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What could possibly be next?

a travel blog by Alex Basaraba


Its finally here. Been a long summer coming but I cant say enough about how excited I am. Nervous? Yes but excited. Done with school, Im ready to see the world and live every day to the absolute fullest.

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Family Time

Seattle, United States


I spent a few quick but awesome days with the Grandma and aunts and uncles in Seattle. Couldnt believe the summer finally ended and it was time to leave but I feel ready. Nervous but ready. Trying to pack small enough and light enough to make this work. Trying not to bring to much and I think I did alright. 5 months of life in one backpack weighing 35 pounds. Lets do this thing...

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on October 20, 2010 from Seattle, United States
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Dim what? and new pictures..

Hong Kong, Hong Kong


Pics for Hong Kong
http://picasaweb.google.com/112563475738153628389/HongKong?authkey=Gv1sRgCKP8jonb7_LeXg&feat=directlink


Spent the 18 hour travel day on planes and sitting in airports (15 on the plane) and it was relatively uneventful. Besides being stuck in the middle towards the very back of a 350 seat plane, the baby crying, and the large asian girl falling asleep partly on my seat, I made it through and managed to fall asleep that night. Met up with my buddy Matt at the MTR (subway) station and he got us back to his place. Yesterday, Sunday Matt had off work so we set out to check out the city as he is relatively new to it as well. We took the longest outdoor escalator in the world up the levels of Hong Kong through Soho. We checked out some of the parks and admired all of the groups of friends and family spread out on their mats in any section of the parks or city they could find to picnic. Ate at an amazing restaurant called Soho Spice. Im amazed at how relatively decently priced things are here, while thanking Matt for the couch simultaneously. Met his friends from Finland last night and grabbed dinner at their favorite hole in the wall Thai restaurant. I had a deep fried pork with fried rice. I have never tasted pork like that in my life. Today I set off on my own as I woke up at 3:30 am and couldnt get back to sleep. Ended up reading the morning and settin out on the city. Took the infamous Star Ferry to Kowloon. Theres a reason it is rated as top 50 things to do in the world before you die. Cant wait to see it at night. Walked the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. The pictures dont do it justice. Unbelievable skyline view and it is hot hot hot. Nerded out at the Hong Kong Science Museum for 1.25 US (12. 50 HKD) as a 'student' price at the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit.Ate Dim Sum for the first time. Wow, out of my element but finally learning how to use chopsticks. Trying to figure out how to get a visa for the mainland for a bit. I imagine when I leave Matt's, my computer access wont be regular and I will be only updating the most important things every week or 2. So now it begins. Hopefully the floods clear up in Bangkok so I can fly in. Can't wait to go to the horse races and Macau as well as Shen Zhen if possible.

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on October 25, 2010 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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Trams, Shark Fins, and Goat heads

Hong Kong, Hong Kong


So, the week has gone by as a blur. Cant believe it. There literally are people and noise everywhere all the time and locals take note of that by wearing nose and mouth masks to keep the germs away. It is a little overwhelming after a while and a 5 oclock unwind is necessary. After a full day of walking and taking it in, I have been sooo tired that theres not much room for night fun yet. Thought I was adjusted to the schedule but not quite yet. Yesterday, I splurged and did the tourist trip past through Victoria Harbour on a boat to see the 100-200 Resident Chinese white dolphins. The wind was blowing and the waves were big but it turned out to be a great trip. We saw quite a few dolphins (they are bright pink) and the sun came out and it was just fun sitting on top of the boat enjoying the scenery. Met a nice lady from Hong Kong with her family that had lived here for 6 years and they gave me a ton of places to check out. She said most tourists stay in the city but there are a few hidden gems that are out of the city and near the beaches so people can enjoy dragon boating, wakeboarding and waterskiing, surfing, and hiking. So I may try and get over there today. I had my first experience with the markets recently and it turned out to be a blast. The Mong Kok Markets are all outdoor, the vendors set out there tents and people want you to buy buy buy. A few things I learned rather quickly there. 1. Go through the whole market first before buying anything (I ended up with 2 sets of headphones as the second set was much nicer and cheap!) 2. You gotta toughen up and not budge when you dont want to pay any more (the bartyring is actually pretty fun) 3. When you wont pay what they're asking, If you say sorry and walk away as they are bound to run after you and show you a lower price on the calculator 4. Everyone gets taken at least once, but its a learning experience 5. Everything is dirt cheap!!!!! A couple things about the transportation that I found out. The MTR is extremely efficient and you can go anywhere on the island for so cheap. Its been fun just jumping on the train and getting off at a spot that sounds cool (3 HKD to 12 HKD which is about 40 cents to 1.35 US). The star ferry is even cheaper still and takes you across to the other islands for 2.5 HKD which is about 25 cents US and better yet, the trams that run down the middle lanes are about 2 HKD no matter how far you travel on them and you can get anywhere, while expecting considerable traffic stops. I found a the Sik Sik Temple and made my little incense offering. It was amazing watching the people pray in this gorgeous temple in the middle of sky scrapers surrounding. The Li Chin Nunnery and monastery was also very cool. Very well maintained and beautiful plants. I took the star ferry over to the TST promenade yesterday on Kowloon to see the famous light show. As Hong Kong is known for its world records, I figured I better jump on board (longest outdoor escalator, biggest set light show in the world, longest bus suspension bridge etc, most people living above the 25th floor, and Im sure Ill find more). The light show brings tons of people and right on the waters edge. The music starts as well as the lights at 8 and goes till 8 20 every night. The skyline is absolutely incredible. Something everyone must see. Pictures and words just cant do it justice. Buildings engulfing you and the shot is just amazing. The show itself wasnt that great but the skyline was well worth it. Went to the Dry goods market yesterday in Sheung Wan. There are unbelievable shops with dried fish, shrimp, starfish, and many things I have no clue what they are. Unfortunately there is a mass amount of shark fin as well. Holding true to my promise to Koko, I have not tried it yet and its premier serving price at 3650 HKD helps. Thats about 400 US. There is shark fin soup everywhere for much cheaper as Hong Kong is the primary hub for its import. Finally holding my own with chopsticks now and found out that most British or Aussies say vittamins (for vitamins) not just Bear Grills. As you can pick the foreigners out from a mile away, Im sure I blend in well, so thats good. Well, gonna relax and read a bit this morning and catch the tram elsewhere later today before heading to the Hong Kong Piano Competition at Hong Kong City Concert Hall tonight. Hope everyone is doing well. Miss ya!

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on October 27, 2010 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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Big Buddha

Hong Kong, Hong Kong


So its apparent the city is not made for especially large people and as I dont consider myself 'especially large' I have had some difficulties. The tram ceilings are too short but a blast to ride in and the steps are extremely narrow. My feet are too big. Other than that, not too many other problems. I celebrated Halloween with a couple beers at the local bar and found out that since it was on a Sunday night, people dont really celebrate it much. Saturday night was the big one and bars shut down at 6:30 am. Met a German guy that had a lot to say about where I am headed next so that was good to get a few tips. There are amazing numbers of unbelievable cars here. The Maseratis, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis have astounded me and shows there is some serious money here. Yesterday, I ended up finding my way to one the beaches that was recommended to me called Shek O. It didnt feel like Hong Kong anymore and enjoyed reading on the beach all day. Grabbed a HUGE dinner on the shore and drank a couple beers. The mussels with garlic and soy were amazing as well as the coconut chicken curry soup. Took a trip to one of the surrounding islands today called Lantau, and had a great time. Saw the infamous "Big Buddha" which is the largest sitting bronze Buddha in the world. There are bigger bronze Buddhas, but they aren't sitting and there are bigger sitting Buddhas but apparently they arent bronze. So Hong Kong gets another of the biggest category along with largest bus cable bridge, and most people living above 25 stories (did I already mention that? Ive lost all track of the days). Also went to Tai-O village today, an old village on stilts that is on one of the corners of Lantau. The amazing sunset was heightened as a dog ran by and pooped right in the middle of the 3 foot wide walking bridge to the other side, and another followed up and peed on it... Reminded me of Juneau but June would probably have tried to eat it. It was a long day and determined to get back and veg on the couch but managed to walk by a bar showing an NHL game so I had to stop for a beer. Im finally getting to know the city a bit and how to get certain places, and simply waking up in the morning and deciding what to do is fun. I have been planning out a few things but mostly so I dont waste away the day. Took the tram onto the top of the mountain the other night and absolutely loved it. Again the pictures just dont do the view justice. Everyone is pretty nice for the most part, and a surprising number of people speak English or at least a few words. There are just people everywhere and its getting to me a bit, as I need my much needed solo time to unwind. For the most part, people everywhere walk with their heads down buried in their blackberries or iPhones in the middle of the path, without any care in the world, so adjusting to that was necessary. Everyone runs off the train to try and get to the escalators first as the traffic jam inevitably forms and backs up at the bottom. But as theres no where I have to be, I let it all happen, and am taking it in stride. Hope everyone is well, and Im excited for a change from all these people. Oh yeah, Bangkok has 14 million instead of 7..........

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on November 1, 2010 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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Temples and tuk tuks

Bangkok, Thailand


So now begins the beginning of the next leg of the trip. I spent my first full day in Bangkok and am truly amazed. My time in Hong Kong was great and Im glad I got to see it. Celebrating at the horse races with Matts friends from Finland proved to be an unsuccesfful endeavor although I did win a little money from what they deam "flips." Basically they bet nonstop as they work for a poker company and everything thats paid for in a day is done by putting down a face up texas hold em hand and seeing who wins. Great fun and I didnt lose one while I was there, although I can say I stayed out the big pots, so it helped all my losses on all the horses that didnt win anything for me.....But it was a blast! Its probably good Im not staying there or Id be addicted. So onto Bangkok. There are many words to describe this city... To name a few, Loud, Elegant, Dirty, Rich, Poor, Annoying, Gratifying, and Vibrant etc.. The point is this is also a city with amazing contrasts. I have gotten used to the "Hey you, where you go?!!" from the tuk tuk drivers that can clearly point out a westerner. But my is that a fun ride. There are close to no road rules here as traffic is moving and the motos take over the streets. It is always a surprise walking down the sidewalk or at an intersection and a guy on a moto pulls up behind you to pull onto the street. Everyone is very friendly and differs from Hong Kong in that sense. Everyone smiles back and are mostly very willing to help. As Im ready to be out of the big cities for awhile, I think Im taking the quick train out to Chiang Mai tommorrow overnight. But I hit the must sees in Bangkok today. The temples are truly unbelievable and are breathtaking. The colors are absolutely unbelievable and just indescribable. The pictures or my words simply dont do them justice. The temples or miniature shrines are all over the city and it has been fun exploring the streets to find them. To name my favorites today, I went to Wat Arun Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Wat Arun was a maze of towering spires and with steps only to the second level. It was literally like climbing a vertical staircase, and in 43 steps (ya I counted) it ascended close to 80-90 feet. It was fun just sitting up top and watching people try and get up and down. The pitch was almost at a 60 degree angle. As for Wat Pho, it is the largest reclining Buddha in the country and is amazing to see. As it is a tourist trap, I did my time, took my pictures and left to wander the smaller surrounding temples in order to get out of the crowds. Its funny, people only try to see the main attractions, take their pics and leave. Its almost as if these sights are just a checklist. Im trying to make sure to spend my time there, take it all in, and enjoy being there. A few other things I saw today... The Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace (look it up, pretty amazing history and shrine), the water taxis following the river, the infamous Kao Sahn Road for backpackers, and an amazing sunset behind Wat Arun. It was an unbelievably noisy, hot, humid day so the nice shower and time with my book and music at the end of the day is much warranted and appreciated. The food has been amazing and I made sure to just dive right into it. Last night as I ordered REAL "street meat" and sat to enjoy it, a Thai woman sat next to me and tried to talk with me for awhile. I did my best to let her know I dont understand her in what basic Thai I have tried to learn so far. She understand and by using sign, tried to tell me the meat on a stick I was eating was indeed cat. Her and all of her lady friends had a great time laughing at that and my reaction. I played it off well and laughed at the joke. (I guess well never know if she was joking but whos the wiser?) I have met a few interesting characters so far. I met an guy in his 60s that was from Sitka, Alaska that decided to leave home to bike for 3 months starting in Laos and through Cambodia much to his dismay of his wife. He had spent a collective 2 years in the area and had lots of good things to tell me as well as hearing his stories about living in Cambodi in 1987 in the refugee camps reprinting classic books locals wanted during the Khmer Rouge era. Nice guy and cool stories. Im staying in a Hostel downtown next to the train station of Hua Lamphong and plan only to stay tonight before hopping the train. I am loving being here and every day fills with more adventure and excitement, but it has been and am sure will continue to be an adjustment traveling solo. But it opens opportunities to make friends with people and get invited to do things you wouldnt when traveling with someone so Im embracing it. I cant wait to see the elephants and tigers north and get out of the smoggy crazy city. There is so much to tell and so little time to tell it all. I will post pictures as soon as I can, but as for now, Im going to go get some more street meat. Hope everyone is well.

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on November 6, 2010 from Bangkok, Thailand
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Elephants and motorcycles

Chiang Mai, Thailand


Well, its been an amazing week and a little bit since I have posted anything.I am currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand and absolutely love this city. Bangkok's disorganized chaos, noise, pollution, people were entertaining for a few days but I am very happy to be out of the huge city and in Chiang Mai. It is divided into two sections, the old city which is a square in the very middle surrounded by a wall and a moat. The new area is connected but extends out from there. The train ride to Chiang Mai was an experience, it was the slow train and left at 10 pm. Unfortunately they didnt have any sleepers so I had a seat. The air conditioner was blasted all night long, the lights never went off, and needless to say, I slept about a half hour that night and a half hour the next morning. The scenery was gorgeous, the sunrise was amazing and my book and ipod kept me busy. But with every cold weather piece of clothing I brought on me, I still froze the whole night. I am staying at a hostel called A Little Bird which was recommended by a fellow traveler and it is surely my pace. Its very laid back, has tons of backpackers, nice clean rooms, a nice hot shower, lockers and a great area outside that everyone hangs out. The first night, I took a stroll around the city and found a benefit concert for the flood victims in the south. There were a ton of people and one other foreigner. It was really cool seeing the Thai music and dance. As I was leaving, I was astounded by seeing my first elephant and in the city. It was a baby, and with mixed emotions couldnt believe it. Its apparent that a lot of people use elephants in the city to make money by people taking pictures and feeding it, but a lot of times they are mistreated. It caught me completely off guard. The first full day I was there, I went to see the elephants. There are many places to see them, some more humane then others so I decided to choose one that took good care of them and was for conservation services. It was absolutely amazing seeing them. There was a show where the elephants did some paintings, and demonstrated how they used to use them for logging. We got to see them bathe and took a 10 minute ride as well. The elephants were spraying each other and us, and being three feet away was absolutely amazing. What an experience...

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on November 11, 2010 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
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On to Pai

Pai, Thailand


I stayed for 2 nights in Chiang Mai when I arrived, and on the second night met a kid from Winnipeg, Canada that was going on a moto trip around the Mae Hong Son loop the next day. He had made friends with another Canadian that had just done the loop and said it was amazing. Asking if he wanted a travel buddy to ride with, I signed on and 6 hours later rented the motos. For 180 baht a day (about 5 dollars) with insurance, they took a Deposit, grabbed a helmet and were on our way. Today was the first day of riding, and what an experience it was. Getting out of town was the hardest part, and once we were in the mountains it was a blast. We took a test ride up to Doi Suthep, a famous temple just an hour or so out of Chiang Mai and back down to start. The temple was amazing and the hiStory was cool. The story is, the site was chosen by an honored Buddha relic mounted on the back of a white elephant, and the animal was chosen to walk until it got tired and sat down, and there the temple would be built. But the elephant walked for days and finally laid down to rest in the mountains at this spot and died. It was an amazing temple and you could see all of Chiang Mai from above. We continued on for a few hours to the famous backpacker town of Pai. Oto was my favorite stop today. It was way off the beaten path and there wasnt a non local in site. We rode through the village in search of the Mae Ka Na cave, the longest in Southeast Asia. There were very few signs and we found the general area, but without hiring a guide, we couldnt find the cave itself. It would be a full day trip and was getting late so we rode on. Even though the political unrest has settled here a bit, being in a foreign country and passing a truck full of soldiers watching you as they pass in their uniforms all holding their M-16s manages to make your stomach twist a bit. Pai is a sleepy little hippy village and although I was only there a night, I liked it. I am coming down with a worsening cold (I know who woulda thought you could get a cold in Asia) so we didnt do much that night.

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on November 12, 2010 from Pai, Thailand
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Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son, Thailand


Today was a great day. We were both on the same page in terms of how we wanted the trip to work. We kind of had a destination each day, but when we saw something cool, we stopped and explored it a little. The many detours we took proved to be the most rewarding. The Mountain roads were impeccable and a blast to ride on. Many sharp rising and falling hairpin turns and much fewer vehicles. Matt and I became quick friends over hockey talk (him being from Winnipeg makes it inevitable). Its a blast meeting all the people I have so far and hearing everyones stories. The weather is amazing up here, the bugs next to nothing, and its not humid at all and much cooler. The town of Mae Hong Son is my favorite so far. A little bigger then Pai, the town has an amazing feel. The night markets, and the food were both very entertaining and the guest House we stayed at was amazing. There were a bunch of bungalows around a little pond and a little Al Jazeera on TV, couldnt ask for more. Gonna make an early morning tommorrow to make up some ground as we didnt go far today.

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on November 14, 2010 from Mae Hong Son, Thailand
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Dit and Squid in Doi Inthanon

Chom Thong, Thailand


Yesterday was the most amazing days Ive had in Thailand. We made an early morning on the road to make up a little ground from our slow day yesterday. Every few corners we end up stopping to take pictures so that makes for some slower time, but whos rushing and really where do we have to be???? We rode for 8 hours total and ended up covering a ton of ground. As the sun was starting to go down we made it to the peak of Doi Inthanon, the tallest peak in Thailand (2500 or so meters). It was cold up here and in being from Colorado, I was prepared. Matt on the other hand had packed so light that his real pack was a big as some peoples day packs here so he had to sacrifice a few things. Needless to say, riding up and down a mountain in a t-shirt was a bit cold. The sunset as we were riding down was hands down in the top 3 Ive ever seen. It was truly unbelievable and the temples on the skyline topped it off. My camera simply doesnt do it justice but Matts Nikon took some great pics. I will make sure to get them. As we got down from the mountain, it was pitch black, and since there were no real towns nearby we managed to somehow locate the Karen village. This little hill tribe village had amazing little bungalows right by the river and it was a great spot. Grabbing a much needed late dinner, we got to talking with Chut, a local trekking guide. He spoke pretty good english and was very nice. They made up some noodle soup and even shared some of his homemade rice whiskey they call Dit (pronounced Deet not to be confused with the misquito repellent). A local kid our age was wandering around the area and asked us if wed like to come hang out with him and his friends. Ive decided my motto for this trip is to try and never turn down an invitation. At their bungalow there were 10-12 friends hanging out and on the porch there were 4 hotplates and amazing selections of food all on the floor. Everyone sat around the food, cooked bacon, squid, pork, chicken, rice etc... themselves and it was amazing! They were all very nice, most spoke some english pretty well and the rest was conveyed with charades. Sang karaoke, ate great food, drank beer all night and truly had a blast. They were very welcoming and it was an amazing experience to top off a great day. Inevitably the next morning was rather slow moving. People are starting to prepare for Loi Krathong here, and the lamps are being lit on occasion. It makes for an amazing back drop in the sky as people offer up their sins of the previous year. The lamps themselves are rice paper and shaped like a hollow tube with one end closed. The fire is lit inside and when the lamp fills up with hot air, they release it into the sky. It continues on for miles.....What a day.

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on November 14, 2010 from Chom Thong, Thailand
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Civilization

Chiang Mai, Thailand


We made it back yesterday safely and overall it was a great trip. I am back at the Little Bird and loving it. Met a guy named Joe from the UK and we checked out the Sunday Night Markets. He was a really cool kid and headed through to Australia and New Zealand to work. Hed been traveling for 2 years and didnt plan on stopping anytime soon assuming his money continues. We ended up going to a few pubs and finished at the infamous "Reggae Bar." It was a blast. The music was great, a 9 piece Thai reggae band with sax and keyboard. A lot of expats and travelers and the beer not too expensive. Everything here is so unbelievably cheap, except the beer which is normal price. A few examples, a bed in the 8 bed dorm at the Little Bird is 100 Baht a night, equal to about 3 dollars US, Paad Thai at my new favorite restraunt in Chiang Mai is 30 Baht, equal to about 1 dollar US, and beer for a big Chang (local brewed) is 90 baht. So for as much as it is to stay a whole night in a bed with a shower and amenities is as much as a beer costs. I knew it was going to be cheap but didnt know it was quite this cheap. I am learning a ton from other travelers about the goods and bads of each spot, and love it. It is helping me somewhat formulate where I want to go next and important to hear what to watch out for as well as to stay away from. Hearing a lot about the full moon parties in Ko Phangan, the floating river trip in Laos, the Gibbon experience (where they attach you to a zipline at the canopy of the jungle to a tree house and stay for a night), skydiving and bungi jumping as well as where to scuba. Matt from Canada got certified in Ko Tao for his first dives and loved it so much he completed his advanced class as well so I cant wait to get down there. Keeping really busy and enjoying a relaxing day today. Sometimes a little time away from everyone and the chaos at the hostels is important. I may head up to the Golden Triangle from Chiang Rai leaving tommorrow. Ill keep posting. As for the pics, this website is not very good for uploading them so I am going to try and find a different way to do it, while putting the highlights on here and facebook. Im still working it out. Hope everyone is well.

permalink written by  Alex Basaraba on November 15, 2010 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
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