31 January 2012

I've Moved!

Find me here on Tumblr.
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17 May 2011

Travel on Airbnb.com

Over the past year I've been trying to stay at places that aren't hotels. Rather I try and look for rooms for rent or apartments for rent. I've found that a) these are the places that the locals live and b) you get more for the money.

That being said, the best resource I've found to book a place like this is through airbnb.com. The largest obstacle to finding a room or apartment to rent is having to go through all the different sites to find it, ie Craigslist, or one off sites. airbnb solves this by consolidating many places into one easy to navigate site. So next time you're traveling and are looking for a different place to stay that can easily be booked, take a look at airbnb.

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23 March 2011

Made it Home & Final Pictures

Well after about three months in many Asian countries, we made it home. Here are the final pictures from Shanghai, Beijing, Xian and Hong Kong.

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03 March 2011

New Zealand in Pictures

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14 February 2011

Back at It

After a little while, it’s probably worthwhile to write down some thoughts of what has been going on.

Let’s see, a few weeks ago was Manila.

Overall, a great experience. While I was only there for four days, I felt like I was able to experience much of the country. This was mostly due to the helpfulness of my classmate Carlo. I was able to try scuba diving, see a volcano crater and be on a game show all in the span of a few days. Looking back, this was probably one of the most exciting string of four days in my life. I also found out that Philippine sausages are very good. Pig face is also very good.

Last week was Bangkok. One of the main points that was reinforced constantly in my mind is “do not trust tuk-tuk drivers”. Given the chance these guys will drive you to every gem shop and tailor in the whole city. They’re not threatening mind you, but rather annoying. After a while, especially if you know their game, they can be somewhat amusing and in fact, there isn’t much more that I enjoy that a quick ride on these death trap on wheels. Just avoid them in tourist
areas and they’re good.

Another comment I’d like to make is about Asian malls. While every country I’ve visited here is different in their own little ways, their malls in every country are exactly the same. I’ve never been in a place where I can buy the same shirt from Zara ten times over. In Singapore I could probably buy the same shirt in fifty different places. No longer is the Asian mall a bargain hunt that it once was.

The rest of Bangkok is great. I love the food and the atmosphere. No other place in the world can you find so much awesome food at such low prices. The food there is generally clean as well. This is a variable that a traveller definitely can’t ignore, though it sounds somewhat lame to mention it as criteria for a nice place to visit.

The past few days have been spent in Singapore going through a gauntlet of classes: Three hours Friday, seven on Saturday and eight on Sunday. A lot of learning for sure.

Coming up in the next few days: We’re planning on finishing up a lot of school work, visiting Indonesia, maybe getting my iPhone back (had a battery that was in the process of exploding) and seeing the last of our list of things to do in Singapore. Come next week our time here is virtually finished and we’ll be in New Zealand enjoying a ten day vacation from our vacation.

Until next time… here are A LOT more pictures!

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04 February 2011

Last We Heard...

You were in Hanoi. Here we are about nine days later with no updates. So to make it easy I'll do a quick breakdown with more pictures to follow sooner or later:

January 29 - Classes all day. Well one got canceled. We then went to Ion Orchard for a nice dim sum dinner. It was nice while walking back from Ion, there was a ton of rain and we were the only ones with an umbrella and therefore the only ones walking around.

January 30 - Studied all day and got computer stuff done. Not too exciting. Later that night we tried to get a taxi to the airport and almost missed our flight since there was so much rain and so few taxis. We made it though.

January 31 - Awoke on the plane to find ourselves in Manila at 5am. Our friend Carlo picked us up and fed us. We mercifully were allowed to sleep a few more hours before meeting up with more of our friends and going on a walking tour of Old Manila.

February 1 - Got up super early today and went to the beach to do some Scuba Diving. Do I have a license? No. Was it a lot of fun? Yes.

February 2 - Got up super early again. This time we were heading to Mount Pinatubo and swam in Lake Pinatubo. Swimming in the lake was one of my trip highlights. It's definitely beautiful up there!

February 3 - Was on a Philippine Game Show. No big deal.

So that's it. Nine days! Stay tuned for pictures!

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26 January 2011

What to Do in Hanoi?

Simple. You eat pho and try not to get hit by a motorbike and or car. See examples of both below:

Keep up to date as I'll be adding some more photos, videos and commentary in the near future!

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25 January 2011

Hello Bangkok, Singapore and Hanoi!

Last we left off, we had just arrived in Bangkok. In the three days following we at a lot of great food (Tom Yum, Khao Soi, plus A LOT more), went to my cousin's 600 person wedding, saw a dead body, and went to the Thailand Design Center. Overall not a bad way to spend a few days.

One of the things I miss whenever I leave Bangkok is the food. There is a lot of it and it's cheap and relatively clean. When you walk the streets there are small stands and shops selling all sorts of food. With each dish costing about $1, it's hard not to fill up on meals and snacks.

The next thing we saw was a dead body. While driving along in a taxi, traffic suddenly backed up. After getting to the front of the wreck, we saw what had happened. In Bangkok, at places, the traffic can get pretty rough, and it's very much a Frogger-like situation so you have to be very careful when crossing the street. Unfortunately, this individual wasn't so lucky.

On a happier note, we went to my cousin's wedding. The reception was great with many Thai traditions which included, Monks, tying strings to each others heads and more.

Then there was the ceremony, which we only got to attend a part of since we had class in Singapore the next morning. Basically, it was a 600 person affair with a lot of great Thai food at a fancy hotel. It was quite the production and made me feel I was at the wedding of some sort of superstar!

From the wedding reception we then headed off to the airport to get back to Singapore. We were in bed by 2am and up at 7am to get ready for class.

After classes we then headed off the next morning to Hanoi, where we are right now... more on that in a bit.

See below the pictures from our trip from Singapore to Thailand.

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19 January 2011

48 Hours of Trains

After being in Singapore for two weeks it was time to get out and see some of Southeast Asia. What is the best way to see the most? A 48 hour train ride from Singapore to Bangkok with stops at Kuala Lumpur and Penang along the way.

Early Sunday morning we took off from Singapore's train station (which is due to close in July 2011) in our worn yet "luxurious" first class cars. After clearing Malaysian customs we were treated with six hours of jungles, construction and countless children waving at us.

Once we arrived at KL Sentral Station we collected the tickets for the rest of our journey. We had to get them in KL because of a strange system glitch in the Malay Rail System. Despite the fact the Singaporean train station is in the middle of Singapore, it is considered Malay property. When you buy the tickets there you get charged in the numeric amount of a ticket in Ringgit but in Singapore Dollars. So a ticket that would normally be 60 Ringgits in KL ($20) would cost S$60 ($40) in Singapore. Strange but true.

From there we took some time to see KL. The first stop was the Petronas Towers. It lived up to its expectations for the magnitude of its size. Additionally, the shops below met the expectation of making me feel poor. Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton,etc... Way too much cash for me. For there we walked to the KL Tower, and then to Lot 10. Lot 10 is a fairly fancy mall, however, the aspect that drew us there was the food court. When Lot 10 was created they invited 20 of the best street food vendors to open their shop within the food court. It was good for sure and we ended up with some very tasty beef noodles and green tea shaved ice.

After dinner we made our way back to KL Sentral and got in our private compartment for our trip to Penang and George Town.

At 4:45am we were awoken to find ourselves in Butterworth. At 5:30am we were then heading to George Town in Penang. Once we arrived we took the first bus to Kek Lok Si Temple on the other side of Penang. This temple is situated within an enormous complex with a giant statue of the Goddess of Mercy. Next, we strolled through the local market and then the unique streets of George Town. For lunch we stopped and got a dish of fish curry, banana cake and tea tarik for 60 cents per person.

It was then time for our last train from Butterworth to Bangkok. Unfortunately, since we were riding a on a Thai train, we were not able to upgrade to a private car. Rather, we ended up in a second class car which wasn't too bad (aside from the lights being on all night with people talking constantly). After 20 hours of seeing Malaysian and Thai countryside we arrived in Bangkok and got our favorite meal, Khao Soi!

It's been surprisingly cool here and I'll follow with more updates soon!

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13 January 2011

Videos From Today

Not too much going on today. We started off by getting our student visa cards (we can leave Singapore now), got our tickets to Bangkok (via train), went to Sentosa Island (tourist trap waiting to happen) and finally did some shopping at some fancy malls (malls consist of 90% of the things to do in Singapore!). Videos below:

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Hot in Sentosa

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#1 Bathroom!

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12 January 2011

New Videos

Three new videos from Singapore.
1 - Palau Ubin 2 - Peking Duck 3 - Some Japanese Fish Shaped Pastry


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11 January 2011

More Photos

Still stuck in Singapore, we went the an island 10 minutes off the east coast of Singapore: Palau Ubin


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08 January 2011

Where We Are Today

Warning! The post below is long with a lot of pictures!

Los Angeles – Vancouver – Hong Kong – Shenzhen – Chongqing – Macau – Singapore

Two weeks. It’s almost been two weeks since we left the United States for our Asian studies excursion. As you can see above we’ve been to quite a few cities since then.

Welcome to Hong Kong

Starting off, Hong Kong was great. We got to meet up with our classmate Carlo and get a great first meal of duck at MX (a division of Maxim’s) in Hong Kong. It was perfect because we got in and ate late and while it should have been dark out, it was still as bright as the daytime due to all the neon signs.
The next day we woke up early to do our typical walking days through the streets of Hong Kong. The first point in our journey was my bright idea of walking in the wrong direction for an hour. After grabbing a taxi to make up for the mistake, we ended up at the Western Market, an old Western styled market hall. From there we went on a walking tour that took us past the preserved seafood market, to Man-mo Temple, up the Midlevel Escalators all the way to Victoria Peak where we got a great view of the city. From there we headed even further up the hill and up a rickety staircase to reach an even high peak which had great views of Aberdeen. We then took in the city light show and twelve hours after we started, called it a day.

Into China (Shenzhen)

Originally, the day after we were planning to go to Lantau Island, however, we had to cross the border to Shenzhen as we were flying out the next day. We weren’t sure of the time it would take to cross the border, so we decided to error on having too much time in Shenzhen rather than too little. After crossing we immediately hopped on the subway to take us to a Shenzhen suburb to our hotel. Once securing our $30 a night room with a circular shower (beam me up Scotty!) we went and explored the city’s numerous fancy shopping malls. I felt poor in the US, in Shenzhen I felt like a pauper.

Into the Heart of China (Chongqing)

The day after, we left Shenzhen for Chongqing to meet our classmate for some great Chongqing hospitality. The first stop was for a Chongqing specialty, hot pot. It was GOOD. You can try it at home: lots of oil, chili peppers, black pepper and secret spices are put into a… hot pot and you dip various meat products in it (intestines, tripe, eel, fish, you name it). It was good and filling and a perfect first meal. Afterwards, we went and explored the city and saw where boats for the Yangtze River Cruise Begin. We finally finished up the day with another great meal with dim sum, chicken, peanut milk, and a lot more. Once again we were very full, and were beginning to realize that food would be something we would not be in short supply of while in Chongqing.

That's all for now. Enjoy a lot of pictures below!

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07 January 2011

Meat Skewers in Chongqing!

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Update From Singapore

I need to do a quick update for our trip to China. I've been meaning to do it the past few days, but we've been walking around so much that the routine has been get home at 10pm, fall asleep til 2am, brush teeth and then go back to bed. Hopefully in the next few days we'll be able to break this cycle and do a proper China recap. Plus if we get internet, maybe there will be photos!

Other than that, Singapore has been great. It's really easy to live here with all the amenities that you could get anywhere in the world (for a price).

Yesterday, we had our MBA orientation and met our classmates from: Canada, U.S., France, Norway, China, Korea, and more. It should be a great half semester and I'm sure it'll fly by.

In order to get our student visas our departure cards were taken, so we have one week with nothing to do but relax in Singapore. The key is doing that relaxing without breaking the piggy bank. With the hawker stalls that may be possible as meals are around $3 per person for great food. I think we've already had four Indian meals since we've been here!

Anyway, China recap will be coming soon... I promise!
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03 January 2011

To Singapore

After a week in China, we are now at Macau International for our flight to Singapore. Orientation is tomorrow and hopefully some pictures will follow tomorrow.

See you in Singapore!

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02 January 2011

Yum in Chongqing!

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31 December 2010

In the heart of China

After a quick two days in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, we arrived this
morning in Chongqing to visit our classmate, Timtim.

Before writing about what we did today, I'll recap what we have done
since we've been here in Asia.

Starting off, when we arrived Tuesday night, we met up with Carlo, who
is another classmate of ours and immediately went on an hour long walk
through SoHo and Kowloon looking for food. We settled on MX, a local
chain that provides trendy Cantonese food. After a long flight, it was
nice to get some great food with a familiar face.

The next day, Kristen and I hit up Hong Kong in our usual style.
Starting at 9am we visited the Stanley Market, got dim sum at a local
eatery where we were the only Westerners there, visited Man Mo Temple,
saw trendy shops, went to Victoria Peak, and saw the Hong Kong Light
Show. With limited time it was good to cram a few days worth of
activities into a single day.

Yesterday, we had originally planned on visiting Lantau Island,
however we were concerned with the time it would take to cross the
border into Shenzhen, so we decided to go immediately. We left our
apartment at around 11am and got settled into our hotel around 2pm. We
found a nice hotel (Home Inn) that had a fairly nice room for a cheap
$30 per night! We then headed off to the pedestrian shopping street to
take a look at the local goods. Sadly, many of the local goods turned
out to be international brand name good which we couldn't afford in
the United States, let China. After finishing up there we headed back
to our hotel, but not before we wandered the streets nearby. We
walked all the way into a local community and were able to get a brief
feel for the traditional Shenzhen lifestyle.

This now brings us up to today. This morning we got up and began to
make our way to the airport. After finding a taxing and giving him the
requisite arm signals and broken names, he finally figured out we were
trying to get to the airport. Once there we quickly made our way to
Chongqing. Once here, the first thing we noticed is that it's cold!!
On top of that, they don't like to use heat here (something about
saving money).

Since we hadn't eaten much, our first stop was for a Chongqing
specialty: Hotpot. Like it's name suggests, it is hot. However, it
isn't so hot that you can't taste the spices and flavors of the dish.
We had a fantastic meal with all sorts of beef (lips, intestines,
stomach, meat), fish, veggies and more. It was a real treat and a
great welcome to China. After we were fully stuffed, we headed off to
the dock to see the Yangzhee river. This was very enjoyable as well.
While I realized that Chongqing is a very large city, it's strange
that it never occurred to me the size of the city. It's just like any
major US city in terms of size and magnitude of the streets. I've just
never really thought of it since it's frankly overshadowed by the
Beijings and Shanghais of China.

Once finished we drove to the peak of Chongqing to get a glimpse of
the city lights. Apparently, Chongqing is known as "Hong Kong without
the electricity" due to a similar layout and lack of lights
comparatively. We finished the night off by getting another great meal
and meeting Timtim's parents.

Overall it was a great day and a very enjoyable way to step into
China. I'd write more, but it's getting late (HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM
CHINA) and we have an early start tomorrow.

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