Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


February 23rd, 2011 No comments

When setting forth on my current journey, I purposefully chose to leave everything other than the flight and the first few days completely open to anything. From a game theory standpoint, the branching factor is very high — I can do nearly anything as long as it completes prior to my flight out. As my time here flies forward, the available options and activities decline sharply and the branching factor begins to vanish.

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Human Communication

February 11th, 2011 No comments

In the last couple of years I began becoming interested in non-verbal communication and specifically non-explicit communication such as sounds, movements, and expressions where the communicating parties have no prearranged denotative form for the sound, movement, or expression. Prior to my interest, I eschewed imprecise communication.
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Wat I Saw

February 7th, 2011 No comments

I start the day with a visit to Wat Pho near the Grand Palace. Wat Pho is known for the reclining Buddha which occupies an entire building. Leaving Wat Pho, a man approaches and tells me that the Grand Palace is closed. I know he is lying. He also tells me that there is a Turtle exhibit which is special and today only at a Wat across the river. He then tells me to be sure I only ride on Tuk Tuks with a yellow license plate. And lo and behold, a Tuk Tuk driver pops his head up.


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Getting Situated

February 7th, 2011 No comments

I wake in the morning to still sore feet and a few blisters. In response to this stimulus, I decide to spend the next phase of my trip to Thailand scuba diving.

Let’s rewind a bit. Last year I visited New Zealand on a trip where I booked nothing beyond the airplane trip into and out of Aukland and the only goal was to hike and see some New Zealand sights. This worked extremely well. I hiked, went to museums, kayaked, met people, traveled via bus, boat and plane, and generally had an awesome time. Since this is my first visit to an Asian destination, I have reserved a hotel room in Bangkok for three nights to give me time to get my bearings and learn enough about how things generally work before diving into the unknown. Four days and three nights seems like plenty of time to get at least a tenuous handle and proceed with some assurance that I will not be starve or sleep in the street without previous arrangements.

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Thailand adventure begins

February 7th, 2011 No comments

The plane departs at 12:05 Wednesday morning from SFO toward Hong Kong to land at 6:45 Thursday morning. I have a 10 hour layover so I head into town on the train to explore the city. I walk, and walk, and walk and walk. Up and down the hill and occasionally stopping for coffee at any place that was open on the first day of the Chinese new year. After about 6 hours of walking around and absorbing the city, I tire of the 4 dollar coffee and it’s apparent strict separation of the natives and the occupying caucasians. We depart from HKG to Bangkok at 16:00 and arrive 3 hours later around 18:00 and take a cab to my hotel. All in all, approximately 30 hours of travel time with perhaps a total of 4 hours of sleep.

By the time I am situated, it is 20:00 local time so I ask the hotel concierge what there is to do nearby. She directs me to take the sky-train a couple of stops over to a night mall. The Bangkok night malls are a garish spectacle of lights, music, go-go bars, with couches in the streets and vendors packed in shoulder to shoulder selling sundries from sunglasses to pornography. It all reminds me of Burningman if everyone attending Burningman was trying to buy or sell something.

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Karaoke in Caspar

April 9th, 2010 No comments
Locals singing their hearts out

Locals singing their hearts out

A little after midnight, Jason and I decide to see what nightlife exists around Mendocino. We check out the hotel in Mendocino which looks closed. Next door is a bar called “Dick’s Place” which has half a dozen older men sitting around watching baseball — this is not the nightlife we are looking for.

We head North to Caspar where there is a roadhouse. I spot a few heads in the place and we go in. Inside is a fine bar has about a dozen younger men and women. The crowd is all locals and they are all at various points of inebriation from mildly tipsy to falling over drunk.
The owner and barkeep – Bobby – is a youthful 53 years old he claims and is a refugee from San Francisco. He is entertaining and likes Blanton’s bourbon. On this fine Wednesday night, his wife is running a karaoke show. I fill in a card to sing “Just a Gigolo” in the style of David Lee Roth and within minutes am singing on the stage. After my performance, Bobby accuses me of being a ringer from SF to steal the whole show. Before leaving, he tells us to come back any time and informs us that this Friday the roadhouse will be filled with hot cougars looking to swing dance. Looks like we have something for Friday.

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Russian Gulch Falls

April 9th, 2010 No comments

Jason and I meet a little after 9:00, grab a huge breakfast at the Pork Store Haight. Our waitress there is insanely cute and maintains a bright disposition at all times during our breakfast. We finish our breakfast and head out toward Mendocino. Yesterday I agreed to join Jason to Mendocino for a few days of hiking and even though I have some phone calls scheduled for this week and my window of opportunity to do my OSDV volunteer work is closing fast given the job offers currently lying on the table.
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Arthur’s Pass

March 10th, 2010 No comments

Amy and I arrive in Arthur’s Pass – approximately the midpoint between Greymouth and Christchurch – in the early evening and make arrangements for lodging. Since there is some light left in the day, we decide to find a trail and hike.


I mark a waypoint in my GPS for the cabin – just in case – and we find the Avalanche Peak route which starts approximately 100 meters from our cabin. At the start of the trail, a sign warns us that the route is treacherous and there are avalanches there in the winter. This being summer in the Southern hemisphere, we adventure forward. The path gets steep fast and about 50 meters later we find another sign warning us that the trail is difficult and requires food, water, rain protection, boots, hat, etc., with a picture of such a hiker standing in a Captain Morgan pose with boot situated squarely on a sturdy stone beneath him. I imagine a sort of twisted amusement park sign with the caption, “You must be this studly to ride.”


Amy and I push forward fearlessly and immediately the trail gets very steep. We are regularly climbing up 3, 4, and 6 foot rock faces between bouts of switchbacks. I believe this would be categorized as a Yosemite decimal system level 3 which can be summarized as passable without rope and if you fall you will probably survive.

The occasional vistas are astounding and a water fall runs alongside the trail for much of the first part of the trail giving splendid views as we occasionally catch our breath.

This tramp is exactly the challenge I have been seeking in my hikes in New Zealand all along and had just not been finding. This ascent literally makes my entire trip.


We stop short of the bush line and rest. From the readings on the GPS we moved laterally approximately 600 meters and vertically a bit over 400 meters from the cabin. Since the first 150 meters of the trip were mostly flat, this means the trail itself averaged an almost 45 degree ascent.

The next morning I begin a 48 hour process of getting out of New Zealand via Bus, stop in Christchurch, airplane, stop in Aukland, airplane, stop in Sydney, and finally a 14 hour plane ride to SFO. Ask me about the stop in Sydney next time you see me — I met a fascinating Swedish woman.

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Travels With Amy

March 9th, 2010 No comments

Amy meets me at the kayak company headquarters in Motuaka, we agree to travel South and we’re off!


Amy enlists me as the navigator for the journey as she drives an old blue ford station wagon purchased for the purpose of travelling New Zealand. She purchased it for less than the cost of a rental car, put a little money into the radiator, and plans to sell it prior to departure. A little tired from the day’s hike on the Abel Tasman coast trail, we first agree to go at least as far as Murchison and consider further destinations. In Murchison, we decide to go at least as far as Reefton or Westport. Amy says her favorite New Zealand brewery is in Westport so we go there with the idea to spend the night there and do a brewery tour in the morning.


Immediately after this decision we see a hitchhiking backpacker so we stop to pick him up. Eli is great. He is a botanist who worked on the antarctic science station to run and repair the garden there. He is from the Seattle area originally making him the third American I have met here. He loves New Zealand so he is spending some time there before a likely career switch to the life of a farmer and is attempting to woo a woman who works for the DOC in Arthur’s pass. Today, he would like to get to Greymouth. We offer a ride as far as Westport and we’re off!


We land in Westport arriving 2 minutes before the Hostel closes and secure dorm beds for the three of us. We walk to the local pub to interact with the locals and find two distinct groups — the regulars at the pub and a set of a dozen or so teenagers tied to each other at the ankle with a strip of white cloth. Ten of the couples are boy-girl and there is one girl-girl pair.
Curious, I ask one of the women about the bonds.
“It’s for you and your friend. Want to join? Don’t you want to have a friend?”
“I’m not sure. What’s the deal?”
“I see you’re not tied to your friend,” motioning toward Amy and a motion which I do not acknowledge.


She lets out a tipsy schoolgirl squeal and turns to her friends. I think the whole thing is marriage practice for kids though they did seem kind of old to be playing house. Come to think of it, house with cocktails does not sound that bad.
In the morning Eli and I awake prior to Amy. He wants to go to get going and starts hitching. Amy wakes up and we decide to travel to Greymouth since that is the actual location of the Monteith brewery and we’re off!


On our way out of Westport, we pass through Cape Foulwind, travel South along the coast to Greymouth where we find a liquor store that sells self-serve two liter bottles of beer. The store clerk tells us, “We sell *a lot* of those.” Amy and I travel to the water front and drink the beer on a park bench. We tire of Greymouth and head out to Arthur’s Pass and we’re off!

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Abel Tasman

March 7th, 2010 No comments

Awakening to a still and silent morning in the hostel, I prepare and pack for my 2 day trek through the Abel Tasman coast via kayak and Hike. The shuttle bus arrives and carries us to the kayak company headquarters in Motueka. I meet Kim there who will be our kayak guide as well as a German couple, Claudia and Sebastian, I briefly talked to in Wellington’s finest cafe, Plum. The New Zealand tour circuit suddenly seems very small.


In my previous travels so far I have maintained two basic packing strategies, everything on my back and the travel alternative of clothing and toiletries with accessories in a duffel bag. This two day adventure requires a new strategy: a couple of days worth of clothing in my backpack along with some essentials for the journey with everything else in the duffel bag stored in Motueka.


I hand the duffel over to Kim for storage indicating it contains my valuables. She decides the best place to keep the bag is on top of the first aid kit behind the counter. I look at the duffel bag and wonder if this is the last time I will see my lovely laptop.

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