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.
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.
The time has come to travel again. I was aiming for a trip towards the end of the summer but for some reason wasn’t feeling motivated to figure out where to head to or to make travel plans. Thankfully that has changed. Travel is and has been one of the best things in my life for a few years now. It’s opened up my view of the world. It’s allowed me to connect to and understand different people from both my country and from the world. It’s allowed me to see some of the most amazing things that both nature and humanity have been able to create. I need travel. I need to see the world. It’s something that I have to have in my life. So if there’s ever a time I don’t want to be making travel plans, it is worrisome for me. It’s an indication that some part of me is broken. I’m glad that the desire is back, and I can’t wait to get back on the road.
I have a somewhat rare chance to be able to do whatever I want to do with my life. For months now there have been no restrictions on what I’ve been able to do. I haven’t enforced any rules for myself and I’ve stepped into areas that I was not able to explore previously. I’ve been able to live exactly as I have wanted and have been able to openly feel and explore the world. It’s been great. Time like this is somewhat rare, but an effort should be made to obtain it if you can find a way to do so. With having so much time to myself I knew that I wanted to go through with some big travel plans.
My top five lists of travel destinations in no particular order are:
Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand
When I travel I like to visit a lot of places in a short period of time. I like to road trip around and bounce from place to place. There are few better places in the world for me than being on the road, or the water, or in the air traveling to some new destination that I have always wanted to go to but have never been to before. These five destinations provide plenty of earth, water, and sky for me to explore. They are all places I have never been to but want to go to at some point in my life. I’m not really sure where the desires come to for some of them. I definitely want to see the entire world, but these five are preferences that I want to see first.
Initially when looking at this list, there was no place where I wanted to go to more than any other. So I needed to work through some sort of process to figure out where my adventure would be. One thing that I usually do when I travel is check up on current events. The first place I usually start is the U.S. Department of State’s International Travel’s list of alerts and warnings. The U.S. will “issue a Travel Alert for short-term events they think you should know about when planning travel to a country… and a Travel Warning when they want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all.” I wouldn’t use this list exclusively to determine if a location is safe or not safe to travel to, but it’s a pretty good start.
There are currently some interesting alerts and warnings on this list. For example there is a Travel Alert for the entire continent of Europe. That’s something that to me seems insane. Specifically France is listed for the European Soccer Championship and the Tour de France cycling race. Poland is listed for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day event, which is expected to draw up to 2.5 million visitors to Krakow. There’s no other specific countries European countries listed under this travel alert but the U.S. had decided to group the rest of Europe in as a general alert.
The Philippines Travel Warning was another thing that I was not familiar with. It applies mostly to the Sulu Sea area and is there due to the high threat of attacks and kidnapping of international travelers.
The list of alerts and warnings and the state of the world is constantly changing, so this information will be out of date within a few days, but the point is that it would be somewhat irresponsible to head out to a location without knowing a bit of the risks associated with the journey. I wouldn’t let most of these alerts or warnings keep you from traveling but you should be smart about the environment to limit your risks.
I laid down the 42 alerts and warnings listed at this time on to a map. I used the online tool from Maploco if you have an interest in generating a similar map. It’s pretty remarkable what is listed here as either an alert or a warning. Again this map is not definitive. It includes areas that I don’t feel should be on here and it does not include other areas that it probably should. For example you are probably fine touring around the vineyards of Bordeaux or the Alps of Switzerland although there technically is an alert for these areas. You also might want to consider Rio if you will be in the area during the Olympics. Research the area you are going to for current events and be smart and keep an eye out when you head to new locations. Don’t be paranoid, but be safe.
Most of my top 5 came up as places that were safe to travel to. Eastern Europe I guess is technically under alert. Sure the eastern areas of Ukraine around Donetsk and Luhansk are certainly pretty dangerous. Violent clashes there have led to over 9,000 deaths. A portion of the Philippines is under warning. While eastern Ukraine and the southern part of the Philippines are likely to be off limits for me personally, most of my top 5 is still feasible.
Now that safety is confirmed, I need to look at some other aspect to cut down my list to an individual destination. One place I can remove from that list is Eastern Europe. I recently saw a large portion of Western Europe two years ago. Eastern Europe, while extremely different, is too similar of a destination for me. It’s not challenging enough to me at this point in my life. I want something more difficult. I want something that will change my worldview and push me as a person.
For the same reason I can get rid of the Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand trip. That also would be a tremendous trip. But the difficulty level associated with this trip is not much. It seems too easy and not rewarding enough. How challenging can it be for me to be relaxing on the beaches of Waikiki, spending time in Sydney, or bouncing about the Milford Sound? That’s all stuff I’d love to do someday, but it won’t be my first choice for this trip.
That leaves me three locations that I might want to travel to at this time. Southeast Asia, India, and Southern Africa. All three of these locations are going to shatter my worldview. They are going to challenge me. I am going to grow from the experience of traveling around these places.
At this point I’m going to read about other people’s trips to these areas. I’m going to try to assemble a list of things I want to see or do in each location. If this sounds like a lot of work to you, it’s probably because it is. It’s just the way I like to travel. I don’t mind the work and research because in doing so I am learning about the world and learning about myself. Any time spent on travel in any way, even these planning stages, has always paid dividends in my life.
The plan is to spend about a month and a half or two months traveling. I’m not sure why that number but it just feels right based on past travel, the time I have available, and the things that I want to see on this trip. Anything less probably wouldn’t gain me the experience I am looking for and anything more would probably conflict with things that I want to do after this travel is over.
After some time looking into my remaining locations I decide on Southeast Asia. I chose it mostly because it’s a popular traveler location. The path is fairly worn. The areas have been tested and tried. I’m not pioneering anything by going on this trip, but it allows me the right mix of seeing a totally new part of the world while still doing it in a safe and comfortable way. Sure every travel blogger and instagrammer has been here and taken all of the cliche shots way before me. But for me this trip is pretty much exactly what I want. It seems like a natural progression from my Western Europe trip.
I also really really want to eat the food that I’ve seen so much of on television from this area. Soups and noodles and mystery meat street food. And the sights. Epic historic buildings and locations that I haven’t even heard about yet. Cultures that I have no experience in. Beautiful beaches. Nature that I can’t find anywhere else. I suppose this would have been the same for the Southern African region or the entire country of India, but I just am a bit more interested in Southeast Asia at the moment. It’s been a thought on the backdrop of my subconscious for a long time.
So where am I even going? How do I get around from place to place? How long am I going for? Do I have time to squeeze in a bit of Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia since it’s on the way? Will I be able to swing further up the coast into China, South Korea, and Japan? Time to plan out this itinerary.
The way I went about building an itinerary is to start with googling “best places to visit in Southeast Asia”. From there I took the first two pages and parsed through the results, assigning a ranking to each location and country based on how many times it showed up on a list and how high it scored on the list. This is a process I think I want to automate when I get back as it is very valuable. I basically have no clue about where to go in Southeast Asia outside of some general ideas. But by parsing through Google results I am able to assemble the knowledge of many professionals which gives me a good idea to start with. By using the average knowledge of various experts you quickly have access to very useful information even though you are clueless on a topic.
For example the countries that showed up the most are shown below. Note that results like China and Japan and India show up. Sure they are not part of Southeast Asia, but within the first two pages of Google results there were articles for “Best Destinations in Asia” and “10 Best Places to Visit in Asia” etc. Personally I don’t mind these results showing up. The ranking algorithm I used keeps them towards the bottom of the list. I think there is an advantage to keeping these false positives in the list of results. It gives me ideas for where the trip can extend to. The 11th and 12th results for best places to visit in Southeast Asia return China and Japan. Even without knowing the geographical location of these two countries, this list suggests I may want to look into them to see if they fit into my trip itinerary. These false positives provide suggestions to better my trip in ways I may not have initially considered. I am pretty happy with this list. It is hard to argue against Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia as three of the best countries to visit in Southeast Asia.
Likewise I went through and parsed out and ranked the specific locations. In order to do this I had to make some decisions as to how to cluster the data. I mostly tried to keep these location results at a city level although sometime it dips down into the individual attraction level. I am kind of more interested in the general city or province level of granularity because from there another Google search can easily return the top things to do in that location. I am pretty happy with these results using rough algorithms and clustering. But eventually I would want to improve on them if I do ever automate this process. Again these results are just ideas and suggestions for someone who is clueless on the area. I think they ended up being rather useful. It’s hard to argue against the beaches of Bali, the ruins of Angkor, and the city of Singapore as being some of the best things to see in Southeast Asia.
I previously used a similar process to this to come up with a list of books to read, without having any knowledge of these books. Obviously the power of being able to assemble such information automatically without having to have any knowledge of the subject is extremely powerful. It certainly is the way that search results are heading. Eventually you will be able to tell Google “give me an itinerary for a month and a half to Southeast Asia” and it will give it to you. Until then we have to struggle through with a lot of manual data collection, parsing, and interpreting.
After laying out these Southeast Asian locations on a map, I made an initial route and timeline. From there I saw that I might have some more time available in my travel. I decided to look into Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. I ended up googling “best places to visit in Australia” and parsed through results and made a potential route for this area. Same with New Zealand and Hawaii. At the moment I am leaving these destinations as audibles for the trip. The ease of these locations may provide a nice contrast to some of the more difficult travel that I will be on.
This entire itinerary is open to how I am feeling at that time. I booked a one-way ticket to Myanmar. I have nothing else booked. I looked into travel and it look like I’ll be taking a lot of flights. I hear the flights are the best option but there are overnight buses and buses that you can sleep on that I may try out as they provide a great look at the country scenery. My trip is definitely extremely aggressive, so I may remove some of these destinations. I may spend more or less time in certain areas. I will book flights, buses, hotels, and attractions as I go. And I will take a one-way flight back home when I am ready.
6-Aug Yangon, Myanmar
7-Aug Inle Lake, Myanmar
8-Aug Bagan, Myanmar
9-Aug Mandalay, Myanmar
10-Aug Chiang Mai, Thailand
11-Aug Chiang Rai, Thailand
12-Aug Luang Prabang, Laos
13-Aug Luang Prabang, Laos
14-Aug Hanoi, Vietnam
15-Aug Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
16-Aug Hoi An, Vietnam
17-Aug Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
18-Aug Phnom Penh, Cambodia
19-Aug Angkor, Cambodia
20-Aug Bangkok, Thailand
21-Aug Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand
22-Aug Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
23-Aug Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
24-Aug Singapore, Singapore
25-Aug Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Java, Indonesia
26-Aug Bali, Indonesia
27-Aug Komodo National Park, Indonesia
28-Aug Sydney, Australia
29-Aug Sydney, Australia
30-Aug Melbourne, Australia
31-Aug Great Ocean Road, Australia
1-Sep Adelaide, Australia
2-Sep Uluru, Australia
3-Sep Uluru, Australia
4-Sep Uluru, Australia
5-Sep Cairns, Australia
6-Sep Cairns, Australia
7-Sep Great Barrier Reef, Australia
8-Sep Gold Coast, Australia
9-Sep Gold Coast, Australia
10-Sep Christchurch, New Zealand
11-Sep Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand
12-Sep Milford Sound, New Zealand
13-Sep Queenstown, New Zealand
14-Sep Punakaiki Coast, New Zealand
15-Sep Lake Taupo, New Zealand
16-Sep Lake Taupo, New Zealand
17-Sep Rotorua, New Zealand
18-Sep Waitomo, New Zealand
19-Sep Bay of Islands, New Zealand
20-Sep Auckland, New Zealand
21-Sep Hawaii, Hawaii
22-Sep Hawaii, Hawaii
23-Sep Maui, Hawaii
24-Sep Oahu, Hawaii
25-Sep Kauai, Hawaii
Once the itinerary was planned it was time to get vaccinations and visas. I would recommend getting these done as early as is possible. If you definitely know the countries and style of traveling you are doing then definitely get these vaccinations done first. Vaccinations can take months to get done. Visas may take weeks. Obviously these things are critically important. I would recommend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for vaccinations needed for each country. Is Zika prevalent? Do I need the typhoid vaccination? Is the yellow fever vaccination required to enter the country? Etc. You’ll find the answers at that site.
Same with the visas. If you don’t take care of this stuff you may not be able to visit a country. Or worse, you may be arrested, deported, etc. during your travels. Make sure you research this from an official source as these requirements change. I would recommend the Department of State’s travel page. How many passport pages so I need? Is a visa a required? Can I get the visa in person in the country or do I have to get it before I leave the US? Are there any entry/exit requirements I should be aware or? Any events that I should be aware of when traveling there? You’ll find it all there.
As far as packing I’m going to be backpacking. I’m pretty excited about this. I’ll be using some of the gear that I picked up for hiking but also a lot of other stuff I have lying around the house. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to fit everything inside of my pack, but after watching some YouTube videos I became pretty confident that I would be able to. Some people travel for a really long amount of time with a really small pack (18L!) and only like two quick drying shirts, two underwear, and two socks and just wash them every day in a sink. I kind of want a bit more comfort than that so I’ll be going with about a dozen of each. The environment is pretty hot and casual and a complete downpour depending on the country so it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep the clothes light and compact. It’s also nice that I don’t have to pack my tent, sleeping bag, food, etc. like I would if I was hiking. There should be plenty of room in the pack for everything I need, and it should all fit as a carry-on.
So that’s about it. Can’t wait to get out there. If anyone is interested in joining up for any part of this trip feel free to reach out. I won’t be available on text or phone for the next two months but will have WhatsApp, Facebook and Messenger, Google Hangouts, email, Snapchat, Twitter, and this site during times when I grab Wi-Fi. I don’t believe I’ll be rocking a phone plan because Verizon doesn’t offer service in some of those countries and I don’t feel like grabbing a new SIM card every time I cross borders. It will be nice to unplug and go see the world.