In March of 2012, I was nearly finished with a 3-week journey moving west through the Visayas region of The Philippines. Visayas is famous for beach and diving destinations. I have never been very interested in beaches, so I was focused on the cities of Cebu, Dumaguete, Bacolod, Iloilo and Kalibo. I did, however, have a beach destination as my final stop before flying out of the country. That beach was the most famous beach in all of The Philippines- Boracay. I was all by my sad self during these weeks in the Philippines. I’d met people here and there along the way, but I didn’t join a backpacker caravan or fall in love. So, how is it traveling to Boracay alone, anyway?
Often beach destinations entice travelers of impossibly clear turquoise waters bookended by eternal sunrises and sunsets. So often, … Read More »
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
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 »
Every good traveler should have, and is entitled too, his or her own unique opinion about what makes a certain place good or bad, likable or repulsive, worthwhile or overrated. Opinions are fun. I like hearing them as much as I like giving my own.
Some of my own opinions are atypical:
I have never enjoyed the Thai islands
I have not left my heart in San Francisco, even after visiting hundreds of times
I am not moved by high, jagged mountain ranges
Nebraska has the best landscapes of any American state
Chongqing, China- a polluted, hazy mess of a city- is spectacularly gorgeous and worth returning to again and again (I miss it as I type…)
I have a hard time finding a good meal in Italy
Throughout the globe, when groups of travelers meet up to discuss travel, opinions and superlatives often come out (I hate…..I … Read More »
Depends on what you’re here for.
Different countries = different prices for different things.
Do you want to explore cities, see the big attractions, or experience the food and drink? For example, if you’re here to party, the Philippines generally has the cheapest drinks at restaurants and bars. In contrast, Chinese bars and clubs are expensive- comparable to North American prices, but the daily Chinese necessities (subway, street food, bottled water) are damn cheap, so if you’re here to take photos and explore the city life, China will be cheaper than the Philippines. Accommodation also varies in quality, type and price. Your sleeping standards could make or break your budget. In Vietnam, $10 may get you a comfy room with A/C, wifi and free breakfast. In the Philippines, a $10 room is nearly impossible to find.
Asia is a place that people … Read More »
“I was driving myself, pounding out the miles because I was no longer hearing or seeing. I had passed my limit of taking in or, like a man who goes on stuffing in food after he is filled, I felt helpless to assimilate what was fed in through my eyes. Each hill looked like the one just passed. I have felt this way in the Prado in Madrid after looking at a hundred paintings—the stuffed and helpless inability to see more. This would be a time to find a sheltered place beside a stream to rest and refurbish.”
–John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley (1962)
Travel can be hard work. Adrenaline may keep our heads spinning and our feet moving, but it’s important to consider the hidden exhaustion of long trips. Weeks of momentum, scheduling and packing/unpacking will take its toll on your body and dull … Read More »
(the elder Steven Muzik, on the left, about to do something cool)
Recently, I was back in Ohio for Christmas. In the midst of my curious snooping, I came across a bit of a travelogue that my grandfather (by chance also named Steven Muzik) wrote in 1988 for a reunion. It recounts his time in Asia with the military and touches on his travels for his engineering firm.
Writing this, I have now been to many of the places he traveled to. However, with no mention of karaoke, high-speed trains or Macbooks, it’s apparent his time abroad was a bit different from mine.
I’ve transcribed his travelogue. In his own words:
“On January 9, ’45 boarded the USS Gen. C.G. Morton with my unit of 214 men. A “quality” outfit comprised of mostly “jail house lawyers”, four of whom never did get abroad. We … Read More »
Upon my first visit to any new Asian city, I am most excited to try the local food. Perhaps the second-most interesting feature unique to each new destination is the creative ways that people are transported across the city. Below are some of my favorite modes of transportation across Southeast Asian cities:
BAJAJ: JAKARTA, INDONESIA
A bajaj, named after the Indian Bajaj motor company, is a motorized rickshaw. There are an estimated 20,000 of these in Indonesia’s “Big Durian” capital of Jakarta. They will seat two comfortably and even accommodate five or six with a little motivation. The drivers are generally upbeat and fairly honest, though a little negotiation is necessary. Just ask a young local what you should pay to your destination before getting in.
The ride can be fun. These guys will fearlessly make a … Read More »
I once believed cockfights to be a somewhat-mythical ‘sporting’ event that was confined to old late night movies and Hunter S. Thompson novels. Like others my age, the term ‘cockfight’ really burrowed it’s way into my vocabulary in 1997 with the “Little Jerry Seinfeld” episode of Seinfeld. Yep- the episode in which Kramer buys what he thinks is a hen (for fresh eggs) only to find it’s a rooster (cock), and then the whole group subsequently gets taken on a journey through the New York City cockfighting underbelly. Must.resist.temptation.to.simply.write.about.Seinfeld…
My good friend Stephen (the Shameless Traveler) and I recently caught a cockfight in Vigan, on the island of Luzon, Philippines. It was an anticipated event for both of us. Before we could arrive, we needed the ultimate cockfight viewer’s accessory: not a fistful of cash, but rather a badass cockfighting hat. … Read More »
So, what’s the difference?
To a non-Asian, the divide between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia is a curious one that takes much time to understand. But as a first-time traveler may find out, there are obvious differences in the people, the traditions, the daily lives and the social and political characteristics between these regions. Let’s try to break it down a bit:
Northeast Asia (China, Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia the Koreas, Japan and Taiwan) and Southeast Asia(Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore) are both extraordinary places to visit- with thousands of years of history, crowded metropolises, warm people and wonderful culinary traditions.
Generally, North Asian countries, while all having unique characteristics, are largely influenced by Confucianism and ancient China. With the recent economic rise of China, the continuing growth of South Korea and Taiwan and the established prosperity of Japan and Hong Kong, North Asia is one of the world’s most prosperous regions and also one of its … Read More »
And by cheapest we mean cheap and worth wasting your time to hunt down.