Category Archives: Travel Stories

Reflection: Returning to Taiwan

It’s odd, finally coming (back?) to Taiwan. Yes, I’m ethnically Taiwanese (I’ve got seven generations of ancestry in Taiwan), but I was born and raised in the USA. I spent my second grade in elementary school here in Taiwan, as well as countless summer breaks, but I haven’t been back here in almost 10 years now. And so it’s odd feeling, visiting Taiwan, my ancestral home – especially since my Chinese listening/speaking is conversational at best, my reading/writing is basic, and my Taiwanese language skills are basically nonexistent.

Taiwan first impressions - street view

Coming to Taiwan after being absent for ten years, everything is the same, but everything is different.

Continue reading Reflection: Returning to Taiwan

Interlude: 30 Hours of Travel

After spending a couple days recovering from my Mount Rinjani climb in Mataram (the capital of Lombok), I decided that I was done with Bali and Lombok, and so decided to go to Java – by bus. It took me 30 hours of travel.

I’m not sure why I didn’t just fly over. It would have been faster, stress-free, and more comfortable. The only answer I can think of, is that I wanted the experience. And so, 30 hours of travel.

From the Mataram bus station, I catch a 20 hour bus to Surabaya, a city in Java. First, of course, I am forced to wait 5 hours, as the bus is obscenely late. At least the bus station waiting area is comfortable.
Indonesia travel - Mataram bus station

Finally, the bus arrives, and we’re off!
Indonesia travel - bus

Continue reading Interlude: 30 Hours of Travel

Travel Stories: My First Scooter Accident

While riding my scooter around Lombok, I had my first scooter accident. I was just pulling out of my homestay into a roundabout, moving at maybe 5 km/hour, when I saw a guy driving towards me, but looking elsewhere.

Time moved in slow motion for next few seconds. Should I stop and yell for him to look forward? Should I increase speed and get past him? Should I swerve to one side?

Why had I chosen to get a scooter? Didn’t I hear all the stories of people crashing their bikes, getting massive scars? Oh shit, today is literally the last day my travel insurance is still effective!

In that split second, I panicked, hit the brakes, and yelled out “careful!”. The other guy ignored me. And in faster-than-slow-motion, we had a t-bone crash.

Continue reading Travel Stories: My First Scooter Accident

Interlude: Senggigi and the Expertise Assumption

After I had gotten sick of Gili Trawangan, I hopped on a local boat heading to the Lombok mainland, where I stayed for a night at Senggigi. Like all forms of local transportation, the local boat was overcrowded – 50-some people on a boat built for 30:
Senggigi - boat from Gili

Senggigi itself was quite boring – lots of tourist-filled resorts, decent beaches, but not much else. But that was okay, I mostly just needed to get away from the insufferable crowds of Gili Trawangan.
Senggigi - beach 1

Continue reading Interlude: Senggigi and the Expertise Assumption

Interlude: the Four Types of Travelers

There are four different types of travelers:

First, you have the tourists.
– Tourists aren’t *real* travelers.
– Tourists travel for two weeks of time and and yet bring a roller suitcase holding three weeks worth of clothing.
– The tourist travels with his family of four, including small children.
– The tourist is ephemeral, only staying in each town for a couple of days.
– The tourist spends his time going on whirlwind tour of local attractions recommended by the guidebook.
– The tourist stays at a western resort, mostly eats westernized food at the resort restaurant, and never experiences the local flavor.
– the tourist buys lots of souvenirs – at hugely inflated prices.

Second, you have the wide-eyed backpacker:
– Typically in his or her late teens or early twenties, this traveler is in his gap year, is traveling for a summer, or has just completed school.
– The wide-eyed backpacker has a copy of the Lonely Planet guidebook.
– The wide-eyed backpacker travels with three goals: partying, getting drunk, and getting laid.
– The wide-eyed backpacker has no money, and so will always go for the cheapest option for everything – food, accommodation, and transport.
– The wide-eyed backpacker has all new gear, but no clue on how to travel, how to deal with local customs, or how to avoid getting scammed.
– Once the wide-eyed backpacker gets enough experience, he or she often graduates to become the next type of traveler.

Third, you have the seasoned backpacker:
– The seasoned backpacker is more mature, having a couple countries under his belt, and is traveling to see and experience the world.
– The seasoned traveler knows the ropes for traveling, knows how to avoid scams, and often speaks a bit of the local language.
– The seasoned traveler has the best stories.
– The seasoned traveler is comfortable both on and off the beaten track, both in big tourist destinations and villages with nary a foreigner in sight.
– The seasoned traveler is at the pinnacle of travel, but some devolve into the fourth type of traveler.

Finally, you have the jaded traveler:
– The jaded traveler is in his mid 40s and 50s, and has been traveling for way too long, often becoming an expat.
– The jaded traveler knows about cultural differences, but doesn’t care anymore.
– The jaded traveler has almost relapsed into pursuing the wide-eyed backpacker’s goals of getting laid and getting drunk, and will often start drinking by 10 AM.
– If engaged in conversation, the jaded traveler will always be angry (usually at the host country and its customs).

Bonus: the Asian tourist:
– The Asian tourist is the second cousin to the standard tourist.
– The Asian tourist always travels in a tour group, with people from his own country.
– The Asian tourist always travels by bus with his tour group, visiting tourist attraction after tourist attraction in a breakneck speed.
– The Asian tourist always takes photos, always takes pictures of himself with the tourist destination, and almost always has a DSLR camera.
– The Asian tourist always eats at a restaurant serving his home country’s food.

Which of the four types of travelers are you?

Interlude: Rice Terraces of Bali

Indonesia is known for its rice paddies, and the rice terraces of Bali are especially famous. It’s really cool, how the Balinese people have taken a hillside, transformed it into a series of flat rice paddies, and then built a massive irrigation system to keep it all watered. The irrigation system of the terraced rice paddies are noteworthy enough to have been designated a UNESCO world heritage area!
rice terraces of Bali - scenery 7

There aren’t really any stories to tell about visiting the rice paddies (other than my two Swiss compatriots constantly telling dirty jokes), so enjoy these photos of the rice terraces of Bali!

This is a photo-filled and text-light post.

Continue reading Interlude: Rice Terraces of Bali

What is a Priceless Solution?

Within the world of information marketing, there is the concept of a ‘priceless solution’. A priceless solution can be found when:

1) A person has a problem that is causing him pain
2) He is actively searching for a solution
3) There are few or no alternate solutions

As a result, that person is willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a solution – a priceless solution.

When stranded on a deserted island, a freshwater spring is a priceless solution. When having a allergic reaction, an EpiPen is a priceless solution. And for me on my travels, the Amazon Kindle is a priceless solution.

Continue reading What is a Priceless Solution?

Interlude: Freediving on Koh Tao

When I first heard about the sport of freediving on Koh Tao, I was skeptical. In only two days, using a mask, snorkel, and fins, I could learn to hold my breath for up to three minutes, and dive down to a depth of up to 20 meters? Impossible!

But holy crap, it’s true! By the end of the course, I could hold my breath for 3:20, and had descended to a depth of 20 meters on a single breath of air!
Freediving Koh Tao - diving 1

Continue reading Interlude: Freediving on Koh Tao

Reflection: the Feel of Southeast Asia

It’s a bit tough to put into words, but there’s a certain feel of Southeast Asia. Getting off the plane in Bangkok, it’s pretty obvious you’re in Thailand – all the signs are in Thai squiggles (sorry), the weather is unbearably hot, and the streets are filled with hawkers selling street food, clothing, and assorted knick knacks.

But for me, the real feeling of Southeast Asia came when I saw the paved sidewalk tiles:
Feel of Southeast Asia - sidewalks

Continue reading Reflection: the Feel of Southeast Asia

Interlude: Tales from Customer Support

Customer support is a thankless task – you have to deal with all sorts of befuddled, confused, and angry customers. But occasionally, you have an experience so out of the world, that it must be recorded in the annuls of time, in the tales from customer support.

During my travels in New Zealand, I rented a campervan – a Jucy Cabana. It’s been a year since I last drove, and yet I now found myself driving thousands of kilometers, on the left side of the road. To make things easy, the rental folks (Jucy) provided a concierge phone number, which I can call with questions. Hilarity ensues.

Continue reading Interlude: Tales from Customer Support