Mandalay & Hsipaw, Myanmar

Mandalay

When I got to Mandalay, I decided to take it easy, get caught up on some laundry, and relax a bit from my intensive week of travel up to this point. Also, I had learned that the two girls I met at the airport and hung out with the first day in Myanmar, Helen and Sabine, decided to head to Mandalay before Bagan. They were on their way up in a night bus and I planned to meet up with them and start Mandalay fresh with them. One thing I did do my first day in Mandalay was go to a restaurant with a full on Burmese meal by accident with two other travelers that had arrived. The girl that was sleeping in the pod next to me, Sara, just arrived from extensive travel in India and had also hiked a number of trails in Nepal. We had had a pretty nice chat and decided to get food together. Another girl in the same dorm room also had just got in and was hungry. I love this part of travel, just randomly asking strangers if they want to get a bite or even if you can join them at a table they may be sitting at.

The next day I met up with Helen and Sabine at their hotel in the early morning. We got breakfast at their hotel and called a taxi to give us a tour to the Three Ancient cities. We drove around from temple to temple up until a little after sunset.

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We ended up meeting two girls from Chile, a guy from Malta, and another dude from Australia. We had a few beers together during our lunch break and then enjoyed some more at sunset. Later that night we met up with them. I invited Sara to come because I had bumped into her in the hotel lobby and we walked the kilometer down to the place we were going to meet everyone. When we got to the restaurant, we found it to be a little nicer than we were used to on these sorts of trips, but we enjoyed a few bottles of wine and I had salmon with the group.

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After dinner, the crazy of the night began. A group of us headed to a club we heard was open. When we got there, we found out we had to buy an $80 bottle of whisky in order to get in. Tim, from Malta, and Doron, the Aussie dude, went off to get more money and left us at the door waiting. It was really weird standing in the lobby of this club with all the security guard dudes and sketchy looking people. There was a point we thought about just leaving, but we hung out and waited for the guys.

When they got back, we went into the club where we found ourselves to be the only foreign people. The club reminded me of a Korean nightclub and we ended up having a blast closing down the bar. Helen, Sabine, and the guys went to the sunrise spot to catch that popular activity while I decided to head back to the hostel to get some sleep. We all agreed that what seemed a little uneasy starting out with the club was one hell of a good time. But, I don’t think we will be clubbing any more on this trip!! We did not enjoy our headaches or sleep-deprived bodies.

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The next day we took a day bus up to Hsipaw. Here we planned to go trekking and try to get away from the touristy places a bit.

Hsipaw

It was around 9:00 PM by the time we arrived in Hsipaw. We checked in and got some food at a Chinese place down the road. After that we headed up to the rooftop of the hotel and started drinking beers and playing Heads Up. It was a lot of fun and we had a great view of the city from our new hangout. After putting away a number of beers, we headed to bed. Our plan for the next day was to take a break and pretty much do nothing.

When we woke up, we got some breakfast at the hotel and then went looking for a coffee shop in the hopes for some good Internet. Even though the place we were staying was nice, the Internet was not very fast. But, of course the coffee shop had no Internet at all. So, we decided to just order our coffees and sit by the river and take in the scenery. That evening we went to see the sunset on a hill just outside town and went to bed early so we could get up for a two-day, one-night trek.

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The trek began at 9:00 AM and we jumped in the tuk-tuk with our guide and headed off to the trail we would be starting on. The first day we covered about 18km, climbed about 238 floors worth of hills, which, according to my phone, allowed me to hit over 30,000 steps for the day. That night we stayed in a local families home in the area were fighting between the Burmese government army and the rebel army sometimes occurs. We saw a small military presence and soldiers walking around with AK-47s here and there. But, it was nothing to worry about because the current fighting wasn’t in the area, for the moment.

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One nice thing about being out in the middle of nowhere was that we had no Internet service. I know this seems strange for me to say, but it was actually nice. So, we just hung out a small fire, read books, played with our cameras, and gazed at the stars. There were so many stars that we could hardly pick out many easy to find constellations. The girls got some great shots of the stars with their cameras. It was really breathtaking. Here is one of the night sky pics Helen (Instagram @_while_we_live) took!

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The next day we headed back to town and walked nearly 20km. The end of the hike graced us with an nice waterfall to hang out with and lunch.

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Afterwards, we were pretty exhausted and asked the hotel if they would make a pizza for us. So pizza and beer it was for dinner!! We then hung out for a few more beers at our rooftop hiding spot. The next morning we would be taking the train to a city call Pyin Oo Lwin.

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Yangon, Inle Lake, & Bagan, Myanmar

Yangon

My adventure in Myanmar begins in Yangon. My German friend, Sandra, and I made it on our flight safe.

IMG_4631.JPGWhen we landed, everything went smooth at immigration. While waiting in line we ended up meeting a couple more people we would end up hanging out with occasionally on the trip. In the baggage claim area, there were about six of us all-hanging out and waiting to use the ATM. None of us knew what to expect and because of that we sort of became instant travel companions. I joined three others in the group, Ann-Sophie, Sabine, and Helen in a cab that took us to our hostels. Sandra had to hang back and wait for her sister’s plane to arrive and then they were going to stay at the apartment of a friend of Sandra’s, who she had met in Lombok, Indonesia.

After Sabine and Helen got settled in to their hostels, we joined each other for dinner for local food at sort of a night market food area. Our hostels were pretty close together and were close by Sule Pagoda. We had dumplings and chicken on a stick for dinner and planned to meet up the next morning for some sightseeing.

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At 9:30 the next morning we met and went for a little local breakfast. Helen and I had a noodle and dumpling soup. Both of us found it to be very tasty! From there we wondered around to a number of temples and parks throughout the day. In order of the picture, we saw the Karaweik Palace, the laying Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple, the sitting Buddha at Ngahtatkyi Pagoda Temple, and the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda. I had tried meeting up with Sandra all day too, but there wasn’t a point we were able to connect.

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IMG_4745.JPG.jpegThe next day I joined Sandra’s crew and we met up at a market and then grabbed the city train to get to the neighborhood they were staying at. From there, we took a cab to the bus station and hopped on a night bus to Inle Lake.

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Inle Lake

The night bus to Inle Lake was extremely bumpy! None of us got any great sleep and when we arrived near the town, we just got dropped off to then get shuffled on to the back of a sort of pick-up truck with benches and a roof. This early in the morning, it was cold. Fortunately, we had some long pants on and winter jackets from the extremely cold air-conditioned bus, but I was feeling bad for the guy that only had a pair of running shorts and a t-shirt on.

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After about a 10-15 km ride to town, we decided to walk to the hostel we booked instead of paying more for a short taxi ride. Maybe 15-20 minutes later, after arriving, Helen and Sabine walked past our hostel. We all decided to meet for coffee once we got checked in to our respective places. As we drank our coffees and tried planning the days adventure, we all decided to rent some bikes and follow a road around one part of the lake, which also involved a boat ride and a stop at a winery. We planned the bike ride in a way that we could enjoy the wine tasting at the end of the trip. We all pretty much agreed that the wine was not that good, but alcohol is alcohol and the scenery was great. After the bike ride, we all freshened up and met at an Indian restaurant for some food before calling it a night.

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The next morning, Sandra, the girls, and I went on a boat ride for the day on Inle Lake. The other girls went on a separate trip. One of the problems is that only 5 people are allowed per boat, but it all worked out. I was able to see jewelry weaving, cloth weaving, tobacco rolling, fishing, etc. on the trip. Even though I know it is all just set up for show for tourists, I enjoyed my time on the boat with the sun on my face and wind blowing through my hair.

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IMG_4832.JPG.jpegAfter we got back, we got ready to take the night bus to Bagan. Helen and Sabine decided to stay longer in Mandalay to do a two-day trek. Before we headed off we ran into them and was able to say our goodbyes. Off to Bagan we go!!

Bagan

The bus ride to Bagan was just a bad as the one to Inle Lake. The only difference was we were more prepared for it. One nice thing about taking this night bus was that we were able to catch the sunrise. We hired a driver to take us to our hotel, then take us to the sunrise spot, and bring us back. It was a bit pricy I thought, but I wasn’t to bothered by it because this is going to be the most expensive place overall in Myanmar, I think.

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After we finished our sunset viewing, we got some breakfast, went for coffee, and then bounced around from temple to temple in the area on electric scooters until sunset.

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IMG_4936.JPG.jpegI really enjoyed my time here and the only thing that sort of malfunctioned was my iPhone. A whole batch of photos just came out with just a grey screen. Hopefully I can find a solution to save the lost photos.

The next day we took a day bus to Mandalay where Sandra and the girls went to the Mandalay airport to catch a flight to Thailand and I went a hostel in Mandalay called Four Rivers B&B. Very nice place, but the showers were colder than cold. Definitely going to make sure the next place I book has hot showers!

Recap… up to now!

I’d have to say I had a really good time with Sandra and company. They really made this part of my trip a blast and even though we flew through Myanmar pretty quick, it flowed with the way I like to travel. I originally was going to join them on their trip to Thailand and Laos, but the Gibbons Experience (a 2 day one night treetop living adventure) was fully booked and I would not have been able to join. I do hope to meet up with them again. Next time maybe somewhere in Europe or their home, Germany. Thanks for the amazing time ladies!!!!

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Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Brunei

Going through immigration in Brunei was smooth and easy. Since not a lot of people seem to travel there, the “Foreigner” line had no people. Once I got through and entered arrivals, the owner of the guesthouse, Villa Dadap, were I was going to stay at welcomed me. There is only one hostel in Brunei and they offered free pickups at the airport, which was nice because the place was a little out of town. On the way to the guesthouse he drove through town and pointed out some of the main sights and gave a little history lesson. When we arrived at the hostel I met a really cool girl from Montreal who I would describe as a shining star. She had such a distinctive aura about her that was welcoming to anything that came her way in life. We, along with the hostel owner, went out for some diner and I headed to bed after a little evening conversation.

The next morning I woke up with a pretty bad stomachache. I think all the traveling I had done up to this point had left my insides confused. I ended up wasting the whole day in bed instead of going out with my roommate to check out the town. Fortunately, later that day I did join the hostel owner for an airport pickup and got to get a few pictures in of some of the main mosques.

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The next day I caught a plane out to Kuala Lumpur. I did find getting out of the country a little more difficult. I had to repack my bags in order to save myself $55 because I was 6 pounds over on my carry-on. I’ve never had my carry-on weighed before. They were so anal on the weight that they weighed the bag again just to enter the gate waiting area. Perhaps I need to reassess my gear and pack even less in the future!

When I got to Kuala Lumpur  I met up with my International Marketing partner from Germany before head of to Myanmar together to join her sister. It’s pretty cool we are able to meet up again on this trip. Looking forward to traveling with her a bit if it all works out that way!

On a side note, I would have to say that it would be worth spending a few days in this country. Other than seeing what the capital had to offer, it would have been nice to be able to have gone on a tour to the beach and park the hostel owner had created. He said often the beach has no people and you pretty much have the whole place for yourself. Sounds peaceful!

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Yogyakarta & Jakarta, Indonesia

Originally, I had planned to travel over land from Bali to Yogyakarta with stops at a couple places to climb volcanos. Since I had troubles climbing Mount Batur, I canceled all pans to climb any mountains or volcanoes in Indonesia. This bummed me out a bit, but travel is always changing and evolving as I go. The humidity hot the best of me and I just wasn’t ready to spend a bunch of money on a climb I was not conditioned for. So, to save some time and money I decided to fly because it was so cheap to do so.

Yogyakarta

Getting to my hostel, The Packer Lodge, was really easy. I took the bus from the airport and then a took short walk before arriving. The hostel was really nice and worth the few extra bucks I could have saved by staying at another place. There is nothing like a clean atmosphere and sleeping experience when staying at a hostel. Hostel living can be a challenge for some people because there is never any consistency. That night I met a pretty cool Turkish girl and got a little insight on some places she had already been to. Nothing like having good conversation with a fellow traveler. Way better than the internet or a book and potentially someone I could meet up with again the next time head to Turkey.

I woke up early to catch a 5 am tour to the Buddhist Borobudur Temple and the Hindu Prambanan Temple compound. Both sights were pretty cool and they honestly were the main reasons for me to come to Indonesia in the first place. I love my temples and old stuff!

Borobudur Temple

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Prambanan Temple Compound

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One full day was enough for me in Yogyakarta, so I booked a flight out in the afternoon to Jakarta. That morning before the flight, I was able to make a quick stop at Plataran Tamansari (aka. The Water Castle).

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Jakarta

I got into Jakarta in the evening and decided to try ordering an UberMotor from the airport to my hostel. The trip that would have cost me about $30+ by car with a whole lot of time stuck in traffic was signifigantly reduced by taking the motorbike option. Cost me less than $5 and was not stuck in any major traffic jams, despite the whole way basically being a traffic jam. When I got to The Packer Lodge, I felt the same clean and comfortable atmosphere like I did at the place in Yogyakarta.

The main things I needed to do in Jakarta was see the National Monument and go to the Hard Rock Café to get my shot glass and guitar pin. I decided to Uber to all my locations, which ended up costing me only about $5 total and allowed me to see a lot of the city from the back of a motorbike.

My first stop was the National Monument. I walked around the area taking some pictures and opted out of going up the tower because of a ton of middle school class groups filling up the cue.

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From here I ordered an Uber and made a stop at the Jakarta Cathedral.

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After the Cathedral I Uber’d to the Hard Rock Café and then back to the hostel where I took it easy the rest of the day. One of the things I am finding about traveling alone is that it has become lonely. When I first started traveling abroad nine years ago, it was before smart phones. People would gather in the lobby area and drink beers and talk about their experiences, cultures, etc. Now, most people just stay in their beds and glue themselves to their devices. Nobody seems to seek out connections with people anymore. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still do meet amazing people and enjoy beers into the night on occasion, but they just don’t happen as often as they used to. It got me thinking that these days, if you want to feel the company of another, you almost have to travel with someone.

My next stop will be in Brunei, with a layover in Kuala Lumpur. Looking forward to adding another country to my visited list!

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Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

My trip to Bali was long. From Korea with a layover in Kuala Lumpur and then to Bali, I think it came to be around 10 hours. Total travel time was perhaps 20 hours, when I include stepping out of my apartment and making my way to the hostel I booked. When I did finally arrive, it was pretty late and there was really nothing to do but check in, grab a beer, and go to sleep here in Ubad. Ubad is where I spent the whole time while in Bali.

Day 1

I had taken an International Marketing class for my MBA about a year before this trip. Myself and one other student from UW-Whitewater were paired with a group of students taking a similar course in Cologne, Germany. We were required to work together on a paper about Black Tea. A week or so before this trip I was able to host two of the girls from the German group of that class at my place in Korea. I gave them a place to crash and took them out for a Korean BBQ. Here in Bali, I was able to meet up with my team partner, Sandra, for breakfast. It was great that the timing had worked out and we got to meet each other in person. One of the things I enjoy most about my international travel life is reconnecting with people I have met and shared moments with in this little life journey.

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After breakfast, Sandra was nice enough to give me a lift down to the Monkey Forest in Ubad. Since she has lived in Indonesia the last five months, she has been a wealth of information and suggestions that have been an enormous help for me.

At the Monkey Forest, I had a fun stroll around the park and I got some nice pictures of monkeys and statues that littered the place. After I made my loop I decided to make the 4.5 km walk to the Elephant Caves.

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Getting to the Elephant Caves wasn’t that bad. I like walking instead of taking transport because it gives me the opportunity to hear, smell, and see many of the things that are missed if flying by in a car. There were three other travelers also walking on the other side of the road heading in the same direction. We bonded at the entrance and grabbed an Uber back to the hostel. Fortunately they were staying on the same road as I. That night we grabbed dinner together and had a few drinks. We planned to split a tour around Ubad the next day.

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Day 2

Today we started our tour at 9:30 am and stopped at a painting school and traditional clothing store before getting to a waterfall. I didn’t swim, but the other three did and we enjoyed hanging out for a bit. From there, we then went to a place that made coffee from poop. After the taste testing, we stopped by some rice terraces and headed back to the hostel. I was hoping to hit up the Hard Rock Café today, but traffic was a little insane at this time and I decided to shower up and go to bed early because my tour starts at 2am in the morning to climb Mt Batur.

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Day 3

Today is the day I climb Mount Batur. I did go to bed a little earlier so I could get up for the 2 am pick-up. The climb ended up being more taxing on me than I ever would have expected. I’m usually the person ahead of the pack, but the humidity and perhaps elevation kicked my butt. I did not make it to the summit, but I still had a good time. I had originally planned to take on a number of mountain treks on this trip, but may need to adjust my plans. If I come to Bali again, I intend to prepare myself and take on some treks I won’t be able to do this time. The scenery was beautiful regardless!

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Bohol Island

Day 1

I took a ferry from Cebu to Bohol, which took a little over two hours and walked through the thick humidity to my hostel 2km away. I could have taken a taxi, but figured the exercise was good for me and I just hate dealing with taxi drivers sometimes because I feel like they are always trying to rip me off.

I got to my hostel fine and was dripping from head to toe in sweat. After being shown my room and bed for the next few days, I got myself sorted and updated on things to see and do from a roommate that was heading out. There was also a guy from Finland who I would end up hanging out with a bit during my stay on Bohol. We ended up going out and tracking down some Filipino food for dinner that first night.

The Filipino restaurant we found was set up like a buffet, sort of. There were about twenty or so pots of food and whatever looked good you just point to and the worker scoops out a bit and put it on a small dish. The servings were really small, so I ended up trying 3 or 4 different foods, plus a plate of rice and a soda. I thought the food was good, but it was cold from sitting out for who knows how long. This was the problem I had at every Filipino restaurant I went to, cold to lukewarm food. I also found it to be very salty.

After dinner we walked around to see if there were any interesting bars around, with no luck, and also got a feel of the downtown area.

Day 2

The Finnish guy and I both rented motorbikes and cruised to Corella to visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. Tarsiers are the smallest monkeys in the world and have huge eyes because they are nocturnal. The guide just walked us around a small patch of woods and pointed out four of them. I got a bunch of pictures in, and checked that off my to do list. The next stop was the Chocolate Hills.

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Tarsier

I really enjoyed riding the motorbike and feeling a sense of freedom. It was the first day on my trip I finally felt like I broke away from the mundane activities in my life and the busy of the city, which can really wear me down. Feeling the wind against my body, with music playing in my ears, and just having some time to think as I drove through this beautiful landscape was something I needed. One attraction that I happen to drive through on the way to the Chocolate Hills was the Man Made Forest, which is mostly made up of Mahogany trees. Basically, it is just a reforestation project created after all the trees in that area were cut down. This was still pretty cool to see and drive through.

When I arrived at the Chocolate Hills, it was a nice little break from riding. My butt was feeling it pretty good! We paid our entrance fee and then hiked up a small hill of stairs to the lookout point. I was able to get some pretty sweet shots. When this was over, we tried to get a move on to beat the sunset back to the hostel, which we were unable to do. But, I did get some nice sunset pics going down into the water!

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Bohol Island Sunset

Day 3 & 4

I ended up going it alone the rest of the trip because my Finnish friend was a bit under the weather. I decided to ride around Panglao Island, which is just a small bridge crossing away from Bohol Island. First I went to the Hinagdanan Cave. I thought there would be more to it, but all it was was a big cavern. The cool thing was that you could swim in it. I did not end up partaking, but there were about 10 young kids having a great time jumping off the rocks into the cave pool, and then getting out and jumping back in. I remember I was like that when I was a kid. My siblings, cousins, and I would go to the local swimming park every day during the summer.

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Hinagdanan Cave, Panglao Island

After seeing this cave, I then headed to Alona beach. There I went out and tried getting some sun for about an hour, so I could avoid burning, and then I just hung out at a little beach bar. The next day I would do the same. Go to Alona Beach and then hang at the beach bar for a couple beers. The second day I did attempt to go to White Beach, which is supposed to be much better, but I realized it was more of a locals beach and it did not have the beach bars and restaurants set up like Alona beach. I’m not much of a beach person, but I did fit some time in on this trip!

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Alone Beach, Panglao Island

That night I went out for a Filipino BBQ. Basically, there are a bunch of buckets full of different meats on a stick that you pick from. Then they are re-fired on a grill and covered with BBQ sauce. I found the sauce to be pretty good, but again the food’s core temp just wasn’t were I’d like my meat to be. Of course I could probably have had them throw it on the fire longer, but the place was packed and the last thing I wanted to be is even more of a foreigner than I already am.

Another interesting thing that happened at this dinner was a number of kids coming up to us rubbing their bellies with their hands out. One of the girls that was with us was suffering from food poisoning and had decided not to eat her meat. She gave it to one of the kids and they ran away not wanting it. One kid did take it and tried to share it with his friends, but none of them were interested. Another reason why I don’t give money to people begging. Many do eat fine. They may not have the best living conditions, but it is impossible to give to everyone. Also, when people see you give to one, suddenly you are swarmed.

These same kids came up to us about 5 times, but suddenly I heard a hiss from the people at the other table and the kids scampered away pretty quickly. I’ll have to do some research on what that was all about. I’m guessing it means, “Go the beep away!”

One last thing I did try was balut. Balut is a duck egg that is going through it’s gestation period. The egg I ate was about 16-17 days old. I guess this is the best age to eat them. Some people do eat it up to about 21-24 days old when the beak and bones have started forming. Lets just say it tasted edible, but I don’t think I will eat again. I’m glad I had a soda with me, because I needed something to wash it down with. I also ate it with the dude from Finland. We had planned to do it together since the first day we had met. Without doing it in a group setting, I probably would not have tried it. I also had a chance to sit with some local university age girls eating balut and was able to ask different cultural questions that I had going on in my head from my trip. I guess balut is good brain food too!

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Tarsier

Day 5

The night before, my new friends from Scotland and Poland checked in to my hostel. They pretty much went everywhere I should have over the course of the last week. So, if I come back to the Philippines, I may have to follow their little trip path! I would have joined them for the day, but I had already seen the sights they were going to see. I ended up taking a long moped ride.

Since I had this extra day, I wanted to try and be productive. I decided to ride to Anda, which is about 107 km away. Its a little peninsula that can be reached by following the southern road along the coast. It really was a great ride, even though my rear-end was so sore from the ride! My destination was Lamanok Island. I though it would just be an overlook, take a picture, and head back sort of trip. But, there was a little stand set up off the side of the road with a girl’s head peering out from behind the desk. I turned around my bike because I had passed the stand not thinking much about it and stopped to talk to her. I guess there was a tour to Lamanok Island by boat with a tour guide showing me the caves on the island. I asked if any other tourists had come today, and I guess I was the only one except for a Korean guy in the morning. I’m not sure what his story was because when I was brought to the boathouse, there he was passed out listening to Korean radio. I thought to myself that maybe he was working of a soju bender!

The guide lead me on to a boat and he paddled us off to this island. We had to get out in an area of water that went half way up my leg, so good thing I was just wearing sandals. The water was so warm too and I sort of wished I was swimming in it. The man lead me into the forest and up to some caves. All the caves he showed me were used for burials or Shamanic rituals. It was really neat seeing all the volcanic rock formations and fossilized clams and fish everywhere. One interesting piece of history he mentioned was that it wasn’t the Spanish who “discovered” the Philippines. He said that people from the Middle East had come long before and they were also trading with countries like China before the Spanish too. Another case of history misrepresented by those who write it.

After the tour, I gave the receptionist girl a ride to her home about a km up the road and made my way back to Tagbilaran City. It was about 4pm at this point because I got on the road late and I needed to try and get back before 6pm when the sun was setting. I didn’t feel like driving when it’s dark.

That pretty much sums up my time on Bohol. I will take a ferry tomorrow and fly to Manila. In Manila, I will stay at the same guesthouse I was at before because they were really great. The place was clean and I didn’t come across any cockroaches. Hopefully I won’t have any issues at the airport with transportation. I’ll have one full day in Manila, but I don’t plan to go anywhere in town. I have an MBA class starting and want to just get a jump on that and take it easy on my end of trip spending.

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Social Media Gone Nuts:-(

Political Correctness on Crack

Since going on my trip to the Philippines,  I got a brutal lesson in how PC (Politically Correct) the world has gotten. I travel to leave my safety net and learn about the world around me, both good and bad. I’m sorry, but sitting in front of a TV watching the history channel isn’t the only way I want to learn. I want to walk in the footsteps of history, close my eyes, and bring myself back to that time.

I travel and share my “raw” experiences, feelings,  and any other random things I learn from travelers and locals alike, as honestly as I can. My thoughts are my opinions and when I try to inform, it is based from external sources. Because I choose to write about my experiences and thoughts, I am left vulnerable to criticism. Do I have a problem with criticism? No. I welcome other people’s opinions delivered in a constructive adult manner. My story is just based of the path that I’m walking through a vast possibility of experiences. My thoughts and opinions are constantly evolving as I walk forward and how I may feel at the beginning of my story may be very different when I create my final thoughts.

Social Media Hysteria 

The reason for this blog post is because of multiple Facebook posts about my trip that were hijacked by an individual stating I’m a, ‘privileged arrogant douchebag backpacker, cruising the lands of inferior brown people with my white superiority,’ just for writing or stating my thoughts or feelings through my blog and/or social media about how my trip is going and describing my environment. This was from someone I thought was a friend. (By the way, these actions are considered cyber bullying and should never be tolerated.) Apparently, my opinions about my surroundings and the feelings I tried to communicate about these moments were considered offensive. It even went as far as hijacking a new friends Facebook post that I was linked too. I, nor my new friends, were in no way trying to degrade any race of people. I meet people from all races, creeds, religions, and skin color that also backpack the world for the same reasons I do, to experience how people live and create new experiences in our lives. Making statements, like the one I have already stated, is uncalled for on so many levels.

Economic Divide

Is there a divide in how people live all over the world, between rich and poor? Absolutely.  As I sit here and write, CNN is reporting that the top 62 richest people have as much wealth as half the world, or 3.5 billion people. (These stark differences can be seen in any community you walk through in the world, from America to Liberia. I don’t look down on those with less than me nor will I sugarcoat these problems when I see it in my writing, regardless of the location. If anything, it makes me wonder what we can do as a human race to improve the living conditions of people. Visiting countries and just scrapping the surface a bit on how other people live is a huge education to me and I hope to share what I learn with those who care to read.

My Final Thoughts

With the use of social media as a tool to communicate with the world or just friends and family, we do need to think twice before posting something we may not be able to take back. Also, there is no reason to write derogatory statements on anyones social media platform. If you are on Facebook, even if you aren’t rich, you are probably doing better than the 20% of the world living on less than$1.90 a day, 71% that lives on less than $10 a day, or the 40% of the world without Internet access. Social media has become an easy outlet to bash people for sharing opinions. I’m not perfect and we all see the world through different lenses. I’m not going to stop sharing both the positive and negative experiences I have, regardless of the country I’m in. I’m just a random guy walking down a street I don’t know for the first time doing my best to understand what is going on around me.

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Cebu City, Philippines

Day 1

After my travel day from Manila to Cebu, I was looking forward to seeing what Cebu City was like. I have a couple of full days here, so I was hoping to make the most of my time before my next destination. Honestly though, if you come here, just do one full day and hop off to someplace more interesting. There is a lot of hustle here (not as bad as Manila), so if you need a place to just chill out, you should leave the city quickly.

I got a late start as usual and headed to a few of the main attractions in Cebu City. I pretty much walked about a mile down one of the main roads from my hostel to get there. It was hot! People wonder why I don’t always take the public transportation. Three reasons… The first is that I like getting a little exercise that I normally lack in my daily life. When I travel I’m easily putting on 20,000 steps or more (according to Apple). Second, it allows me to essentially stop and smell the coffee (and believe me the smells are far from anything resembling coffee) and feel the buzz in the air. Third, I like to avoid scams and sometimes can’t be bothered if I’m unsure how to do something.

As I made my way through the crowded sidewalks of people trying to sell me something or beg for money, I came to Basilica Minore del Santo Nino de Cebu. There was a mass going on that had people flooding out into the streets. I recalled thinking to myself that if us American Catholics showed that kind of devotion to our faith, I perhaps could see myself finding religion again… or maybe not. Either way, it is interesting to smell a strong Catholic essence in the air. Reminds me of Catholic school growing up.

Just around the corner there was the Magellan’s Cross and another block away the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. After viewing these places, I then made my way a couple more blocks down to Fort San Pedro. From there, the Heritage of Cebu Monument. This was really all there was to see in the area, other than a couple of museums. I was pretty tired of walking and the heat, so I headed back to the hostel for the night.

Day 2

Today I planned to go to Tops Lookout, the Temple of Leah, and Taoist Temple Cebu. First, this involved taking a walk for about a mile to JY-Square where I could pick up a motorbike taxi. This is a much cheaper option and cost me 300 pesos ($6.35) round trip (Lonely Planet said it would be 200 pesos). Also, it’s always fun taking a bike ride up and down a mountain road.

I should have started my day a little bit earlier because Tops Lookout was just fog. I even ended up paying the admission fee, which was stupid. Next down to the Temple of Leah. This place was pretty cool and there was a much better view over the city. This place was only partially constructed, but it looks like it will be pretty nice when it is completed.

Lastly, the motor bike dude took me to the Taoist Temple and then stranded me there. Not happy about that. I was only about a mile from my hostel anyways, so I decided just to huff it back.

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Taoist Temple of Cebu

That’s pretty much my two days in Cebu City. I found it pretty boring, partly because I had no interaction with other travelers. My hostel lounge was just dead, except for the twenty Korean teenagers that stayed there night number two. I head to Bohol Island by ferry tomorrow, so I hope to finally find a beach and meet some new people to drink and cruise around with.

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Manila, Philippines

 I chose to come to Manila this January because I was able to get round trip tickets for about $180 last August. Like last year, I chose the cheapest flight I could find from Korea and went with it. People sometimes ask why I don’t just save up and go to a place I really want to go. Well, my problem is I want to go everywhere and one of the most expensive parts of traveling can be just getting there. Plus, economies and change rates are always changing. It’s not a bad idea to assess where one can go and get the biggest bang for their buck.

Day 1

When I got to Manila International Airport (has a different name, but too lazy to look it up), everything was fine until I stepped outside. The traffic was horrendous. It probably didn’t help that I flew in on a Friday, mid afternoon, on a holiday weekend. I didn’t think about this when I booked my ticket! Saturday was the Feast of the Black Nazarene. This festival attracts over 3 million people. So, at the airport there were no taxis and a line of people waiting for a taxi that stretched on forever. I ended up getting persuaded into taking a shuttle van for 2,000 Pesos ($42) because I didn’t know what else to do. I also ended up sitting in traffic for about 4 hours and finally said I would just hike it to my hostel and hit up a McDonald’s before my bladder was about to burst. I don’t think I have ever been in a more congested and crazy driving situation in my life. Seriously, the driving here is so screwed up!

After McDonald’s, I walked through the neighborhood of Makati. This is basically the red-light district. As you walk through, prostitutes are trying to get your attention, along with poor kids trying to get money, or someone else trying to sell any number of items from water to cigs. I did finally make it to my hostel and also found I was basically in the middle of Korea town too Many of the restaurants and marts in the area were all Korean, including the signage. And I mean scary identical. For example, there was nothing in a small supermarket that wasn’t Korean and it had nearly an identical set up to the market near my home in Korea. Also, I then started to notice a lot of Korean men walking around. No Korean women (I wonder why?). I realized pretty quickly that this neighborhood is for Korean men to come and have the comforts of home while paying for the pleasures and company of Philipeano women. You catch my drift!

After I checked in to my hostel, I decided to hang out down in the lobby for a bit. Here I met a Scottish guy and his Polish girlfriend. They had also just arrived and we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood together to get our bearings and have a few beers.

Day 2

I got up and headed down to the lobby around noon. Right away I ran into Steven, the Scottish fellow. I found out where some old Spanish buildings were in the city, so we all decided to go check out some history. We took a cab there and got to see Fort Santiago, the Cathedral of Manila, Church of San Agustin, and a number of other historical buildings as we walked through the old neighborhood. Honestly, the driving and hustle and bustle of Manila is crazy, so being in an area that was much more relaxing was nice. But, it didn’t come without the annoyances of people trying to sell me on a small tour around the area at every corner I turned.

That night, the Scottish/Polish couple and I decided to go out for a Korean BBQ. It was cool to show them something I know very well. I was amazed at how authentic tasting all the food was. It was also their first taste of soju. That didn’t feel good the next morning, which is also authentic. It was also interesting to watch some of the Korean men interact with their Philipeano girls. All of the men I witnessed projected a superior arrogance. I feel bad for the women who married these a-holes.

Day 3

I spent most of the day just trying to figure out where to go next, which was really stressing me out. I was supposed to check-out, but extended my stay one more night. I finally decided to book a fight to Cebu for $125. That’s what I get for booking the day before and not planning ahead. Still, I can live with that price and I look forward to getting out of Manila to see something new tomorrow! I was originally going to take a night bus to a place with whale sharks to dive with, but read that recently many ventures out to find them have failed. I guess I can do that near Cebu anyways, so we’ll see when that time comes!

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Singapore, Singapore

The trip to Singapore took about 5-6 hours I think. When I got dropped off by the bus, I found my way to the closest Starbucks to grab a coffee and free wifi as I tried to find my hostel. I forgot to star my location in Google Maps on my phone, so the app was useless without data. I did eventually make it to The Hive after a bit of a long walk. Right away, the staff was really friendly and I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out what to see or do. I was feeling the effects of sticker shock at how much it would cost to do anything here. Everything was out of my budget. So, I tried to focus on the free things to do in town.

The first full day in Singapore involved a few stops and a lot of walking (18,000 steps according to my phone!!). After getting some lunch, I walked to Little India from the hostel. I was told I could buy a data SIM card in the area, and sure enough they were correct. I ended up buying a 1GB data card for $10 Singapore. I wasn’t really impressed with Little India. Though, I think it may be a more interesting place at night and with people to eat some Indian food. A few people I talked to said the food is really good.

From Little India, I proceeded to the ION Tower. I read that this place is a little gem in Singapore. This is because you can go to the 56th floor and get a view of the whole city for free. It was sort of a pain in the butt to find how to get up to the 56th floor when I got there, but once at the top, I chilled out from my long walk and enjoyed the view.  After the ION Tower, I then stopped by the Hard Rock Cafe Singapore for my shot glass and guitar pin before heading back to the hostel. This pretty much ended my first day.

ION Tower Sky View (Picture 1)

On my second day in Singapore, I headed to Sentosa. Sentosa is an island at the southern part of Singapore. Here you can find Universal Studios, other theme-type parks, and beaches. I didn’t go into any of the theme places because they all just cost way to much. I did head to the Hard Rock Cafe to check that off my list and then to the beach. The beaches were nice and clean, but looking out into the sea were tons of dirty cargo ships and a huge plant of some sorts spewing pollution out of smokestacks on some kind of industrial island. Not exactly what I want to look at while chilled on the beach. Think I’d rather go to Thailand for their beaches. Overall though, the day was good and I was able to spend it hanging out with an Israeli guy that was also staying at the hostel. He seemed really nice, but our conversation was really strange because it seemed like he was trying to psychoanalyze me, my perspectives on life, and my experiences with different cultures based around his Jewish heritage. I did my best to have an open conversation, but often it felt like only his opinion and thinking was right. This pretty much concluded my day after I got back to the hostel.

The next day I headed to the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands to get a look at this iconic Singapore building. I got a few pictures and then headed back to the hostel for a bit before heading to another part of the country to see old Daejeon friends and ex-coworkers. There really was a huge gathering of us. A lot of the people at the party I didn’t even know had left Korea. It was a pretty nice drunk gathering by the buildings outdoor pool until we got kicked back upstairs around midnight to drink more. I didn’t make it back to my hostel that night, but the next morning I finally did after eating lunch with the party hosts. One thing I did learn from talking to everyone is, don’t come to Singapore to teach. At least for the two companies they work for. Good to know because I was seriously looking at going there to teach if Korea goes south.

Marina Bay Sands Daytime (Picture 1)

Gardens by the Bay Daytime (Picture 1) (Picture 2)

When I finally made it back to my hostel from my friend’s place, I chilled out a bit until it got dark. I wanted to get some night photos, so when night fell I headed to the Marina Bay Sands area and then to Gardens by the Bay. I really like seeing a city at night. It always feels more alive than during the day.

Marina Bay Sands at Night

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Singapore at Night (Picture 1) (Picture 2) (Picture 3)

Merlion Park at Night (Picture 1)

Gardens by the Bay at Night (Picture 1) (Picture 2) (Picture 3)

This pretty much concludes my trip. The next morning I will catch a bus to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a night there before heading back to winter in South Korea. Overall, I’d say this was one of the more disappointing trips when it comes to stuff I like to see and it cost more than I would have liked to spend, mostly because I underestimated what I would need for money in Singapore. If you don’t have money, you can’t do anything. Even with a $50 a day budget, I found myself over every day I was in Singapore. And I really didn’t do much at all!! Now to begin planning a trip for the summer^^

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