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

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.


Stuck in Paris

The past few days I have been stuck in Paris because I could not get an earlier ticket out of the city without having to pay the full price. But today I will finally leave for Amsterdam. I leave in the afternoon and will get there tonight at 8pm, making the trip a 3 hour trip.

As of now, the plan is to head to Cologne, Germany after Amsterdam, then Frankfurt, then Prague, Czech Repub., and then finally back to Berlin, Germany. I don't think I will be going to Norway and Sweden as I originally planned, simply because the trip there by train looks like it would take a long time and I have been trying to minimize the amount of time I spend on train to 5 hours or less. In skipping those two countries, I can no visit the Czech republic. I am still on the fence on whether to visit Austria.

One sight I am a little dissapointed in not being able to go to is the Bavaria region in Germany. There, there exists this amazing castle, Neuschwanstein, that everyone on my trip has been telling me about. It was built by the Mad kind Ludwig and although never finished, to this day, remains impressive. Here is a picture from google.

By the way, Paris, France, is incredibly beautiful when it rains.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brussels, Belgium

In the end, I decided not to visit Bussels or Bruge in Belgium. After staying about 5 days in Ghents, Belgium, and having tasted a variety of beers, the waffles, and the fries, I felt there was nothing I would really miss if I skipped the other two town.

However, instead of heading straight to Amsterdam, Netherlands, like planned, I had to head back into Paris, France. On the way back, I had to stop in Brussels, Belgium. My only impression of Brussels; you have to pay 50 cents to use the restrooms.

The reason why I had to go back to Paris was because my phone was running really low on credits and I could not top off my pay-as-you-go phone in Belgium or any other future countries I was planning on visiting. So I decided to go back to Paris, France, the last country that supported my phone's carrier. Unfortunately, today I discovered that not even in Paris could I top off my Orange prepaid phone. The only place you can top off your phone is in the country you bought the sim card. Lame. So I had to buy a new sim card which essentially made my trip pointless.

Well, the trip back to Paris was not completely useless, I did get to see a friend.

Ghents, Belgium part 3

My last few days in Ghents I stayed with another host, Fenna. I met her through an emergency couch request forum on CS. She was one of the few who offered to host me last minute. The night before, I also met with another local Sandra, also from CS.

Together, we walked around Kronmarkt, visited a museum that not only collected period pieces but also some modern art, ate breakfast at Makobon (oldest cafe in Belgium?), and met up with a friend of hers for some afternoon beer.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Mentioning People

For those of you who wonder why I blog about some people and not about others; it was something that I did to help me remember all the people on my journey.

But after awhile, I realized that some people, you just will never forget so I didn't feel the need to include them in my posts. I mention this because I have been keeping in touch with some of you by email so I know you read my blog. I just didn't want anyone to get offended.


Hostel Reviews

One thing I have been checking out of curiousity has been the user reviews of the hostels that I stay in.

In particular, I check out the lowest score reviews to see if I agree with them so that I know how much confidence to put in future reviews for hostels I have yet to stay at. For the most part, more often than not, I find myself disagreeing with them.

I feel as if the people who give the lowest score reviews are typically people who expected hotel quality luxuries and treatment without stopping to think about how much they paid for the room. Some people want everything for nothing.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts as a Tourist in Europe

I feel that as tourist, when a place says not to take pictures, we should, well, not take pictures.

We are guests in another country and some of us can't even follow that simple rule. I find it very selfish indeed.


Ghents, Belgium part 2

This morning, Didier went out and got us breakfast. Breakfast consisted of sweet croissants with either  frosting and almonds on top or chocolate bits inside. It was quite delicious. After breakfast however, Didier had to work so I took the tram system and headed into the more touristy part of town, Korenmarkt.

The one thing you immediately notice about Belgium is that it is much, much colder than southern Europe.

At Korenmarkt, there are quite a lot of churches and castles. One of the most impressive was Belfort (Belfrey). Inside was incredibly beautiful and just how high the ceiling was was inspiring. I could not take any photos however since they did not allow it.

For lunch, I had tomato soup and a delicious sandwich with some sort of potato salad-like filling, but instead of potatoes, used chicken.

I will update later tonight the rest of our day.

Dogs in Paris, France

Here are some pictures of some dogs in Paris, France. They say the French are quite lazy when it comes to working. I wonder if any of that mindset has gotten to their pets as well.

This dog I saw after my picnic. Half dog, half bear.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skipping Switzerland

Originally, I was supposed to stop in Switzerland on my way from Barcelona, Spain to Paris, France but from what I heard from people living there that I met on my travels, it would have been too expensive. So I decided to skip it.


Ghents, Belgium Part 1

Tonight is my first night in Belgium as well as my first true couchsurfing experience. I will be staying for three days with a guy called Didier who lives in a smaller town called Gents, east of Brussels. The most interesting and obvious about my host is that he is blind. At the age of 1, he developed retenal cancer which normally only affects one eye but in his case, took both his eyes. However; he gets around quite well and is extremely eloquent, a characteristic I often wished I had.

Additionally, I was supposed to move to a hostel after three days, but all the hostels around Gents were booked full. So I posted an emergency note on CS and minutes later found another host, offering me her couch for the weekend. 6 days in Gents, Belgium seems a bit long for such a small town but perhaps with the right people, 6 days might become not enough. If I disappear from the face of the planet, let the world know that I was last seen in Gents, Belgium haha.

Paris, France recap

The hostel that I was staying at had really bad internet so it made it hard to post updates. On top of that, I had to pay for my minutes so going on the internet was usually reserved for emergencies or more important tasks. But now that I am with my host in Belgium, I can use his internet to update.

So. A Paris, France recap.

Paris, was amazing to say the least. I tried many Parisian dishes including a typical French picnic in the park, onion soup, duck foi gras, crepes (both breakfast crepe and snack), french duck, macaroons, wine (red and white, both cheap and expensive). I also tried escargot (snails) and tartare le beuf. For those of you who don't know what tartare le beuf is, it is basically a raw hamburger patty that has been specially seasoned evenly with spices and onions. The meat has to be special as well, otherwise people could just eat raw hamburger meat from the store. For my last meal in Paris, that is what I had. Not only that, I had it in one of the oldest establishments in Paris.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Locker Locks in Hostels

The hostel in Paris, France has been the only time I have used the lock I bought back at home. Most of the other hostels had their own lockers and locks which they offered to you for a deposit or a fee. Before this hostel, I almost felt as if buying a lock was a complete waste of money. If anything, I guess having your own lock affords you peace of mind.


Fear of Theft

Before coming to Europe, I heard a lot about theft. However, since coming to Europe, I have had no problems with theft whatsoever. I have heard of some stories from some fellow travellers but usually they are cases where they made it really easy for thieves to go through their stuff or were simply out too late. So for those of you planning on going to Europe, as long as you are aware of your surroundings, you should have no problems at all. I rarely wear my money belt but it is definitely nice to have once and awhile.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Paris, France

Today I find myself in Paris, France. Originally, I was planning on only traveling up north to one of France's southern towns, but after finding no cheap hostels, I decided that if I was going to be paying a lot for a hostel, I might as well do it in Paris. Unfortunately, my train ticket was only booked to the southern part of France. Upon arriving at Montpellier, France, I lined up to buy my ticket only to discover that the earliest train would be the next day. Not wanting to stay in Montpellier for the night, I decided to just hop on the train anyway. For three hours I just moved from car to car, avoiding any possibility to getting my ticket checked. In the end, after a total of 8 hours, I was in Paris, France, exhausted.

Now I am staying at St. Christopher's Inn where I hope my days will be more interesting than Barcelona.

Speaking of Barcelona, after all my travels I feel as if Madrid still remains the place to go if you want to have fun. Barcelona has its share of sights but the city itself is not too lively. Then there is Sevilla, a town I recommend to anyone who wants to really experience Spain's cultural and historical side.

Paris, is really, really, expensive.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Youth Card

One thing I was planning on buying here was a Youth Card but it slipped my mind in all the chaos and I never ended up buying one. Long story short, don´t get a youth card, its pointless.

Rick Steves' Travel Guide

The most helpful thing that I have found in Rick Steves' Travel Guide so far are the conversion tables, how to dial foreign countries, and how to get from the airport to the city center. Other than that, from personal experience, his sight suggestions and ratings just do not do the places real justice. But I think, in the end, everyone has their own preference so maybe this book works better for others.


Bicycle Tour and Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain Day 2

Today I took the bike tour all aroud Barcelona (costing me 20 euros with a student id). It was a nice break from walking and the company that I was with was really great. If anyone who is reading this blog, finds themselves in Barcelona, I highly recommend the tour done by Fat Tire that is located near the Cathedral, near the two government buidings (one for Catalina, one for Spain).

Most of the people on the bike tour were from the U.S. while a few were from Canada. I think the most impressive thing I saw in Barcelona on this bike tour, was the Sagrada Família which is this ridiculously amazing looking cathedral done by the artist Gaudi.

After seeing most of Barcelona however, I still believe that Madrid is the more livelier town of the two. Although Sofia would probably attest that Barcelona is still better. I think, depending on what you´re looking for in a trip, you will prefer one or the other. Madrid simply feels younger.

I also learned today that the Saint buried at the Cathedral in the Gothic region was only 13 when she was put in a barrel with knives, glass, and rocks, rolled down a street, survived, then crucified the next day.

Also, the queen Isabella was crazy nutso.

Oh yeah, last night, me and a girl from my hostel won a trivia contest and got 15 euros to spend on the bar. One of the questions was, who was Goldie Hawn´s daughter. We both forgot but still had enough to win.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cadiz, Sevilla, Spain

The last day before I left for Barcelona, I went with two friends from my room to a small town south west of Sevilla. The town was called Cadiz. Supposidly, Cadiz is the oldest town in all of Europe. It´s a very small beach town and to be honest, there is not too much to do. We completely covered the city in about 5 hours or less, counting time spent on the beach.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Knees Are Hurting

Two weeks into my Europe trip and my knees have finally starting feeling it. Especially around the knee caps. Too much walking around I suppose.


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sevilla, Madrid, Spain

Yesterday morning I hopped onto the train at 9am to Sevilla, Madrid, a smaller town south of Madrid. I almost missed the train because I spent the night beforehand out til 5am with Spanish friends at clubs and bars and slept a bit later than I was supposed to.

Sevilla is a very beautiful town. Their main points of interests are just a little south west of the town´s center and they consist of tons and tons of cathedrals, plazas, and palaces. When I was walking around, I simply got the impression that there was a lot of history in not only the streets themselves but the buildings as well. If you are in Spain, Sevilla is definitely a town you want to invest 2-3 days in for a better grasp of Spanish culture.


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Real Palace, Tapas, the Plaza Mayor, Plaza Espana, and more! Madrid, Spain day 2

These past few days have been absolutely amazing and it´s really such a shame I have no way of uploading the places I´ve been and the people I´ve met.

So yesterday, I went to the Real Palace and walked around. The palace was incredibly large and very beautifully made. As impressive, was the garden in front. In the end, I don´t think I can compare it to the architecture that I saw in London because they are just two different, equally impressive, sights.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Madrid, Spain

I really wish I could upload the pictures I have been taking along my trip, it would make my posts a lot more interesting in my opinion.

So yesterday, I took a plane out of Gatwick, London to Madrid, Spain. Upon getting to the airport, I wandered around aimlessly for a bit looking for buses into the city until I found a tourist information kiosk who helped me onto the bus I needed. Once I reached the city, the first sight of madrid I received upon stepping off of the bus was two men kissing. Nothing against them kissing, I just thought it was funny that my first impression of Madrid was two men kissing. I then walked around the city a bit looking for hostels and comparing until in the end settled with this really nice hostel called Equitypoint, located on calle de la cruz.

For those of you traveling to Madrid in the near future, there really is no variation in price (about 30 euroes) for a single so there is no point in shopping for cheap rooms. I think all you do when you shop and compare is annoy the innkeep. The room I ended up getting was another shared room (6 people), so each night, I am paying 17 euros. And even though its a shared room, in total, there is actually only three people in it, so not too crowded.

The rest of the night, I hung out with Sofia, this beautiful girl from Beijing that I met on the internet, and her friends. We ate chinese hot pot and then hit the bars. It was an amazing time and I enjoyed talking about all the places I should go with Fran the business major and Raffy the software engineer. I think so far, most of my dinners have consisted of beer and more beer.

Once I get back to the states, I will definitely upload pictures to each posts!

On the side, some quick notes before my time on the computer is up...

1) this travel backpack has been awesome.
2) hostels are sometimes hard to find rooms because there are also locals trying to get a room.
3) Bar hopping is getting really expesnive.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Soho and Hyde Park, London, Britain, United Kingdom,

This is a bit of  late post but, the other day, me and Abdullah explored the Soho district of London. Before going to Soho however, I checked in my hostel. Originally, I wanted to stay at the hostel St. Christopher but it was all full so I ended up staying at Dover Hostel Castle on Borough st. After a few hours of walking around Soho and Chinatown, Abdullah had to leave and prepare for class so I continued my day with Lan, this really nice chinese girl that I met online. We explored Soho some more and then we walked around Hyde park. After, we split up and I fell asleep at 8pm for the rest of the day.

The next day, I met two really great guys in the hostel kitchen, Evan and Kurt. Together, we walked along the Thames river to visit the Thames Modern museum as well as the British Museum and then later that night went to Camden for some pub crawling with some other girls. All in all, I had a great night and I am extremely happy to have met these two brothers during my stay in London. It is most unfortunate that we forgot to exchange emails before we split.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Thames River, London, Britain, United Kingdom,

Yesterday me and Abdullah traveled all along the Thames River. We visited the Westminster Abbey, the London Eye (this big ferris wheel), Big Ben, the very boring and artsy-fartsy Tate Modern museum, Shakespeare's Globe, the Golden Hinde replica, and some other official looking buildings in the area. I think, if I have time on my return to the United Kingdom, I would like to watch a play in Shakespeare's Globe. The place looked really nice.

For lunch, some guy who looked like the lead singer from coldplay made me a sandwhich with chicken that was grilled too long. When I bit into it, it was like biting into a rock. So essentially, I had a vegetarian sandwhich for lunch.

After resting back at Abdullah's flat for awhile, we then left to go pub crawling. I had some amazing beers at some bars and really bitter beers at others. At one of the bars, I got tricked by two plump gargoyles into buying them drinks. Although, to be fair, it wasn't so much tricked, it was more like, I couldn't think of a good enough way to say no so I just said, "okay." We then ended the night at a karoke bar. By the time we got home, it was around 3am.

Monday, October 03, 2011

My Eurotrip Travel Book

For my trip in Europe, I bought a travel book by Rick Steves. The more I use it, the more I feel as if Rick Steves' travel book is geared more towards middle aged couples with money, not young adults (18-23) traveling on a budget. He also enjoys drawing his own maps which is neat but also drives me nuts sometimes. I find that a lot of the places he suggests are out of my budget.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Queen Mary, University of London, London, Britain, United Kingdom,

It's about 6:21am in the United Kingdom (England? London?) and my sleep schedule is still a bit off. It helped though that I did not get a lot of sleep on the airplane because at least I was tired when it was night.

The day that I got into London, the first thing me and Abdullah did was take the tube to his university so I can drop my backpack off. The trip was about an hour or so and the trip on the rail system itself was quite enjoyable. It wasn't Disneyland, but it was a nice new experience. Very reminiscent of the BART or Caltrain systems back in the bay area. The first thing we did once we got back to the area was look for a store to buy me a prepaid phone as well as lunch. The prepaid phone cost be about 20 pounds (roughly 32 dollars) and then I put another 20 pounds of credit on it. I didn't quite get what the sales lady was telling me so I don't actually know how much time I have on it.

For lunch, we went to this amazing pub down the street called Half Moon where I had fish and chips and very tasty beer. I wish I could upload the pictures I took but I just discovered that I did not bring the transfer chord and Abdullah's laptop is a Mac so its useless (just kidding Adbullah, Macs are good for work!).

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