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 »
Long-term budget travel can be strenuous and take its toll. In addition to the long bus rides, the heat, and the constantly-changing environments, your accommodations will generally be modest and sometimes downright uncomfortable. Many budget travelers try to keep to a $1,000-a-month budget, which comes out to about $30 a day, accounting for cross-border flights and visa fees. When considering this budget, it is generally wise to keep accommodation around $10/day, which will allow for a modest guesthouse or dormitory, depending on the country.
When budget allows, I recommend finding a sweet deal on a luxury hotel, arranging a 10 a.m. check-in and just spending the next 26 hours relaxing on the premises. It will give you the chance to take a steaming bath, clear your head, get excellent sleep and even wear a damn robe. You will likely get a … Read More »
“Come Quickly. I have tasted the stars.”– 19th century champagne print add, often attributed to Dom Perignon
5. LUNA BAR, Kuala Lumpur
Located just across the street from the KL Tower (the city’s unmissable ‘space needle’) on the 34th floor of the Pacific Regency Hotel, the Luna Bar offers a spectacular view of the Petronas Towers and Kuala Lumpur skyline. After 10pm, secure a spot on the upper deck for the best view of KL available. Unfortunately, the tempting swimming pool in the middle is only for hotel guests. But, what’s the worst that can happen- you get kicked out? Finish your drink and hop in.
4. XIU, Beijing
Another sprawling Grand Hyatt rooftop bar, Xiu is modestly located on the 5th floor of the hotel. The design is a combination of sleek contemporary and traditional Beijing architecture (recreated, of course). The … Read More »
I understand: you’ve just arrived from the airport. You look like hell. You really do; you’re sweaty, tired, hungry and you’re wearing sports pants. You just want to check in, put down your bag, shower and eat. You don’t yet want to go out exploring your new city, scouring for the best hidden place to get your first meal. Again, I understand. I’ve seen you looking anguished in countless hostels, hotels and guesthouses across the world, and I have been in your sandals before.
Be patient. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten at a guesthouse, hostel or hotel eatery that could survive on its own as an independent restaurant. The food is always dumbed down for tourists and built to fill a hole and make a buck, not to cherish. Food is one of the joys of travel, so fight the … Read More »
How is there so little street crime?
Don’t get me wrong, there is crime in Asia. There is government corruption, bribery, domestic abuse and organized crime. However, a traveler is highly unlikely to get caught up in this. “Street crime” such as robbery, assault, rape and murder are astonishingly low, especially in North Asia (Mongolia somewhat excluded). In large Asian cities, I have no fear listening to my iPod and walking home through unknown neighborhoods for two hours in the middle of the night.
Travelers and expats appreciate this quality over here, yet can’t seem to explain exactly why it is. Rich and poor are living together. Surely, there are plenty of “opportunities” for crime walking down the streets. So why is Asia so safe?
Here are a few factors that likely influence the low street crime of Asia:
THE SHAME FACTOR
In the USA, … Read More »
Upon my death, I hereby request to be sat upright in the back of a long-distance Malaysian bus. Then, when the day comes and they find a cure for whatever it is that I succumbed to, I can be unfrozen and enjoy a nice bowl ofHokkein mee in Penang.
Buy a ticket on a Malaysian bus or ferry and you may just get a seat next to Walt Disney. Yes, Malaysia is a sweltering tropical country, and the nation’s relative prosperity now allows for some extra travel comforts. This certainly includes air conditioning, which is heavily utilized and paraded out for travelers, allowing for us to experience a bit of the Andes right in the heart of Southeast Asia.
Some tips for surviving a bus or ferry trip in Malaysia. Remember that women constitute 2/3 of all cold-related deaths. So, ladies- take note:
The stages of … Read More »
“Goodbye god, I’m going to Bodie” – diary entry of a little girl moving from San Francisco to Bodie
My favorite California destination to come back to again and again, Bodie is an eerie ghost town that once housed 7,000 residents and is now home to a few helpful park rangers and some squirrels. Located 8,000 feet in elevation, near the California / Nevada border, about 75 short American miles (120km) southeast of Lake Tahoe, Bodie is a perfect tie-in to any trip to the more-famous lake. Getting there is half the fun, as you drive south through some canyons and finally veer off onto a hairy 13-mile dirt road into the heart of the high desert landscape.
Bodie thrived in the 1870s, when prospectors predicted it would bring enormous amounts of gold. While the town did produce some gold, production quickly declined. At … Read More »
Travel guides and websites entice westerners with the images of serene temples rising over a jungle fog, shining skylines, pristine beaches and elephant rides through the jungle. These Asian attractions exist, and you’ll enjoy them. But if you ignore your return flight home and stick around here- as so many do- you can get to know this continent in a way that the casual tourist could never begin to. Here are six little-known reasons to enjoy, and stay in, Asia.
6. URINARY FREEDOM
The American Age brought with it armies marching out into the world and “spreading democracy”. Perhaps, as China and East Asia emerge, we can look forward to regular “pee-freeing missions” as the 21st century progresses. It seems men can pee everywhere in Asia. It almost feels encouraged. Picnic-tabled streetside restaurants stay open into the late hours (offering large bottles of cheap beer, of course) … Read More »
Phnom Penh has a bit of a dangerous reputation among travelers, even though most guidebooks tell us it is safer than it looks. No doubt, the place feels a bit unsafe upon a first visit. Is it?
At night, many of the city streets are dimly lit, and shadowy silhouetted figures gather on the street corners. I am accustomed to utilizing the same judgment I would in an American city- where dark, empty streets are suspicious alone after dark, especially with others loitering about. However, coming here from other Asian capitals, I am so accustomed to walking freely with little fear. Is Phnom Penh different?
Given the amount of guns and Cambodia, along with the discrepancy between the income of the locals and the value of a tourist’s backpack, it is a wonder that there is not actually more crime in Phnom Penh. Certainly, the kindness of local strangers … 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 »