Archive for Travel

Bulgaria, where even shaking your head is miscommunication

In most countries, hand signals, a smile and a nod of the head will get you by. In Bulgaria, just throw everything out the window and deal with the fact that you are going to be misunderstood. you don’t know the language. the letters are in Cyrillic. Some hand signals are offensive or mean communism or things you didn’t intend. Lastly, even shaking your head means the opposite of what you think. Correct, nodding your head up and down means “no” whereas happily shaking your head side to side means “yes”. For all you guys out there who think that you were getting somewhere with that beautiful Bulgarian woman, sorry to burst your bubble. She was saying “no”.

Help to Avoid Delays and Cancellations

I’m for anything that helps beat the airlines at their game. I want any information that they are unwilling to hand out. Here’s another website that actually takes historical information and lets you track which days and flights have the highest cancellations or delays. AVOID THESE FLIGHTS! don’t avoid this web page.

Plain of Jars – Awesome to see…and a little hairy.

The Plain of Jars is one of those trippy places that make you feel that history is not even close to what our teachers said it was like. It was way cooler. Why, for example, would a culture in Laos build hundreds of huge jars out of stone and then just leave them lying around the countryside? These things are gigantic and took a lot of work. What were they for? How did they make them?

One thing to note before you go busting out there is that during the Vietnam war, a lot of cluster bombs were dropped in this area so a lot of unexploded ordinance remains in the area. Definitely off the beaten path and you will need a licensed guide. For more information, this site seems to have some great insights on the place.

Kinda Dorky But Convenient

This thing isn’t really my style but eliminating hassle is. Basically it’s a vest where you can hold your tickets, passport, snacks, everything you would be searching for when going through an airport. Just keep it in one of the tons of pockets in this vest. The coolest part is just throwing it on the x-ray conveyer and just walking through. If this is your kind of deal, here is a good place to get one.

“That You May Walk (Travel) in Peace”

It can get a little wild in a foreign country where tourists sometimes have a target on their back. You have money, you are distracted, you are not expecting a problem. The underbelly of humanity, in any country, knows this and can take advantage. The above quote comes from an Israeli self defense system known as Krav Maga.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga

It’s made for average people without a lot of time on their hands to be a Judo master or anything. Old, young, heavy, small, it doesn’t matter in this system as the Israelies created it for their army (everyone has to join). The FBI and many police forces have made this their primary training as it’s so easy to learn yet brutal towards attackers. Knowing what to do if it gets dicey will certainly help you “travel in peace.”

Yotel, I kind of dig this.

You know those Japanese sleeping pods, just big enough to lay down in? Well, the idea is catching on at other places, too. They’re basically mini hotels complete with bed, television and kind of look like something you would get on a railroad car. Bathrooms are communal in most of them but they’re clean, safe, and the savings are great http://blogs.asbur..ra.html. Now they even have some at Heathrow, in Amsterdam, and at other places around the world. For me it’s perfect for a few quick zz’s between flights or a place to be if I’m coming off the field feeling poorly. You can rent a few hours, a day, whatever you need. If you’re interested, take a look at Yotel.com.

Paying to LEAVE a country; be ready for it.

Just one little quick tip today when traveling to an off-the-beaten-path country. Sometimes you have to pay to LEAVE! The scenario is like this: You have had a wonderful time, saw the sights, bought some souvenirs, spent your last bit of money on a trinket or two. You went through the airline ticket line and customs as well and now your are headed toward your gate…. or so you think. Ah, look, one more line! What’s this for? It’s an “airport tax” to leave the country! I know that in the Philippines, it’s somewhere around 25 USD but must be paid in pesos. What does one do if he or she doesn’t have it? I have no idea. Fortunately we were tipped off and had saved the money for each person in our group of 15 people. Yes, that’s right, a cool 375 extra US dollars for our group to leave the country. OUCH!!

The Russian Banya. It has to be done.

The Russians invented the Banya because during a Russian winter one can feel as if he will never be warm again. It’s the kind of cold that seeps deep into your bones and holds on tight. Only the Banya can have victory over this kind of frost. Basically the Banya is a room (either a little log house or a more professional, spa-looking sauna) where they jack up the heat to unbearable levels. Sometimes dry, sometimes steam, one sits and sweats and sweats with periods of running out into the cold to regain your sanity. While these sweat rooms are fairly common in the colder countries, what makes it peculiarly Russian (other than the usual copious amounts of Vodka) are the “Veniki”. These are birch twigs with leaves attached, used to slap all over your body to “get the blood moving”. I think it adds just a touch of cruelty to make every Russian feel at home. Probably the best part of the Banya is that the Russians put so much effort into it. They get that gleam in their eye, kind of a dangerous gleam but you know it’s going to end up good.

Beating the Airline Ticket Guessing Game

I’ve found a free site that rocks and is actually usefull! It’s called farecast.com and basically it takes historical and current data to see the cheapest time to buy tickets. You know how it goes: “what if I leave on Sunday or Monday? What if this week or next week? When does the season end? What If I stay 13 days or 12 days” Well, this site beats them at their game. They make it so confusing that we just guess and make bad decisions. What do we need? Information and here it is!

Do a Layover in Hong-Kong. Inexpensive and totally worth it.

If you’re heading “off the beaten path” anywhere in Asia, you might as well make a stop in Hong Kong on your way in or out. For roughly 100 USD, you can stay in the local YMCA which is situated in an awesome part of Kowloon. Best of all, it’s really quite a nice place to stay, just like any hotel.

Not Bad

Not Bad

 If you were roughing it in some jungle somewhere or schmoozing at some beach somewhere, it’s always good to touch one more place before heading home. For me, the two day layover was a highlight of my trip. Hong Kong is so beautiful and interesting, I will include it on any trip I can. Just remember to bring an umbrella!