Been jamming some travel recently, which is nice since I haven’t been in the mood much since my trip around the world. It’s nice that the excitement of the road is slowly stirring my soul once again.
I’ve also been venturing about New York City as often as I can since it only takes a couple minutes to get there and it’s only $5.50 round trip on the PATH (or $4.20 with the 10+ Trip SmartLink cards)
June 30: Montreal
Swung up to Montreal on a fairly uneventful car ride. Was pulled over for a going 75 in a 55 on the Taconic in Chatham, NY. I saw the cop but I didn’t really feel like slamming on the brakes because I was just doing the same speed as everyone else.
He pulls out behind me and throws the lights on. I look for a place to pull over and I can’t seem to find one. I have to slow down to a very slow speed on a two-way highway where people are driving at 75 miles an hour. There’s no shoulder. I slowly drive over the curb and onto the grass, still partially sticking out into the road. It’s unsafe and I end up scratching my bumper pretty badly in the process. The officer was nice. He tells me my PBA card is useless and writes me a 4-point ticket. He asked me if I had any questions. I say no and wish him a good day. He’s just doing what he’s told.
I hate speed limits. I hate speeding tickets. I hate everything that has to do with holding the world back from being efficient. It’s sad that we waste so much capital on enforcing systems that are designed to slow our progress. And it’s pathetic that the State of New York had to go through such measures to rob me. It’s the only speeding ticket I have ever got in my entire life. I think back to my time on the Autobahn and I quote it here because it makes me happy:
“Driving on the Autobahn is incredible… I’ve been cruising on the Autobahn between 90-100 mph, not pushing my little Opel past that. Even at that speed cars are passing me. It’s a beautiful thing.” – me
I’m sorry for quoting myself. I wasn’t originally planning on writing much here. I’ve lately been pretty disinterested in words. I was tempted to just throw some pictures up, but so far the words are flowing.
That was the original direction for this post three months ago. The standard rambling that I do accompanied with some pictures.
But things have changed quite a bit since then.
I’m not quite so sure how to finish this.
There are pictures that I want to post, but time has passed since they have been taken.
Back when I was deeply in love with someone who now won’t talk to me.
But so it goes in life and love.
There’s no closure.
You give your heart to someone and when things don’t work out there’s this weird thing you enter into.
Where you no longer talk.
And you no longer exist.
Because to do otherwise would be too logical and too painful.
And humans are emotional and love comfort above almost everything else.
You can take everything away from a person as long as you leave them comfortable.
Am I sad? I hope so. Sad just means you had something great.
There are a lot of opinions and a lot of feelings and a lot of things that I’m not sure I can entertain.
I followed my heart to this point in life and will continue to do so.
It’s the only way that I think is right.
At the expense of everything.
My heart guides me.
And so it will be.
So what about Montreal?
I could barely tell you.
Let’s have a look at the pictures.
The Notre Dame.
It’s a beautiful building. But at night it’s quite a site. Montreal does an amazing job with its lighting at night, and the Notre Dame is just one example.
Another is the BMO Bank of Montreal right across the street. If you were to spin the tripod around and shoot a picture, this is what you would see. Sure it’s just a bank, but on a night in Montreal it’s electric.
You may notice a lit up area above the bank. At several locations in old Montreal they play movies on the walls of buildings. The world is your theater.
There are some great bars and restaurants in old Montreal. And although it’s probably too touristy you should check it out.
Midnight passes and it’s Canada’s 150th birthday. Love to you. And love to all of Montreal which is celebrating it’s 375th year at the same time.
July 1: Montreal
I went to St-Viateur Bagel because I saw Anthony Bourdain do it. And if there’s one person set up to be as iconic to this time period as Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Kerouac were to the Beat Generation, it’s him. I’m sorry if that’s dismal but I just don’t see anyone else fitting the role better than him.
They don’t make bagel sandwiches there. You buy bagels, cream cheese, capers, and lox and make the bagel yourself. Thinking back I guess they even showed this in the show.
Back to the Notre Dame. It’s raining. It’s been raining.
Actually before we get to the Notre Dame I have to share a song I heard while I was waiting in the line to cross the border into Canada. It’s Trucs Styles by Bengale. There’s a lot of great music out this way, even on the old radio. I strongly recommend giving a listen to the radio out here if you’re road tripping through. Shout out to all the musicians out that way making great music that will never be heard by anyone.
Carrying on. Back into the gloomy clouds and rain. I was in Notre Dame about a decade earlier.
Actually. Let’s go back to before the border. Somewhere halfway through the middle of New York. Listening to some obscure radio station. Where I heard Wasted Days by Cloud Nothings. Props to you if you make it through the nine-minute track.
Ok. Take me to church. The Notre Dame is as amazing today as it was a decade ago. The colors and the lighting in this place is amazing. It’s almost completely cut out of wood.
It looks like a Disney princess castle or something.
Places of worship are too nice not to stop into.
Fleur-de-lis is a recurring symbol in my life.
Carvings and paint and light. Ultra on point. This stuff is easy to shoot.
After you see enough of this stuff head across the street to a place that sells tea.
And stroll the streets of old Montreal. I must admit not much of it looks this beautiful. It’s all covered with restaurants and tourist traps. But still, it’s nice and you should go.
On the way to Quebec City try going to Joe Beef because you saw Bourdain eat there too.
Drive through the fireworks.
But since you won’t be able to get a table, try sister restaurant Liverpool House.
And since you won’t be able to get into that either go to cousin restaurant Le Vin Papillon.
Ask the bar tender to bring you a tasting a their food because you trust his judgment and prepare to enjoy mostly vegetables that leave you shaking you head in anger that the glutinous Joe Beef had no open tables. Even ending the meal with a lobster won’t bring solace.
Drive to Quebec City.
July 2: Quebec City
At some point stroll over to good old Rue du Petit Champlain. Try to score a table at Le Lapin Saute. It’s a place I tried to eat at when I was last here but there were no available seats that night. Sure it’s the most touristy street ever but you can find good food here. Order the duck and rabbit platter. It has duck and rabbit prepared a whole bunch of ways, but the foie gras and rabbit rillettes are probably the best.
Seriously this street is packed with tourists in the summer. It’s a very different vibe from the freezing cold winter were it is only filled with locals.
Head up to the castle, or the Chateau Frontenac. You can get here via the funicular, which is a nice way to get up and down the hills. Go grab a drink at the bar. If you see the most beautiful drink being made I don’t recommend ordering one of those. It’s a gin and tonic.
Sigh. I’m talking too much. I didn’t think this would be the case but while the words flow…
Google best restaurants in Quebec City and go there. You might not have the chance to do this again. So you better do it right. The choice is Le Saint-Amour. It’s old school. Like really old school. But it’s French and it’s Quebec City and old French is perfect for the occasion.
I wanted to do a tasting menu but it doesn’t feel right.
So instead it’s foie gras five ways. Including foie gras creme brulee. You know. Creme brulee is a desert for old people. But I like it. And when it’s made of foie it couldn’t be better.
Also elk carpaccio.
Entrees are sea scallops and pork belly. And sweetbreads and shrimp. If you’ve never had sweetbreads you have to try them. They are one of life’s great luxuries.
Not sure where the sherry is but oh well.
On the way out you should probably take the car that valet offers to you. Just drive the thing down to hill and ditch when you get to the hotel. It’s about to pour in a couple minutes.
But of course you can’t steal someone’s car, even if it’s just for a drive down a hill. So decline and tell them it’s not your car. And walk. Out into the downpour.
Take cover in a touristy Italian restaurant where Budweiser is an import but you order it because America.
On the way back stroll down the winding roads messing about with the camera. Shoot some fire pictures.
And if you happen to be experiencing the world with the most beautiful woman you have ever seen in your life then make sure you work the camera as best as you can.
July 3: Burlington, VT
Have some more French food.
Shoot some more pictures.
Check out of old Quebec City and make your way out to Burlington, VT.
Stroll about the streets a bit of this heavenly place.
Go to The Farmhouse Tap & Grill because it’s the best. Grab some raw bar and some meat and cheese and some delicious beers. Listen to some hippie bros play some strings and sing some words.
Swing down to the water to check out the fireworks.
Then hop back in the car and drive all the way home in the middle of the night.
July 4: Tarrytown, NY
Sleep some more.
Then catch the fireworks one final time.
To complicate this even more I decided to write up that trip before I started the writeup for an earlier trip. So here’s that. It will be quick.
June 8: Cambridge, MA
Drive to Cambridge, MA. Why Cambridge? Because there’s an opportunity to work out this way.
Go to sleep because tomorrow starts early.
June 9: Boston, MA
Spend the day working and interviewing. Asking for piles of money so big that everyone involved in the situation is uncomfortable. That’s how it has to be done sometimes. Companies with a market cap in the hundreds of billions can afford it.
Then swing out to the heart of Boston.
Shoot some pictures.
Smile because all is well. Or maybe it’s not but you’re happy.
Check out the old sites. The Old North Church. The Paul Revere House. All of that stuff.
Stroll around the streets and shoot some more pictures.
You’re in Boston.
Grab some food at Neptune Oyster. They have a great scallop crudo. It was the best thing I had on the trip.
And there was some pretty good food. Like obligatory hot and cold lobster rolls. Oh and that hookup on that glass of sherry.
Afterwards stroll all around the city. Stroll around the wharf. Check out where they threw the tea into the water.
There’s great beer in this city. Stroll through Back Bay making your way back to the Fenway area. Stop into places and grab a pint at each one.
It might be packed because it’s commencement time.
It’s a different vibe from the day activities back in Cambridge. Where the mood was almost solemn. Because sometimes smart people don’t know how to party.
June 10: Boston, MA
Spend the morning grabbing another lobster roll. Take a bunch of pictures.
Then cut the trip short, swing back home, and make it home in time for a surprise birthday party.
So takeaways? I don’t really think there are any. There’s no closure in life (I think there might be). Let your heart guide you. Life. I have nothing but good things to say about the times where my heart directed me. Try to learn. Try to better yourself. The entire world is open to you. Love. Love always. Above everything thing go for love.
Apologize for random pics captured over the last two years, but I need to put them somewhere.
It was February. The darkness of winter was surrounding me. My annual lease for my vacation home in Ocean Grove was up on April 1st. The two-month deadline weighed on my soul. I had no problem extending my stay at the Jersey shore, but it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I wasn’t meant to have another year there. Of falling in and out of love. Of late nights contemplating some of the world’s oldest questions. Of walking to the beach every other day to lie out in the summer sun. Of brainstorming potential business ideas and messing around with programming.
Those were a beautiful two years. My Asbury years. I enjoyed them tremendously. But, it was time to go. It was time to start the next part of my life. I had two months to decide what to do. Where I should go. What I should do. Or not do.
I’m moving into a time period of work. Of application of everything that I’ve learned. Of performance. Of building. Creating. I kind of feel like I want to spend the next decade or two in this area, although I’m sure there will be breaks. Opportunities for exploring. Always learning. But for the moment I am moving out of the role of student and into the role of creator. I have learned. Now it is time to do.
I hit the job market up. I extended my location range and the jobs I was willing to do. I was actively applying to New York City for the first time. I sent out applications to Philadelphia. To Jersey. I sent out a few to the DC area. I even sent some out to the west coast. One to Hawaii. A few globally.
As someone with five years experience in Department of Defense Systems Engineering work, knowledge of process improvement work, an MBA, self-taught software skills, and a desire for entrepreneurship the areas I was applying to were rather diverse.
I was having multiple phone interviews every day. I would say 80% were coming from NYC, Brooklyn, Jersey City, Hoboken. I had a few in-person interviews, all coming from the same area.
I was looking for a company and a position that was looking for me. I was looking for a mutual connection. I wanted something that was able to make use of my software, business, and engineering background. I also wanted something that I could grow. Something that I could push towards greatness. Something I could give myself to.
In the end I felt my opportunity would lie in the startup world. AngelList became a great way to connect with a world that I had aspired to be a part of. Sure, I wasn’t going to be working on my own business and my own idea. But while there was a lack of good ideas on my end, I would be able to take something else and push it forward for someone.
February became March. I had taken programming tests in probably ten different languages. Some I even passed. Sure I forgot the most basic of syntax once in a while as I was swimming in a pool of a dozen languages, but I understand enough of when to use what. I understand a bit about the architecture. Of what technologies are most appropriate for a company to be using both currently and in the future as it grows. I understand how lines of code translate into lines of accounting.
Based on the applying and interviewing process it seemed like the city would be my new destination. It’s a place I had avoided for some time. Trying to make things happen externally to it. But there’s just way too much opportunity here. The gravitational force of the city had finally captured me.
I had no idea where to specifically live. Since I didn’t even have a job yet I wanted a place that would allow me to work in a variety of places. I wanted access to the city. But I also wanted to be able to work in Brooklyn, Jersey City, and Hoboken. It seemed like the two options would be Brooklyn or Jersey City. There’s nothing really wrong with Hoboken but I just don’t personally align with it as closely as the other two.
I ended up choosing Jersey City for several different reasons. Brooklyn gave me access to the rest of Long Island, which wasn’t as attractive as access to New Jersey. There are a couple companies out in north New Jersey that I had interviews with. I also had friends and family in New Jersey. Not having to switch states was pretty cool and the ability to keep my car was great. I wanted to be as versatile as possible and so the Grove Street Path stop made the most sense for me. I’m 10 minutes to World Trade. 18 minutes takes me a block away from Penn Station. Hoboken is next door. I’m walkable to a lot of Jersey City. Brooklyn is about 40 minutes, which is reasonable for a commute. Newark is 18 mins, which gives me global access within minutes via the airport. And that’s all without a car. My car lets me squeeze into work in north Jersey. Friends and fam are about 30-40 mins away. Even my old love of Asbury Park is an hour ride for when I need to get down there to see Oh Wonder play Stone Pony.
March became mid-March. And with it an offer that I was happy with. It was essentially a six-week part-time offer with a startup. Kind of a test to see if the company liked me and my work. But realistically it was also a part-time engagement with a startup. And that means things will be changing. You never know what will happen with the company, and thus your livelihood. But it’s exciting stuff. What will the company become? How can I push it forward to something great? How can we harness the beautiful magic of the company? The delicate interplays of an infinite amount of ideas, concepts, boundaries, freedoms, influences, forces. There’s magic here, we just need to capture it.
The scramble for a place was quick, and mostly painless. Commuting from Asbury was going to take over two hours, so I really wanted to get into a place as quickly as possible. In the final week of March I was able to finally lock down a place. A space had opened up in Dixon Mills. Yes, I’m living in a converted space where they used to manufacture Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. You probably have used them before. Sure, my rent may have doubled, but the life experience and location to everything has increased by a massive factor. The world is open to me now.
The plan is to try out the city for a year. Give myself to it and see what it gives back. I have aspirations of success, but if it all ends up a disastrous mess then I can always pack up and head out elsewhere. I think it will be fine.
It’s been about two months since I started work. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. The city is where I’m supposed to be. It’s the coolest thing just doing what I’m supposed to be doing and casually moving through spaces or experiences that people come from around the world to see. Walking through the beautiful Oculus structure at the World Trade Center. Turning a corner and seeing the Flatiron Building. Walking down to the waterfront to check out my new city and seeing views of the New York City skyline. It’s a great place to be. In some ways I’ve been able to incorporate my love for travel into my life.
I love the work too. I’ve been jamming away on some natural language processing type stuff. Working with some new technologies and just loving it. I set an aggressive schedule a month ago and I’ll not only be able to meet that, but I’ll actually be able to deliver a second round of work as well. The goal here is just to jam as much as I can and give the company everything I can. In a startup it’s impossible to put yourself out of work. As soon as one thing is done there’s at least two more to do.
I love the team. I love the people that I’ve met. It’s been a great time. I didn’t really know what would happen because my contract would end after six weeks. Half the fun of working for a small team is not knowing what’s going to happen until it does. And just being open to the experience. I’m just rolling with it. I’m going to continue to throw myself at this beautiful city and see what comes of it.
Six weeks came and went. With it came a full time offer. I couldn’t be any happier to have the opportunity to keep jamming work. The decision to pick up and move without any guarantees has already been paying off.
In some ways I haven’t moved all that far away. And in some ways I have. But open invite to everyone to feel free to stop by if you’re out this way to catch up or hang. Or if you need a place to crash. Or a space to jam some creative work at. Or whatever.
Hopefully it wasn’t too absurd to take some pictures I’ve had lying around from the last two years of the shore and mash them with a story of what I’ve been up to. I guess I didn’t shoot Asbury anywhere near as much as I wanted to, but such is the case for most places I move through. You may have seen some of these pics but I haven’t really posted them in a consolidated area.
Before I left for my last trip, one of my buddies asked me to do one thing for him. He asked me to listen to the sounds around me and use my phone to record anything that sounded different. It was one small thing that opened up an entire channel to my travel experience that I might not have been able to enjoy otherwise. I strongly recommend using your ears more during travel as well as your life. What are all those noises and sounds that are going on around you? What sounds good? What sounds bad? What can you learn about a place from your ears? It’s been a long time since I was dialed into my listening like I was on that trip. The following 11 recordings are what stood out to me on the trip.
Warning: These sound clips are pretty bad quality as they have been recorded on a phone. The purpose of these clips isn’t to show you amazing audio or provide sound clips for your music mixes (sorry J!). Rather, they are here as short examples of things that I heard. Everyone shows people pictures of their trips, but what did those areas sound like?
1. Rap song in taxi leaving hotel for Yangon airport – Aug 07, 2016
This was recorded after my first night on the trip in Yangon, Myanmar. The electricity of the trip was in the air. I was halfway around the world. Immersed in a totally new place and culture. Visions of the golden temples I saw the night before were dancing across my mind. The tastes of my breakfast of mohinga and chicken puff pastries were still making my taste buds fire. I was in the back of a taxi heading to the airport to catch a flight out to the Inle Lake area of Myanmar. It’s not the best song and you can barely hear it on the recording, but it’s a song that probably will stick around in my memory. Bonus points to anyone if you can figure out what the song is. At some point I plan to listen to the entirety of Myanmar hip-hop in hopes of finding out what song this is.
2. Beer and a bite – Aug 07, 2016
This was the second night at a restaurant in the Inle Lake area called One Owl Grill. It was mostly full of backpackers. I rode to this place on a bike that my hotel let me borrow. It was one of the only times I’ve been on a bike in the last 15 years.
This clip is mostly the background noise I was listening to as I had a couple bites to eat and drank a beer. When Forever Young came on it was an extremely cliche moment, but I had to record it. It was as though life was a movie and this was the soundtrack that the director had stupidly chosen for the scene. A couple beers made the bike ride back to the hotel in the dark a bit more difficult, but also a bit faster. And a bunch more fun. I was halfway around the world speeding through the darkness in a country I barely knew existed. I was free and I was alive.
3. Inle Lake Buddhist temple – Aug 08, 2016
This was recorded at a Buddhist temple on Inle Lake. Religion is definitely a big part of culture out in Southeast Asia. It’s not uncommon to hear people chanting over loudspeakers if you’re at a temple. You have to take a boat ride to get out to this temple. The loudspeakers reach all parts of this little temple island.
4. Group of Buddhists, Wat Pho, Bangkok – Aug 11, 2016
This was a whole group of people singing a Buddhist song at Wat Pho in Bangkok. It was a similar sound that you might hear at a church service back in the States. The worshipers would sing a song along with a religious leader who was leading the chant.
5. Buddhist chanting Angkor Wat entrance – Aug 14, 2016
This was a group of three (I think) Buddhists chanting outside of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I liked the way their voices sometimes sung in unison and sometimes dropped out so only one person was singing at a time. This sounded really cool live. It is captured a bit in this sound clip but lacks from the real experience.
6. Band outside Ta Prohm – Aug 14, 2016
This recording comes from a band that was sitting down and playing instruments on the walk to Ta Prohm in Cambodia. I absolutely love the sound of the ching in this song. The ching is that little metal instrument in front of the guy all the way to the right. It’s about the size of half of a baseball. I love when the ching drops out of the song because during that moment the band member is gesturing to the CDs he has for sale so he doesn’t hit the ching every beat he is supposed to.
7. Chant, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia – Aug 20, 2016
This chant never recorded. Not sure what happened here. It sounded plenty loud enough at the museum and I tried a couple times but I could not capture this sound. I assume it’s just a typical Islamic prayer chant.
8. Sydney contemporary museum singer – Aug 25, 2016
This is from Lee Mingwei’s piece called Sonic Blossom, which is featured at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
I was walking around the museum and I heard this beautiful powerful singing voice. I questioned whether it was a live voice or a recording. It had to be live. The acoustics were too perfect. The voice was gorgeous. It distracted me from what I was looking at and I thought to myself that I had to find that voice. But later. I would search for it after I finished looking at a couple more pieces. After a few minutes the voice was gone. I walked into the room that I thought it came from. But there was no voice to be found. No singer. It was gone. I ventured off to other parts of the museum.
Eventually I returned to the room. Still no singing. I posted up in a room next to it. I needed a break, as my back was hurting from the grind of carrying my pack from the last couple weeks. I hopped on the wifi to get some information about my next location and send some messages out to people back home. After maybe twenty minutes the voice had returned. It was so beautiful. I knew for certain it was coming from the room next to me. I stood up and walked into the room to see an artist singing a song to someone who was seated in a chair.
The entire piece was pretty magical to experience. The artist explains it in the following link.
For those who didn’t feel like clicking the link the piece basically works by offering a guest of the museum the gift of music. If the visitor accepts then the singer walks the visitor to this room and sits them in a chair. The singer then walks several feet away and performs one of five lieders by Franz Schubert directly to the visitor who is sitting in the chair. It’s probably very powerful to be one of the museum guests chosen for this experience, as just being a bystander left a deep impression on me.
9. Australia vs New Zealand rugby outside of Queenstown – Aug 27, 2016
I was driving in my car outside of Queenstown, New Zealand with the radio on. I often like listening to the radio on road trips to see if I can pick up any new sounds. Many times when you are traveling you pick up the same music that we have back in the states. Occasionally you pick up some local sounds that capture your attention.
This is a sound clip of just before halftime in a rugby game between Australia and New Zealand. It was the second of six rounds of the 2016 Rugby Championship. A week earlier New Zealand crushed Australia 42-8 in round 1, but this rematch was a bit closer at 29-9. Although it didn’t fit into my schedule, it sounds like this would have been a great game to go to. New Zealand is the best rugby team in the world and Australia often ranks as the second best team. So if there’s any rugby game you want to see it’s probably something like this.
The passion of the announcers is great. These guys were a blast to listen to. They were so into the game. It reminded me of listening to an important soccer game back home with a Mexican announcer.
10. Auckland museum hill recording #1 – Sep 01, 2016
11. Auckland museum hill recording #2 – Sep 01, 2016
These two recordings come from Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand. They are from a piece by Shannon Te Ao called “Two shoots that stretch far out”.
He actually won the Walters Prize (New Zealand’s highest contemporary award) for this piece. At the time I saw this piece he was only a finalist for the award.
The audio clip is part of a video. You really need to see the two together. The video contains various farm animals along with Shannon Te Ao. During the video he is shown reciting the poems. You can see a little bit of the video here, but I can’t find the full video anywhere. It’s definitely worth a watch if you can find it.
And here is a second recording. It is similar but different.
So that’s it for sounds that stuck out to me on my trip. There were some other sounds that sounded interesting that I just wasn’t able to capture due to the limitations of my phone (forest sounds, etc.).
I’m not sure if only having eleven clips shows that I wasn’t listening enough or if I didn’t come across many interesting sounds. Regardless, I’m happy that I had this extra channel open to me that I might not have had open to me otherwise. I can’t tell you what Norway or San Francisco sound like because I wasn’t listening to them as intently as I was to the locations on this trip. Using my ears more helped to give me a better understanding into the pulse of some of the places that I visited. I always try to see if I can identify places I’ve been to when I see pictures of them. Maybe now I’ll try doing the same with sound.
This new year starts off on a sad note with the passing of my grams. I’m going to miss her. I used to love listening to her tell stories about her travels around the world. The mystery and allure of a place like Morocco seemed like a million miles away to me as a little boy. Hearing how Israel was a beautiful country with the nicest people. Or about about breakfasts and delicious cups of coffee at outdoor cafes in Rome. Thanks for inspiring me with your travel stories and for the infinite amount of love you’ve given to me and to the world.
The plan for today was to check out the Hobbiton movie set that was used in the hobbit and the lord of the rings movies. It’s a bit cheesy and I’m not normally into doing something this cheesy, but I love the books and the movies. It was a lot better than I thought it would be for sure.
The area around it is beautiful. Within an hour or two hours radius you see glimpses of similar sites. The rolling hills are what inspired Peter Jackson to eventually choose the site.
Most of the hobbit holes are empty inside, like this one. The interior shots were filmed at a different location. It’s still cool to be in one of them though.
The set is pretty large. There are over 50 hobbit holes. The green dragon bar is here. As well as the lawn used for Bilbo’s party.
One of the major problems on the set was the construction of Bag End. In the books there is an oak tree on it. No big deal. Go into the forest and chop a tree into 21 pieces. Then reassemble on site. That’s great for the lord of the rings movies, which were shot first.
But then they decided to make the hobbit movies. Since the hobbit takes place sixty years early the tree had to be sixty years younger. So the film crew needed a tree that looked exactly the same but was much smaller. They couldn’t find one. So they made one. Yup. This tree is not a real tree. Not even a cut up and reassembled one. It’s entirely fake. Foam covered in real bark. The 200,000 fake leaves are all individually wired to the tree limbs. I’m not joking. This tree is not real. You can zoom in on it a bit by clicking on it. It’s unbelievable.
But seriously how cool is bag end in real life. I mean, it’s a movie set. And hobbiton is a fictional place. And new zealanders hate people that think the places from the lord of the rings actually exist in real life in their country, but with stuff like this it’s hard not to believe.
Bag end is dope. Also, that’s a fake tree. I still can’t believe it.
The tour guide said you could push this door open, but I was scoping out the scene thinking she would still yell at me.
Some of the hobbit holes have things inside like these aging cheeses, but most of them are empty.
Sam’s house. So cool. He wasn’t home though.
And you can grab a pint or two at the Green Dragon. The pub is super cosy and comfortable. I would like to spend more than twenty minutes here.
After hobbiton I swung out to see Cathedral Cove off of recommendation from the last hotel I stayed in. The hotel worker said Auckland was just another city and I could skip it. Thankfully I disagreed, as I thought Auckland was pretty cool. But before I get to Auckland, here’s some more nature. The view is great from up here. It’s interesting that some of these rocks you can see from here are almost identical to the ones from Halong Bay in Vietnam. The Halong Bay rocks are just more frequent and covered in more bush.
Then it’s a 45-minute hike down to the cathedral cove area. Although it’s getting dark I beasted the hike to make it down and up before it got too dark. The beach is pretty nice.
The water is surprisingly beautiful over here. The opening in the rock is pretty cool too.
It’s a good place to take your selfie game to the next level. I’m a fan of this next shot. Just love most things going on in it. The textures are pretty sweet. I love the balance. It’s not a typical beautiful colored shot you will see from this spot, but I think that’s what makes it even better. My pose and posture makes me look rather creepy and like an alien. I actually think I scared a couple away while shooting this picture. Because it was late in the day the beach cleared out and I had the cove to myself. So I was taking my time with my hoodie up getting some shots. A couple turned the corner, saw me as some scary dude, and I think they booked it out of there ha. Sorry guys, I was just messing about with my selfie game.
Afterwards I had plans on staying in Coromandel. The gps threw me on some absurd practically single lane gravel road that climbed up and down a mountain to get there. When I did finally arrive at nighttime the town was dead. And not because it was late. It was 7:30 PM. Or 7:34 PM when I pulled up to the gas station to get gas. As I do the attendant who I can see from my car shuts the lights off and locks the door to the station. His place closes promptly at 7:30 PM apparently, and he won’t let me get gas. I’m a bit annoyed as gas stations are far apart here so this could be a big deal for someone who really needed the gas. But it’s no worries as I have plenty left in the tank.
I leave there in search of a warm meal, which I can’t find. I search for a hotel with an open lobby, which I also can’t find. Since there seems to be nothing for me here I decide to just head out to Auckland. I get to my hotel there and grab some sleep.
Sep 01, 2016
Finally back in a city. It will be nice to grab some food that doesn’t come from a gas station, convenient store, or fast food joint. First up are some steamed dumplings and a tea. I might be a bit far away from Asia, but I’m not all that far. There are a lot of places selling food like this and it all looks great. These dumplings were fantastic and make me sad that I won’t be getting this stuff back home.
Back in the city also means it’s time for art again. I head to the museum to check it out. Some of the best stuff is the stuff that isn’t even exhibits. This spiral staircase was rather nice. It wasn’t even in use. Just in a corner and sealed off. I’ve always noticed a lot of little gems in dark museum corners and noticed that art buildings themselves are understandably beautiful.
I thought this was a cool piece. It’s 120 individual displays of various things like buttons, spoons, and thread all assembled into one large piece.
This hallway is just fantastic. I didn’t particularly love any works in it, but the statue at the end is just framed so perfectly by this hallway and this view.
I was trying to get a good selfie in the reflection and this was about as good as I could grab. You could ignore the selfie part if you like. It’s mostly a failed picture.
These rainbow bejeweled pop rocks were pretty fun.
Just working on that selfie game.
Afterwards it was time for some craft beer. I went to Hopscotch Beer Company but you can’t drink there because of crazy New Zealand laws. So I picked up a beer and drank it on my walk. I heard this should be legal, but in case it wasn’t it was a fast drink.
On the way I walked past the tower. I think these things are a little too played out in cityscapes, but so it goes.
I swung over to Brothers Beer for a flight. It was a busy spot.
I unintentionally walked right up to it as well, ha.
Finally was able to grab a steak and some oysters. I was looked at cattle for many many hours of driving, so I was definitely craving a steak at some point.
And that concludes the trip. It’s super late so I’d like to try to grab an hour or two of sleep before I have to wake up and head out to the airport for my return flight home. Pretty cool that in doing so I will have flown completely around the world.
I’ll definitely be getting a concluding writeup out at some point when I sleep and have time. The trip has been just incredible. A lot to say about it.
I’ll be seeing everyone back home hopefully soon. Hope everyone’s travels and lives are going swimmingly. I guess it’s appropriately to throw a little Tolkien quote in here.
Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.
It’s late by the time I leave the hotel in Bali. Like really late. I lost track of time writing up the last post and might be late getting on my flight. I talk with the taxi driver and he speeds me through streets as fast as is possible for him. He eventually gets me to the airport just as check-in has ended. I hop through to the check-in counter and everyone speeds me through the process to get me on the airplane about ten minutes before the door closes.
To Australia I go. I thought this would be my first time into the Southern Hemisphere. I was wrong. That happened the day before when I arrived in Bali. I did not realize Indonesia was in the southern hemisphere but it is. It’s weird to me to think that Asia extends this far south, but I guess it is true.
I try to spend the night on the plane sleeping.
Aug 23, 2016
I sleep for what I think is an hour on the plane. The plane also arrives earlier than anticipated. It’s just after 6 AM here in Melbourne.
I grab my gear, get through customs, and hop a bus to the hotel. It’s weird hearing these Australian accents everywhere. Some of them are so accented that you have to pay a little closer attention to what people are saying. Back in the States an Australian accent is almost never real. You hear people imitate it, but it’s rarely real. Here everyone’s like “right this way mate. Oar right, mate.” It’s great to hear.
When I step outside I am wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. It’s winter here. Or at least what Australians call winter. Everyone is bundled up with hats, scarves, and full winter jackets. Everyone is complaining about the cold and how terrible the weather is. To me this feels amazing. Coming out of the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, the air in Melbourne feels refreshing. It feels like someone flipped the switch and the outdoor air conditioning is on.
I’m able to check into my hotel early and grab sleep until about 7 PM. I throw on some jeans and my down jacket and head out to explore the city. I make a stop at a craft beer bar called Penny Blue. Craft beer is available in some of the bigger cities in Southeast Asia, but it’s not available in too many locations there. I grab a seat at the bar and have a Kalash by Hop Nation. It’s a stout aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels that’s brewed about an hour away.
After the beer I swing out in search of a burger. I stop at restaurant called 8bit. It’s pretty much exactly what I’m in search of. Just a little taste of the good old American burger. It’s a beautiful change from all of the excellent rices, noodles, soups, and street foods that I was eating nonstop out in Southeast Asia.
After the burger I swing out to Forester’s Hall, which is also supposed to have craft beer. They do, but the setting is much larger. I think this is probably a good place on weekends when it’s full but it’s empty tonight. I see bottles of Rogue’s Sriracha selling for $38 Australian dollars, which is about $29 US dollars. That’s a pretty expensive price. Everything here seems expensive, especially in contrast with Southeast Asia. Back there just about everything you ate or drank was priced from $0.30 to $2 US dollar for everything from a water, soda, energy drink, beer, alcoholic drink, snack, meal, coffee, tea, etc. You’ll go into 7-11 and pick up two or three things and the price will be $1 US dollar. You order two things for dinner and a beer and the price is $5 US dollar. Here it’s different. Mountain dews are $3 US dollar. A sandwich is about $10. A taxi from the airport would have been $40 US for a half hour drive. Back in Southeast Asia a taxi for a half hour was about $8. You could go an hour for that price if you found someone to split the ride with. I’m distracted from prices when I hear some Springsteen being played. It’s cool to hear that Asbury sound out in Melbourne.
While I’m sipping on a pretty bad Bloody Mary flavored beer, I hear news that my buddy’s aunt passed away. She was a really nice lady and it’s sad news to hear. I decide to swing out to grab a cup of something in her honor.
I end up grabbing a pour of Fernet Branca at Bar Ampere, an absinthe bar. I talk with the bartenders there. One mentions he’s going out to New York. We talk about the states a bit. He’s into liquor and is planning a trip out to Kentucky to sample bourbons.
After a night of walking about I head back to the hotel to grab some sleep so that I’ll be ready to explore in the morning.
Aug 24, 2016
The plan for the day is to check out the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s a nice museum but unfortunately both wings of the modern and contemporary exhibits are closed, which is what I was most looking forward to.
After checking out the gallery I head out for some food. I grab another burger because I’m missing home. There are a lot of food options for delicious looking Asian cuisine which I’m not in the mood for. Most of the food billed as Australian seems to be a bit fancier that I’m looking to get into.
After my burger I stroll about doing some shopping looking for a shirt or two but I don’t find anything that interests me.
I slowly make my way out to the airport. I’m departing Melbourne 9 PM to arrive at Sydney for 10:25 PM. While I’m checking in for my flight the girl asks if I’m from Jersey. I figure she’s talking about the area out in the UK. I tell her I’m from by New York, in America. She asks again if I’m from Jersey. “New Jersey?” I ask. “Yea, New Jersey,” she says. I say that I am. Her boyfriend is living there. He’s a Cuban from Elizabeth. She’s been to Jersey 18 times and is moving in a couple months. We talk about Melbourne and she says a lot of the good things about the city are outside of it. Great Ocean Road and whatnot. I tell her I wanted to go, but the compass of my heart points towards home. I guess you can’t trust a city that has some of its best attractions hours outside of it. Melbourne was fine. Safe. Comfortable to live in. A few things to see and do. It’s got everything you need. But it doesn’t have the magic that other great cities I’ve been to have.
The weather is rainy and cold when I get to Sydney. My bag was soaked by the transport from the plane to the baggage claim. It isn’t really a big worry because the inside of my bag has been waterproofed by a contractor bag. Otherwise I would have been in for wet clothes. By the time I figure out the train and catch a transfer out to the Circular Quay area of Sydney it’s pretty late. My walk to the hotel room takes me past the opera house. It’s cold and raining but I have to take the camera out for a quick picture. This is my welcome to Sydney.
I go to check into the hotel but there’s a note on the door saying to call a number so that they can let me in. The only problem isn’t I can’t make phone calls. I eventually find a restaurant that is open nearby and I walk in ask a hostess if I can use her phone. She lets me and I call the number for the hotel staff to open the door. Checkout is 10:30 AM here, so I mostly get right to sleep. I’m tired but excited to see the city the next day.
Aug 25, 2016
I wake up, late for checkout again. For whatever reason in Australia and New Zealand checkout is 10 AM, not the noon time that seems more customary everywhere else I’ve been in the world. I don’t mind it though. It’s wintertime so the days are a bit shorter and I’d prefer to get an earlier start to my days if possible.
First up for the day is strolling about the harbor area. The sidewalks that were completely empty in the cold rain and wind of the previous night have become full with people. I see the opera house again to see what it looks like in the daytime. One of my earliest memories of far away lands and travel from my childhood was this exact area. I remember seeing the opera house on Wheel of Fortune as part of an Australian vacation you could win. I guess it was at that point that my desire to see Australia started. Seeing that different modern looking building made me think Australia was cool. Throughout the years I always thought that the building was so beautiful. I never really knew anyone who made it out to Australia until I was much older. I guess because the distance is so far. And because I never heard personal stories about Australia from people I grew up with I never thought I would make it out to visit.
But here I am. At the place that I remember from two decades ago from some random episode of Wheel of Fortune. Looking at that building that I thought was so beautiful and different and faraway and cool. Twenty years later it is as beautiful as those early memories I had of it. It’s a great building. And it paves the way for Sydney being a great city.
Selfie time. Travel beard is becoming pretty long. I think I’ll keep it for a couple days when I get back home, before turning it into a mustache for a twenty-four hour period, and then finally shaving it to get back to the clean shaven look that I think is a good look these days.
After a quick stroll, I get breakfast. Or maybe it’s lunch at this point. It’s kind of out of order, but I was too excited to see the opera house. The meal comprises of some scones and jam and a long black. It’s at the cutest little place that you might find your grandma hanging out at. In the top left of the photo you may notice balls of yarn on your table in case you have the urge to do any knitting. I don’t hate it at all. Older women generally have seen and done a lot. There’s a reason they enjoy things like this. They know it’s some of the best stuff that life has to offer. I’ve always found it a good practice to do something that someone from a much different age or sex would do. You learn about the world and learn about yourself. Do something girly once in a while. Do something old.
After a delicious and relaxing bite it’s time to see some more art. Yes, this art kick is still going strong. There’s a contemporary museum right on the harbor, which I’m thrilled about. A lot of the stuff in there is, well, contemporary. It’s refreshing to me to see identification tags on the wall where the creation date is 2016. Many of the pieces here were made at some point this year. There are a lot of cool ideas, concepts, and experimentation going on. Regardless of whether you consider these masterpieces or “that’s so stupid, that’s not even art,” there’s a lot to see and think about. You can learn a lot and apply a lot of these concepts to a lot of other fields. I thought these neon books were pretty fun. The room that they’re in is not this dark in real life, but sometimes with art I like to take great liberties and present the pieces in a remixed way here. Of course any way I represent something like this won’t be true to its real form for a variety of reasons.
I was viewing another piece completely to myself. It’s a dark room with a doorway. From the top of the doorway mist is falling. A scrolling letter is projected onto the mist and it illuminates that doorway. The letter is also visible on the floor. The letter is from Gandhi to Hitler written before the war. As I’m watching this for a couple minutes a group of schoolgirls walk in. They are on a tour of the museum and the instructor is having the girls do an exercise. Half of the girls are blindfolded, and the other half are not. The girls are paired off in twos. The girls who can see are supposed to explain what they are seeing to their partner. After a minute or two the girls take the blindfolds off and see the art with their eyes. It’s a pretty cool example of description vs reality. I thought it would make for a pretty cool picture. And now that you have heard my description of it you can see the photograph to see how my description compared to the visual.
After the art it was time for some food and to swing out to another craft beer place. The food is another burger. I’m almost getting tired of these, but not just yet. The craft beer bar I stop at is Bitter Phew. They have a nice bottle list and some good sounding drafts. I’m pretty pumped to see Westvleteren XII on the list. It’s one of the highest rated beers out of a Belgian abbey. During my trip to Europe I drove about an hour and a half away from the brewery but wasn’t able to stop in due to time constraints. The beer shows up occasionally for a taste, but it’s pretty rare. Unfortunately they are sold out but they probably could get a bottle in a couple days for me. Unfortunately I have to grab something else as I am leaving Sydney the following morning.
The plan for afterwards is to head out to Bondi beach and walk about and check out the area. The bar tender tells me a better option would be to take a ferry out to Manly beach. He agrees Bondi is a bigger and more famous name but he argues the cheap ferry ride is better transportation than a bus. He says both beaches will be like a beach would be in the winter. It makes sense to me so I head out to grab a ferry out to Manly.
On the way to the ferry I stroll through the art gallery of new south wales and the royal botanical gardens. Eventually I get on the boat and head out to the beach. Here’s another selfie of me and one of my favorite buildings.
I mess about with some photography on the beach. I’m definitely pretty happy with this shot of the beach that I got. It was dark and there wasn’t too much to shoot in the darkness. The way I shot and edited this picture makes it seem more like a painting. This is a concept that I want to explore more of with photography. Try to capture pictures that you can make look like paintings without too much editing. Also, don’t dive or swim near the pipes.
After some fish and chips it’s time to take the ferry back to Sydney. I grab my gear from the hotel and grab a train to the airport. The plan is to grab a couple hours of sleep in the airport because I have an early international flight in the morning to New Zealand. Sydney airport closes overnight, so unfortunately anyone trying to do this is shoveled into a pretty terribly uncomfortable waiting area. Guards come up to you and check your ticket and identification to make sure you’re not trying to score a free night of sleep there. Although with the alarms, loud noises, and uncomfortable waiting area, I’m not sure why you would want to.
Aug 26, 2016
Morning comes. Or maybe the night just went. I sleep for maybe an hour or so. Eventually I board the plane. The flight takes about three hours and thankfully there is no one in my row so I’m able to lay down and sleep during most of the flight.
I grab my bag and head out to the rental car place to grab my car. I’m pretty excited to be able to be driving a car where the wheel is on the right side and you drive on the left side of the road. To make things even more complicated it was supposed to be a manual transmission, but they gave me an automatic. Driving actually is fairly difficult for a little while. You obviously can’t make the mistake of driving on the wrong side of the road, which means you have to go against years and years of what your brain wants you to do. The advice of keeping left sounds easy, but it’s weird doing it in reality. And when you are driving properly on the left side of the road your brain is slightly in panic mode because it thinks you are on the wrong side of the road. It takes some time for your brain to come to peace with what you are doing, and a bit longer to get comfortable and drive without thinking about it.
I get to the hotel and check in and head to bed for some sleep since I didn’t get much the night before.
Eventually I wake up and head out to check out the town and search for some food, as it is around 10 at night. The town is busy. There are drunk people all over. The bars and restaurants are full. A lot of people seem like they’re having a good time. For whatever reason I’m only interested in a bite of food and get a feel for the town. Apparently the burgers at Fergburger are a must have. I get a tropical swine burger off of recommendation. It has pineapple, bacon, aioli, and tomato relish in addition to what you might expect on a standard cheeseburger. It’s a pretty solid burger, and I think with it, I’ll finally be done with my burger kick.
After the burger I stroll about the town before returning to Fergbaker, which is a bakery that is next door to the burger place. I grab a double espresso and a boston cream donut for dessert. After the bite and drink I head back to the hotel for a night of sleep.
Aug 27, 2016
Check out in New Zealand is often 10 AM like it is in Australia. I wake up and get on the road for my drive down to the Milford Sound area. A lot of my journey and time in New Zealand will be seeing beautiful landscapes from the car. I’ll be stopping as I go to get out for pictures and eating the standard road tripping gas station foods.
First I grab a shot from the Queenstown area.
The total drive down to the sound will be about four hours. It doesn’t seem like much time because you are looking at some of the most beautiful views in the world.
There are a lot of beautiful rocks down in the south island.
And some pretty cool birds too.
I get to the sound but all of the cruise ships are done sailing for the day. I don’t mind missing out because I was stopping so much on the way down. There is also the potential for snow later and I’d prefer to travel the return leg back up to the Queenstown area during the day if possible. The lighting and warmer temperatures and lack of snow will make for a much safer trip. You can still see some good views of the sound without getting on a boat.
These are probably the best views of the sound, but if you are looking for a boat ride then that is a common thing to do down this way.
After strolling about I swing back up. There is one area where the lakes are supposed to look like mirrors on calm days.
I get back to the Queenstown area and book a hotel out in the Aoraki/Mount Cook village. The plan for the next day is to see Mount Cook so I figure I’d like to get as close to it as possible. There is a great opportunity to see some stars out this way. I’m fortunate that a new moon is a couple days away and the clouds have parted. I get out of my car at the top of one pass to view the stars. They are gorgeous out here. The milky way is visible for sure. I know because I pointed my camera at it and snapped a picture. It’s not intended to be a great shot, but more proof to myself that I now definitely have seen it. I know I saw it out in the deserts of Nevada on a drive out to Las Vegas last summer, but now I have proof for myself that I definitely have seen it.
I eventually get to the hotel and check in after midnight. It’s been a long day of driving but there have been a lot of beautiful views.
Aug 28, 2016
Another day and another set of beautiful views. This is why I came to New Zealand. I love seeing this stuff in real life. I love driving hours from place to place and watching how the scenery changes.
It’s cloudy up at the top of Mount Cook today but there are still some good views to be had. Thankfully last night’s potential snowfall has held off leaving the roads clear for driving.
Driving down from Mount Cook takes you along Lake Pukaki. It’s a gorgeous lake.
I’m completely out of gas at the bottom of it. I’m not worried though. I know I will be able to find gas. I’m a road trip expert. Gas, and everything really, is scarce in the countryside of New Zealand. Outside of the few cities, New Zealand does not have much in between other than beautiful views and some sheep and cattle. And anything that it does have is often closed early or only open on certain days. I’m not worried about being low on gas because I know there is a town close by that should definitely have it. But just to be safe I head into an information building and ask about the closest station.
Inside I talk to a lady and she confirms gas is only a couple minutes away in the town that I thought would have it. Also inside is coffee and randomly a lot of salmon sashimi. Like a lot of it. With soy sauce and wasabi. I’m not exactly sure why it’s here, but I’m definitely trying to get some. It’s fresh water farmed right down the road and it is delicious. Coffee and salmon sashimi. I will cosign this combination at just about any moment of my life. Especially when it can be enjoyed with views like Lake Pukaki.
The plan for today is to drive out to the Punakaiki coast. I’m in for about six and a half hours of total driving, but I’m excited. The views out in New Zealand really are amazing. You have your mix of sheep and cows and country, but some of the mountains and valleys are just top notch. It’s awesome to just pull over and take a break and just look out on such beautiful land.
And another shot of further down the road.
It’s a great drive and I get to the Greymouth area for a night of sleep. I don’t want to drive up the coast during the night, so I stay a bit south of it. I’m pretty beat from the driving and lack of sleeping and just general grind of the trip, so I slide off to bed for the night.
Aug 29, 2016
The beauty doesn’t really ever stop in New Zealand. The Punakaiki coast is beautiful. Even in the rain and cloudy weather.
And in the sun and clear weather.
These pancake rocks are a big deal out here. I also haven’t eaten yet and there is a cafe selling pancakes outside of this park.
Yea so I haven’t eaten yet. I’m looking at the pancake rocks. And they sell homemade pancakes right outside of this park.
These aren’t pancake rocks. But there are pancakes just around the corner.
Ok, a quick selfie and then I’m getting some pancakes, bacon, and a long black.
The banana pancakes I order taste about as good as pancakes can taste for me. I’m not the biggest fan of sweet breakfast, but they hit the spot. The coffee is nice as well. I’ve been drinking hotel coffee for a month now, and while I loved the stuff in southeast Asia (for whatever reason), it’s starting to taste pretty terrible down in New Zealand. I don’t have a picture of the pancakes, and although I probably post food pictures too often, I will not be posting one here. I mean they’re pancakes. Nothing really too special.
I hop back in the car to get back to the drive. Today is going to be a long drive. The drive (and ferry) is supposed to take about thirteen and a half hours. Yup. I’ll see how much of it I can get done. This will be by far the longest drive of the trip. It’s the last long travel scheduled for the trip, minus the return flight home. If I can get through this day of travel then I will be able to complete the trip. But again, I wanted to do this drive. New Zealand is a gorgeous country. It’s one of the most beautiful in the world. Plus 1,600+ miles in a week isn’t even all that taxing for me. I can drive forever. So yea, driving selfie time.
And these views never end.
The plan for the three hour ferry ride is to get some sleep. But instead I end up getting all of the pictures up to date so I can finally get around to getting a post up.
The ferry ride is a nice break from the driving, so when we dock, I’m ready to get back to the driving. Unfortunately the nighttime covers the beautiful scenery that I’m used to seeing. I drive and drive until I can’t drive any more. I actually end up getting to Taupo, which has a beautiful lake. I drive around and finally find a hotel that has an open lobby. It’s about 3 in the morning by the time I check in and about 4 or 5 by the time I get to sleep. Checkout is at noon, which is nice. The extra couple hours of sleep are needed. And I’m close to what I want to see the following day so all is well.
Aug 30, 2016
I’m pretty excited to be able to check out Lake Taupo. I didn’t think I would have time to see this but it worked out that I was able to see it. It’s a nice relaxing area with some good views. Even in the north island of New Zealand you can find some nice mountains.
And selfie time. At this point, being a month into travel I’m starting to give in to the beautiful vanity of photographing yourself. I might just start embracing the narcissism. Black and white pictures of me drinking coffee in a beautiful location.
Nah, I’m just kidding. Back to the drive. The drive to Rotorua is only about an hour. When I get to Rotorua I have a drive around. I realize I want to backtrack about twenty minutes to check out the Wai-O-Tapu park. You have to pay entry but there is some cool stuff here to check out. The trees are alright.
There is a pool of water called Devil’s Bath unlike anything I even knew existed. I see this and I kind of can’t believe I haven’t seen this or heard about this before. Look at this water. I tragically caught most of it in the shade but you can see the absurd bright green in the sunlight off to the left of the picture.
I mean, this is a picture taken from the earth.
There are also some pretty cool pools of water with some steam coming off of them. It’s probably a good idea to take a selfie in front of them showcasing your gorgeous hair. It’s important to avoid all eye contact because people will think you’re much cooler that way.
The rock, water, and steam are also pretty cool. The colors would be a bit nicer with better lighting and less steam but watching the steam dance over the water and land is pretty nice.
At this point since this is the last picture of the post it’s important to really dial the swag up. So back to black and white. Throw the hood up. Add a mild slouch to the posture. Perfect.
In all honesty, I’m actually pretty happy with this picture. I love the minimalness of it. I love the trifecta of nature, a manmade element, and man himself. The light and darkness is balanced pretty well. The fence pretty gloriously cuts the picture up rather well and I’m pretty happy with the location of my body in the photo.
That’s about it. I probably would have had a post out a long while ago but I decided to upgrade my server for no reason in the process of doing my previous write up. This writeup is a bit rushed as it’s been tough to find time to write, but I think it’s reasonable. I’m happy with some of the shots I’ve been able to get. For roadtripping New Zealand there is a lot more emphasis on photos in comparison to writing, as I am mostly driving and taking pictures. There isn’t too much to say, but there is a lot to see.
I’ll be out here only a couple more days before swinging back home. The entire trip has been amazing. I’m happy with everything I’ve seen and done. It’s been a killer experience. I’ll be enjoying these last couple days but am definitely looking forward to getting back home and kicking butt at everything.
I was thinking on one of my drives that I’m going to be ultra sad when life is over. I’m putting my all into it and it’s paying off dividends. But I kind of just want an infinite amount of time to be able to work on my passions and dreams. Unfortunately that time is the furthest thing from infinite. It moves quickly. It’s merciless. It will pass regardless of how you choose to spend it.
It’s nighttime when I arrive in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’m rested enough from my previous time laying out on the beach of Ko Phi Phi so I decide to check out what Kuala Lumpur has to offer at night.
My hotel is in the Bukit Bintang section of Kuala Lumpur. It’s a good location for restaurants and seeing the sights. I decide to stroll out to the Petronas Towers. They are an iconic pair of buildings.
They look incredible up close. Especially at night. The have great lighting and a great presence. They are at home in the night. Walking under and around them provides for some beautiful angles to view them. They make me think of the Twin Towers. Growing up in New Jersey, I miss those buildings dearly. I guess their spirit lives on in buildings such as the Petronas Towers, but their absence from the New York skyline is always sad. It’s weird that some day younger people won’t really understand what the Twin Towers meant to a lot of people. Eventually they will be lost completely to time, like any of the great engineering marvels that have come and gone.
After seeing the towers I stroll back to the area by the hotel. There are lots of options for food. I end up sampling several varieties of street food. In Malaysia, like many parts of Southeast Asia, you have access to some amazing food that you do not have access to back home. Dinner comes from three different places, or four really. Some chicken and beef on a stick to start things off. Four pieces for the equivalent of one US dollar.
I then end up finding two guys making noodles in an alley. It’s a busy spot. I hold up one finger and ask for one. He says there are a lot of different things I can get, which to me is amazing. The space is small. A wok, a fryer, and an assortment of a couple bowls and buckets. I see some thicker noodles coming off of the wok and say one of those.
Eventually after about twenty to thirty minutes of waiting I get my noodles to go. It ends up being like the best shrimp lo mein ever. While waiting for it I saw the guys making bowls of soup, cream based dishes, all sorts of crispy and different sized noodles. It’s a magical little stand that is pumping out plate after plate and bowl after bowl of food. The chef is honestly brilliant. He carefully portions everything out. He tastes every dish. He cares only to make delicious food and his passion is appreciated. One of the locals makes a joke (although I’m pretty sure he’s serious) about not posting pictures or the location to facebook. He doesn’t want there to be a long line for when he gets noodles. I don’t blame him. My plate of goodness ends up costing about $1.70 US dollar.
As I’m leaving I realize I don’t have any way of eating these noodles. I guess they assume if you’re asking to go that you have your own utensils. I decide to stop in a convenient store but they don’t have any forks or chop sticks. I end up buying a stout here. It’s one of the few drinks I’ve had during this trip. Maybe it’s the pace of the trip, maybe it’s me growing up, maybe it’s me finding a complete peace and happiness in my life, but I don’t care to drink. Sure craft beers will always hold a place in my heart, but I haven’t really been to a single club or bar while I’ve been out here. I’ve been too busy seeing the sights, enjoying the time to myself, and being content with the fact that I am doing the number one thing that I want to be doing with my life at the moment. I feel like when you are doing with your life the thing that you most want to do more than anything, then you will be at peace.
That’s great and all, but I still need a way to eat these noodles. I stop back at the hotel and ask for a fork or chop sticks. He tells me to try the Indian place next door. In doing so I order a fried cake and a fried pastry with filling for about a dollar. The guy puts them in a bag and I ask him for a fork which he gives to me.
I end up bringing this all back to my hotel room and have myself a beautiful little dinner and a reasonable stout. It’s Friday night. I’m completely alone. And I couldn’t be happier.
Eventually I end up sliding off to sleep.
Aug 20, 2016
The day brings a new sense of adventure. Having seen some of the sites and enjoyed some of the tastes at night, I’m off for something a bit more enriching.
But first I need to fuel back up. One thing I love about traveling out here is the different choices that are available for you to eat and drink at the convenient stores. 7-11, and it’s many knockoffs, are ultra popular. These stores have some options you won’t find back home. It’s nice to enjoy these little differences. Sure it’s not the biggest deal in the world, but finding joy in these little things always makes the trip better. I present to you Kickapoo Joy Juice and some sort of drink made by Umbro. Yes, these are real things, and they’re pretty delicious.
The plan for today is to see some art. I’ve been craving a trip to a museum and I have a bit of time today. There’s an Islamic Art Museum that I figure is fitting for the area. As I progress along my trip the religion swings from mostly Buddhist to include some Muslim. I know Islamic art features a lot of geometric patterns so hopefully there will be some cool stuff to discover here. Stuff like this ceiling is what I anticipate seeing here.
There are a couple pieces that I think are beautiful. Here’s a pen case that features some incredibly fine detail. It’s just a bird and flowers. I’m not certain I would be able to tell the origin of this piece if you put it in front of me and asked me to identify it.
There is also some beautiful mother of pearl pieces here. I love this scroll holder. It’s beautiful how the mother of pearl has been cut to make a cylindrical and smooth piece.
I don’t really know why I was hoping for over the top pieces of contemporary or modern art, but there’s none of that here. It’s a lot of Qurans and some more historical pieces.
I eventually leave the museum and head back towards the hotel looking for some food. I end up finding a busy Indian buffet. Although the restaurant promises you can find Pakistani, Malaysian, and foods of several other countries here. I end up with a delicious piece of naan, some chicken tikka, and about four different rices and curries. It’s a beautiful plate of food that bests even the stuff coming out of Edison, New Jersey.
I slowly continue making my way back to the hotel. First I want to grab a massage. My body has been pretty beat from the constant travel and carrying all of this weight for so long. I find a Thai massage place and end up choosing a full body oil massage for an hour. The cost is about $17 US. The time passes quickly. I think I might end up falling asleep for a bit. At the end of it I’m left feeling relaxed and ready to get back on the road.
The time comes to swing out to the airport. I’m departing Kuala Lumpur at 8:50 PM to get to Singapore 9:50 PM.
The flight goes well and I think about trying to swing out to see Singapore at night like I did with Kuala Lumpur the night before. I decide to pass on the late night stroll and end up getting some extra sleep so that I can head out to check out the city the following day.
Aug 21, 2016
The plan for Singapore is to stroll about the city. I’m still craving some art so I decide to check out Singapore Art Museum of contemporary art. It features pieces of artists local to the region. It’s a museum that you can comfortably get through in a short period of time, but it has some stuff that I’ve been looking for.
This massive lit up dress almost looks like snowflakes or raindrops are falling onto it. It reminds me of the movie Frozen a bit. It’s a cool piece that has a magical feel to it.
The museum also has canvases on the walls that would probably infuriate most people. “That’s not art. I could do that.” I’m a big fan of colors and textures and these two pieces have both of that. I’m actually a big fan of these two pieces. The colors are reasonable to great and the texture from using a textile instead of paint on canvas is excellent.
This next piece is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever seen before. It’s a bunch of flowers that open and close. The movement of the opening and closing is very natural and beautiful. It definitely has a feel like something that you would be able to find in nature. It makes sense because the artist was inspired by barnacles. He thought the movement and life of barnacles was interesting that each individual barnacle is its own thing, but they take cues from surrounding barnacles as to how to operate. These flowers I think are not programmed directly to open and close. Rather they take cues based on the movement and light of the other individual flowers around them as to when to open and close. The piece is a perfect combination of technology and art. It is so natural and magical. I probably could have watched this piece for a long time.
And a different angle showing the flowers in various stages of being open. This piece makes me want to strive to create beautiful combinations of hardware and software should my path lead me in that direction. Hopefully to make things that people view as natural, magical, and realistic.
Another piece I thought was cool was this set of four screens that showed these four interconnected scenes. The second scene is a girl listening to a music box. I think the fourth scene is the girl grown up and married. She’s sitting in a bathtub relaxing while her husband does something on the computer. The first scene is her and her husband. She’s boringly washing dishes and he’s absent-mindedly turning something over in his hands. The third scene is her hunched over sewing a dress. Her husband is fat and loudly munching on chips. All throughout this piece all of the sounds of the scenes are mixed together. To me the music box and the potato chip crunching stick out. When the girl closes the box, the music stops. Everyone looks up unaware of what has happened. The little girl then reopens the box and everything resumes as normal. It’s a weird piece. I’m not too certain what the meaning is, but the takeaway I got is the little girl wishes for prince charming and happy ever after and she got it.
Ok, enough art for the moment. I may get back to it at some point on the trip. But for the moment I’m in need of some food. I skipped breakfast so that I could grab some food from one of the popular hawker markets. This one was near Chinatown so it featured a lot of Chinese food. The stalls look a lot like this.
I grabbed some fried wontons, which were delicious, but my main goal for today was chili crab. It’s a crab cooked with some gorgeous ingredients. If you’re in Singapore then you have to get chili crab. You have to do it. If you’ve never had it before but want to try it I will fly out with you for the meal and return home afterwards. A good bowl of chili crab is heavenly delicious. I think this will end up being my favorite meal of the trip. It is phenomenal.
After lunch it’s time to head out to check out some of the touristy sights. I stop by the gardens. There’s some pretty cool stuff here.
As I stroll about Marina Bay I make sure to grab a selfie.
Here’s a pano of the bay.
And a black and white of the boat building thing. It actually doesn’t look all that bad in real life. For some reason is gets unflattering angles in pictures that I’ve seen.
As I stroll back to the hotel I walk past the buildings that look like durians. If you’ve never heard of a durian they smell so bad that they are banned from many hotels. They are a fruit that apparently taste like a mix of gasoline and cantaloupe. I’ve haven’t had one and I don’t plan too. But they are everywhere in Southeast Asia. For the moment I’m team “No Durians” as the signs say in every hotel I’ve been in and out of.
The hotel lets me shower up before I hit the road which is clutch. A decent amount of hotels I’ve been to let you shower after you check out and see the city. It’s a big help that really helps make your flights a ton more comfortable.
The flight departs Singapore 9:05 PM and arrives in Bali 11:45 PM. I clear customs and taxi out to the hotel for a night of sleep. The beach will wait until tomorrow.
Aug 22, 2016
I wake up and get to planning. I had originally planned to see Komodo but pass on that to book a flight into Melbourne, Australia. Cars seem like they’ll be expensive with gas and parking so the plan at the moment is to continue checking out Australia like I’ve been checking Southeast Asia.
But before I switch continents I have a lot of relaxing to do. I leave the hotel and head to the beach. I’m not aware of it yet, but it’s a magical beach. On first appearance Bali looks great. I’m in Seminyak because it’s a popular area and has a mix of things to see and do. There’s a nice beach, which is mostly why I came here. I wanted to get lost in what I heard was the allure of the island and just completely relax. First another cup of coffee with a nice beach backdrop.
Over time I do get lost in Bali’s allure. I stroll the beach for a long while.
The crowd here is pretty chill. There are a lot of younger tourists. Some couples. Some groups. A couple families. This is definitely vacationland for a lot of people that are visiting. You lay out on the beach. Head into the water. Do some surfing. Grab food and drink on the beach at a restaurant or resort.
Apparently the sunsets here are beautiful. I mean they usually are everywhere but I’m happy to check one out. I’ve been laying out on a bench that some local set out. He kind of swindles me telling me he saw me sleeping on it for a half hour and demands I pay him about $4 US dollar. He’ll let me watch the sunset from here for another $4. I tell him I’m in for the full $8. “Nothing’s free in Bali any more bro,” the half-surfer, half-swindler says. “No worries,” I think. I pay about the same back in Asbury. And that doesn’t come with this really comfortable bed you’re providing me.
And here’s a shot of me looking at it. Just in case you people were wondering if I was watching the sunset. This is a good picture for overproducing and putting a quote over it. Like “For every sun that sets, there will be a new day in the morning,” or something else equally brutal.
I love this next picture. For me it’s one of my favorite I’ve ever taken I think. I need time away from this picture actually and then I need to spend a lot of time with the photoshop to perfect. But pictures like this are beautiful to me. I love lots of silhouetted human forms. For some reason I was blessed with an angel in the center of it all. Bonus points for the dog on the left as well.
And another sunset shot. I don’t know why us humans love these things so much, but they are pretty. Maybe it has to do with the relaxing and the fact that all you have to do is just sit and wait and enjoy. Grab some beautiful person’s hand and have a make out session if you’re lucky enough. Can’t really beat sunsets I suppose.
After sunset, turn around and listen to some acoustic music while grabbing a beach cocktail and maybe a bite to eat. Do this until it gets dark. Then if you’re feeling up to it head out to a club, drink, dance, find someone to make love to. Wake up tomorrow and repeat.
Bali certainly is an enchanting place and I see why people rate it so high. It’s I think the place I most felt a bit sad leaving. You can definitely spend some time here, maybe only a couple more days of this, maybe a year or a lifetime, and be sad when you leave it behind.
So that’s about it. I’m about to hop on an airport to leave Southeast Asia behind for the time being. It has been an amazing trip and I couldn’t have been happier with how it’s went. I’m know heading into the southern hemisphere for the first time in my life. Into Australia for a couple days. It will be my second new continent visited this trip. It will be my sixth country visited in as many days. The travel grind has been real. I’ve been killing it out here and having a blast. After Australia it’s likely into New Zealand and then back around the globe to home.
I hope everyone’s been enjoying those last summer days for me back in Jersey and around the world. Cheers.
The ruins of Cambodia fade behind me. I have a flight departing Siem Reap at 7:15 PM that will arrive in Da Nang, Vietnam at 8:40 PM. This is about as close as you can get to Hoi An. From the airport you need a taxi ride that will take about 45 minutes.
This taxi ride feels like a trip. There haven’t been too many bright lights but Da Nang brings them. The place reminds me more of the lights in Vegas than anything else. Everything has flashing lights that change colors or display animations. Bridges. Ferris wheels. Buildings. Dragons. Everything for about a ten-minute ride is lit up in bright lights. It’s a weird feeling for me because I haven’t heard of Da Nang previously. I had no idea something like this was out here. The streets of the city are covered with people out grabbing bowls of pho or drinks. It feels very lively, which is odd given it’s only a Sunday night. I won’t be stopping in Da Nang on this trip but it’s a destination I would certainly check out if I’m ever back.
The taxi ride continues until the lights fade to darkness. The hallucination lasts about 10 minutes, which really makes you wonder if it’s real or not. I’ll have to check on the return taxi the following day.
The next half hour of driving is about as crazy as the first fifteen minutes. If you are distracted from the traffic patterns in the first part of the trip, they are obvious during this part. Vietnam has a strange way of driving. Passing on the left. Passing on the right. Going well over the center lane as though you are playing a game of chicken. And of course car horns. Everyone driving is in on the game though. There’s no way you’d be able to make some of the passes if the car in the opposite lane wasn’t friendly enough to move over for you. It seems like it’s been able to work for the country so far, but there’s no way this is a sustainable traffic pattern for the speed of the future.
It’s around ten at night by the time I check in. The guy at check in says he needs to hold my passport. I tell him that’s not possible. Apparently this is common in hotels for Vietnam but I could care less. No one is holding my passport for longer than a couple seconds for obvious reasons. He instead makes a copy and gives me back the original. I wouldn’t have been willing to stay at the hotel if they had to keep my passport. If I have to eat the cost of the night then so be it, but it’s just a risk I’m not willing to take.
I debate going out for a bit to see the city, but I decide on rest and to get a fresh start in the morning.
Aug 15, 2016
My flight is departing at 10:50 PM from Da Nang to arrive 12:05 AM in Hanoi. I have plenty of time to check out what I want to in Hoi An. The old town of the city is very beautiful. It’s full of tourists but there’s stuff to see and do. There are a million restaurants and coffee houses and places selling various items.
The Japanese Bridge is a popular sight in the town. Both sides of the bridge have places to explore. A bride and groom are taking wedding pictures here at the time that I’m there.
After walking through the entire city I stop for some food. I’ve been looking for the best bowl of pho I can find and I finally do so. It may not look like much in the picture but this bowl of pho bo is just perfect. It’s a little bowl of heaven. I’m not exactly sure of what flavor of the liquid is but it’s like this light sweet juice that’s full of umami. I could be completely wrong, but the cool thing these past few years has just been to taste something and say “wow, that’s great umami flavor,” so I’m just going to run with it.
I also add wonton crisps, a bowl of local Hoi An noodle, and a Vietnamese hot coffee to the meal. The crisp has the consistency of a light tortilla or potato chip almost. It’s extremely delicate but so beautifully fried. It breaks apart immediately but only at the parts you want. The local noodle is fantastic as well. It’s a great meal.
I decide I want some more coffee and to also cool off from the long bit of walking I’ve been doing. I swing into a coffee shop to work on the write up for the last blog post. The coffee house is a beautiful place that roasts their own bean. I ask for an Americano and it comes out iced. They seem to want to ice your coffee here every time, even when you sometimes specifically ask for hot. I guess it’s a bit hot out, but I prefer my coffee hot, even on really hot days.
After coffee I head out to stroll about the city some more. The bright hot sun of the earlier day has been replaced by a slightly cooler day. The city has turned dark. It’s beautiful to step out into the city like this. The coffee house has been a portal to almost an entirely different town. It’s as though I stepped out of a nice little city and stepped into this beautiful and charming town. The town starts to take a hold of my soul and does so for the rest of the night.
Hoi An lights up the city at night. It’s not as over the top as Da Nang but there are beautiful lights all over. You can add to the lights by purchasing a candle from one of the candle salespeople around the river. You can make a wish and then drop the candle boat in the river to make your wish come true. It’s beautiful to see these things along the canal in this setting, but I’m assuming it leads to lots of garbage in the water, which I’m not the biggest fan of. No wishes for me.
The sun sets over the town. At this point the empty town I walked many miles through is alive with people who were either out on excursions or trying to avoid the heat of the sun. The town continues to get packed with people as the night goes along. And yet its charm ever increases.
I’m a bit bummed I don’t have the best pictures of Hoi An, but I have to put the best I took here. Darkness leads to more lights and more action.
It’s almost like Hoi An wants to grow up and become like Da Nang. I hope it doesn’t. I doubt it ever could, but things like that beautifully lit up pink lotus blossom stand out in the same ways that some of the lights of Da Nang stand out.
Eventually my time in the city is up. I head back to the hotel. I’m pretty sweated up given the heat and humidity of the day and I have a flight to catch. It’s a bit lame going into flights all sweated up, and I guess the guy in the hotel lobby sympathizes with me. He offers to let me take a shower before I head out and I very happily agree.
He calls for a taxi and I get in. The shower certainly helped to make the flight more enjoyable, but I’m pretty much immediately back sweating once I get outside. The forty-five minute drive to the airport is done by some guy who is driving like he has places to get to.
Eventually we get to the area of the lights outside of Da Nang airport. It was all real. The lit up bridges. The ferris wheel. The art installations. All of it on fire, lighting the darkness up in the way that Vegas does.
The flight comes and goes, and before long it’s midnight and I’m in Hanoi, Vietnam. I want to book a trip to Halong Bay. I look around the airport but no one seems overly interested in selling me a trip. I’ll wait until I get to the hotel because I’m sure they’ll be able to help me out. I don’t want to book at the hotel and then have the bus not pick me up for some reason because of miscommunication.
While we’re waiting for bags an Egyptian guy comes up to me and asks if I want to split a taxi. We’re both going to the city center so I agree to save money on the taxi fare. On the forty-five minute ride we talk about what we do and about life and whatnot. He said he was going to school for engineering because his dad wanted him to. He eventually started a business and dropped out of school. He was out of school for a year and his business was successful before he broke the news to his father. We get to his hotel and the taxi driver drops him off. Another three minutes and I’m at my hotel.
I check into the hotel and ask them to book a tour of Halong Bay for the morning. It’s after one in the morning now. The guy doesn’t think there is any available. I tell him I’ll take anything. I just want to head out in the morning and see the sights. He calls around and gets me a tour on V’Spirit Cruises for an overnight trip like I want. It leaves the hotel around 8 AM.
Getting that tour booked was an example of how I know how to travel this area and without stress. It was difficult to book tours when I tried online. I knew that I would be able to get a tour once I got to Hanoi. Hanoi is a place where you will find a tour to Halong Bay. Either the airport, the town, or your hotel. I knew that I would be able to get a tour booked. I just knew it. I didn’t know how. I knew it might be difficult. But I knew I would be able to get it done. And I did. It was a good feeling.
I slid off to bed for a couple hours of sleep.
Aug 16, 2016
Before long I’m up. I eat a quick breakfast at the hotel and the tour comes to pick me up. We drive around Hanoi to various other hotels picking up other passengers for the trip. The city looked very gritty last night from the seat of the taxi. Graffiti and empty streets outside of a few shady characters. The daylight brings hustle and bustle that covers the darker image that the night portrays. Eventually when the bus is almost full of people we swing out for Halong Bay.
The ride to Halong Bay takes 4 hours with a rest stop in the middle. The tour guide gives us information on Vietnam, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. I spend the ride messing around with some pictures.
Eventually we get to the pier and onto the boat. The weather for the day goes much like the weather has for my entire trip. It’s a mix of clouds and sun. No rain for today, but there is the possibility. Weather changes quick during the rainy or storm season, and this is especially so out on the water.
We check into our rooms and head up to the main dining area for some lunch. The table is comprised of a guy from Boston that I end up making friends with. He was born in Korea but is serving in the United States Army. He’s on vacation and plans to head back to live in Austin after it’s over. The rest of the table is comprised of two Korean guys whom I don’t talk much with. One of them has a warehouse in Austin apparently.
Lunch goes well and I venture off to the deck to take some pictures. Halong Bay is unlike anything I have ever seen or even know exists. It’s comprised of so many little islands that jut directly up out of the sea. The cliffs of these islands are often covered in shrubbery although sometimes they are bare. The color of the water is this odd green color that is not typical of many areas that I have seen. And this scene repeats for what seems like ever in all directions. In front of you. Behind you. To the left and right. It’s just this landscape of these individual islands the completely surrounds you. I imagine it would be fairly easy to get lost here without any sense of direction outside of the landscape around you.
I shoot pictures off and on with the Bostonian. At one point we’re sitting down and just taking the scenery in. We end up talking with a French couple. They seem like they have been dating for some time, but really it’s only been a couple months.
I could have taken a million pictures here. The landscape is so gorgeous. But I restrained myself and only shot a couple.
The cruise has some activities for the passengers. The first is a walk through a cave called Hang Sung Sot. The cave is pretty beautiful. It’s hot out so I was hoping it would be cold like the underground cave I visited with my sisters out in Kentucky, but it’s an above ground cave. It’s a bit hot and humid in there but it’s not too bad. You just get used to dealing with the heat and humidity out here and get on enjoying the sights.
This cave is extremely liberal with their lighting choice. At most areas they don’t intend to keep the integrity of the cave with natural lighting. Instead they have various shades of color such as blue, purple, green, red, and yellow. The end result makes the larger cave appear almost alien. Halong Bay itself could definitely be from another planet, but this cave with it’s lighting is really out there.
At the end of the hike you are left with a beautiful view of the bay. This is one of the iconic views of Halong Bay that shows up when you google the site. I was pretty happy to be able to view it like this. Here’s an image of me ruining the beautiful bay for you courtesy of my favorite Korean-Bostonian.
And here’s a better picture of the bay. It’s a great view from up here.
We get back on the boat and change into bathing suits to get our kayaking on. I pair up with my buddy and in the spirit of the olympics decide to have a race with two Canadians. They’re from Toronto and are doing a similar trip around Southeast Asia. They’re bouncing around from place to place, actually awaiting a third friend to come to the area to meet up with.
I think we end up taking the gold for kayaking, but the desire to win any medals is taken over by the gorgeousness of the bay. We kayak through caves and get up close with the beautiful rock we’ve been passing from the height and distance of our boat. The rocks seem massive from these little kayaks, which bob up and down in the somewhat wavy water.
We reach what looks like a good turning around point but the Torontonians want to push forward to another cave. We decide to follow along for the ride. Eventually after a whole bunch of kayaking, we swing back to the dock. It’s been over an hour but we’ve lost track of time out there on the bay.
As the dock comes into view we see the little boat with all of the other passengers departing for the cruise ship. We wave to them and they jokingly tell us their leaving us behind. We figure we’ll catch the next ride when they get dropped off.
When we eventually arrive at the dock we see that the little boat was still filled with our fellow cruisers. Some of them have probably been waiting for a while for us to finish up having fun. And the Canadians are way behind. It takes them a couple minutes to catch up and we kind of wait around the dock out of sight of our little ship so that we can all get onboard together. When we finally do get on board it’s to a roar of applause, cheering for us being late. How American of us, and Canadian too I suppose.
After kayaks we head back to our rooms and get ready for dinner. It feels like a cruise. It feels like dinner is supposed to be fancy. I kind of want to throw a button down on, but instead opt for more of the same outfit I’ve been wearing on this trip. A black v-neck and shorts. It’s pretty much all I ever wear these days.
Our dinner table is myself, Boston, and the French couple. The French are, I am not making this up, deep in discussion over what wines to order for dinner. I tend to stick with beer, but beers on this trip are your typical beer. Tiger and Ha Noi Beer and the like. I join the French with a glass of local Vietnamese red wine. I want to order the red but am brought white. I wanted white with dinner as I anticipating more seafood and whatnot, but no worries. I drink the white and eventually order red with dinner.
Dinner, like lunch, is this massive 5+ course family style meal. The dishes come out to your table, you take a bit and eat, and then soon after another dish arrives. Some of the dishes are prepared in extravagant styles by lighting on fire and whatnot, which gives you a break in the pace. The pace is a bit fast though, so you have to make sure you eat quickly.
After dinner the bartender comes out to make some special drink that is made by waterfalling a bunch of alcohols down a bunch of glasses and like lighting them on fire and stuff. It’s for a very special birthday, which actually ends up being the French girl at our table. I had no idea who the drink was for so I was a bit surprised when it made it’s way over to our table.
Later after the meal is over I look for a double espresso but it’s too late to get one. Nonsense I think. This is France. There are always cups of espresso and desert to be had. But this isn’t France at all. This is Vietnam. About as far away from France as the United States is.
After dinner I head up to the deck to shoot some pictures alone and just soak in the beauty and serenity of the bay. It’s nice to have a night off from running around and trying to see the whole world. I stay up about as long as I can before heading down to the room to grab some sleep.
Aug 17, 2016
Morning arrives. Breakfast is early so I head back up to the main room to grab it.
The plan for the day is to have a beach day on Ti Top Island. There’s also a hike on the island that gives you a good view. The hike and the beach day mostly go to waste as it starts completely down pouring. The Canadian and American teams spend the day only a couple meters up the hike under an overhang talking about life in Toronto and Jersey. We also talk about app and website ideas. It’s still a good time.
After the beach it’s back to the hotel to shower up and pack up. Before leaving my room I snap a picture of the view. It’s a pretty gorgeous view from here.
After we unpack we head back up for a cooking class, which ends up being a simple how to roll a spring roll. It works out well because the chef spends some time making some absurd food art. Here’s a bird he made from a pear. This picture to me sums up a lot of Southeast Asia. Labor is cheap. This is only possible here because that is true. Our chef is also the captain of the boat. It’s another example of not just life on a cruise ship, but life out this way. To have such a variety of skills to make a living is remarkable.
After the cooking class we jam another five-course meal and head off of the boat. It’s kind of a slight chaos when we get off of the boat. There’s a bunch of different busses going back to Hanoi, so we end up being apart from the group that we came out here with. The French couple says goodbye. The Americans and Canadians are sticking together for one more bus ride.
We leave the dock around noon. It’s a four-hour ride to Hanoi. The bus driver sets up a taxi to take at some drop off along the main road. This saves us from heading all the way into the center of the city, which saves us some time in getting to the airport. Halfway into the bus ride we take a rest stop. This includes coffees, fruit juices, pineapples, oreos, and some random citrusy energy type drinks. It’s where we grab this sweet pic.
After the rest stop we get back on the bus. Eventually the drop off for the taxi comes. It’s time to wake up my fellow American and wish him well. I think he’s fallen in love with some massage girl in Hanoi, so I’m sure he’ll be fine in his time there.
I pile into the taxi with my two homies from the 6 (or is it the 9 now) and we head out to the airport. Before we left the docks I booked a ticket out to Ko Phi Phi. On the bus ride they booked a flight out to Laos. I probably should have followed them to Luang Prabang, but I was happy enough cutting out Laos from the trip to try to save time for Australia and New Zealand. I also want to slowly make my way home to get the next part of my life started.
The taxi ride ends quickly. Our time chatting about life and travel is at an end. Finally at the airport we say our goodbyes. What was once four has dwindled back down to one. It was definitely a fun time on the cruise getting to talk with people from all over and making some human connection. It was a nice break after the hours of grinding travel by myself.
My flight is set to depart Hanoi at 8:50 PM and to arrive at Bangkok at 11:00 PM. There’s going to be a layover. It’s a different airlines so I have to grab my bags, go through customs, leave the airport, and then reenter the domestic terminal and go through security and the check-in process again. Sounds rough but it’s not too bad. I grab another night of sleep in the Bangkok airport. It’s now my fourth time in this airport and my second night of sleep here in the last seven days.
Aug 18, 2016
This night of sleep ends up going better than the first time I slept here. I throw in ear buds with some relaxing music that I can turn up loudly enough to drown out the speakers and the absurd travelers that are just screaming conversation amidst a sea of sleeping bodies. I even combat the cold effectively cracking out my down jacket that I had tucked away for the trip. Eventually it’s time to depart Bangkok at 6:45 AM for Krabi to arrive 7:55 AM.
From Krabi it’s a bus ride to the ferry terminal. From the ferry terminal it’s a two-hour ferry ride to Ko Phi Phi. It takes a little while to get here but once I finally do it is all worth it. Ko Phi Phi is a glorious island.
In order to get to my hotel I need to hop on a boat. So that means that it’s time for another boat picture. I’m on a boat.
Here’s a shot of the beach outside of my hotel. This is about thirty feet from my room. It’s pretty glorious.
And a panorama because it’s just so glorious.
I end up spending the day laying out in the sun and hopping into the water to swim. Today is intended to be strictly a rest day. I think about possibly getting a massage later. I head back to the room around dinner time and take a nap. The plan is to wake up to grab dinner, and then possibly grab that massage. But I end up sleeping late and sleeping the rest of the night away. I don’t mind. This day is here to just relax and let myself catch up with everything.
Aug 19, 2016
Night turns to day, and sadly it’s time to slowly make my way out of this heaven. First I grab a breakfast from my hotel.
After breakfast I take the walk to town. I end up leaving Ko Phi Phi at 1:30 PM for a ferry to Krabi. The ferry gets in around 3:40 PM and the taxi doesn’t get to the airport until my international flight is boarding at 4:30 PM. The flight is supposed to leave at 5:10 PM flight so it looks like I might not be able to make it. Luckily I’m able to cut all of the lines and get on the plane only a few minutes before the doors close. I’m able to arrive 7:35 PM at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It’s only about an hour flight but the time moves head an hour.
So that’s about it. Have a bit more of Southeast Asia to go through and then the decisions will be made about Australia and New Zealand. It’s been a fast paced beautiful whirlwind through Southeast Asia but it’s been incredible so far. I’ve been having the best of time. I’ll have to find out how the Laos path ended up going, but last I heard there were two Canadians riding an elephant through Laos. So I think it’s safe to say both roads would have been fine to take.