Friday, December 24, 2010

5 steps to be a better traveler....

Going to a far-flung destinations and lounging at fancy resorts is surely a fun experience. But it's also the effortless part of the travel game. I crave for travel experiences that are up, close & personal. I worship all forms of travel - mountains, islands, jungles, villages or cities. But travel is more than just being somewhere - it's about getting under the skin of the place. It's about creating experiences that amaze and delight. It could be the best local hangouts, cultural experiences or adrenalin adventures. And after a wee bit of globetrotting, I've realised I lack amateur level travel skills ! If I could cultivate these skills, I could really stimulate my travel experiences. Here's a short list....
  1. Ride a motorbike  - Believe it or not, I cant maneuver a geared motor bike. It's right on top of the things to learn list. Since I can ride an automatic scooter, it should be easy. The sole purpose of learning a mobike is to zip across stunning landscapes and rarely visited corners of the Indian Himalayas. Maybe the classic journey from Manali to Leh.
  2. Eat vegetarian street food in Asia Pacific - Sounds like an oxymoron ? Asia is the land of spices. There's hardly any street across Asia where you don't see a vendor selling aromatic food. I've never had the courage eat at food stalls in Bangkok, Hongkong or Guangzhou. After all what could a vegetarian eat in countries where people consume birds, dogs and worms ?  Now there's a conflict of interest here. The traveler within me is intrigued by the street food & wants experience the local cuisine. The vegetarian within me confines me to touristy restaurants with clearly demarcated food. It's a real adventure to enjoy street food, while still being vegetarian. And I'm finally ready to ride the roller coaster.
  3. Scuba dive or surf  - I learned basic diving skills in Thailand, but my attempt to become a certified diver ended up in vain. However, I'm ready to give it second shot.  And if I'm not allured by diving, maybe I'll try surfing. The problem is that beaches aren't an important part of Indian culture, so it's not easy to get training and practise locally.
  4. Photography - I've never been beguiled by photography. It's really absurd since travel, blogging and photography are supplementary. Maybe I was too immersed in the "experience" rather than capturing pictures. I went to Brazil without a camera. I've been on African safaris without a camera. I don't even have a picture of me when I was on top of Kilimanjaro ! But I'm finally inspired to buy a camera and learn some photography.
  5. Speak an foreign language - English is enough if you are happy with spending all your time in star hotels & eating pizza. But lets face it, the areas that are solely catering to tourists are the same the world over. It's surely cumbersome to learn a new language. It's even more cumbersome to decide on which one to learn. If I decide to learn Spanish, I would still be helpless in France or Japan or China. But you need to learn a language if you want to go somewhere and really explore beyond the tourist facade. The local people probably speak little English.

 “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What $1 buys around the world

Lonely Planet’s Facebook fans  were asked, what they could get for $1 while travelling. They got amusing comments and I thought of sharing them on my blog.

Chester, England: US$1 (63 pence) gets me half a loaf of bread. As for Philippines, one of the best things you can get with $1 is a big bag of sweets to keep in your backpack, to hand out to kids. – James

Vienna: a dollar would buy you a freshly baked Kornspitz (a kind of bread roll), but wouldn’t be enough for a salty pickle from a street market or a short-distance public transport ticket. However, with the change from that Kornspitz, you can visit the museum of applied art (MAK) on a Saturday since it’s free of charge. – Dilyan

Tenerife, Canary Islands: it will get you a good cup of coffee in the capital, Santa Cruz, but in the tourist areas of the South you will be lucky if it gets you half a cup. – Linda

South India: it will give a unlimited servings of rice with rasam, sambhar, curd, papad, 1 piece sweet on a banana leaf. – Tarun

Cebu, Philippines: $1 can get 30-45 minutes of a glorious foot massage – Dexter

Nepal: you can get momo (ten units of dumpling) and a 250ml of coke. – Niraj

Croatia: a big scoop of ice-cream. – Morana

The UK: 60 pence buys you about 3/4 litre of milk, half a litre of petrol/diesel for your car, 2 cigarettes (that’s two single ones, not a packet), 3 apples, 2 days supply of the Sun tabloid newspaper, a small portion of fries from Maccy D’s or a can of coke from my office vending machine. – Alex

Denmark: you can get a litre of milk, a ciabatta bun in the Godthaabsvej Bakery, a stamp for a postcard/letter with receiver in Denmark, a cucumber or maybe a chocolate bar. 1 dollar = 5,5 danish kroner – Sandra

Budapest: 1 scoop of ice cream/4 small apples/1 plain hamburger at McDonald’s/1 postcard/1 daily newspaper/30 minutes parking in the downtown area – Csaba

Canada: Nothing! Haha. Blame it on Canadian taxes – Ashley

Faroe Islands: A pack of chewing gum, 2 apples at the supermarket, some candy probably, hardly anything – Bjarki

Vietnam: you can buy either 1 hat, 1 or 2 magazine(s), 1 DVD, 3 pairs of flip sandals, 5 instant noodle packages or snacks, 1 meal in some cheap food courts. ALOT, rite? – Lynn

In middle Italy: a litre of cheap wine or 1kg Spaghetti or 6 bottles of mineral water and just about one tablet of Ibruprofen which you might need if you drank the cheap vino!!! – Robert

Chiang Mai: The question is, what can’t you get in Chiang Mai for US$1? Street food doesn’t usually cost more than that. I even get a cooked to order vegetarian lunch delivered to my office everyday for that price. – Sheila

Bogotá, Colombia: A cup of coffee and 2 fresh baked cookies. Or an arepa with some spicy home made aji salsa! – Andrew

Seoul: one subway or bus ticket and a mask pack for your skin. – Yun

Egypt: you could buy a koshary plate which is an Egyptian dish which basically includes spaghetti, rice, lentil and fried onions on the top. Another choice would be about ten Fool (beans) sandwiches maybe even some falafel or in other parts of Cairo just a donut. – Aly

India: ‎1USD = around 50 Indian Rupees which can get you a hearty meal of boiled rice, dal, vegetables, pickles, chutney and papads in a Kolkata ‘basa’ …and it’s usually eat as much as you want! – Priyanka

Costa Rica: you can buy one papaya, one watermelon, one pineapple… and perhaps a cup of coffee of decent quality. – Luis

Los Angeles: one hour of street parking – Christina

Paris: about 40% of an espresso at Starbucks. – Michael

Dubai: a dollar will get you a ‘Jabal Al Noor’ shawarma. – Ineke

Portugal: 1 espresso coffee. Except if you are in the airport – Nuno

Australia: a scratchy (lottery ticket) with the chance of getting enough cash together for your next trip – Kin

So if you’re looking to make one dollar go further, ‘Indonesia, Thailand, and India are the winners’!

The content of this article is from Lonely Planet ( ).