There are cities where you go to spend a few days eating like the locals, visiting the sites, people watching, and soaking in the culture and then leave feeling satisfied that you’ve checked it off your list and don’t need to return.
Beijing is not one of those cities. It’s big, bustling, beautiful and utterly bizarre. Even after two trips there, I still don’t feel like I’ve had my fill of the capital city. I’ve maybe had a drink and an appetizer, but I’m in no way ready to lay down my napkin, push my chair back and pat my stomach contentedly. Continue reading Photo book: The Beauty of Beijing
It was my first taste of China, so many months ago. It was there that I struggled to slurp up soupy noodles (and ended up spraying Sam with broth and spices in the process). It was where I realized the words I’d learned on Rosetta Stone – “cat,” “sister,” “flower” – weren’t going to be much help ordering food, getting housing or interacting with people on a personal level. And, it was were a few other Drake teachers and I started to piece together an understanding of this beautiful and bizarre country.
Continue reading Thoughts on second visits
I had no intentions of going to Tiger Leaping Gorge.
My original plan was to go to Lijiang and spend a few lazy days eating yak cheese and exploring the nearby villages.
But thanks to a chance meeting on a train and the certain swagger that comes with youth, I instead jumped on a bus and hiked 16 plus incredibly strenuous miles over mountains and around bends with someone I’d just met.
It wasn’t the first spontaneous decision of the weekend. After deciding at the last possible moment that I had no interest in spending the long holiday weekend in Guilin, I threw some clothes and my camera in a bag, went to the train station with a scrap of paper listing three far-flung destinations around China, and said I wanted to go to whichever one had the next train out. Continue reading Hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge
An authentic experience can be hard to come by in many big cities in Asia. Cities like Bangkok, Siem Reap and Singapore are so entrenched in Western travelers Asia hit-lists that adventures can feel canned. Whether it’s the people jockeying for room to take a picture of Angkor Wat, fighting over merchandise at the weekend market in Bangkok or waiting in lines longer than those at Target on Black Friday to see some temple, travel can get taxing.
Thankfully, there are places, like Siquijor Island, that acts as an antidote to travel fatigue. There the food is delicious, the people gregarious and genuine, the sunsets vibrantly hued and the only other Westerners are those who have “gone native.” I already waxed poetic about the charms of the small Filipino island, but here are 16 more reasons why.
Continue reading Photo book: 16 more reasons to love Siquijor
From the sweet perfume of honey-marmalade topped pink rice to the lazy sensuality of a mongrel blend of spices rubbed into a rotating chicken, a myriad of scents assault my nose in the family-run market.
To my left were a group of middle-aged Filipino men, gathered around an old, flickering TV set, watching a sporting match that was evidently very exciting. Every few minutes the cacophony of raucous cheers and jeers and the toppling of chairs as the men leapt to their feet were heard throughout the open-air market. Continue reading Forever my favorite: Siquijor island, Philippines
Taking a long-distance bus, particularly an overnight one, in Asia can be a harrowing experience. During the two months that I spent backpacking in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand I took many night buses – not one of them went according to plan.
One particularly memorable bus ride in Vietnam involved an altercation between our driver and a drunk driver on the road. Both men leaned out their respective windows, shaking their fists and hurling Vietnamese curses at each other as they careened down the dark unpaved road at breakneck speeds. After a half hour of jockeying for the leader spot in their live action version of Pole Position, each pulled over and engaged in a short round of fisticuffs that ended with the bus driver getting beaned with a rock to the temple. At this point villagers emerged, the drunk took off and our driver hopped on the back of someone’s motorcycle, leaving his busload of travelers to sit for three hours on a Vietnamese back road at 1 a.m. Continue reading Tales of Night Bus Horror and How to Deal
Moalboal didn’t look like much. We’d just emerged from the heaving, paint-chipped bus from Cebu City, had extracted our bags from the bowels of the idling beast and were already sweating. Cooking in the midday heat, we wandered in towards town in hopes of finding four things: a bed, a dive shop, dinner and a beer (or three).
We found the first two easily enough, and after a long search, found the latter two. As we sat on the curb, sipping our Tanduay Ice, we debated reworking our travel plan: stay just two days, instead of three. We’d only been in the city for a couple hours and were already writing it off.
However, on day two, the sun seemingly rose over a brand new city. We found the charm of Moalboal in the retro Coca-Cola bottles, in the halo halo (a dessert made of fruit, ice, and ice cream), in the riotously colorful tricycles (many of which bearing gospel phrases or quirky names), in the stunning beaches with ombre hues of blue water, and in the personality of the people who call the little beach town home.
Continue reading Photo Book: Finding the charm of Moalboal