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 »
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 »
In the middle, in an aisle seat on the side opposite of oncoming traffic.
I would estimate that I have “enjoyed” 20,000 miles on buses. I’ve survived a 36-hour ride from Beijing to Kunming, a sweltering broken-AC ride from Mulege to La Paz, Mexico, a grueling “third time’s a charm” ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh in which I rode on three different buses on one ticket due to the breakdowns of the first two, and an all-out air conditioning assault each time I’m in Malaysia.
To get the seat I want, I go in prepared. I have a little graphic showing the ticket seller of which seat I request.
Here’s a breakdown:
• Passengers in the front of the bus are vulnerable in a head-on collision. Yet, the drivers’ seat is sometimes believed to be the safest seat on the bus, due … Read More »
Direct flights are generally more expensive, hence most of us have been through layovers. For years, layovers have been accepted as an unwanted inconvenience of air travel. Internationally, a trip from San Francisco to Saigon may involve a stop in both Beijing and Bangkok, especially if you’re on a budget and searching for the lowest fare between these two cities.
What many travelers don’t know is that you can arrange for a few days (I’ve stayed up to 12 days) in your ‘layover’ city. Some airlines may let you stay up to a year. Let’s call it a laycation. Instead of having a cup of coffee in London, have a pint at The Mayflower.
So, how can you find and arrange it? Using www.kayak.com, which I use for my international flights, I can click and open up the “details” box of the flight … 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 »
5. Malcolm Lowry, UNDER THE VOLCANO (1947)
In On the Road, Dean and Sal head down Mexico way to get their kicks- and experience little else in the process. For contrast, in the less-manic Under the Volcano, alcoholic British consul Geoffrey Firmin stammers through his accepted hometown as his beloved urban purgatory- the somewhat mythical Quauhnahuac, Mexico (based on Cuernavaca, where Lowry spent much of his own life).
Under the Volcano is not a book concerned with travel, but is instead features a fascinating examination of place; particularly how it can mirror our own personal standing in life, or vice versa. Lowry paints a vivid picture of the small city, with its dirty cantinas, disappearing (and reappearing) volcano, overgrown gardens, and luminous circus spinning eerily in the night. Anyone who has traveled through Latin America will feel these places vividly on each … Read More »
With the gradual rise of the Chinese yuan, paired with domestic inflation, China may soon no longer be considered a budget destination. Now is the time to visit. My first visit in 2008 was far cheaper than our last visit this year in the summer of 2011. As the infrastructure improves, along with overall prosperity, the cost of travel in China may soon be more comparable to Korea and Taiwan than to Southeast Asia.
For the traveler, China is a country of idiosyncrasies, paperwork, language barriers and overall confusion. For some, this may add to the country’s exotic charm, but often makes it a daunting and frustrating country to visit. As we’ve visited here over eight times now, we’ll now pass along some essential information.
6. “DUO CIAO CHIEN” (“Dow Shou Chi-en”) 多少钱
In China, be careful of getting into financial exchanges without a set price … Read More »