The Beginning of the End

I’ve entered the final chapter in my around the world trip.  However, I now find myself in a situation where I don’t have regular internet access, or the time to do updates on this blog.  I really am motivated again to write stories about my adventures, but it’s almost impossible.  I’m going to try and do an update once a week once I can find faster internet access, but I may not be able to upload as many photos as I have in the past.  Perhaps I’ll just upload lesser quality photos in order to get around my current bandwidth limitations.

However, before that, I want to catch up on the last couple months of my travels.  I kind of hate summarizing two months of travel in a single blog post, but honestly, there isn’t much to report.  I wrapped up India in early February with a three day stay in Rishikesh.  This is the city the Beatles visited in the 60’s and got their inspiration for the Sergeant Pepper album, so that’s pretty cool.  Rishikesh is a very holy place in India due to the Ganges River which passes through it.IMG_5743IMG_5741IMG_5749

My time in India was one of the most unique experiences of not just this trip, but also my life.  I saw extremes of riches and poverty.  I saw magnificent and beautiful temples which were almost right along side utter filth and garbage.  I ate great food, and the best part was, I didn’t get sick.  Honestly, after Paris, the food in India was the best I’ve had on the whole trip.  I made some new friends who I still stay in touch with.  I was pleased with my decision to hire guides because it made for a much better experience.  When I add it up, I probably spent $300-$400 more than if I had not hired guides and drivers.  In the grand scheme of things, that’s obviously nothing for what I got in return for three weeks of adventures.  To my new friends in India, I owe you guys a big thanks.  I’m pleased to have met you, and hope to see you again someday.IMG_5844

After India, I flew into Bangkok, Thailand.  I felt ready for another developing country after India.  I figured Thailand would be very similar to India, and I was eager to challenge myself to get around without guides.  However, when I arrived in Bangkok, I found a very modern city.  It didn’t feel at all like India in any way.  Yes, you have to know how to handle the taxi drivers, but I was ready for that.  What I wasn’t ready for were clean streets, and the ability to walk around without getting hounded by touts like I was in India.  Bangkok was a vacation compared to India.  I ate the street food, and went to the major temples.  I had never seen a Buddhist temple before, and these certainly didn’t disappoint.IMG_6190IMG_5869

After Bangkok, I took a train to the city of Chiang Mai which is in the North.  Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, but a lot less developed.  For one, there’s no metro.  Also, there aren’t air-conditioned taxis like in Bangkok, but the drivers are actually easier to deal with.

In Bangkok, you really have to know how to handle the taxi drivers or you’ll get seriously ripped-off.  The way to avoid this is when you flag down an available cab and tell the driver where you want to go, you have to make sure to say you want say “meter” to the driver.  A lot of drivers want to charge you a fixed price which is five to ten times more than what you should pay.  If the driver says “no” to the meter, you simply don’t get in the cab and wave the driver off.  There are so many taxis in Bangkok, another one is bound to come along with a minute.  It may take three or four tries, but eventually, you’ll get an honest driver.  For example, this one time when I wanted to go the train station from my hostel, the first taxi I flagged down wanted to charge me 300 baht, which is around $9.  I knew this was nuts.  Once I had an honest driver, the metered trip only cost 60 baht which is about $1.80.  The difference of $7.20 may not sound like much, but it’s really the principle, and those differences add up over the course of a week of getting around the city.

Chiang Mai was fun.  I took a Thai food cooking class and made some of the best food I had in the country.  Chiang Mai also had some really beautiful scenery, and I went on a nice hike through an area known as the “Monk’s Trail”.  It’s been a while since I’ve done any serious trekking, and when I found out about a jungle trek offered by a local tour company, I jumped at the chance.  For only $45 dollars, I got to be a part of a group that explored a jungle area in Northern Thailand for three days.  The price included all meals and accommodation, plus our guide.  We stayed in villages, and had some locals make our meals.  We slept in bamboo huts, and enjoyed campfires in the evenings.  During the day we went on some incredible treks through dense forests and mountain terrain.  Great three days of explorations.IMG_6264

After the jungle trek, I had four more days before my flight out of Thailand and into Australia.  I was still hungry for one more adventure in Thailand, and got my chance for something new.  I met some people at my hostel who were planning to ride motorbikes to the city of Pai which is even further North into Thailand.  Pai is known as a really chill place with great views.  There are regular buses that run between Chiang Mai and Pai everyday.  But where’s the fun in that?  There are a lot of cool things to see along the way to Pai such as some awesome waterfalls and temples.  You miss all that on a bus.  Now, I’ve never ridden a motorbike in my entire life.  I don’t have a license for one, and I’ve never had a lesson.  None of this matters in Thailand, and I was able to rent a motorbike for only $5 for the entire day.  Now, when I say motorbike, we’re actually talking about a scooter with an automatic transmission.  The more experienced riders in our group gave me a quick tutorial, and off we went into the busy city traffic of Chiang Mai.

IMG_6390This whole thing may sound a bit insane, especially if you know me.  However, I’ve become more daring in my travels, and take on challenges I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I started traveling.  Riding a motorbike for the first time in a foreign country seemed like a good idea at the time.  To make a really long story short, it was only a good idea for the first 150 km of our 200 km journey.  I ended up having a wreak on the curvy mountain roads of Northern Thailand and ended up in the hospital.  Yada, yada, yada, two weeks later I was able to finally walk again and went to Australia.  Perhaps someday I’ll write about those two weeks and everything that went down.  It’s perhaps one of my best stories, and the look on people’s faces when I tell it and show them my scars is priceless.  I just don’t have time to write it all down at the moment.  Buy me a beer when I’m back in Columbus, and you’ll get all the details 🙂

I arrived in Melbourne, Australia in mid March, and unfortunately due to my little incident in Thailand, only had five days for Australia’s coolest city.  The plus side was that I met up with a friend who I had met in Budapest, and she gave me an awesome tour of her hometown.  I finally got to try this famous Melbourne coffee I kept hearing about.  It is really good in just about any coffee shop you find.  Melbourne also has tons of really incredible graffiti art.  The city is famous for it, and I took plenty of photos.  Sorry I only have the one below for you to seIMG_6462

The other highlight of my Aussie trip was that I went to an animal sanctuary and got to see all of the land down under’s famous creatures in one day.

After my short stay in Australia, I had a two day journey back to New York City.  Part of that trip involved a flight that arrived in LA.  For me, the moment I reached LA, I had officially gone “around the world”.  I was in LA for a day over the summer last year, and I gradually made my way over land to NYC before flying to Europe.  After Europe, it was Turkey, India, Thailand, and Australia.  I thought the moment I actually went around the Earth would have been overwhelming, but it wasn’t.  I was exhausted, hungry and still healing from my accident.  My final flight from LA to NYC was overnight, and I arrived in NYC on an extremely cold and snowy day.  It kind of sucked actually, but I was in NYC, and would soon see my brother.  To make another long story short, I was making my way back to the US for my brother’s bachelor party and wedding.  After spending one day back in the United States, I got in the car with my brother and the other groomsmen for a fun weekend in Montreal.  After that, I decided to stay in French Canada and explore.  I think I saw just about everything there is to see in Montreal and Quebec City.  Quebec City in particular is really cool.  It’s basically like a small city in France… all the signs are in French.  The people speak French.  The buildings are two to three hundred years old, and really remind you of Europe.

After French Canada, I made my way back to NYC via two bus rides.  There’s actually another really good story about the bus ride from Quebec City to Montreal that I’ll have to share over a beer.  I arrived back in New York for my brother’s wedding.  It was a really beautiful ceremony, and a great weekend of catching up with family and celebrating.  I’m really happy for my brother.  He and his wife are a perfect fit for one another, and their storybook wedding is something our families will remember for years to come.  After the wedding, the happy couple went honeymooning in Hawaii.  Being the travel bum that I am, I asked if I could crash at their place for a few more days since they weren’t going to be there.  It gave me a chance to have another cheap NYC experience.  Man, I love that city.  I don’t even feel like a tourist there anymore.  However, I did do some new things this time around.  I rode the Staten Island ferry, saw Times Square at night, and even went to Coney Island.  I also did a day trip to Connecticut to catch up with some really good friends of mine.

The time between arriving back in the US through my post-wedding explorations of NYC lasted about three weeks, and actually felt like a break.  I saw family members I hadn’t seen in months, I got to celebrate my brother’s wedding, I ate great food, got drunk, and actually slept on a real bed.  I couldn’t ask for a better time, and I missed it the instant it was over.  However, a new adventure awaited.  One that I’ll hopefully be able to talk about if I can find reliable internet.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s