TEMPLES OF BAGAN: BURMA’S WAYWARD WONDER OF THE WORLD

Posted on February 23rd, by Steven in Burma. 3 comments

“They make one of the finest sights in the world, being exquisitely finished, splendid and costly. When illuminated by the sun they are especially brilliant and can be seen from the great distance’

-Marco Polo, upon visiting Bagan’s temples in the 13th Century

Cambodia’s more-iconic Angkor Wat complex may be the most famous of the Hindu / Buddhist temples, but many (including myself) would argue that the temples of Bagan, in central Myanmar, are the most spectacular to visit. While Angkor Wat has increasingly become a saturated tourist hotspot over the last 20 years, Bagan is still comparatively untouched.

With Myanmar finally opening up to tourism, this is going to soon change. Bagan will become the next Angkor Wat and you will not be able to experience it in solitude. Go now before the Chang Beer tanktops take over.

I’d heard great things about … Read More »



BOTTOMS UP AT ASIA’S BIGGEST BEER FESTIVAL

Posted on February 17th, by Steven in China, Uncategorized. No Comments

Beer festivals generally conjure up images of clangy, repetitive oompah bands, sausages, vaulted beer halls, and busty beer maids. In America we have our share of beer festivals, but they tend to be small caricatures of European festivals. I was surprised to find out that China actually does the beer festival pretty well, albeit with skewered, mysterious meats instead of sausages; and shirtless, busty men instead of busty waitresses.

The largest beer festival in the world is Octoberfest in Munich, Germany. The largest beer festival in Asia is The Qingdao International Beer Festival.

Qingdao is the home of the plentiful and cheap Tsingdao beer, which was founded by Germans when the city was under German control in the late 1800s. It’s an amazing seaside city, a great place to visit any time of year and an even better place to visit in … Read More »



15 CRAZY THINGS I’VE EATEN IN ASIA

Posted on February 8th, by Steven in Asia, Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, The Philipines, Uncategorized, Vietnam. 5 comments

There is an old saying that:

“the Chinese eat everything that flies, except airplanes; everything with four legs, except tables; and everything that swims, except submarines”

Food is central to Asian culture, not just the Chinese, but throughout all of Asia. Asian food is generally delicious, and often very strange, to an American traveler. Asians tend to use the whole animal. Sometimes the results are great, sometimes not so.

Here are 15 of the strangest foods I’ve had:

15. CHICKEN NECK
Qingdao, China

It’s the neck of a chicken, skewered on a stick and served with cheap drafts of local Tsingtao Beer. It’s mostly skin and bone. I actually like spicy duck neck, as there is some meat to enjoy on there, but the chicken neck is just not much of anything.

IS IT GOOD?  2/10

14. GOAT BRAIN
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Goat brain came served in a hot … Read More »



HOW TO TRAVEL WITH PRESCRIPTION MEDICINE

Posted on February 3rd, by Steven in Travel Tips, Uncategorized. No Comments

Q: What do Rush Limbaugh, Big Boi of Outkast and Oakland Raider Louis Murphy have in common?

 

A: They have all been arrested for traveling with Viagra without a prescription.

 

Viagra is an ‘erectile dysfunction’ drug that could help make it easier for 50.24% of us to do something harmless. While Viagra’s effects are not quite as bad as crack cocaine, crystal meth or a Big Mac, many countries around the world, including the USA, have strict rules regarding its possession without the pills in their proper container with a proper prescription. Even if you legally purchase Viagra over-the-counter in Taiwan or Mexico, if you bring it back to the US, or Singapore, or the UK, you may find yourself in jail for an evening, with criminal charges leveled against you. It’s not just drugs like Viagra, but also sleep medications, painkillers, sedatives, … Read More »



WHY IS ‘THE PHILIPPINES’ CALLED ‘THE PHILIPPINES’?

Posted on February 2nd, by Steven in Uncategorized. 2 comments

The Philippines is a cool name. It’s one of the few countries (the Gambia, the Netherlands) that have that approachable “the” in front, as if the country is standing right in the same room as you.

So, how did these islands come to be called ‘the Philippines’?

It happened gradually and it began with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, in 1521. He was killed while attempting to convert a local ruler to Christianity. Magellan’s crew, mostly Spaniards, spread interest in the islands back in Spain. In 1543, before a permanent Spanish colony had been settled on the islands, explorer Ruy López de Villalobos presumptuously named the two islands of Leyte and Samar as Las Islas Filipinas (The Philipine Islands). Over the next 300 years, the Spanish would colonize the additional islands we now know as the Philippines. The entire archipelago would come … Read More »



WHY IS TOKYO’S SKYLINE SO BORING?

Posted on January 29th, by Steven in Japan, Uncategorized. 5 comments

Although Shanghai now has the largest population of any single urban jurisdiction, Tokyo is still by all means the largest urban area in the world, and has been for some time. The sum of Tokyo’s greater metropolitan population is over 36 million, which still dwarfs its competitors for now. Tokyo overtook New York as the world’s biggest city in the mid-1960s and since then, Tokyo has remained at the top.

In addition to size, Tokyo is rich. Tokyo has the largest total economic output (GDP) of any city in the world, even adjusting for income vs. the cost of living (PPP).

Despite Tokyo’s huge population and economic development, the city cuts a rather unknown visual image in most people’s minds. Images of blinking lights, crowded crosswalks and bustling noodle shops define Tokyo. The skyline is rather nondescript. Shanghai has its iconic, twisting futuristic … Read More »



10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT PEOPLE BY TRAVELING

Posted on January 26th, by Steven in Uncategorized. 1 Comment

The human animal easily distinguishable from other species, largely based on our use of cell phones and the clothes we wear. I have no problem distinguishing humans when I’m at a zoo, or on a hike.

Once you’ve identified a human, there are many ways to learn about human behavior. You can study it at a university; you can go to a nightclub or a playground; you can even make (with some teamwork) little humans of your own.

The way I most enjoy learning about humans, or “people”, is by traveling. People are different everywhere, in each country and continent. Discussing cultural and behavioral differences in people is fun. But, no matter where I go in the world, some human characteristics remain the same.

Here are ten things I have learned about people in my travels:

-10-
WE GET OUR PICTURE TAKEN IN FRONT OF … Read More »



5 GREAT SONGS ABOUT MEN TRAVELING TO FIND THE WOMAN THEY LOVE

Posted on January 21st, by Steven in Music, Uncategorized. No Comments

-5-
WHOLE WIDE WORLD, Wreckless Eric

Pasty, imperial and reckless- Eric is ready to go the whole wide world to find his tropical goddess with “warm brown skin”. His mother suggested he take this journey and, though his heart may be in the right place, his plans seem rather reckless to me.

-4-
SISTERS OF MERCY, Leonard Cohen

Cohen’s delicate Sisters of Mercy was written about an encounter in Edmonton with two traveling sisters. Apparently it was written on the chair which he slept as the sisters shared the hotel bed. Cohen claims the song is strictly platonic, though it contains a underlying yearning.

-3-
I’M GONNA BE (500 Miles), The Proclaimers

Sincere, dedicated and desperate, the Reid brothers frighten away the woman of their dreams in this fun, anthemic hit song from 1993.

-2-
HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE, The Beatles

One of the most mature and perfectly-crafted songs The Beatles … Read More »



25 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING IN VIETNAM

Posted on January 19th, by Steven in Vietnam. 142 comments

Thailand enjoys a 50% return rate for foreign tourists. In contrast, Vietnam only pulls back 5% of visitors.

Personally, I feel that Vietnam walks all over Thailand in almost every travel category except beaches. So, why do so many people have such bad experiences and never return to Vietnam?

I hope the list I have made below helps out first-time visitors. It may seem cynical and anti-Vietnamese. It’s not. I love this country; I want you to love it, too. I’d just like to alert travelers to beware of the common first-time mistakes that may sour their experience of the local people and the country overall.

Do your homework, know what to expect, and this is the most rewarding country in Southeast Asia to explore.

Here goes:

-1-
TAKE YOUR VISA SERIOUSLY, VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED

Yes, it seems like common sense, but I have seen tourists turned … Read More »



MY 10 FAVORITE CITIES

I love cities. As a traveler, I never feel alone in a city I enjoy, as cities themselves are a bit like people- slowly revealing their personalities, all imperfect and forever changing. Some are beautiful, some are ugly, but none can get by simply on their fine appearance or lack thereof. A great city needs a great personality; something that makes it truly unique and irreplaceable.

Beach destinations often disappoint, with promises of crystal clear waters, blue skies and smiling faces. The truth is often overcast skies, brown murky water, first-time tourists on pre-paid packages, and little adventure. A city, however, cannot lie. It is what it is and it will always be there, ready for you to engage and explore 24 hours a day, in whatever weather or budget.

These are my favorites:

-10-
BEIJING, China

I like how Beijing remains unglamorous amidst China’s … Read More »


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Thailand enjoys a 50% return rate for foreign tourists. In contrast, Vietnam only pulls back 5% of visitors.

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