In October of 2004 I was living in Holland and keeping an eye on the budget flights that were springing up around Europe at the time. A relaxed schedule at the Universiteit van Amsterdam allowed for 4-day weekends and few deadlines. One day a 39€ fare (each way) from Amsterdam Schipol to Prague opened up on the new Germanwings airlines. For the following weekend, I booked a four-night trip into Prague with no particular plan in mind. Onto the Czech Republic.
I’d been to Prague, the Czech capital, once before in the previous year. So, I had little want for more than a night there. A Hungarian flatmate of mine recommended a small town (pop: 13,000) called Český Krumlov, a 3-hour bus ride south of Prague. I looked at one picture, learned of a museum devoted to artist Egon Schiele and … Read More »
Last week, I arrived back in Taichung- a very livable and pleasant Taiwanese city. Also, a city with no great bars. I’ve searched. Amazing food, cozy cafes, some nice parks, even some decent places to have an outdoor beer from 7-11- but not one great room to have a friendly quaff and good conversation. For a city of 3 million, this is criminal. And so, I begin feeling nostalgic.
Before my first trip to Asia, I imagined there would be a huge lack of bars on this continent. Shopping malls, food stands, pollution- yes. But cozy, smart bars built with carefully with love? Not what pops into mind when an Ohioan thinks of Asia. I was wrong:
Bangkok – Parking Toys
Beijing – Mao Mao Chong
Yangon – The Strand
Siem Reap – Laundry
Tokyo – Ace’s
Manila – Mogwai
Saigon – Era Cafe
Handmade, friendly, stylish and … Read More »
“On the twenty-third day of the month of September,
in an early year of a decade not too long before our own,
the human race suddenly encountered a deadly threat to its very existence.
And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do, in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places…”
-prologue to Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
September always has a hint of change and danger. On September 30, 2009, my first full year of travel in Asia had just finished. I was tired. I was also in northern Sumatra- the largest, and most wild island that makes up the dramatic archipelago of Indonesia.
Specifically, I was on a bumpy bus from the amazing Lake Toba to Bukittinggi exactly one year after I had first flown into Tokyo and found my apartment there. I was reflecting on the year, when … Read More »
Alongside a visit to a foreign doctor, getting a foreign haircut is one of the most daunting tasks a traveler must overcome. Many will let their hair grow out simply to avoid this confusing, and potentially very disappointing, challenge. But, having your hair cut is as urgent as appendicitis. Sometimes you gotta get rid of it, hippie.
To get a good haircut, you will need a photo, a smile and the ability to give the stylist confidence. To get a bad haircut, you need only say these three words:
“I am traveling.”
“Tôi đang đi du lịch”
“저는 여행중 입니다.”
I consistently lie to two groups of people: tailors and hairdressers. To the tailor: “I live here.” To the hairdresser: “I just moved here.”
A smart tailor knows that local customers will result in good or bad word-of-mouth. A smart hairdresser knows that someone new … Read More »
Few places on Earth meet all of a traveler’s expectations. In my imagination, Ireland was colored by impossible greens, canopied in rainbows and peppered with clouds of tiny white sheep and gray, crumbling castles. Could it all be true?
I picked up my rental car at Hertz in Dublin City Centre. My requested Bentley had not yet arrived, so I settled on a little Opel. Disappointments aside, I had a nice talk with the guy working at the Hertz:
“Never ask for directions when you’re outside of Dublin” was his first piece of advice. I was intrigued. “You’ll be seen as shrewd. Instead, say to someone: ‘Good afternoon! Have you ever been to Castle Donovan? ‘ or ‘Would there happen to be a castle near here worth having a look at…?’”.
I knew I was going to like the Irish countryside before I even got the keys. … Read More »
When I was working in Berkeley, California between 2005 and 2008, I often took advantage of cheap weekend flights to Mexico City ($300 RT / 3 hours each way). Taking Friday or Monday off would give me three nights and days to explore a little bit of Mexico City (“the DF”) and to discover a new city in central Mexico (thanks, cheap rental cars).
I took about five of these weekend trips down to Mexico City and I was able to explore the central colonial cities of San Miguel de Allende, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Querétaro and the most beautiful of all, Guanajuanto. Guanajuato is a six hour, 390km drive northwest of Mexico City.
I would recommend taking side roads to see the little towns between. Each town has its own little zocolo (town square) and cathedral. Remember that Mexican tolls are high and … Read More »
10. DAVID LOCKE (Jack Nicholson); The Passenger (1975)
Native of: USA
Lost in: North Africa and Spain
Travel may be defined by leaving one’s established location. For some, it offers an opportunity to also leave oneself.
David Locke (Nicholson) is a cynical American journalist stuck in a North African desert struggling to make a documentary on political rebels. After a frustrating day of failure and now back at his sandy ramshackle hotel, he finds his new Englishman friend in the next room has suddenly died. Wanting a change, he decides to check out of the hotel, but only after stealing the Englishman’s passport and identity. As the movie trailer cliché goes “he would soon find out that he got more than he bargained for”. Finding an appointment book in the Englishman’s belongings, he soon goes on a bizarre, rather subdued (for Nicholson) adventure through urban Barcelona and … Read More »
Steven in transit, 1985
“Where are you from?”
This question gets tossed around guesthouses, bars, bus stations and just about anywhere else people with unfamiliar faces and accents congregate. I’ve answered it so many times that I sometimes lie just to keep myself from walking away.
However, someone recently asked me a more poignant question:
“Where is your home?”
Instinctually, that question should also be an easy one. Everyone needs an address. It’s 2013. Humans no longer chase deer across continents.
But I couldn’t answer it.
Since the first time I read it at 16, I have always remembered Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again: “You can’t go back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time.” Surely, home must be able to evolve with you for it to not just be merely a memory, or … 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 »