What is Tourist Bangkok Really Like?
August 19th, 2017 | View Post

Bangkok is enormous. Absolutely enormous. All told there are more than 11 million people living in the area and it definitely feels like that. Getting around Bangkok can be a slow and painful process at times. While the foot traffic is dense, it pales in comparison to the actual street traffic. Cars, buses, motorcycles, mopeds, tuk tuks, and everything in between can and DO drive down any visible path they can find. It was frequently the case that you would have to pull yourself close to a wall while walking down a narrow alley so that a car or even bus could drive past you. Like other places in Southeast Asia, it somehow all just works. I tend to think that being a driver oneself would overwhelm most westerners.


A reclining Buddha


The city has its share of scams like most every other destination of the like, but the most common ones are just tuk tuk drivers and other transportation services trying to rip you off. No doubt we overpaid for services here and there, but having done a ton of research before entering the country, I had a pretty good idea of what to look out for. As an aside to that, Uber really makes a huge difference now that it's available in the country. For one, you know you're not going to get ripped off. You can follow along on the map and so you know if your driver is intentionally trying to run up the price (which even Uber has made difficult to do since the fares are now pre-calculated within reason of traffic). Perhaps better than that though is just overcoming the communication barrier. While it's generally easy to explain where you're going when you can read the alphabet (even if you can't understand the words), the same cannot be said of the Thai language. I literally could not explain to a person where I was going in some cases as I cannot read the Thai characters. It's just not possible to "sound it out". Thankfully Uber just lets you set your destination on the phone and so that problem goes away. Yay for technology!

One noticeable component to being in a more tourist-driven area of Bangkok is the salesman harassment. It's not unlike other 3rd world countries I have visited, but I do think the intensity of it is much worse in Bangkok.


My friend John and me riding around on a tuk tuk in Bangkok


I'm really only using Bangkok as a stopover destination to the many other cities and countries that I'm exploring and so other than seeing all of the sites, I'm not planning to do a whole bunch here. All in all it's a fun city, but I'm not certain how reflective it is of the majority of Southeast Asia that I'll be exploring.

That said, and like so many places in Asia, it does have some absolutely amazing temples worth exploring. Since my time is pretty limited here, that's mostly what I am planning to do, but there will be plenty more to come elsewhere!


Standing in a long line of golden Buddhas


Packing Everything Up!
August 15th, 2017 | View Post

After an 8-day long visit with my dear old friend DaveG in Kansas City, Missouri, I am finally ready for my trip. I leave for Chicago at 7:43 in the morning via Amtrak, am meeting up with some friends in Chicago for lunch, and then head to Chicago O'Hare Airport in the evening for the first leg of my trip – a flight to Bangkok, Thailand by way of Taipei, Taiwan.


Everything laid out and getting ready to be packed up


Being quite the world traveler himself, Dave had a number of little bags that he was able to let me borrow to make my trip considerably more organized. A little bag for socks and underwear, another one for pills and medicine, another for electronics, etc.


Condensed down into the smaller packing bags


Ultimately I am bringing two bags with me. One of them is my actual backpacking pack, a beautiful new Osprey X-58 that I got from REI. It's considerably larger than I actually need for all of my stuff, but there is a reason for this that I will come to. The other bag is a smaller CamelBak that Dave actually traded me for the Timbuk2 that I was originally planning to bring. The smaller one is intended to hold my food, computer, and electronics – the items that I never check in. The larger Osprey holds all of my clothes, medicine, toiletries (except for my toothbrush as you never know when you'll need it). Once I clear customs in Thailand, my plan is to pack the CamelBak inside of the Osprey. That's why I got one that has extra space in it. Once I am situated in my hostile in Bangkok, I will reduce the CamelBak to just the bare necessities that I want to have while exploring the city.


...and finally down into just these two bags


This will mostly be limited to my water, camera, wallet, and copies of my identification just in case something should happen. I am sure that I'll wind up purging a few items a long the way, but after experimenting with all sorts of configurations (and having done this many times in the past), I'm pretty sure that I have a good setup. I guess I will find out tomorrow on my way!


And for my final trick, the smaller bag goes into the larger bag


Sporting Clays
August 14th, 2017 | View Post

Another little mini adventure that my good friend Dave took me on while I was in Kansas City staying with him was some sporting clay shooting. We went to this really amazing course out by Lenexa, Kansas with Dave's neighbor and friend, Scott, as well as some of Scott's friends (a husband and wife duo).

While I had not gone sport shooting in quite some time (having frequently done it in the past with my other good friend, Grant), I wound up doing a littler better than I thought I would. The course was a relatively standard one, albeit had a great variance between the “normal” holes (designated in blue) and the “advanced” holes (designated in red). We stuck to the blue path. While Neo may have been conflicted, we certainly we not. It was the right way to go.

I don't think I would have done much better with my own shotgun, but I am extremely partial to 20 gauge shotguns and both Dave and Scott only had 12 gauges.

After shooting 100 shots over 12 different blinds, I wound up with a 59% (meaning I had 41 misses over the course). Dave did phenomenally well with 85% (only 15 missed shots), while his neighbor-friend Scott, shot an impressive 92% (with just 8 misses overall). It's always such am amazing sight to shoot with people who are so much better than myself as it makes me work a little harder at it. Both Dave and Scott had a lot of good pointers to share with me that I'd actually starting getting much better as the round went on.

After we wrapped up the shooting, Dave and Scott took me to a delicious El Salvador restaurant, unsurprisingly called El Salvadoreño. I have to say, it was some of the best Central American food that I've had in a long time.

Kayaking the Missouri River
August 12th, 2017 | View Post

As part of my adventure through Kansas City, Dave had organized a super badass trip to kayak down the Missouri River with me and our mutual friend, Dawn. He had actually done a shorter version of the trip before on a canoe with his brother and niece, but this particular trip was a three and a half hour tour in kayaks. While I wouldn't have thought it would be super difficult, I know that my arms and shoulders were sore for two days following and it definitely puts a toll on your back too, so it was a lot harder than I'd have thought.


From left to right: Dawn, Dave, me


The Missouri River is enormous for one; at certain places it has to be a few hundred yards wide. The trip started with the river moving pretty slow, but it would certainly pick up at various places. There are never really rapids in it, per se, but there are parts where it turns pretty hard and creates powerful eddies on the surface. One of those would eventually get me.

While the river itself is enough to contend with, there is also boat traffic as well as barge traffic. There are old graineries, strip mines, and power plants along the way, so it's very much setup to accommodate enormous commercial and industrial traffic.

When we were about two hours into the float I decided to tackle one of the “rapids”. Getting through the water itself was fine, but as I merged back towards the steady flow of the current, I wound up getting swept into a giant eddy. I didn't have any problem with it spinning me backwards and then twirling me around a little bit, but the force of it turned me so quickly that it threw off the balance of the kayak and eventually turned me over into the water. Both Dave and Dawn were too far downstream to immediately do anything about it. Of course I was also the only of us not to be wearing his life-jacket (it was extremely uncomfortable wearing it while also squeezed into the tiny compartment of the kayak).


Shortly after having tipped over twice in the kayak and now soaking wet (which felt pretty wonderful in the hot Missouri sun)


Given that I had our wallets, keys, and other valuables in my dry bag, my first priority was to make sure that didn't sink. It didn't, but I've never owned a dry bag before and so I wasn't sure if it would or not. Once I had that in my hand, I donned my life-jacket from within the water as I was being pulled downstream and started working to flip my kayak back over. I quickly succeeded and started to climb back into it. Unaware of just how much water it had taken on when it flipped, it immediately flipped over again given how unstable it was. It wasn't until that moment that I realized I had a real problem. I was stuck about 100 yards from the shore in a river swirling with eddies and unable to gain any control of my kayak. I finally managed to flip it over again, place all of my belongings inside of it, and very carefully balance myself on top of it while I slowly paddled orthogonal to the current towards the muddy shoreline. It wasn't over once I got there.

The shoreline was an almost immediate drop off and so it was not particularly easy to pull the boat onto the shore (though I was lucky this particular part of the river even had a shoreline at all). Once I eventually got it up there I had to flip it upside down and then lift it from side to side in order to evacuate all of the water from it. When I finally accomplished that, I fixed myself snugly inside of it from the shore and then started throwing my body weight forward to slowly push it back into the water (noting again that even a few feet from the shore was way over my head since it's a dredged river).

Thankfully Dawn had come back to ensure that I was okay while Dave was just too far downstream to fight the current. It was actually a lot more comfortable in the boat once I was soaking wet and when I eventually caught back up and re-formed our little kayak trio, we had a good laugh. At me, not with me.

My Retirement Video
August 8th, 2017 | View Post

Dave and I were messing around with his amazingly badass new drone in his backyard and happened to shoot this quick video. After adding some Simon and Garfunkle to it, I realized that it pretty perfectly encapsulated the beginning of my mid-life, pre-world-adventure retirement.

It may also resemble the ending of a Wes Anderson movie; unclear.

Round-the-World Map
August 7th, 2017 | View Post

I put together this little map of the trips that I'm planning to take over the next many months. If you click on the map and then view the original you'll be able to see some of the country and city labels that I've added.


A map of the world as I plan to travel it (full screen view).


The short of it is that the first phase of my trip involves a 6-week expedition to Southeast Asia. Specifically I am planning to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, and Laos. I'd like to visit Malaysia and Burma too, but I'm not sure I'll have the time to do all of that. Upon returning home from that trip I will be departing for Barcelona Spain to join my dear friend Ben. He and I will be flying to Málaga, Spain and then driving to Gibraltar, sailing across the Straight of Gibraltar into Morocco, and then driving most of Morocco. I then fly from Marakesh to India, then from India to Nepal, and then hopefully will make a short stopover in Istanbul before returning home for the American holidays.

For the third phase of my trip I am planning a camper van tour of western and eastern Europe. For the fourth phase of my trip I will be doing the same kind of expedition throughout South America. The final expedition will involve a number of island nations that I have wanted to visit and with any luck will include cruises to both Alaska and Antarctica.

I think if I can pull all of that off within a year or so I will have pretty successfully seen the vast majority of the world, tasted the best of the world's cuisines, and made the most of my mid-life retirement.

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