Travel Articles

The First Time I Almost Died-Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

By the end of this story a number of people will be dead. The compact dirty white van left the tourist choked streets of Hanoi, Vietnam’s French Quarter early in the morning. We were a group of 10 strangers bound together by our desire to see the turquoise beauty of Ha Long Bay, and its breathtaking limestone islands thrusting out of the waters. We were also cheap, backpackers looking to save money but desperate to spend 3 days living on a boat, cruising the pearl culturing backwaters of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage site, and exploring the natural caves dotting the area. Sixty eight dollars was a lot to us for two nights on the boat, three meals a day, and an English guide. Sixty eight dollars almost cost all of us our lives. What you get for 68 Dollars Seagulls screeched as the van jerked to a stop at the Read full article…

Just after WWII the Japanese economy was in shambles and there were few Japanese products floating around. The area outside of Ueno Station in Tokyo quickly became famous for its ameya, candy, that represented the American black market products that could be bought there. Today the street known as Ameya Yokocho, or Ameyokocho for short (not that much shorter actually), is still a crowded and bustling market area. Besides the normal clothing, bags and electronics shops dotting the area there are still traditional market stalls selling assorted Japanese foods from octopus to dried seaweed. The whole area of Ueno is considered part of the Shitamachi (lower section of Tokyo) and was populated and frequented by the working class. While that distinction has faded with time, the liveliness of the area hasn’t and especially during the New Years Ameyokocho is packed with bargain hunters getting shopping for ingredients for the traditional Read full article…

Petra Jordan Photo Essay: A Walk Through History

I threatened earlier a photo essay of Jordan was on the way, well now I’m following through. Please take the photos in the context of my article Petra Lives up to Expectations, and be prepared for an upcoming wild video of my donkey into the surrounding mountains. Petra is one place that I can whole heartily recommend to anyone. If it’s not currently in your bucket list, throw it in and make sure it’s on top. There is of course way more to see in Petra. These are but a few of my pictures from a full day spent exploring the city. However, to truly see the full ruins you need about 3 days. A journey at night with the Treasury lit by candles is another sight not to miss. I couldn’t show you everything or you might not be tempted enough to visit! If you enjoyed this photo essay Read full article…

Petra, Jordan: When dreams live up to expectations

It is rare for our dreams and expectations to live up to reality. Often times we build a destination up in our minds only to be disappointed by cheesy touristic over development, or feeling cheated by travel writers and documentarists eager to oversell and hide the negative. As I drove along the barren coastal Dead Sea road my driver nonchalantly waved his hand, “This used to be Sodom and Gomorrah.” Twenty minutes earlier he had pointed to where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. Amazed by how everyday his comment was I pushed to know more. “What’s the site called?” “Baptism Place.” He never took his eyes off the road. I thought he just didn’t know the name in English until I saw a large blue highway sign announcing the exit. It read simply, “Baptism Place.” Understatement was becoming common as I drove with friends for 3 hours to Read full article…

When Japanese Toilets Fight Back

  I was excited, nervous and sweaty. It was 2000 and I was on a date in Japan. I chose the perfect spot, the 11th floor bar overlooking Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake and where I spent 5 years of my life after university (near the lake, not the bar). The bar was called Medusa. Small and smokey (like most Japanese bars at the time) the dark room was sandwiched by glass. One side was wall to wall panoramic views of the lake, distant mountains  glowing in the sun’s retreat for the day. A black light lit massive aquarium claimed the wall behind the bar. At first glance it looked empty. “Look again,” the bartender advised. He didn’t look up and kept at his task of shaping a large cube of ice into a sphere to accompany the scotch destined for a group of black tied salary men. We found two small Read full article…

10 Free Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan

Many people dream of traveling to Japan and experiencing this unique island first hand. Culture, history, technology, fashion and food blend together in an unforgettable experience that not only rewards the intrepid traveler but has fueled pop culture around the world for decades. Japan has taken on a somewhat mythical persona as it highlights its cultural differences to the outside world and implanting the desire to visit the country in minds of countless travelers. However, one myth has served to repel would be visitors:  Japan is extremely expensive. While its true Japan can be expensive, a trip to Tokyo can still be done on a budget and can cost much less than a jaunt to Europe’s largest cities. A journey to Japan can be incredibly rewarding without cashing out your child’s education fund. I lived in Japan for over 5 years, and my wife is from Tokyo. Since we travel Read full article…

Top 5 Foods to Eat and Experience in Japan

No visit to Japan is complete without experiencing Japanese food the way the locals do. In Japan there is no way to separate eating from the atmosphere and experience. Food in Japan touches all of the senses from the minimalistic elegance of sashimi to the visual gourmet versions of hamburger patties. There’s more to Japanese food than sushi but let’s face it, navigating the difficult menus in a New York Japanese restaurant can be daunting enough, let alone tackling lesser known dishes on their home turf.  With Fall in full swing, and November Japan Blog Matsuri, hosted by Surviving in Japan tackling the topic of Fall foods in Japan, I started to think about what I love to eat in Japan this time of the year. This made me hungry and ruined all objectivity, displaced Fall and set me down the path to the 5 foods I love to eat Read full article…

2 Reasons to visit Slovenia: Bled and Bohinj

I know what you’re thinking: “Slovenia, where the hell is that?” Or possibly: “What, only 2 reasons, is that all you’ve got? Are you getting lazy Todd? I mean all the other Top [insert arbitrary number] Lists have WAY more than just 2.” Truth be told, I never thought about visiting Slovenia until recently. My other little secret is that there are more than 2 reasons to visit this amazing country but you shouldn’t need any more than these two. Bam! How do you feel now? Feeling silly? Ready to trust me? Huh? Huh? Also, this is not a post about everything Slovenia has to offer. Over one week I only went to two places. Turns out it was enough to get me itching to head back. I took a week off work and headed into the mountains to work on my Shikoku Pilgrimage book. I’m happy to report that Read full article…

Japan Highlights - Japan Blog Matsuri

Welcome to the October Japan Blog Matsuri! This month’s topic is Japan Highlights and we asked the brightest Japan Bloggers to tell us what THEY thought was the best Japan has to offer…Japan’s best places, experiences, activities…whatever. The “whatever” is important. This is not your typical Japan “must see list” that tries to speak to everyone. This is not a clumsy “top ten things to do in Japan” post that has been repeated over, and over again. This is a glimpse into what makes Japan special to a bunch of completely different people. There’s something for everyone here, so pour yourself a sake, squeeze out that wasabi and enjoy a guided tour. Before the tour starts and the train doors close, don’t forget to check out last month’s host Nippon-Ichigo, who rocked out to the theme Japan Music. Awesome! Weather your just planning your trip, or you’re already there, these Read full article…

Video instructions on how to hike from Brod to the old Macedonian Smuggling Pass. This is an extra resource for those looking to hike this path and would like to see what it is like and where the map will take them. For a written explanation on how to reach the mountain pass, including a map click this link. What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments on the video and the beautiful area of Brod, Dragash. Share

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