Taiwanese-American blogging about his travels outdoors and occasionally his thoughts on life.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Rough Expenditures for My Eurotrip

To the best of my estimation abilities, roughly speaking:

The round trip tickets cost me $800 to get to London and fly out.

The Eurail pass cost me $1,000.

And my expenses totaled $5,300 which includes hostels, food, museums, parks, and entertainment.

So in total, I roughly spent $7,100 to go to Europe for 2 months.

LAX airport

After 10 hours in the air from London to los angeles, I am finally back in the states. Now I am just waiting for my connecting flight to start boarding. The delay is about three hours so I have just been wandering the terminal doing essentially nothing.

The flight itself was amazing for many reasons. One, the flight was only about half full so I got to not only sit where I wanted but I also had the entire side aisle (2 seat) to myself. Two, the flight had free in-flight entertainment which included 30 rock, the office, and relatively new movies like stupid, crazy, love, narnia 3, and contagion. Which is funny because at the time, contagion wasn't even out in europe yet.

In an hour, I will fly back to san jose.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sewing On Flag Badges

I finally have all the flag badge of all the countries I have travelled to with my backpack. Today, me and nadiah went down to tottenham court and I found the country I needed that I forgot the first time I went shopping for badges: Germany. After, we walked all the way to queensway and had all you can eat pizza and pasta for lunch and then returned home.

But today wasn't entirely stress-free, there was actually a bit of drama between my host and another couchsurfer staying in the room. Long story short, the guest was a bit inconsiderate and had to be kicked out. She was nice I suppose, but at times the way she behaved towards the owners of the house was just a bit too rude considering her role as a guest. To me, it was less of a host/guest relationship and more of a boss/underling relationship. In any case, I just tried to stay out of it to avoid making it seem like we were picking on her and just let my host deal with it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last few days in London, Britain, United Kingdom,

Today I arrived back in London, ending an absolutely amazing week in dublin. I met so many new friends in ireland but most importantly I was able to spend time with someone important to me.

On Thursday I travel back to the united states. The airport I am traveling out of however is having a strike so I am worried that my flight might get delayed.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Lost My Phone

Today I lost my phone haha. I think I left it at the betting house. But it's not that big of a deal because I had no credits left on it anyways and I deleted all my messages in preperation to give it to Abdullah.

One thing I picked up here in Ireland was greyhound betting. I first tried horse betting but the races took too long to finish. Each race typical lasts only 30 seconds. I haven't seen any other lengths televised, but the one I usually bet on are the 450m races. They have two kinds of betting: actual horses/greyhound racing and virtual races. You would think that people would not be interested in virtual racing but they are popular as well. Using the stats from previous races and a little bit of luck, I enjoyed betting on the greyhounds quite a lot. I lost the first time I tried greyhound betting but after using the reported stats from previous races for individual dogs, I actually won all my following bets. I did not win that much however because I only played for 25cents to 1 euro bets.

Return to Dublin and a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

The outskirts of Dublin is truly a nice place to visit. Some of the things that I have done in my return to Dublin include another bus tour to the Wicklow mountains, a trip to Howth, as well as another trip back to Glendalough. I was planning on visiting all the must-sees in Ireland like the Giant's Causeway, or the Cliffs of Mohr, or even the Blarney Stone but I got turned off with how long I would have had to stay on the train to get to those cities. And although the busses are faster, they are also more expensive with the trips to the west side (Dublin being the east side) costing around 50-100 euro.

So the only train ride that I took since my return to Dublin has been the one to Belfast, which is a city located in Northern Ireland. The city was...alright. Lucky for me, when I went they had set up a little fair in front of city hall. Had it not been for the fair, I think I would have been pretty bored in Belfast.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lost My Camera

I almost made it home problem free but the other day I discovered that I lost my camera. I hope whoever has it now enjoys my pictures haha. I am pretty sure I lost it in Ireland during my day trip. I remember putting it in the compartment above and then falling asleep for the rest of the ride home.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, and the Flea Market London, Britain, United Kingdom, p.4

These final few days in London have been quite enjoyable. They have been filled with flea market shopping, bike rides through Hyde park, and most importantly, delicious meals in various ethnic restaurants.

Saturday was the first time I used London's bike system. To rent a bike, it charges a 1£ access fee and then 1£ per hour that you use it. If you return the bike however in under 30 minutes to a bike docking station, the rental is actually free minus the access fee. That very same day, me, Nadia, and Sonia visited Winter Wonderland in Hyde park. As it sounds, Winter Wonderland is a christmas themed carnival set up in the park. But don't imagine those cheap carnivals in the parking lots of high schools, this one in London was actually quite impressive. It was at the carnival where I tried Kangaroo burger. I originally wanted Ostrich but they ran out.

The next day, we all met up again and visited some more flea markets. And by we, I mean: me, Sonia, Nadia, and Joan. This time, we visited the Petticoat Lane market where Joan, the Singaporean, made the bold claim that she was going to buy something for only 1£. It was quite a surprise us all when she not only accomplished this but at an even lower price than she claimed, 50p.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flag Badges

During my travels I saw someone who had stitched the flags of various countries onto his backpack. It inspired me today to do the same thing. Sewing them on by hand is definitly the worst part. Hurts my back and neck.


London, Britain, United Kingdom, p.3

For the remainder of the weekend, I will be staying in Leytonstone, a small town that's still part of London but at the same time not. To get back into the city where everything is: parliament, big ben, the thames, it takes about 30 minutes by tube.

The reason I am staying in Leytonstone is because I managed to find a host on CS. Originally, I only asked to be hosted for Friday and saturday but my host invited me to stay until I had to leave which would be Monday.

The first day we met, my host Nadia took me to go eat some Malaysian food as well as showed me one of london's bigger malls, Westfield. The next day, we went with some other people from CS to the local flea market where one of the girls got this really nice peacoat for only 2£. At the flea market, I spent all my money on food rather than clothes. I bought some tomatoes, a custard filled donut, and a pastrami bagette.

After, we visited the Camden market. At first, I had no idea where or what the camden market was but as soon as i saw it I recognized it as one of the places I visited when I first came to London with kurt and evan. If you ever visit this place, take the time to visit the techno/electro shop, its pretty cool. The description may sound vague, but once you see the store you will know what I'm talking about. Its one of a kind.

Later that night, we watched Moneyball starring Brad Pitt.

By the way, did i mentiom how traveling in london is so expensive? One ride anywhere, whether it be bus or tube, is roughly about 2£, one way. I'm glad I'm getting out of this place in a few days, because my american dollars are getting eaten up by the transportation system.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The British Museum and a city tour, London, Britain, United Kingdom, p.2

There really is not much to say about what I have been doing since being back in London. Most of it has been spent in the library reading comic books.

The other day, I met up with Aileen, the Korean girl that I met in Seville, Spain and we went to the British Museum. I went to the museum when I first arrived in London back in October but it was only for 20 minutes.

The British museum is nice and when you enter the main chamber, visually impressive. It can easily take up a day and offers a choice of Egyptian artifacts, Asian, and also some themed rooms like life and death. In my opinion, these museums are a lot more interesting than museums that focus on paintings (see Louvre). Afterwards, we had lunch and said our goodbyes.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Return to London, Britain, United Kingdom, p.1

For the remainder of my stay overseas, I will be staying in London. The reason for this is a combination of traveler's fatigue and bad planning. Not only have i become increasingly tired of moving from hostel to hostel and traveling on trains, but because I planned my journeys on the fly, I was never sure when I would return to London. As a result, I now have two weeks to burn in the united kingdom which would not be entirely terrible if it weren't for the costs of everything. London is just too darn expensive. But with an eye on my bank accounts, it is definitely possibly for me to survive til the end of my trip.

For those of you wondering, by the time I head back to California, I will have spent 5000-6000 USD on traveling which does not include the eurorail pass and plane ticket. I will be sure to provide a more accurate number once I get back.

Touring the City, Glendilock, and Killkenny, Dublin, Ireland

For three days, me and Abdullah stayed in Dublin, Ireland at the Generator Hostel. Getting there Thursday morning however wasn't entirely painless as we had to get to the airport at 6am, meaning we had to leave London around 4am. All was going well until our train, or the train ahead of our train, hit someone. So we had to take a taxi the rest of the way. Then we missed our gate by a few minutes because nobody had to check in bags so the flight was extremely on time. So then we had to buy a new ticket to Dublin for around 100 euros.

But besides that one mishap, I would have to say Dublin was incredibly fun. During the first day we did another one of Sandeman's free walking tours. They've been so good in the other countries I've been to that it was a no-brainer to do the one in Dublin.


No Facebook Account

You would be surprised by how many people I've met who don't believe me when I tell them I don't have a Facebook. I suppose that's one of the downsides of closing my account.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

London, Britain, United Kingdom,

This morning I flew out of Berlin and landed back in London an hour later. At the border, they gave me a bit of trouble because I had no proof I was flying out of London, I had no proof of income, and no address of where I was staying. Eventually they let me pass but they put a warning on my visa upon entering.

Tonight I will stay with Abdullah and then tomorrow morning (Wednesday, November 10th), we will fly out to Dublin, Ireland where we will stay for four days.

I have to say, I feel great being reunited with my smart phone and free internet.


Berlin, Germany part 2

My last days in Berlin were pretty relaxing. I just hung out with Aaron and Mike exploring the city by day and enjoying bars at night.

Some places that we visited that I did not mention in my first post on Berlin were the abandoned art building Tachalles, the Potsdam palace garden, and the Sony center at Potsdam Platz. Of the three, I would have to say the Sony center was the most impressive visually, but it could be because I've been in Europe for so long that castles and palaces no longer surprise me. In total, I stayed in Berlin for 4 days.


Sunday, November 06, 2011

City Tour of Berlin, Germany

Today marks my second day in Berlin, Germany. The train ride there was a little different because instead of the usual two seat per row, the train had instead little rooms with 6 seats, three on each side.

The hostel I am staying at, Meininger, is incredibly nice. The quality is easily comparable to a hotel and the only difference I would say, would be the presence of the bunk beds.

The first night, I went out with my roommate, Mike from LA, to grab dinner, a drink, and then the pub crawl. The pub crawl was pretty fun; for 10 euros (typical price for hostel pub crawls), we were taken to five bars, got free shots with our initial purchases, and then ended the night at a multi-room club that lasted til 5am at night. On the crawl, we began the night by meeting one guy from Canada and two really nice girls from Seattle. One of the girls lived in San Jose for awhile for college while the Canadian, Grant, lived in Ontario. Later on, our group eventually ballooned up at the bars when a bunch of Irish girls joined us. Let me just say, out of all the professions that were shared that night, scientist was the least impressive haha.

That aside, my roommate is a pretty cool guy. He currently works as a graphics designer for a watch company that had promising beginnings but is now, as he puts it, 'a sinking ship.'

The next day (Today), we went on the free walking tour. The tour was really good. The company was called Sandemans New Berlin. It's a tour guide group that was started by an American that offers tourist free tours but asks for tips at the end. They guide took us to many historical spots around eastern Berlin which included the visually impressive Jewish memorial, as well as gave a very thorough recap of Berlin's famous history. I think tomorrow, as well as the other remaining days I have in Berlin, I will try the other tours the company offers.


Rick Steves' Travel Guide Re-evaluation

After reading some other guide books around, it seems to me that Rick Steves guidebook is actually not as bad as I originally thought. But I do still stand by what I said about how it was geared more towards middle aged couples. Although his entertainment tips, maps, restaurants, and hotel/hostel advice have been almost completely useless to me, Rick Steve does do a great job on sights to see and his descriptions of them.


Czech, Prague

I stayed in Prague for about three days. The hostel I stayed at was really intimate and the quality of the rooms and the bathrooms were way beyond anything I have stayed in so far.

I met a nice couple who were also from the bay area. The woman was a registered nurse while the man was a aerospace engineer.

While I was at the hostel, I read the book Where the Wild Things Are by Dave Eggers. It was written after the film adaptation was made of the children's picture book. It was pretty good. A nice break from this other book I've been reading called Third World America by Arianna Huffington.

In Prague, the first two days I did the tourist thing; I visited the old and new city, I saw the astrological clock, I toured Prague Castle, browsed Palladium shopping center, and found the Lennon wall as well. To be honest, at this point in my trip, castles, cathedrals, and churches just don't interest me as much anymore. I would have to say that I'm a little burnt out on them which is the main reason why I did not visit Karlstejn castle just south of Prague (rumored to be the oldest standing castle in Europe).

I also managed to meet up with two locals from Couchsurfing. Because they were both busy on the weekdays, I could only meet one at night and the other Friday morning.

The first girl, Arianna, was a Singaporean who moved to the Czech republic for work. She took me to some nice restaurants allowing me the opportunity to try some more local cuisines. Now that I think of it, I did not take any pictures of the Czech food that I had.

The second girl, Linda, was a Vietnamese girl whose family immigrated to the country when she was really young. That morning, because she had class later that day, we only met for lunch.

At the end of my stay in Prague, I really got tired of sausages. Although delicious, I simply had eaten too many traveling through Germany and Austria.

On Saturday, I left for Berlin, Germany, the last city in central Europe I was going to travel to.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Using a Smartphone Around Europe

One thing I really regret doing was leaving my smartphone in London with Abdullah. I don't even know what I was thinking when I left it. I think at the time I thought it would be better to make my backpack lighter and leave some things behind, so I left my phone and a t-shirt. If I had a smartphone, I wouldn't have to pay for stupid internet all the time. I miss my HTC Eris.


Vienna, Austria

Today marks my last day in Vienna, Austria. The city is pretty nice, not as expensive as the other countries that I visited and has its fair share of sights to see. Today I visited the Schönbrunn Palace and it was pretty nice. I took the audio tour and learned a bit about the Austrian family that resided in the castle. In Vienna, there are actually two palaces so I chose to only visit one of them. At night, I tried to get tickets to the famous Opera house but they quickly sold out. Luckily, they broadcast the performance on a large screen right outside the house for people to watch. I couldnt really follow the story so I eventually left after an hour.

The day before, I explored the shopping street Mariastrausse and visited St. Stephen's Cathedral as well as explored most of the plaza that the Gothic cathedral was located in.

Sometimes I think it's a good thing that I do not spend a lot of money on the museums or tours because I spend a lot on local food and beer. I would have to say that trying all the different foods is one of the better parts to travelling. Some things to try in Vienna would be their Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal) sausages and Tafelspitz (another meat dish).

I also ran into a pretty cool street performer whose sole act was simply floating in mid air. It was pretty cool. I took a video as well as some pictures.

Tomorrow I head off to Prague, Czech. Republic. Itś another 5 hour long train ride. Great.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Munich, Germany part 2

After returning from Fussen, I finished my night by meeting up with a Couchsurfing member named Lisa. Together, we went to this venue near my hostel where a sitar band from India played some typical Indian music. It was nice, but it wasn't really something I could pay attention to for two hours so I ended up leaving as soon as they took a break.

Tomorrow I travel to Vienna, Austria.

I hope I can wash my clothes there because it's just about that time again.

By the way, you no good bums should comment more on my posts.


The Beautiful Castle Neuschwanstein in Fussen, Germany

So I know I said earlier that I was going to skip Fussen because it was a bit of a travel from Munich...but between the time I posted that post and the day before I decided to go to Fussen, everyone, just about everyone, told me to go. So I did.

To sum up Fussen in one word: Breathtaking. I spent the entire day there and probably could have stayed longer if it weren't for the annoying two hour train ride home holding me back.

From Munich, the train to Fussen took two hours. Immediately, you could tell at the train station just how popular this destination was for tourist. The train was packed, absolutely packed. Some people had to even stand until seats opened up at other stops.

The farther we traveled away from Munich towards Fussen, the more happy I became about my decision to go to Fussen. Just looking out the window at all the smaller towns really gave you a better sense of what defines the German culture. It was also one of the rare occasions where the livestock actually looked happy, free to roam huge acres of land instead of being packed in tiny dirt pastures like they do in America.


Munich, Germany

My stay in Munich was definitely better than my night in Cologne. I think largely due to the fact that Munich had more things to see near the train station and my roommates were very friendly. In the beginning however, it was a bit tiring because the trip from Cologne to Munich took so long and I wasn't entirely sure where my hostel was located. But after a bit of walking and direction asking, I finally reached my hostel. That day, my backpack seemed suspiciously heavier than I remembered. But I reasoned that it was because I was really tired and hungry.

During the day, I visited the city center next to the train station as well as explored a beer garden. Since it was a weekend, the city center was actually quite lively. I sampled some few sweet baked breads, ate some pretzels, tried some sandwiches, and had some beer and sausages.


Cologne, Germany

The next day, I arrived in Cologne, Germany. The city was not that exciting so I did not stay the two days like planned.

I think it was a combination of; the city looked boring, the hostel did not have a lot of people (although the hostel was quite nice), and I did not find anyone on Couchsurfing to show me around.

The highlight of my day in Cologne had to be finding that really nice family-run internet cafe.

The next day, I took the train directly to Munchen (Munich), bypassing Frankfurt because I could not find any cheap hostels or couches to stay on. The trip took 5 hours and was no bueno.


Thoughts on Theft part 2

I don't know whether the northern european countries are more safer or whether its simply because I've realized that theft in Europe is not as bad as all the books and online message boards made it out to be but I almost never worry about my stuff getting stolen anymore. Just don't make it easy and you'll be fine.

On a related note, I definitely advise future travelers to get a money belt. It really does bring peace of mind when your hostel does not have a locker or when you're moving about the train during long trips.


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Odors of Staying in Hostels

One thing you must come to accept or prepare yourself for as a traveler staying in hostels is the odor. I've been calling it the traveler's odor and all you can hope for is that it won't be too bad. It's the result of not being able to clean your clothes on a daily basis. The worst is when it's a really sour smell because then it really penetrates your senses.

For the most part, I have not yet developed that smell because I've been hand cleaning my stuff as well as using my host's washing machines pretty often. I've also been taking showers daily.


Health Risks of Staying in Hostels

No matter how hard you try to keep yourself healthy, if you are staying in hostels, nothing will keep you healthy except for luck.

It's because you will run into sick people during the fall/winter season that will inevitably be placed in the same room as you. Worse is if they are placed directly next to you. You can stay out all day but at the end of the day you still need to spend about 8 hours at night with them in the room while they cough.

I was fine in Paris when I was surrounded by sick people and the girl above me was coughing her lungs out, but here in Amsterdam, I can finally feel myself getting sick.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Windmills of Koog-Zaandijk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The last day in Amsterdam, I decided I wanted to go see some windmills. But being in the city, there were absolutely no windmills in sight. So I asked the front desk where I should go and they directed me towards a city outside of Amsterdam called Zaandam.

When I got on the train, I noticed a korean girl named Cho Rong sitting behind me so I started talking to her. After talking awhile, I learned that she was also planning on going to visit some windmills. Except, she was going to Koog-Zaandijk instead of Zaandam. So I decided to go with her. Because not only was Koog-Zaandijk just two stops after Zaandam, but also because she had a guidebook that said Koog-Zaanijk was a beautiful town that was the place to go if you wanted to see windmills. And lucky that I went with her too, because as we passed by Zaandam, you could see that there was no windmills whatsoever. So had I got off at Zaandam, I would have seen no windmills at all and would have probably ended up going home defeated.


Biking in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In total, I stayed in Amsterdam three days. The first day in Amsterdam was definitely exciting. However after awhile, the excitement wears off and you get used to all the red light stuff and pot smell.

The hostel that I stayed at was a christian hostel called Shelter City right in the red light district. Originally, I imagined that the red light district was this isolated part of the town away from the general public but its actually centered right in the middle of it.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Budget Book-keeping

For every transaction that I have made from the bank, I have recorded in my books. I would like to check my accounts online to be absolutely sure but I'm a bit wary of logging onto hostel computers in fear that my account will get hacked. But, from what I have recorded, it seems to me that I have been traveling for a month using only about a thousand dollars which includes everything from hostels, food, entertainment to other sights.

If this is true, does this mean I can actually afford to go into museums or other tourist attractions? Maybe I am being too cheap haha.

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