  Any further up and we had to pay another fee.  What’s on these special floors you ask?  Why trannies of course.  I guess trannies provide a special service to that special gentleman with specific taste.  That was our cue to get the fuck out of there.

Hamburg’s Reeperbahn

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Photo Cred: Muncher Merkur

During my travels I had mentioned to a fellow traveler that I was headed to Hamburg.  She informs me of a place that is forbidden for women to enter.  Of course I asked why and she tells me it is Hamburg’s red light district.  Unlike Amsterdam, this place is closed off to women and according to her there were guards at the entrances preventing women from entering.  She was so intrigued by this that she encouraged me to go and give her a full report on what I had witnessed.  I was enticed.

My stay in Hamburg was short but I did manage to explore the forbidden zone to women.  It did not live up to the hype. It is exactly like the red light district in Amsterdam except it is only a small alley with girls behind the glass.  I didn’t see any guards at the entrances, but it is walled off to keep out of view from the public.  The district it is in is called Reeperbahn, and here you can find plenty of strip/whore houses and street walkers. Reepeerbahn is located next to the St. Pauli quarter which is popular with tourists/backpackers for drinking and partying.

Thailand’s Nana Plaza

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Nana Plaza

My visa in Vietnam had come to an end so I had to leave the best country in South East Asia.  I flew back to Bangkok so I can work my way North.  I booked a hostel far away from Khao San road because I was not in the mood to party. In my search for my hostel I came upon a street with a large unlit sign, it read Nana Plaza.  A friend had mentioned this place to me but during my initial stay in Bangkok I had no desire to visit it.  This time my hostel was a block away so fuck it why not.  I had time to kill anyway.

I returned later that night and oh man this place was something else.  This street was lit up like the Vegas strip. Everyone on this street were either prostitutes or clientel.  There are the few curios minds like mine who are venturing these streets but unlike Amsterdam this did not appear to be a huge tourist attraction.  This place is strictly business, you came here for sex, because “she will love you very long time”.

Unlike the other places I visited, the clientele here was much older.  To be more specific, older white guys.  These fuckers are everywhere, with whores half their age. I went through 3 phases of emotions:

  • Disgust: Bro these girls can be your daughters and for some of you, your granddaughters! The fuck is wrong with you? You old perverted fucks!
  • Humor: Hahahahaha you are about to get fucked by an old wrinkling dick.  Can he even get it up?  Oh man this is so gross it’s funny.
  • Sadness: Fuck, you girls are probably part of the sex trade and are not here out of your own will.  These old fucks are probably here for a reason we don’t see on the surface. Perhaps it is loneliness. For the first time I saw men paying these girls for their time.  They were out on dates and having casual conversations.  Sure the sex probably came later, but unlike their young male counterparts in Amsterdam, for these old blokes it was more than just sex, it was the pleasure of human company from the opposite sex.  At their age there isn’t much to look forward to but death.

I shook off my emotions and continued to explore.

Walking through the plaza the girls are more aggressive than others I had encountered.  They were constantly waving me over, blowing me kisses, showing me nipple, grabbing me and doing ungodly things with their mouth.  I played it cool of course, nodding no thanks to each and every one.

I wandered into one of the brothels where I was greeted by a hostess who sat me down.  In order to stay I had to purchase a beer, so I ordered the cheapest beer they had, good old Chang.  This place had a similar layout to a strip club with a stage in the center.  On stage were several girls with numbers pinned on their bra.  They moved around the stage like one of those pre-made sushi restaurants where the food revolves around a massive table.  Hmmm let’s see? Oh this one looks good. I’ll fuck this one.

The gentleman next to me had selected a number and the hostess brought the girl down to his table.  After a few minutes she brings the girl a drink. The gentleman perceives to pay. I can only assume a drink for the girl is mandatory for her time to talk to you.  Cheeky cunts eh.

After minutes of conversation or negotiation, they strike a deal and the gentleman disappears with the girl in hand behind some curtains.  Finished my drink, waved at the hostess who gave me a disappointed look for not ordering a girl, and took off.

By now you are probably wondering if I paid for sex.  I mean I must have after visiting these places right?  Wrong! I did not have sexual relationships with any of these women.  Man I’m starting to sound like good old Bill but unlike the 42nd president I’m telling the truth.  Hookers simply aren’t my thing, for many more reasons than the fact that I’m cheap.  If hookers are your thing, that’s cool, I’m not judging, I just ask to please do it in a legitimate place otherwise you are contributing to a much larger darker world of the sex trade.

Well that’s about it.  Like I said this was only a glimpse into this world.  I wish I could give you guys more insight but I dare not go any further in my research.  However, if you dare dive further into this world there are plenty of books and documentaries out there.  I’ll let you do your own research.

Till next time fellow travelers.

*photo cred for main photo: Rebel Circus,

Hostel Etiquette

Hostels are one of the cheapest forms of accommodations when you are traveling.  My favorite thing about them is the opportunity to meet so many different people from all over the world. Hotels, Airbnb or couch surfing don’t present this atmosphere as well as hostels do.

In a hostel everyone is in the same boat, traveling on a budget.  It’s a great place to establish some serious friendships and meet some interesting people.

When staying in a hostel there are universal rules that everyone should know just out of common courtesy, but of course there are those who are habitual rule breakers, or they were simply raised by wolves.

#1 Respect for Space

Hostels can usually be pretty crowded when staying in a dormitory. Space becomes even more limited when there is a lack of storage in the rooms, therefore forcing everyone to keep their belongings on the floor.  There is a simple solution for this, maintain everything in your bag and place it under the bed to allow room for walking.  Don’t be the person that has clothes thrown everywhere forcing people to tip toe around the room to avoid stepping on your clothes.  Ladies, I’m looking at you, for you are the biggest offenders of this crime.

#2 Noise

This is the mother of all fuck ups.  Some people seem to care less about the noise they make in a room they share with 10 other individuals.  If someone is sleeping you should be respectful and minimize all noise levels, even during daylight hours.  This is why hostels have common areas to chill at.  Now if you are staying at a party hostel you can almost throw this rule out the window, almost.  I don’t know about you guys but I’m even more of a ninja when I’m drunk, but if you are staying at a party hostel you paid to have a great time, not to sleep, so you can’t really complain about noise.

#3 Packing

If you are leaving in the ass crack of dawn don’t be a douche and pack your bags minutes before leaving, you are disturbing your fellow hostel mates. Be a nice cunt and pack your bags the night prior.

#4 Sex in Hostel

Ok ok so we have all been guilty of this, including myself (sorry bro sleeping right above me).  I mean when shit gets hot and heavy all fucks go out the window, but I’m here to tell you that fucks should be given. Karma taught me a valuable lesson, hearing others have sex is quite traumatizing, so do us all a favor and take it to the bathroom, common area, rooftop, park, alley, ocean, stairway, anywhere but the hostel room.

#5 Hygiene

I get it, you are a wanna be hippie and want to live that lifestyle to the fullest even though you have wealthy parents.  I guess you want to know what it feels like to live with close to nothing, be a minimalist, experiment with drugs, have an expensive organic diet, and not shave.  This is all cool with me bros and ladies, do you, but for the love of Zeus take a fucking shower.  You are staying in a hostel dormitory that usually has little ventilation so that means everyone can smell your nasty ass.  Even the true hippies from the 60s that originated in Haight street in San Francisco knew the importance of healthy hygiene and showered often.  You choose a healthy lifestyle by going vegan, well guess what, good hygiene is a major part of that.  We all know you can afford a bar of soap cause you’re buying craft beers from the shop.  Oh and guess what?! There is organic soap free of chemicals! We truly are living in the future ladies and gents.

#6 Theft

I have been fortunate not to have anything stolen from me throughout my stays in hostels, but my friends haven’t been so lucky.  Look, we are all in the same boat, just don’t fucking do it, don’t be an asshole.  There is no bigger asshole than thy who steals from his fellow travel mate.  I’m pretty sure this is the 11th commandment.

#7 Cleanliness

Hostels are typically not the cleanest, especially the cheaper ones since they mostly rely on volunteer staff, but hey here’s a genius idea to having a clean environment, PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF AND CLEAN YOUR FUCKING MESS.  The staff would appreciate it and so would your hostel mates.  Once again don’t be an asshole.

I’m drawing a blank right now but I’m sure there’s more.  Remember don’t be an ASSHOLE and follow these simple rules or Zeus, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, or John Cena, will smite thy.

Safe travels cunts.

The Land Down Under – Sydney

Sydney is a great and beautiful city with lots to see.  I tend to compare every city I visit to San Francisco.  To me San Francisco ranks number one, but of course this is a bias opinion since I grew up in the bay.  However, every traveler that I’ve met who has visited the states ranks San Francisco as their favorite American city.  Like any city SF has its flaws, but it is the cultivating cities that make up the bay area that make it a great place to live.  Similar to home, one can escape Sydney and head over to Manly for a more relaxed vibe.

Walking through Sydney it’s tall buildings resembled those of the skyscrapers from back home.  As I walked from the ferry station to Bondi beach I stumbled upon many different districts such as the gay district on Oxford street.  I could have easily mistaken this area of the city with that of Castro in SF.  As I escaped the financial district of the city I entered a posh district, once again on Oxford street.  A series of suburban homes followed before I hit the infamous Bondi Beach.  Bondi did not strike me as an impressive beach and had more of an industrial feel causing it to lose its charm.  I suppose the hype over the beach also did not help, still this beach is better than anyone we have back home simply because you can enter the water without risking hyperthermia.

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I did however find this remarkable (Bondi Beach artwork).

What I was looking for in Bondi I found in Manly.  Manly beach in my opinion is greater than Bondi and delivered the beach town vibe that I was looking for.  Regardless of what I say you should still visit both beaches and form your own opinion for I have encountered mixed reviews amongst fellow travelers.  I visited Bondi against the advice given to me by my fellow mates who said the beach was filled with tourist and not worth my time.  They forgot I was a tourist and wanted to do touristy things.  My advice to you is to always visit the major touristy landmarks of any new city you are in.  Don’t be that retard know it all hippy traveler that is to cool for that.  In my previous travels I was advised against Oktoberfest in Munich by fellow travelers (the retard hippy) and locals because of the same reason, “it’s too touristy and crowded”, my response, “ummm, I’m a tourist and I fucking love crowds”.  I had a great a time at Oktoberfest by the way.

In both places you’ll find several shops, eateries, and watering holes, but be warned Australia is not a cheap place to visit.  Unlike my Europe excursion, I actually find myself in the kitchen prepping meals.  I can definitely afford to eat out in Oz, but not if I want to make a year of traveling a reality.  I do enjoy the curious eyes of my fellow backpackers as they assume I am cooking for two and are left surprised when I consume the entire meal.  Typical American and his large servings.  Actually it’s just me, I’m a fat ass.

There were many highlights to my Sydney trip such as attending Field day and watching Chance The Rapper and Childish Gambino perform sick sets, two artist who have rekindled my love affair with Hip Hop.  I’m going to tell you about a personal highlight that might not be significant to you.  As I walked through Sydney, carefully choosing busy streets for the sole purpose to stumble upon city landmarks, I stumbled upon one rarely visited by tourist and locals.

ww1-memorial-sydney

From the moment I saw it I knew this building was special but I had no clue what it was till I walked up the steps and asked the guard many his post.  “It’s a memorial to the Australian soldiers who fought and died in World War 1”.  The inside was small and circular with a statue of a fallen figure drenched over a sword.  On the hollowed parts of the wall, battles the Australians were involved in were carved into the wall, with Gallipoli being one of the most famous.  It’s easy to forget that such a small nation who was just formed in 1901 was involved in such a large war.  Since then our Aussie mates have fought alongside us in every major conflict.  Let us not forget these top blokes.  Till Valhalla mates.

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I was fortunate enough to be in Sydney for NYE.  Entering the new year in a foreign city watching the fireworks from underneath the Harbour Bridge I stared at the Opera house with a smile on face knowing it was one of many to come.

Cheers! And safe travels friends.

World Travel Itinerary

Just a rough idea of my plan to travel around the world.  4 days into Sydney and the plan is already changing, which I find is the best way to travel.  It’s good to be prepared but you have to let some of the pieces fall where they may.  (photo credit: @worldtravelfans) 

*get Vietnam visa online

*look at hostel bookers.com

Australia

Cheap Airlines: Tiger Airlines, Jetstar

Bus: Greyhound Australia Pass

Rideshare: Look at hostel bulletins to hitch a ride with people or look at Kangaride, Jayride and Gumtree

Things to see:

Uluru(Too far, towards Alice Springs), sail Whitsundays, hike the Daintree

Route:

  • Sydney – 3 – Opera house, Harbor Bridge
  • Melbourne – 4
  • Sydney – 2
  • Byron Bay – 3 – Aquarius backpackers hostel
  • Gold Coast – 3 Surf N Sun Hostel
  • Brisbane – 3
  • Whitsunday – 3
  • Magnetic Island – 3 base hostel
  • Cairns – 5 – Gilligans hostel, Great barrier reef, Kuranda Rainforest, mission beach, crystal cascades

Total days = 29

Philippines

  • Boracay – MNL beach hostel
  • Cebu

Thailand – must have passport at all times (law)

Bangkok

  • (5) NapPark hostel

Ayutthaya – Ancient City

Phitsanulok

Chiang Mai

  • (4) Spicy Thai hostel
  • Songkran Festival Thai new year, water fight (13-15th April) originated here

Chiang Khong

  • border with Laos
  • purchase 30 day tourist visa here, $30-$40 bucks

Laos

Houay Xai

  • Bokeo Nature reserve

Luang Prabang

  • (5) lots of shit to see here

Vang Vieng (4)

Sakura Bar

Vientiane – (5) capital city, visit Vietnam embassy here to get visa.

Tha Khaek

  • Do the Thakhaek loop on motorbike if possible. Takes 3 days but preferably do it in 4 days
  • Phou Hin Boon National Park
  • Konglor Cave
  • Tham Nong Pafa Cave

Savannakhet

  • Second largest city
  • Museum on dinosaurs and unexploded bombs from Vietnam War
  • City host many festivals (look them up).

Ao Nang, Krabi – Slumber Party hostel

Koh Phangan – The Nomad House

Ko Samui

Ko Phangan

  • Hat Rin, full moon party

Ko Tao

Krabi

  • Popular beaches – Ao Nang, Tang Sei, Rai Leh

Ko Tarutao National Marine Park

Vietnam

Dong Ha

  • A day is recommended here

Hue

  • Ancient city
  • Hue Citadel
  • Emperors tombs
  • Pagodas

Hoi An (4)

  • Riverside town
  • Party town
  • Beach is not far

Nha Trang

  • Backpackers house hostel

Dalat (4)

  • Lakes, forest and waterfalls (outdoors)

Mui Ne

  • Desert, sand dunes and beach (theres a desert in Vietnam? Da fuck?)
  • Not much going on apparently but great place to unwind. Probably will recharge my batteries here and regroup.

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

  • largest city
  • Pham Ngu Lao area, good place to find food, sleep, and drink
  • Lots of war sites

Hanoi – Hanoi backpackers hostel

Old Quarter, Hanoi – Central Backpackers

Cambodia

Phnom Penh

Koh Rong – island near Phnom Penh MUST GO

Sihanoukville

Siem Reap

  • Funky Flashpackers hostel
  • Temples of Angkor Wat

Israel

  • Jerusalem – 6 days, Abraham Hostel
  • Tel Aviv – 3 days, Florentine Backpackers Hostel
  • Day trip to the Dead Sea
  • Mediterranean coast
  • The North (???)
  • Petra – get there early, whole day trip,

Greece – Island hopping (link up w/ SF mates)

  • Santorini
  • Ios
  • Mykonos

Croatia – Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb,

Hungary – Budapest

Czech – Prague

Germany – Munich

Spain – Link up with the moms.  Visit Madrid and Barcelona.

FUCK IT I’LL FIGURE OUT THE REST AS I GO

Morocco

Scotland

Ireland

Brazil

Bolivia

Argentina

Chile

Peru – Regroup in Lima.  Spend a month.  Link up with pops

Colombia

Panama

Costa Rica

Cuba

Home (Noooooooo 😦 

A Common Story

There is a common story amongst travelers, a story of risk that results in an expansion of something in your chest.  These stories revolve around those we meet and the sudden spark that happens.  These are my favorite type of stories, and every traveler has one.  How each one starts and evolves is different but how they end is ever so common.

My biggest advice for you is take the risk, and although it made not result in what you hoped, it will make for the most interesting story on your trip.

So how does it start. Very simple, like a story straight out of a book.  Two individuals meet in a foreign place.  The initiation is simple, “Hello, I’m (fill in the blank).

Two people from different worlds, different languages, different cultures, yet your conversations flow endlessly to a rhythm that never loses beat.

Day turns into night and you discover more about each other.  You begin to notice little details that make you more attracted to them. The wrinkle above her nose when she smiles.  His contagious laugh.

You both act coy, trying not to seem overly interested and even though others seek your attention you continuously engage in conversation with each other, eager to learn more about this perfect stranger.

Nothing is ever set in stone and even when a night is looking promising either party can still ruin these perfect moments.  The fact that we don’t know what the other person is thinking is what makes this ever so interesting and exciting.

Finally, the night is coming to a close, do I make a move or do I simply say good night.  Is he going to make a move?  Maybe he’s not interested.  Maybe I should just say goodnight.

The intensity builds up, you ago against your fears and kiss her.  She kisses you back.

The next morning you are asleep next to a perfect stranger.  Your arms around each other, finding yourself strangely comfortable.  You’ve been here before with an individual you’ve known for years, but this time you’ve only know this person for 24 hours.

A perfect sleep is ruined by a screeching alarm clock.  Reality sets in.  It’s time to go, your flight leaves in 2 hours, but then a strange thought hits you, “Maybe I should stay”.

You motion ever so gently to turn off the alarm clock and not wake her.  You failed.

She lays there and wonders, “Is he going to leave? Maybe he’ll stay”.

You make up your mind, “this is ludicrous, I’m staying the course……but maybe just maybe”

You lie there and watch him pack his bags reminding you that you both have different destinations, different paths, and different futures.

Neither wants this to end and both wish there was more time but they accept what it is, a perfect 24 hours, why ruin it.

They look at each other one last time, both hold back what they really want to say, “Stay!”, “I’m staying!”.

He kisses her goodbye.

All good things must come to an end, regardless if it last 24 hours or several days.  Both parties remain in contact, but eventually communication seizes as they return to their routine lives’.  Their moment together becomes a faint memory, but it will never disappear.

But every once in a while a song, an artifact, or a joke will remind them of each other and they smile is brought to their face.  They wonder, “I wonder what she/he is doing”.  They snap back to reality when their friend asks them, “What are you smiling about silly?”.  They respond, “Nothing….so what are we drinking?”

By now you are probably wondering if this has happened to me or if this story is directly from my own experience.  Perhaps, or maybe it belongs to a friend, really it’s a story that belongs to all us but in many different variations.  There are of course so many more details to this story that make it more intriguing and humorous, but I try to keep my blog posts short so I don’t lose your interest.

I have yet to hear a story that has ended differently, and although the ending is not what you want to hear, every traveler treasures these memories.  You can see it in their eyes and hear it in the enthusiasm of their voice.  This is why these are my favorite stories to hear, because they are real, touching, adventurous and straight risky.  Traveling exposes us to these experiences and trust me it will happen to you, it might even happen more than once.

Good luck out there fellow travelers, safe travels and don’t be afraid to take a risk.

 

Toro! Toro! (Pamplona, how to survive the bull run)

Madrid had been a blast and after several nights of partying with new friends it was time to move on to Pamplona to attend the festival of San Fermin.  The festival of San Fermin is most famous for its bull run where thousands of people gather together for a week long celebration of the famous saint.

Originally I had no plans to be at this festival, for my Europe excursion was not meant to begin till August, but in an interesting turn of events I found myself leaving a month early, just in time for the festival.

My day began with a sleepless night as I shared a bunk with a friend whose phone went off throughout the night, in a room meant for 4 but 6 of us stayed in.  Tired and hungry I stumbled into the bus where I passed out for a couple of hours providing hours of entertainment for my friends as my head tilted back against my seat with my mouth wide open. A ticket to Pamplona should run about 30-40 Euros.

The festival kicks off with an epic sangria fight, which unfortunately I missed, but I arrived that weekend which probably had the highest attendance due to it being the weekend. Highly recommend going for the start of the festival, after all why wouldn’t you want to be drenched in sangria with thousands of people.

As I awoke from my slumber, I began to see the traditional outfit worn during the festival. White pants, white shirt, red sash, and red pañuelo will either be the outfit you die in, or the outfit you had the greatest time in.

We arrived early in the afternoon and after dawning our outfits we joined in the festivities. The plan was to take it easy and pace ourselves but after seeing a sea of people passed out on any patch of grass they could find, and another sea of people raging, I thought to myself, “fuck, I’m not ready for this, oh well time to rally (pounds copious amounts of alcohol to the face)”.

The next couple of hours can only be described in a montage of drinking, bull fighting, dancing, applauds, roaring crowds, dance parades, death and more drinking…good times.  In my drunken state I was determined to walk the course the bulls were going to run the following morning.  I wanted to be a bit prepared, after all I didn’t come all this way to be gored by a bull, but there was no way I was going to miss it either.

Accommodation

Hostels and Airbnb are booked out months in advance so plan accordingly.  The rates are also much higher for the event so budget for that as well.  I was lucky to find an Airbnb for like $90 bucks a night.  I know expensive but so worth it.  You can also camp in the local parks or sleep in the bus station like my friends did.

The Route (El Encierro)

The route the bulls run is walled off so they can’t escape and it stretches just over 800 meters. The street is narrow, and paved in cobblestone. One thing nobody told me was that the Spanish wash the street prior to the race to clear it of any debris, so you’ll be running on wet cobblestone, good luck. The run ends in the arena where more fun is to be had.

pamplona-bull-run-map

The Runners

Runners are made up of nationals and foreigners. Once the run starts its every man for himself. I say man because very few females participate in the run. The Spanish also frown upon it and authorities might remove a female from the run, sorry ladies. Being to intoxicated and having any form of picture/video device to take selfies will get you excluded from the run as well. Fellow runners are also your other threat. They will push and trample you, anything to escape from being impaled.

Dead Man’s Corner

Dead man’s corner is a sharp right turn along the route. The most consistent advice I received was to stick to the right because the Bulls will take a wide right turn and smash anyone on the left side. I had originally placed myself at dead mans corner so to avoid it during the run. Bad idea, for the police will kick everyone out beyond this point. They try to manage the size of the crowd and will boot as many people as they deem fit. Best way to avoid this is to position yourself as close to the start of the run as possible.

The Run

I slept an hour before the run and was still drunk when I awoke. I had lost my friends the night before but we found each other prior to the run. It was 5am and the sun was creeping up over the horizon.  Note to future runners you don’t have to be up by 5 am for the run isn’t till 8 am.  I just wanted to ensure that I had a spot.  You should be fine if you get there right before 7 am.  I mentioned that I got removed from the race because I was positioned near dead man’s corner.  I pleaded with the officer to let me stay in but she said to me, “Regresa el proximo ano” (come back next year).  I noticed several of other runners hop the fence and work their way around the police to find another entrance.  I rallied the troops and we followed these renegades.

The Bulls
Bullpen

It was a mad dash towards the beginning of the race, the one place we did not want to be. We found an opening between the fence and once again we were participants in the race.  Two Canadians, an Australian and an American waited nervously for the first rocket to go off.  The first rocket signaled the release of the bulls while the second rocket signaled that the bulls had reached the crowd. A minute before the race the crowd intensifies and an eerie chant echoes through the street.  I later found out that this was a prayer to the famous saint.  It was eerie enough to frighten the foreigners as they began to take off.

Less than 100 meters from the start I stood alone as my friends said, “fuck this shit mate, I’m out”.  I was determined to see the bulls before I started running.

BOOM! The first rocket goes off.  I thought to myself, “Ok I have some time still, bulls aren’t that fast, right?”

BOOM! Second rocket goes off seconds later. “OH SHIT!”

I see the horns and pack of bulls spreading the crowd of people like Moses did to the Red Sea.  I take off with no single thought in my head.  I can hear, “TORO! TORO!” coming from behind me along with the ever growing sound of hooves stomping on the cobblestone.  Moments later I feel the rush of the crowd push me towards the fence where a group of people had fallen giving up any chance to stand up.  Instead they huddled on the floor protecting their head.  I leaped over them as several massive blurs passed my peripheral.  Just like that the race was over, and I jogged the remainder of the way into the arena.

At the arena I found my friend and we celebrated our dash from death.  The crowd in the arena cheered the victorious runners.  The gates are shut and an announcer comes over the loud speaker announcing the release of a bull.

After The Run
Right after the bull run in the arena

Wait! What!

A single bull is released into the arena. We spend the next couple minutes avoiding the bull before deciding to hop the fence, but as my friend and I make our escape a Spanish officer pushes us back in.  A simple grin is all he gives us.  We spend another 15 minutes avoiding the bulls that are released into the arena before finding an unguarded side of the arena for us to hop the fence.  For the rest of the time we become spectators and watch the crazy Spanish agitate an already frustrated bull.  This goes on for a good while.

The best advice I can give you future runners is………..run, simply just run.  Good luck.

If you find yourself in Spain during the festival, make every effort to make your way to Pamplona, I promise you won’t regret it.  I highly encourage participating in the bull run as well because it is an unforgettable experience.  Regardless if you run or not, the Festival of San Fermin is a must do and you will have a great time.

Till next time friends.