Saturday, February 6, 2010

Travel Blog

So, the thing about travel blogs...

When you are traveling, you don't feel like blogging. Or, at least I don't feel like blogging. I'm too busy enjoying myself...screw everyone else.

Pretty sure my blogging lasted about 3 days into Thailand...then I was like "meh."

But now I'm home...and I want you to listen to me bitch about how much I want to travel again.

So, if you are ready, here I go:

I've been back in the states for about 2 months, and I'm already missing little things about travel. Its not like I'm going to run out and buy the first ticket to Cambodia, but there are a few things that I miss...and here they are:

Traveling light. Since moving home and taking our crap out of storage, I've realized that I miss living from a backpack. While I was living out of a backpack, I even felt like I was lugging too much crap. Maybe its a problem with me, but I always want to simplify my like Gandhi. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but it's stressing me out right now.

Cheap food. I miss walking out my front door, and finding a $1 meal...and I'm not talking about the McDonald's Dollar Menu.

Asians. It feels weird to say this, but white people stress me out. I got so used to my AZN brothers that I started thinking I was Asian...until I looked in the mirror, or they reminded me. I guess I need to start taking weekend trips to San Jose and Thai Town in Los Angeles.

Meeting new people daily. I promised myself that I wouldn't stop talking to people I didn't know...but its hard to stay friendly when you aren't traveling. I'm working on this one.

Feeling challenged. Every day while traveling is a challenge. From finding a room for let to getting extra pages in your passport...everyday has its challenges. It might sound weird, but this keeps you on your toes. It makes you feel alive. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. When most people are at home, they know where to get everything they gets easy...too easy. It's good to know that my hunting and gathering skills are still intact after all those years of dormancy.

While there are plenty more reasons I miss traveling, these are the ones that stick out the most in my mind right now...I'm sure I'll add more later.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My first post with ... check it out, it's made my day!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Courses...Who Knew?

If you think like a tourist, all you are going to find are more tourists. You can go to Ex-pat bars, but all you're going to find is a group of 40 something British men talking about how awesome they are for living abroad...while simultaneously groping an 18-year-old bar girl. You can visit the coffee shops in the backpacker neighborhoods, but you'll just find a bunch of unwashed white dreadlocks talking about how cheaply they've traveled around southeast Asia. You can even visit the street markets, but you'll soon tire of the endless hoards of fat German tourists stepping on your toes.

After a week in Chiang Mai, you feel like there are no neighborhoods free from tourism...and the constant stream of idiots with their heads permanently glued to their fucking Lonely Planet seem to own the town.

Lonely Planet Rant:

I HATE Lonely Planet!!!! I used to think is was this great book that helped people find their way around a new town...helped them find good restaurants...and even helped find reasonably priced lodging. However, the way people use that fucking book is ridiculous. You book a trip to go halfway around the world, and then bury your fucking head in that fucking book....never to see the actual sites. You might not see Chiang Mai University, but I bet you can tell me how many students are enrolled there. You've never seen the 3 kings monument, but I'm sure you can tell me the complete history behind it. I've got an idea, if you are going to sit in a bar all day reading Lonely it at home. Don't waste your money, don't waste your time. Just sit at home and read the complete Lonely Planet guidebook. Sit in your living room...I'll even send you a case of Chang Beer...and read that damned book. Then, when you know the entire history of CHiang Mai, you know the map by heart, you know which cafes to get the best coffee, you know which hotel has the cheapest rooms...when you memorize the entire book, come to Chiang Mai. THEN, you will realize that everything in Lonely Planet is SHIT!!!! It stears you to places that other tourists frequent. It takes you to bars that are packed with perverted old expats. It takes you to hotels that don't exist anymore. It gives you horrible translations. It is filled with information that leads you to places filled with tourists. And, if you are anything like me, you hate travelling just to be surrounded by fellow travelers. You can always tell what if you are near a place that is in the Lonely Planet, because you are surrounded by goobers in performance gear. Goobers in performance gear carrying (sometimes with a finger marking a page) their Lonely Planet...or even worse, with their eyes glued to the pages while trying to walk down the street...bumping everyone on the street as they haphazardly attempt to find the bar that was featured in some horrible b-movie from the 50's...a movie that they have probably never seen, or will even see.

Sorry, sometimes I just get so wound up...I'll continue from before the rant.

There is, however, a better way to meet like minded people while on the road. Take a course.

If you are in Thailand, take a beginners course in Thai. In a week, you will have taken the first steps in learning a new language, met some very interesting Thai teachers, and had plenty of time to get to know some cool fellow students. Don't limit this to Thailand, language courses can be found all around the world. You're in Portugal, take a Portuguese course. You're in Japan, start learning conversational're in England...go for a pint! You already know English...silly bugger.

A few weeks ago, I took the TEFL course at Chiang Mai University. TEFL is a certification to teach EFL (English as a Foreign Language). Once you have the certificate, you can find work teaching English all over the world...Thailand, Africa, South America...even France.

While the course was quite intensive, I met some REALLY cool people...students and teachers alike. Americans, Thais, Brits, Australians, Swiss, Germans, Dutch, Russians, Canadians, and even an Indonesian...a large portion of the world was represented at Chiang Mai University. We had lots of time to get to know each other, watch football matches, drink beer, and even study a little. I can easily say that I have met friends for life through the Chiang Mai University TEFL course...even if one of them is a Tottenham Hotspur Fan...not naming any names.

In addition to meeting cool people, we lived over on Suthep Road...which is the student area of town. We got to see a part of town that wasn't crawling with tourists, had amazing food carts, was well connected with WiFi, and provided many oppurtunities to interact with Thais...most of which were very eager to practice their English, and correct your Thai.

While I was attending the TEFL course, my wife attended a cooking class in Chiang Mai. She met some really cool people in her class...and you can read her experiences here. (I love cross promotions)

While buying a Lonely Planet seems like the best way to travel, it really isn't. Find a reason to travel. Find a course. Find a festival. Find a sporting event. Find a convention. Find a genuine reason to be abroad, and you will meet others that are doing the same thing. And if you find yourself at an international gaming least you know you are surrounded by your kind of people...nerds like me. If you buy tickets for the 2010 World least you'll be surrounded by fellow football fans. And if you book a TEFL course in Chaing Mai, at least you know you are surrounded by people who want to make a life out of teaching abroad.

There is one exception though...If you are a seedy 40-year-old man who enjoys skeezing on 17-year-old bar all means, buy a Lonely Planet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hualamphong Station

After a few days in Bangkok, I found myself standing on platform 3 at the Hualamphong Station waiting for the night train to Chiang Mai. The last 4 days were a bit of a blur…Portland to Seattle to Seoul to Bangkok…buying cell phones…job searching…realizing that job searching was a waste of time unless I had a TEFL…enrolling in a TEFL course at Chiang Mai University…Rushing to Little India, Chinatown, and Siam Square before leaving Bangkok…repacking our backpacks…realizing we have entirely too much shit...returning a pirated copy of Spore that would not work on Catherine’s Mac…being surprised when they gave us our money back…spending all of the refunded spore money on Bollywood movies for train…and finally, taking a taxi to Hualamphong for the 19:35 (7:35pm) train to Chiang Mai.

As I stood reminiscing about the last few days, a tear came to my eye…not because I’m a sissy…It was the heavy diesel exhaust coming from the trains as they idled in the station.

Once the train was at the platform, I loaded my stuff (Catherine) onto the train and went looking for snacks. After only a few moments, I returned with just the necessities…shrimp crackers, seaweed flavored Lay’s, strawberry Pocky, and a $2.00 bottle of Thai whiskey (To make some friends)…Cate decided she didn’t want to be my friend.

After we finished off the bag of shrimp crackers, we were out of the station and on the way to our new home.

Unfortunately, we were seated next to some old bible-thumpers who were dead set on sleep…thus requiring all of our seats to be turned into beds. Though I wanted to sleep, I did want a few moments to watch the city slip into darkness. C’est La Vie. At least I fell asleep quickly.

The reason I call the old farts “bible-thumpers” is because of this morning. I woke up to the wonderful sounds of their discussion on doing “God’s” work in Thailand. These were the type of people who get-off on helping the poor…not because they are nice people…rather; they just want to load up on Jesus points for the apocalypse. I’ve never heard people discuss helping the poor like it was a game of Jesus Monopoly. It made me sick!!!! Yeah, four exclamation points sick.

Bible thumpers aside, we are now in Chiang Mai. We’re now staying in a hostel till we find a permanent home near the University…my job tomorrow, while Cate searches for a job.

After 4 days of running around Bangkok, it’s good to know that we are a few days from settling into a home of our own. Until then, it’s just good to be out of the polluted Bangkok air, and in the fresh air of beautiful Chiang Mai.

Lah Gorn (goodbye)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My New Life

As the plane made its final descent into Bangkok, I started to wonder if I had been fooling myself. I mean, a lot of people move to other countries...a lot of people put their lives into a backpack and fly halfway around the world...but, am I one of those people? Can I make it work? Or am I the type of person who thinks he can live abroad...then ends up coming home in two weeks?

These questions plagued me till I hit the bottom bunk at the Lub-D hostel...then, my body put a quick end to my favor of sleep.

Mysteriously, this morning, the questions were gone. I no longer seemed to care. Instead, I busied myself collecting a new cell phone, acquiring a 1 Gb flash drive, and most importantly, eating an amazing lunch of spring rolls and noodles.

As all my doubts shrivelled away, I realized that living in Thailand isn't much different than living in San Luis Obispo. All the necessities are the same. I must eat, I must drink, I must have shelter, and I have to work to supply those needs. The rest is just a change of venue. Life in Thailand is a bit like an away might be in a different gym, but you're still playing basketball.

Now that I have accepted these simple truths, the doubt is gone, and I'm ready to enjoy my life. I'm not quite sure where it will take me. I have no idea what I will be doing in 6 months. Shit, I don't even have a place to sleep past the 20th...but I'll take these challenges as they come. Just as I would back home.

And if I start stressing, I'll just take a nap and eat some spring rolls.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Thailand is Active

I haven't posted an entry since November 11th of last year; so, I'll keep this one brief. We are headed to Thailand on January and housing will be found once we are on the ground.

There are many details of how we reached this point...but I will spare you those boring details.

Instead, I bring you a picture from our last 25 hour flight!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Belt Buckles

Like many people, I had a vice in college that just never carried over to my real life. For some the vice is cocaine (Dubya), for others the vice is women, but for me, the vice was belt buckles.

I had a collection of buckles that was unrivaled by any in my village. As I walked down the street, many men hid their pathetic stock buckle upon viewing my Nintendo Controller buckle. Women swooned over my Led Zeppelin buckle. And I struck fear into the hearts of the elderly with my naked lady trucker mudflap buckle.

However, after graduation, my buckle collection was forced into the closet by the corporate world. The suits of this land feared my buckle collection, and threatened to send me into exile if I did not repent for my corporate fashion sins. So, needing a paycheck, I packed my buckles in a chest and buried it beneath the Rowan tree.

two weeks ago, after enduring three years of boring stock buckles, I woke in the middle of the night with a desire. A desire to dig up that old chest. As I approached that Rowan tree, a bolt of lightning struck the earth, and exposed the box of buckles. A sign. A sign from the Belt Buckle Gods that my life had greater purpose....I was to be a Buckle Master!!!

Sorry, I read too much Sci-Fi.

Now, I am on a quest to find the coolest belt buckles in the world. The only person who has stepped in my way was that damn guy on eBay this morning...putting in a bid at the last second. But that Hamms Beer belt buckle will be mine...oh yes, it will be mine.

Even though the covetted Hamms Beer buckle is out of my grasp, here are a few other buckles I have been contemplating:

Let me know which of these buckles you like...because I need some help narrowing them down.