Category Archives: Thoughts and Ideas

Surviving South American Taxis

Most big South American cities we’ve been to have had warnings about the dangers of taking a taxi. It isn’t about being ripped off on the taxi fare (most taxis don’t use their meters anyway or in Lima don’t even bother to have a meter). The warning are rather about getting robbed and kidnapped. According to guidebooks there are a creative different ways this may transpire. Being the analytical and forward thinking person I am, I let my Inner-Batman think of counter measures in case such incidents may arise.

Tactic 1: Driver uses gas to incapacitate us. Countermeasure: Hold my breath every time the taxi driver turns around. Check his hands constantly for any type of device that may contain poison gas. In case I can’t clearly identify what the driver is holding, put a choke-hold on him. Better safe then sorry.

taxi

Tactic 2: Driver has accomplice hiding in trunk who has weapon to rob us. Countermeasure: Check access to trunk from backseat. In case there is a secret trapdoor scream followed by passing out and pretending to be dead.

Tactic 3: Driver stops at a particular traffic light and has accomplices open the door to take our luggage and maybe even ourselves. Countermeasure: Insist that the taxi driver ignores traffic lights and any other traffic law. Climb on roof and carry binoculars and a slingshot.

Tactic 4: When getting out of the taxi to pay and get luggage from trunk the driver may drive away with our belongings in our dirty backpacks in his trunk. Countermeasure: Always carry a large jar full or angry bees. That should teach the driver to take our stuff.

I hope this tips have been useful to you.

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Favorite Travel Quotes & My Photos

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Marriage and stuff

We have been married for a month now and I haven’t written anything about it on our blog. So I decided it would be easier to just ask Heejung some questions about it.

How did your wedding go?
It was good. Wedding? hhhhhh. It was great. When we are preparing for it it was quite stressful and hectic, but if I think about it again, I wouldn’t have minded it even if it was longer. Like in India, when it is a three day event. Like 3 day partying. I hope our next time will be like that. I will invite the whole neighborhood and all animals in town so they can feast.

How does it feel being married?
Actually I don’t realize it. I don’t really feel I am a married woman because we’ve always been together and we’ve traveled together. Sometimes it shocks me that we are married and you are my husband and I will see you for the rest of my life… like every single day!!!

What is it like being married to Nestor?
It’s like being married to a talking brown bear. I’m waiting for him to go back to his forest and hibernate and then; FREEDOM !

What do you remember the most about your wedding day?
The moment I walked in. My dad was walking down the aisle with me and at the end Nestor was looking at me and I saw his tears almost coming out. (Nestor: we got married in a garden next to the beach and a piece of white Aruban sand flew into my eye, hence the tears)

Top 5 Beaches in Aruba

By Heejung

Okay, I’m no expert on beaches or anything water-related. But as someone who has been to Aruba three times, especially one of which being a long term stay of almost 1.5 months, I think I deserve having some words about it 🙂

Aruba is a fantastic place for many reasons but to many people, beautiful beaches would be the first thing that comes to their mind. So here is a bit of information from my part.

1. Eagle Beach

Eagle beach starts from the lower west coast of Aruba. It’s also where you can see low and high rise hotels. If you go to the area between Low Rise and High Rise hotels, you can actually park your car pretty close by the beautiful white sand and you can jump right in the water. There are lots of huts available for anybody for free without prior booking. (note: all the beaches in Aruba are public, which means that no hotels can block certain beaches and open them only for their customers). The waves are not so strong so you can enjoy pretty calm and warm water almost all the time.

2. Palm Beach

Palm Beach is located in the High Rise hotel area, where Westin, Occidental, Holiday Inn, and Hyatt, etc are. The sand is narrower compared to Eagle Beach, but you can enjoy the closeness from your hotel if you’re staying any of the hotels abovementioned. I found that the waves are calmer here. You can still go to Palm Beach even if you’re not staying at any hotels here, but some facilities such as huts and beach chairs (+ towels) could be for hotel customers only.

3. Baby Beach

Despite the fact that it’s located in the opposite side of the island, Baby Beach is something definitely worth putting some effort to drive to. The great thing about this Baby Beach is that you can snorkel here and actually meet a lot of different kinds of fish. You can bring your own snorkeling equipment or you can rent it from the shack at the beach. There you can also buy some bread to feed fish – you’ll be amazed how quickly and how effectively a small piece of bread attracts so many fish. Be careful as some of them are so hungry that they might try to eat up your fingers. You can also try to throw some bread in the air for seagulls and see how fascinating catchers they are. Snorkeling here may not introduce you to the great corals but surely, it’s the place to look at some beautiful fish.

4. Arashi Beach

Probably due to a little distance from the hotel area, Arashi Beach is more for locals. If you want to enjoy a bit different atmosphere than Eagle or Palm beach, you may surely drive a bit up to the north from your hotel. It is more quiet because of less tourists, but you can see that the waves are stronger here. Off this Arashi Beach, it is the place where many snorkeling boats anchor for some time so that the tourists can enjoy snorkeling. You can see lots of fish but not so ‘up close and personal’ experience as Baby Beach in terms of snorkeling with fish.

5. Hadicurari Beach

I’m not sure if Hadicurari is also good for swimming. But this is the place if you want to try windsurfing or kiteboarding. Aruba has a year-round strong wind from the same direction, so that’s why Aruba is a famous destination for windsurfers. Upon parking your car right next to the beach, you’ll see some small offices from which you can rent the equipment.

Alright, have you chosen where to go? 😉

A Pepper Party or How I make my wife Suffer.

by Nestor

I make bets with my wife. It tends to make mundane situations into something much  more exciting. So when my dad showed me a pepper plant growing in their front yard I knew I had to challenge Heejung to eat one.

I offered $5 and the bet was made. My mom said she doesn’t cook with the pepper as it is too hot and Heejung said afterwards it was the spiciest thing she had ever eaten and that the video doesn’t reflect the pain, agony and suffering.

Enjoy!

The Paris Bump

Space Invaders: Paris Edition

When I walk around cities I always look around for grafitti, stencils and sticker art. I’ve been doing that since the pre-internet days of finding stencil art of “obey” and wondering why Andre the Giant had a posse.

In Amsterdam I came across these tiles that form the old video game character of Space Invaders. I had heard of this artist before from the documentary “Exit through the giftship” about the most famous street artists of all; Banksy.

Wikipedia has the following to say about this particular videogame inspired artist: Invader (born 1969) is a French urban artist who pastes up characters from and inspired by the Space Invaders game, made up of small coloured square tiles that form a mosaic. He does this in cities across the world.

In the end I only saw one in Amsterdam but when I came to Paris I saw them everywhere over the following few days. I think even the name space invaders is brilliant as his pieces are indeed invading (especially seen from the perspective of city officials) our spaces.

I somehow really like the concept of street art as it is often people wanting to express themselves in a public space. Too much of this space is already filled with brain numbing advertisements and meaningless promotions. When people are able to express themselves in a interesting and thoughtfull way I feel it adds so much to a cities character. Off course this isn’t always the case and sometimes you get people tagging and defacing property with meaningless drivel.

But in the end I would so much rather have more street art (good and bad) than another promotional poster for the latest bodycare cream, hollywood movie or shiny new smartphone.

Time is relative and Tastes like Peanuts

By Nestor

In Aruba we lived for a few years on the south side of the island while all of my relatives lived more towards the north side. Most places are about 10/15 minutes by car away from each other. We on the other hand lived about 30 minutes away from everybody and this apparently was a huge time barrier. Family and friends tended not to visit us as often because of the distance and time needed. On a small island getting to the other side seems like visiting a foreign country.

While returning from a trip to Darjeeling back home to Kolkata in India by train we suddenly stopped in the middle of the tracks. After asking our fellow passengers what has happened they inform us that we had a delay of 2 hours. After being in India for 3 months at that time, we are happy it’s not a big delay and we pick up our books and order some chai.

In the Netherlands some of my Aruban friends had issues showing up on time. I solved this by making appointments according to the train. The trains (most of the time) would run punctually on the minute. When we were supposed to take the 8:34pm train to Amsterdam, you better be there at 8:33pm at the latest or else you can wave the train goodbye.

During my long distance relationship with my fiancee one of the times we lived the closest to each other was in the US. I lived near Pittsburgh and she lived in Washington DC. This meant I would drive to DC in the weekends and I got it down to 4 hours after a while. A measly four hours separated us instead of the usual continents between us. How nice.

Like most things in life, Time is relative.

Namiseom, South Korea Poster

How Spontaneity leads to great adventures

Spontaneity is a great way to live a full rich live full of adventures and enhances your travels. These are two of my stories where being spontaneous resulted in some unforgettable adventures.

Adventure One: Raving in Hong Kong

Hey, are you guys going to the Rave party at Lamma Island tonight?” a fellow exchange student at another Hong Kong university asked. It was another hot and humid Saturday afternoon in Mong Kok and we were tired after looking through dozens of pirated games and software in maze-like fire-traps shopping centers.

Nah, what is that about?” I asked.

On this island close to Hong Kong island live a bunch of hippies that throw a party there during a full moon on the beach, the last ferry leaves at ten from Hong Kong, you guys should come” they answer.

Covered in sweat from just from being outside and tired from the previous night of clubbing I feel like the right course of action would be to pick up a cheap bottle of gin, some 7-up and watch Jackie Chan movies with the others at the dorm. My curiosity of course had something else planned and at 9:50pm we have the whole gang waiting for the ferry to Lamma island.

Nine hours later we are on a ferry headed back to Hong Kong island and thinking about the rice paddy fields we walked through in darkness to get to the party, the insane trance music that was played, the surreal sunrise sitting on the beach surrounded by friends I had met that night and I knew I had made the right choice.

Adventure Two: Andaman Islands, India

Regina had been volunteering at our school in Kolkata, India the longest. Her time in India was almost over and she was going to travel to the Andaman Islands for her last trip. Somehow one by one we all ended up buying airplace tickets to join her. I had never heard of these islands before talking to her and the attraction of empty white sand beaches with clear sea water wasn’t exactly a selling point to someone from Aruba. But if my friends were going to some place I had never heard of before then who am I to say no to something that sounded like a true adventure.

Moments I knew I made the right choice:

Sitting on the stern of a boat headed to Havelock Island while fly fish jumped along and Sigor Ross was playing in my headphones.

Hiking through a jungle and coming across Elephant tracks and seeing the jungle open up to reveal an empty beach ready for us to explore and enjoy as our own personal oasis for the day.

Eating ramen as the sun went down cooked on a campfire on the beach of Long Island knowing we were probably the only foreigners there.

Getting a ride from a local police boat back the mainland after having missed the ferry and running across half the island.

Waiting inside a cement bus waiting room with a drunk who had just puked on himself when a cop comes in with a Jarwawa (wiki) (indigenous Tribal people, looking more African than Indian and a dying race). Having the cop explain to me that he is taking him to the market and that all interactions with outsiders are limited and I wasn’t even allowed to take a picture with him.

Catching a bus going north to the capital Port Blair sitting on an upside down bucket because all the seats were sold out while some bollywood movie was playing way too loud preventing anybody from sleeping. Then having a Jarawa hop on the bus, catching a ride for a few stops while holding on to his bow and arrow.

What adventures have you had when being spontaneous?