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10 AMERICAN CITIES THAT DESERVE MORE LOVE

Posted on December 17th, by Steven in Uncategorized, United States. 9 comments

The United States of America, the second-most visited country in the world, is rather sparsely populated. In contrast to rapidly-urbanizing developing countries, the US been reverting back to a more solitary, anti-urban lifestyle since the Second World War, leaving many of our cities with lack of investment and population.

However, America still has it’s fair share of great cities- even if some feel like relics in 2013. Generally, a first-time tourist to the US may include in their itinerary Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami – a stop in Chicago – and onto San Diego, LA, San Francisco, maybe Portland and Seattle. Those with less time will generally stick to the east or west coast only.

Those aforementioned places are our global cities and, of course, some of the best to visit. But just as no month in China is complete without … Read More »



SO, YOU WANT TO VISIT BURMA (MYANMAR)?

Posted on December 12th, by Steven in Asia, Burma, Uncategorized. 1 Comment

Hi. What’s your name?

“Before 1989, I was known as Burma. To separate me from my colonial past, my military government now calls me Myanmar. Both names come from the local Bamar ethnic group. The local intelligentsia and socially conscious travelers will still refer to me as ‘Burma’ to make a point. You can call me either.”

Do you speak English?

“Quite well. The British were here from 1824 to 1948. Today, English is widely spoken along the tourist routes and most locals are happy to communicate with you in basic English.”

When should I visit you?

“I hope you like the sun. Southern Burma, including the largest city of Yangon, is hotter and generally wetter, while northern Myanmar gets cool in the wet season and is generally drier. The hottest months throughout Burma are March and April. May to October comprises the ‘wet season’ … Read More »



THE WORLD’S 15 TALLEST PYRAMIDS

Posted on November 17th, by Steven in Uncategorized. 3 comments

The pyramid began as the best way to build tall, massive structures using only stone blocks. Less weight on top and more weight on the bottom meant less cracking and crumbling and less sophisticated engineering necessary; the sturdiest method to build with only raw materials. Modern pyramidal forms, now exceeding 1,000 feet, are today utilized for their visual qualities, not out of building necessity.

The earliest ancient pyramids are still mysterious. Methods of construction in ancient Egypt were subsequently lost to later builders. But, consider the simplicity of the design and construction of a pyramid (not that it was easy) and you can understand why the most exploitive and demonstrative of early civilizations built them- societies from Egypt to China to Mexico. They are a representation of hierarchical order and dominance.

Many buildings on this list may not be “true” pyramids. They may … Read More »



OLD SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: RENAISSANCE WITHIN REACH

Posted on November 5th, by Steven in Puerto Rico, Uncategorized. 3 comments

When living and working in a major North American city, it’s natural to want to experience some exotic, cobblestoned location when things get dull. Sometimes you have only a 3-day weekend. With no time to fly to Spain or Argentina, a more accessible option is necessary.

Old San Juan, on the fingernail of Puerto Rico’s capital city, is not the most beautiful Spanish colonial district in the Caribbean Sea (that would be Old Havana, Cuba). Old San Juan is, however, the most accessible.

In January of 2007, when Ohio was at it’s coldest and bleakest, my sister and I planned a vacation to Puerto Rico for our family. San Juan won over Mexico due to it’s accessibility from the US, lack of passport requirement (for US citizens), European heritage, and hot sun. My sister and I bought the flights and booked an … Read More »



STING’S 7 BEST SONGS ABOUT THE SEA

Posted on October 24th, by Steven in Music, Uncategorized. No Comments

I’ve been on a Sting kick of late. Nothing wrong with that.

Many reoccurring themes run through his songs: angels, love triangles, loss of religious faith, commitment, winter; but one theme has remained constant in Sting’s writing for 35 years: the sea.

Though he sang in a Jamaican accent from 1978 to 1981, Sting actually grew up in seafaring Newcastle, England- just a few blocks from the shipyards that built the world’s largest ships. Being lost at sea has been a useful metaphor for loneliness, death and rhythm. It is a theme Sting has successfully gone back to many times. The most memorable:

-7-
THE WILD, WILD SEA, The Soul Cages (1991)

This song is obviously not about a hooker.

-6-
VALPARAISO, Mercury Falling (1996)

Set in Chile’s romantic bohemian port city of Valparaiso, this song follows two lovers traveling over the sea to meet.

-5-
LOVE IS THE SEVENTH … Read More »



Český Krumlov and Kutna Hora: BEARS, BEERS AND BONE CHANDELIERS

Posted on October 12th, by Steven in Czech Republic, Europe, Travel, Uncategorized. No Comments

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 »



THE BEST BAR IN ASIA

Posted on October 6th, by Steven in Asia, Booze, South Korea, Travel, Travel Tips, Uncategorized. 3 comments

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 »



MAKING THE JOURNEY BETWEEN XIAMEN, CHINA AND TAIWAN VIA KINMEN ISLAND

Posted on October 1st, by Steven in China, Taiwan, Uncategorized. 11 comments

From 1949 to 2008, travel between China and Taiwan was not allowed, with the majority of trips between these two using Hong Kong as a stepping stone into mainland China, or vice versa. Since relations between Taiwan and China have improved, numerous flights between Taiwan and the mainland have been introduced, but most of them at a high cost to budget travelers ($300-400 usd) considering the proximity between the two.

One worthwhile option of travel is to make the trip of the beautiful colonial port city of Xiamen, on the east coast in Fujian province and one of the great unknown cities of China, to the Taiwanese island of Jinmen (about 13km off Xiamen island) and then onto the main island of Taiwan by plane. This trip can be made in either direction, though a Chinese visa is not easily obtained … Read More »



FINDING INDONESIA’S TOILET-SIZED RUFFLESIA FLOWER

Posted on September 30th, by Steven in Asia, Indonesia, Travel, Uncategorized. 1 Comment

“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 »



HOW TO GET A BAD HAIRCUT WHEN TRAVELING

Posted on September 22nd, by Steven in Travel, Travel Tips, Uncategorized. 2 comments

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.”

or…

“Viajo aquí.”
“Tôi đang đi du lịch”
“我在旅行.”
“저는 여행중 입니다.”

…etc.

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 »





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