BootsnAll Travel Network

San Francisco: I live here now

May 17th, 2007

So visit my new blog: until because.


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San Diego: Retrospectively

March 23rd, 2007

Been home a little more than a week now. Yep. It’s great to be back, even if I have no friggin’ idea what comes next here in this grand meanderin’ life I’m leading. So we’ll see ’bout all that, but for now let’s have a look back at the trip that was.

From start to finish, a rundown of the places I layed my head each night: Hong Kong: Hong Kong -> Thailand: Bangkok -> Koh Chang -> Bangkok -> Chiang Mai -> Pai -> Chiang Mai -> Chiang Rai -> Laos: Houayxai -> Pakbeng -> Louang Prabang -> Phonsavan -> Vang Vieng -> Vientiane -> Pakxe -> Champasak -> Don Khong -> Don Det -> Cambodia: Kratie -> Kompong Chom -> Siem Reap -> Phnom Penh -> Sihanoukville -> Kampot -> Vietnam: Saigon -> Nha Trang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Ninh Binh -> Hanoi -> Halong Bay -> Hanoi -> Sapa -> Hanoi -> Thailand II: Bangkok -> Koh Phangan -> Khao Sok -> Krabi -> Koh Phi Phi -> Phuket -> Krabi -> Koh Lanta -> Trang -> Malaysia: Penang (Georgetown) -> Kuala Lumpur -> Miri -> Mulu -> Miri -> Kuching -> Singapore: Singapore -> Indonesia: Kuta -> Ubud -> Padang Bai -> Gili Trawangan -> Mataram -> Senggigi -> Kuta -> Australia: Melbourne -> Lorne -> Warnambool -> Robe -> Adelaide -> Melbourne -> Brisbane -> Byron Bay -> Sydney -> New Zealand: Auckland -> Hahei -> Raglan -> Rotorua -> Taupo -> Tongariro -> Wellington -> Abel Tasman -> Barrytown -> Franz Josef -> Makarora -> Queenstown -> Routeburn -> Queenstown -> Christchurch -> Auckland

Then, LAX.

Of course, these weren’t all the places I went, just where I slept each night. Bounced around quite bit, it would seem. In fact, the place I stayed the longest was Gili Trawangan, for ten days after Christmas and over New Year’s. It was a tropical paradise! Loved that place. The cheapest night’s stay I had was on Don Det, in southern Laos. 10,000 kip a night — or roughly $1.25. Included in the price was a super chilled-out cow and a few chickens in the yard out front. So that was fun. Those were probably my two most super-favorite places, as a matter of fact — others receiving votes are Pai, Koh Lanta (and specifically the Andaman Sunflower guesthouse), Kuching, Melbourne and pretty much all of New Zealand.

Had a brilliant time throughout, natch. Of all the places I visited, and speaking in broad generalities now, the only country I feel like I don’t need to go back to is Vietnam. Everywhere else seems to hold more possibilities, more opportunities for further exploration. Vietnam surely does, as well, but it doesn’t interest me in the same way — I’m not drawn back there. (Unless I’m going with Eddie Le!) But I feel like I did just about everything one “should” do there, as a tourist — and the difficulties and constant haggling and harassment that are part of the package, as it were, would make it a low priority, if I were to again consider going back to SE Asia. Give me some Chinese difficulties, or some Burmese harassment instead!

You see what I mean.

For future reference, on this trip, I: went skinny dipping (in Halong Bay); slept on a pile of life jackets (on the overnight ferry from Koh Phangan); ate crickets, chicken feet, raw beef, snake and goat (not at the same time); drank snake whiskey, moonshine rice wine and opium tea; saw a king cobra (in a cage) and a python (in the wild); went whitewater rafting, only finding out afterwards that a woman had drowned rafting on the same river two weeks prior; rode an elephant; headbanged in Borneo; got pink eye; snorkelled with sea turtles; hiked 20km in a day; went to an Aussie trance music festival; ate just once at a McDonald’s (on Lombok); climbed a glacier; saw a woman do amazing things with her vagina; was the best pool player in the bar, one night on Lanta; saw the Southern Cross and an upside-down Orion; hung out with some great people from all over the world; earned scuba certification; befriended a monk; had a legless beggar-child dangle from my arm; saw (but never set foot in) China, Brunei and Burma; met a guy who opened a beer bottle with his teeth; read eighteen books; travelled by plane, bus, train, car, truck, motorcycle, boat, minibus, longtail boat, tuk-tuk, songthaew, sedomo, river raft, catamaran, prop plane, ferry, bicycle and (naturally) my own two feets.

Truly, there were no bad experiences. I was sorta bummed that I wasn’t able to get to Java in Indonesia, due to some pesky flight scheduling issues. I sure woulda liked to have seen Jogjakarta and Mt. Bromo — and Borobudur was the only box on my pre-trip list that I didn’t get to check off. Alas, ’twas not meant to be, this time. Yet I shall get there some day. Surely I shall!

Also, I’ve pretty much organized my photos, so you — YOU! — can now check out my 50 favorites from the trip. Keep in mind, these are just my favorites, not necessarily the “best” (whatever that means), or the most scenic, or whatever. Just the ones that I look at and say to myself, “I really love this photo.” Hope you do, too.

I’m just glad I’ve had the free time the past few days to be able to go through and upload and tag and rotate and organize most of them photos. And yet! — there are still a ton that are untagged. And yet again! — I will still encourage you to take a look at the other sets, especially the New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia ones, since I never really did post any of those photos here. If you care.

I’m over trying to sort through them much more. It’s really time-consuming and annoying, after awhile. Also, I noticed while uploading that all of my photos from Australia and New Zealand were taken on a lower pixel setting — i.e., when my camera got “fixed” (for the second time), they changed the default photo size, which saves room on your memory card but reduces the size (and thus, the quality) of your images. After all of the camera issues I had — from breaking my old one on my hip while crashing a motorbike to dropping the new one in a river and trying to get it fixed twice thereafter — to come home and find out that a couple of the really sweet photos wouldn’t enlarge for printing and framing… well, let’s just say that was a bit of a burn.

Damn photographs. I guess it just means I have to go back and do the whole trip over again. Yea, would that I could…

I kept an okay journal during my travels, maybe not quite as thorough as I now would have hoped, but it does have some good memories in there, as well as a (nearly) comprehensive list of all the different people I met along the way. But at some point on my trip, I wrote these words in my journal — wrote them in really, REALLY big letters. Separated out, one word on each page. As a reminder:


And I won’t. The question now is: Where to next?


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Queenstown: One post from New Zealand

February 27th, 2007

I might as well post what I’ve been doing for the past month or so, right? Right!

All you need to know about NZ is that it’s fantastic. It’s beautiful, the people are lovely, it’s easy to find some amazingly scenic stuff without even trying that hard — and if you put a little bit of effort into it, you’ll discover some truly gorgeous places. But you knew all this already.

So here’s a quick lil’ rundown o’ what I’ve been doing, in no particular order:

– Climbed a glacier. Watched some crazy Dutch girls swim in a glacial pool.
– Saw glowworms. Lots of them, all alight at night. Then looking up and seeing the Milky Way, and the Southern Cross.
– Met a dude who opened a beer bottle with his teeth, and who then taught me how to open a beer bottle with another empty beer bottle*.
– Swam in a geothermal river.
– Went sailing and saw seals mating.
– Ate a possum pie.
– Saw a rabbit getting sheared.
– Went to some places that were used as settings for Lord of the Rings, tried to picture them in the film, some more successfully than others, and was ultimately satisfied with knowing I’d seen a good number of places for free and hadn’t paid an obscene amount to take one of the lame guided tours which feature costumed guides, props and little plastic toy characters to “recreate” scenes from the movies.
– Wore a panty on my head. I would try to explain this one, but what’s the point?
– Hiked 20km in one day, and 35km in three days, on #10 of National Geographic’s Eleven Best Hikes in the World. In a word: Awesome.
– Took a kajillion photos. Which I’ll upload… later!
– Done hung out a ton, and shot a load of the breeze, with all sorts of people from the Stray bus, as we’ve criss-crossed this many-splendoured land from north-to-south and side-to-side.

So. That’s all I can think of, for now. I head off to Christchurch tomorrow, then it’s a quick flight back up north to Auckland, to meet up with my buddy Nick again. We’re going to check out a Super 14 rugby match, which should be sweet as. Then: back home next week. Aieeee! Yeah, it’s crazy. I’m pretty conflicted about it, of course — looking forward to seeing friends and fam again, bummed to be leaving behind this nomadic revelry. But you know, it’s all part of the same journey. Yeah.


* A feat I have been unable to replicate since.

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Byron Bay: This side of the Pacific

February 2nd, 2007

there are at least five dudes
with dreads in the hostel here,
one will teach you how to carve
a didgeridoo if you want to,
and another wears funny pants

another dude was in a music video
once, one i met at dinner hates Australia
for some reason, another is really
really tall, a young French one lost
his shirt and the guy who sleeps
above me looks like Rhys Ifans

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Melbourne: Road trippin’, lamb eatin’, tennis seein’, lawn bowlin’, serpent knowin’…

January 22nd, 2007

Some things that have happened since I left Bali and flew to Melbourne on the 9th:

– Took a road trip along the south coast of Australia, on what’s called the Great Ocean Road. Very scenic and neat, a lot of quaint little Aussie seaside towns along the way. On this trip, I successfully drove a car on the left side of the road, shifting with my left hand and everything. We also saw kangaroos, kookaburras, wallabys, bats and cockatoos that are loud as hell and wake you up with their cawing before dawn every day. The wallabys and kookaburras and pretty red-and-black birds that I have no idea the name of were only found when we took off down a random dirt road, which was quite the adventure. Stayed in a place called Warnambool. Learned how lush an adjective “lush” is. Ate some of the best lamb ever.

– Saw Roger Federer play tennis. Also: Rafael Nadal on the practice court, Daniela Hantuchova (meow!) playing doubles, some guy named Baghdatis who is hugely popular here but I’d never heard of before — and a bunch of other random players playing. Also saw Jim Courier walking around — he does a superb job doing the announcing for the big matches here. Tennis tournaments are fun, I now realize. I want to go to the U.S. Open sometime. I also saw Gael Monfils out at a bar on Saturday night, after he’d lost to fellow countryman Richard Gasquet. So there I was, standing outside with our group of folks, waiting to make a move to the next whiskey bar, and he walks out the door. I recognize him, and mind you I’m really drunk at this point (it’s around 3 a.m.), and so all I can think of to do is say, “Gael! Hey Gael!” And he turns and looks at me… and all of a sudden, I’m at a loss. Because I am at least sharp enough to NOT say the one thing that pops into my mind (“Sorry you lost!”) — instead, I just give him the international “hang loose” symbol, with an extra dorky swerve to it. He smiles a big smile despite my dorkitude, and then walks away with his entourage. An entourage that was not too shabby, I might add. Then we went back to Meg’s friends’ house and wore funny hats. So, yeah. That was a fun night.

– Went lawn bowling with another group of folks who are friends with my friend Meg here. (To everyone who knows Megan, she says hi.) Then we watched the Melbourne gay pride parade go by — and I scoffed. (“This ain’t no gay pride parade! Come to San Francisco, we’ll show you a gay pride parade!” … yes, we were drinking while bowling, and this was the afternoon after my late night drunken accosting of a French tennis player, so I was probably still a wee bit tipsy …) Actually, it was good gay fun — I mean, how many naked gay dudes in leather fishnet outfits do you really need to make it a quality gay pride parade? This one had at least four.

– Saw an exhibit at the Museum of Southern Australia in Adelaide about Aboriginal culture. Very interesting stuff. Like how they came to Australia: someone sailed (or rowed) sometime around 50,000 years ago across the strait separating the continents of Asia and Australia, or Sahul, as this continent at this stage of plate tectonics was known. This is one of the great feats of the ancient world — that some primordial primate (okay, not really — I just liked the sound of “primordial primate”) — that some early man decided to sail off towards NOWHERE. To a land that he didn’t know was out there. And to bring friends. (Or, it is a paradigm-shifting geological and evolutionary mystery that contemporary archaeological science cannot even begin to fathom… which is possibly even cooler…) Also learned about the Aboriginal belief system here. That the world was created in The Dreaming — and that The Dreaming is ongoing and ever-active. That the creation of a story is also the creation of the thing — so each individual, whether its a person, an animal, a rock, an ant or a tree, each creature’s Dreamtime is their personal identity, from the past forward to the now. That these stories are metaphors and maps, directions to ways to cross over mountains or self-defining allegories. The Rainbow Serpent is one of the major mythological creatures featured in the Dreaming tales, as it lives in rivers and lakes, and metaphorically controls all the water — and I’m sure to learn more about this next weekend…

Because Friday is Australia Day, which is their version of July 4. Big summer bbq party fireworks stuff. And I’m going with Megan to the Rainbow Serpent Festival, a music/art/hippie festival outside of Melbourne, that is dedicated to (you guessed it!) the Rainbow Serpent. Should be good times, good ole summer music festival stylee, but Aussie style.

Yep yep yep. G’day, y’all.

Oh, P.S.: My camera is fixed, and I’ve taken a lot of photos here, I’m just lazy ’bout the upload. Stay tuned, though. Cheers.


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Kuta: You’ll never get out of here alive

January 6th, 2007

Ahh, travel. Is there anything better than being on an island in Indonesia (Lombok) and wanting to get to another island (Bali), an island a mere 20 km away, and not being able to? Indeed, after NYE, I was on my way back over to Bali, to continue on around Indonesia for the next two weeks, before catching my connecting flight to Australia on the 16th… except I couldn’t get off Lombok. The ferries weren’t running. There’d been some heavy weather and the seas were choppy — indeed, a similar ferry to the one I wanted to get on sank off Java on Dec. 29 and lots of people died. So: safety first. I am down with that.

Travel fact: When in Indonesia, do not get on a ferry in stormy weather.

All of this meant that, after having a tremendously fun and relaxing week, I left Gili Trawangan and landed on Lombok, and ran right into the midst of a chaotic nightmare, where no one knew anything about (a) if the ferry actually might be running today, (b) when the ferry for certain will be running again (“maybe this afternoon!”), and (c) what would be a cheap alternative to a ferry — like, say, a flight. I didn’t have any really pressing concerns, but I knew a couple folks who needed to make connections in Bali and Jakarta and elsewhere. And there were many more like them. Drama! Yeah, two days of waiting for some guy to make the decision whether to send the ferry or not, two days of hanging around Mataram, the biggest city in Lombok, a place with all the personality of a drill bit. (i.e., it was boring… aww, forget it.)

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Gili Trawangan: Happy New Year

January 1st, 2007

Last night was fun. I was at a giant party along a strip of bars on a beach boardwalk on this tiny tropically paradise-y island I’m on. Everywhere decorated in cool light designs and artwork. Everyone wandering around (happily drunk, possibly high and probably smiling) saying Happy New Year to strangers and generally enjoying the best New Year’s party I’ve ever been to.

I never like NYE because it always gets built up so much with expectation. Here, it was no different — but the party was fun. It wasn’t overcrowded, overpriced, over-annoying — like, you didn’t need to worry about finding a taxi, since there are no cars on Gili Trawangan.

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Ubud: And then I did this

December 23rd, 2006

I’ve been doing a lot and haven’t posted anything lately after making the effort earlier to put something on here about once a week, so I just thought I’d post something just to post it and not really because I have the desire to do a rundown of the things I’ve been doing in light of the fact that I really don’t want this blog to be about “And then I did this… and then I did this… and then I did this…” — even if that’s what it really is about, anyway.

Anyway, hey! I’m in the finals of my fantasy football league! The finals, bitches. From fricking Southeast Asia. I’ve had some really suckass teams of late, so I’m as surprised as the next guy. The next guy being Chris, who I beat in the semifinals — and he has LaDanian Tomlinson on his team. Let me repeat that: He has LDT on his team, and lost. I started Jeff Garcia. Yep, I’m as surprised as anyone. Better luck next year, Chrissie. Haha! Sucka.

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Kuching: Pinnacular

December 12th, 2006

Being dehydrated is a bit like being drunk. You don’t have the same euphoric recklessness, sure, but after a time, you will have a similar loss of motor control. Your limbs start acting strange, you feel woozy, and often you’ll throw up and pass out in a heap.

Well, that’s what happened to me, anyway. Yes, indeed — I got dehydrated here in the tropics. This happened in Gunung Mulu National Park, when I climbed the trail to see the Pinnacles. And you know what, it was worth it.

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Kuala Lumpur: Bombcheck!

December 4th, 2006

Yesterday, I could have eaten at a Chili’s. Or a CPK. Or a TGI Friday’s. Or an Outback Steakhouse. Or a roadside stall selling awesome chicken-and-rice cooked in a claypot — which is where I did eat. And it was awesome. Then I bought a fresh-squeezed guava-apple juice for $0.25.

Yesterday, I went to the Museum of Islamic Arts, the only one like it in the world, and I saw some amazing Koranic calligraphy, as well as some cool artifacts from across the Muslim world. I also learned about many a famed Arab scholar who, to my Western-orientated-and-edumacated self, were amazing to learn about.

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