travel

New To Banda Aceh? Little John Can, And Will Help!

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Planning on heading to Indonesia sometime soon with a stop in Banda Aceh?  You’ll definitely need some transportation to and from the bus station or airport, and you’ll probably want to check out some of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami memorials and museum while you’re in town.  You may also need some information on where to get some supplies and or random other info about the area and what not.  Look no further for help, it’s right here!

I found a man who calls himself Little John on WikiTravel.org who turned out to be a joy of a becak (tuk-tuk) driver and guide for a few days.  I contacted John by texting him from Sabah, Malaysia, and even though it was long distance texting he got back to me right away about a ride from the Banda Aceh Airport to our hotel I’d booked a day earlier (Hotel Wisata, Rp225,000 w/Hot Water & Private Bathroom).

John found us easily and right away as we stepped out into the thick muggy air of Banda Aceh and had a sign waiting with my name on it just in case.  He drives a local styled motorized tuk-tuk (called becak’s here in Indonesia), and actually has mobile Wifi through 3G on the becak in case you need it!  In years of traveling in SEAsia I have never seen this once.  Pretty impressive.  He’s a smiley character that speaks English (and Japanese) very well, and is full of info on whatever it is that you may be curious about.

Upon arriving at our hotel we immediately booked him to be a tour guide for the following day to take us around to some of the Tsunami memorials and such.  He was a few minutes early, and beyond taking us around to the memorials, assisted us in getting some string we needed to patch up some clothes, Jess’ contact lens replacements, Kopi Luwak, and even brought me to his friend’s chop shop because I told him I was a motorcycle geek and wanted to rent a bigger bike if possible.  It was an incredibly packed day full of great food, history, errands, and more.

Overall John’s insight is whats most valuable: we asked about dogs and why they are unholy for Muslim’s, SIM cards with internet packages ($3.50 will get you 4.5GB with simPATI!!), and he also translated what the all kids were asking us, plus told us where to go for the best stone markets here.

We’ve actually booked him again for tomorrow to take us over to Lampuuk Beach where we plan on staying at Joel’s Bungalow’s for a few nights before heading off to Pulau Weh for my birthday and some more diving!!

John would appreciate you contacting him a few days ahead of your arrival by Facebook, but you’re more than welcome to text him as well.  Here’s John’s info:

Phone: +62 81360231339

Facebook: Little John Banda Aceh – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006284559205&fref=ts

Blogspot: http://tuktukbandaaceh.blogspot.com

A quick glace look at what goes into a rucksack for globetrotting…

Salamat Datang!

That’s ‘Welcome’ in Malay/Indonesian.  I’m currently in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia.  It’s hot.  It’s sticky.  It’s gorgeous.  Thought I’d pop off a quick post of this video I took right before hitting the airport in Seattle to take off on this walkabout…literally.  Here’s a quick look at what goes into my rucksack (usually – if I was headed to India this would be a completely different story) before taking off on one of my wild globetrotting experiences around SEAsia:

Not mentioned in the video (in bag or whatever): Leatherman, vitamins, a simple first aid kit, random assortment of power adapters for different countries, pack towel(s), 5 liter dry bag, and last but not least Socks (not really needed…EVER almost – I mess this up every year).

Here’s link’s to a few of the products seen in this video:

KEENS
www.keenfootwear.com

Aqualung Favola Mask
http://www.aqualung.com/us/gear/masks/item/79-favola
(You can get these cheaper on eBay.)

REI Siesta Sheet
http://www.rei.com/product/808848/rei-siesta-sheet
(Apparently these aren’t available anymore, but they have similar items.)


Kelty Red Cloud
http://www.kelty.com/p-844-red-cloud-90.aspx

Space Bags
https://www.spacebag.com/

All that said, once I arrived I already realized I overpacked – AGAIN.  Mainly I did not need the socks and that many T-Shirts – it’s just too hot!

Boom boom, it’s hot out, we’re eating Mee Sup Tom Yam Seafood for breakfast and then off to a waterfall!

Loves!

A Safe & Portable Clean Water Solution For Your Travels.

Okay, so you’re going traveling abroad to a country that is particularly known for not having the cleanest drinking water and you’d like to do your best to not get sick.  For the fairly cheap price of around $125, you too can have a safe and insanely portable solution to cleaning your drinking water on your next trip.  All you require is two products:

~ Steripen Freedom ~

This amazing little device is a bit smaller than the length of the average male hand.  Not only is it incredibly small, but it is USB powered for any of you tech travel geeks that may have your laptop.  The device comes with a USB driven wall charger as well, but you’ll need to find your own adapters for whichever country you’re headed to.  The Freedom charges full in just over an hour and lasts up to 40-50 half liter treatments on one charge!  It packs a powerful UV Light that treats water for a wide range of things you don’t want to drink such as: E. Coli, Hepatitis, Salmonella, and Giardia.  I personally didn’t use it all that much, but if you twist the Freedom in your hand 3 times, it also has a fairly bright LED flashlight that pops on for about 2 minutes.  All in all this device is small, light, easy to carry anywhere, and only $99.95 at Steripen’s WebSite: http://www.steripen.com/freedom/ , OR you can click this little link to probably find it for about $75 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1qyGXfM .

794.151071_e

~ Camelbak Groove ~

This BPA free plastic water bottle isn’t your ordinary water companion.  The .6 liter/20 oz bottle houses a plant based carbon filter straw system that’s good for around 3 months and/or 300 uses.  For a small fee of $20 (or $30 if you want to purchase a few replacement filters from the start), this lightweight and easy to clip onto any backpack water bottle can be yours for $19.99 at Amazon: http://amzn.to/1qyKuuj .

You may think ‘Why is the water bottle necessary when I probably have plenty already?  Good question.  Well, just because you’re cleansing the water of bacteria doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste that great.  The carbon filter in the Groove gives your hydration that extra filtration to make it taste just fine.

So you’ve got your two products. Simply follow this insanely high tech video I just shot and you’re good to go!

This was not an original idea by the way.  It was recommended to me by my dear friend Dawn (World Class Traveler, check out her photography here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/playapixie/sets/) when I met up with her traveling through India.  I took it upon myself to try out her suggestion the next trip I went on, and was sold instantly.  Thanks again Dawn!

Mikkeller Continues To Take Over The World.

Mikkeller BKK

 

Searching for the brand new Mikkeller Bar in Bangkok isn’t necessarily what I’d call easy.  At least it wasn’t when I was trying to find it on the second night after it was opened officially.  I found their address and plugged it into Google Maps, and up came some far off soi off a soi on Ekkamai off Sukhimvit that I thought for sure was going to have me end up in some strange Thai neighborhood in Bangkok wondering where I was.

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, owner of the gypsy brewery Mikkeller, has chosen to stick his third bar on the planet (the other two are in Copenhagen, Denmark – his home country, and San Francisco) not in the heart of New Bangkok, but hidden, right nearby. The bar itself is simply a house in the more upscale Ekkamai neighborhood converted into a living space upstairs, and the bar downstairs, with the refrigeration and keg storage space in the back.  They’ve turned the lawn into an exceptionally lounged out grassy area with squatter tables with upscale beanbags for chairs.  There’s a patio as well with about eight or so taller sit tables for those that don’t feel like being on the ground, but not in the AC controlled non-mossie environment inside.

To locate the bar, you can now search it on Google Maps, but I may as well just tell you how to get there anyways:  Head to Sukhimvidt Road and head towards Sukhimvidt 63 which is the Ekkamai neighborhood soi.  Take a motorbike taxi from there down to Ekkamai 10, which will be on the right hand side of the street coming from Sukhimvidt.  From there it’s a short walk.  Simply walk down Ekkamai 10 and take your first right.  Then take your first left.  In about 20-40 seconds on the right you’ll see a house, yes I said a house, that just happens to be where you’re going to find absolute deliciousness in the beer realm unlike anything else in Thailand, or potentially all of SE Asia for that matter.

When asked on why Mikkel had picked the location, Pete, the Tap Master (says his card), resident of the establishment, and more outspoken of the three main gents that run the place, simply said, “He wanted it to be a destination.  We don’t want every drunk idiot traveling in Thailand to be able to just stumble in.”  Mikkel’s beers range from a 1.3% ABV Low Alcohol Wheat Ale called ‘Drink’in The Sun’ all the way up to a 14% ABV American Strong Ale brewed with To Øl called ‘Walk On Water’.  Like any new product or service anywhere, these types of things can take some getting used to, especially when the country you’ve landed in normally serves beer at a flat 4-5% ABV.

That evening I chose carefully (as always) and ordered a 12% Imperial Stout named ‘George!’, a juniper berry infused IPA named ‘Baltic Frontier’, a brilliant sour from Mikkel in the ‘Spontaneous Series’ titled ’Spontandoubleblueberry’ (which ended up being one of the best beers I’ve had in almost a year), and a really well done DIPA (Double-IPA for those not in the know) called ‘Dangerously Close To Stupid’.  All were fantastic, with the blueberry sour being one of those brews that your intense beer hunter/geek/snob yearns for in his or her global search for the best brews on the planet.

Though I haven’t actually been to Mikkel’s other two bars in Copenhagen and San Francisco, I hear that the esthetics of the bar are fairly similar as far as paint job, colors, weird little figures on the wall, and such.  Though I was too busy drinking as many danky brews as possible, I snagged one photo out of the few times I’ve been there – it’s not great, but pictured above.  The establishment boasts 30 taps (and around 40 bottles) of all sorts of rare beers – and that’s not just rare for Asia, rare for the world.  Two of the taps are house beers, the Sukhimvit Pilsner and Sukhimvit Brown, both made for Mikkel at De Proef in Belgium according to Mike (one of the three gents).  I sampled them both, here’s what I had to say about them on RateBeer.com:

Mikkeller Sukhimvit Pils | 3.9/5
On tap at Mikkeller Bangkok. This was an absolute delight! Pale yellow pour, medium white head. Notes of grassy fields and a light spice hop. Flavor is light but full of grass, spice hop, and a beautiful bitter finish. Wish I could get 6er’s of this in the States! A must try if you hit the BKK location.

Mikkeller Sukhimvit Brown | 3.4/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK in January. Sampled a few that night, but went for the two house brews first. The Pilsner being rather outstanding, and the Brown not really adding up so well beside it. Earthy flavors amongst a touch of sweet coffee malt, and a minor roast end. Thin body. Decent, but not great.

At the end of the 2014 excursion through Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand Jess and I had been through Bangkok five to six times in three and a half months.  Each time we stopped through the Big Mango we would stop at Mikkeller if we had the time between flights and attempting to catch up on some sleep.  We sampled around 18-20 different brews in our stop ins, and by far our favorites were the recurring Spontaneous series we kept seeing on the menu.  The Spontaneous brews are a series of sour bretted (Brettanomyces, a non-spore forming wild yeast strain used in souring beers) beers with different fruits infused – the Doubleblueberry and Gooseberry were the top contenders by far.  Here’s what I had to say about those on RateBeer.com:

Mikkeller Spontandoubleblueberry | 4.5/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK…sometime beginning of February. FULL ON. If you can find this one, get it. I don’t know how often I rate Appearance as a 5, but this beer is blue. Full on brett blueberry funk on the nose. Blends somehow brilliantly and perfectly. You know it’s gonna be a puckerfest. A touch of sweet fruity malt up front before a blast of wood, barnyard, and in comes the blueberries – abound! All over. But sour blueberries, just heaven. Brett and wood in the finish, everything lingering forever – this is one tasty beverage!

Mikkeller Spontangooseberry | 4/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK beginning of February. This was another one of my favorites in the series Spontan. Whatever it was in the gooseberry it really kick in well with the brett and funky barnyard flavors for a beautiful sour elixir I wanted to drink forever. Dank!

Basically what I am trying to say here is this:
Even if you have only a day or two in Bangkok, if you’re a beer geek whatsoever – stop through Mikkeller BKK.  You won’t regret going on a bit of a Goose chase!

Jeddah International Airport. It’s like jail, but with AC.

You take off from Indira Ghandi International Airport with the destination of NYC.  You’ve found this incredible deal for the flight, Delhi to NYC, for $530.  The airline is Saudia Airlines, which recently just joined SkyTeam Alliance, meaning that’s got to be a decent airline at this point.

Leg one of the journey: Delhi to Riyadh.  Quite surprised at how pleasant the trip is.  Friendly and helpful service, big clean cabin, they even took my request as needing more legroom due to my knees.  Foods decent enough for airplane food, they even have a veg option for those of us that don’t eat animals.  So far so good.

Quick stopover in Riyadh to let some humans off and clean the cabin quickly and take off for Jeddah.  I knew already I was going to have an 11 hour layover in Jeddah, so I was prepping myself for the whole airport forever task.  Here comes the fun.

We land in Jeddah after another quick and easy 1 hour and 10 minute flight.  Simple.  Walk into the Jeddah airport, look for the transfer desk to figure out what gate I’ll be departing from, and you get this really odd looking face from a guy who just hands you this random piece of paper saying that you’re a transit passenger.  No gate information, it’s dated March 30th, and it’s actually May 1st.  Okay?  He says to proceed upstairs.  I do so, find myself going through a thick security detail (of course) and end up walking through a duty free area (no alcohol, of course, it’s Saudi Arabia), and once through the duty-free zone, a bunch of chairs,a large amount of faces covered women, and sheiks everywhere.  Fair enough, it’s a Muslim country.

I walk around for a maximum of about two minutes to discover that the transfer/transit area is maybe the size of the tiniest wing at a normal airport (but smaller than that even), with 10 gates, all leading underground, as it’s all bus to plane here for international travel apparently (they’re in the process of building some ridiculous $40 billion dollar airport through the means of crazy corruption according to a guy I chatted with on the plane to NYC).  There is three shops to buy things at.  One coffee shop, one snacky sweet shop, and one fairly under-par ‘restauraunt’.  Fair enough, if they have water, and something half-way decent to eat, I can deal for 11 or 12 hours.

Here’s the catch.  I just flew in from India.  I have very little cash left on me (on purpose), as it’s all in Rupees, and I don’t like getting ganked for exchanging currencies at airports.  I plan these things accordingly for a reason!  But here in this very small confined space there are NO currency exchanges, and NO ATM’s.  I ask around about this and they all shove me off semi-rudely saying, ‘No this is a problem, they are all outside the passport control area, where you can’t go’.  Specific quote: “This is your problem.”

Okay…so I start to ask what I can do about it, as I’m here for 12 hours and I need water and probably some food at some point.  They wave me off, somewhat rudely (mind you these are security guards).  I head back in thinking of course that one of these three shops will take credit cards, as it’s an airport.  NOPE.

Great, so I have a 12 hour layover with no Riyals, no water, and no food.  There are no comfortable places to sit, basically no power outlets for charging anywhere, no free Wifi, and I’m fairly at a loss at this point.  It makes no sense!  Don’t places like this WANT you to be spending money while you’re waiting around for 12 hours?  Then why is there no ATM or currency exchange, or simply, why don’t they take credit cards?!??!?  Mindnumbing.

Thank gods for the $100 bill I keep for crazy random circumstances like this.  Apparently, I figure out, if you buy something at the duty-free shop with American Dollars, Euros, or British Pounds, you get Riyals back in change.  Wow.  This is the only option.  If I wouldn’t have had this bill, I’d be in this chair filled room, with no water, no food, no nothing (let alone place to kind of rest or wander around LIKE EVERY OTHER AIRPORT IN THE WORLD – at least that I’ve been to), for 12 hours.  Absolutely incredible.  It’s like  jail, but with AC and a place to pray – if you’re Muslim.

The first few hours just kind of drudgingly go by until I figure out you can purchase 30 minutes – 2 hours of Wifi from the ‘restaurant’ for about 15 Riyals, which is around $4.  Ok, normally, I would never do this, but at this point I’m down for the charge, as I for whatever reason do not usually succeed to well at reading books or novels in airports.  Success on one front.  Next I see one of the guys from the plane handing over the same type of slip (that I got from the information booth guy as I stepped off the plane) to the restaurant, and they’re giving him food!  I head over and ask about what’s going on, and apparently this slip is good for one ‘free meal’!  Wow, exciting, and kind of amazing to me at this point in the whole experience.  I hand over my slip and get back a tray with a tiny bottle of water, a huge bread bun, two strips of airport chicken, some rice, and an apple.  Beggars definitely cannot be choosers, and as vegetarian as I am, I’m hungry, and down the hatch it goes!

I go over and purchase a coffee and finish my water, and life is slowly returning to my system.  I find a decent table in the corner near one of the only power outlets I can find to huddle around for the next 8 hours.  From then on it was the same sort of routine over and over again.  Any backpacker or Westerner within a certain frame of mind would head to the restaurant from getting off the plane, see me, and start up the, “Did you know there’s no ATM or currency exchange or place to smoke or alcohol or…” conversation with me.  The delirium has set in already and every single one of these interactions I have becomes excessively hilarious until I finally get asked about power outlets by this man that appears to be a fairly young and chilled out Indian!

Turns out he is (from Mumbai), and we end up having a brilliant chat about my last months in India, where he’s from, what he does (he works on shipping boats in the Mediterranean for nine months out of the year), what I do, and then has a load of tips for non-touristic spots to hit with the Enfield next time I’m in India.  STOKE.  Exactly what I needed.  A little taste of India, and a little sliver of feeling like I’m not going back to the States.  Perfect.

The next single-serving friends I run into happen to be a Canadian and a Columbian, coming off an excursion through the Philippines headed to Istanbul.  Obviously the American (myself) and the Canadian have a fair amount to chat about, and Kelsey and I end up chatting and sharing some music while Edgar somehow takes a nap on the hard-as-a-rock bench chairs in one of the sections of the prison.  This definitely passed a lovely chunk of the rest of the time, and before you know it, my plane is boarding.

Having been through a fair amount of airports in the world and the States at this point, I couldn’t have imagined anything like this existed.  I later find out that Saudi Arabia has NO tourist visa!  Absolutely incredible.  They are so wealthy, that they literally don’t care about making money from tourism.  The wealth is also at the top 4% of the people or something of the sort, with King Abdullah heading up that department worth around $18 billion (interesting side read on rich royals: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_richest_royals).  Corruption is thick, and widespread.  If you’re not Muslim or have invested business in the country, you’re basically not welcome.  These types of circumstances just keep piling up.  Rather unfortunate as well, as even though I want nothing to do with Islam, I have a fascination with world religions, and would love to see Mecca someday – not possible…unless I convert and have proof of it.  As I’d say in India, “SANAKI!” (crazy).

Boarded my flight tired like I hadn’t been in a while, immediately passed out, and the journey back to the States continued…

Some further reading on the craziness of Saudi Arabia I found from trotting through Wiki articles after writing this:
Mecca, Saudi Arabia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecca
With this fort: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajyad_Fortress
Built to protect the Kabba: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaaba
Destroyed to create: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraj_Al_Bait_Towers
Built by: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Binladin_Group
Who will eventually build: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_Tower

Insane.

The Catch-22 of Traveling…

Narita

(Click for an enlarged view.)

It’s days like today that really remind me of the whole Catch-22 of traveling.

Will start with the weird.  Riding through the spectacular hills around the Solan and Shimla area in Northwestern India today on my way to Mandi, the Endfield Thunderbird 350cc started acting up again, as it had the previous night.  When throttled to a certain point the bike starts spurtering.  Knowing a bit about bikes I had an idea what was wrong, but wasn’t sure.  Thankfully, I made it safe to Solan last night, and hadn’t broken down in the middle of no where.

Today after making it through the crowded Highway 88 through Shimla, the bike started to spurted again while driving.  At this point I was a good 30ish clicks outside of  Shimla, and there was not much around in sight except the grey-purple-bluish hills and greenery everywhere.  Then, Narita (she, the bike gave herself a name yesterday) just decides to putter a few spastic times while slowing down in 3rd, and comes to a halt, and shuts off. Ahem.

(Quick insertation to note that about twenty minutes before this I had just pulled over for almost an hour to fix it a first time, replacing the spark plug, fuel line to the carburetor, and cleaning the carburetor itself for 100 rps,  I tipped the man, who really knew his stuff 40 rps.  Narita seemed like she was fixed…)

I’ve had plenty of issues with bikes traveling in the past years from the obvious flat tubes in the tires to bald tires to crashes to beyond crashes to fuel lines bursting to driving into a restricted area and spending the night at military barracks to…having your bike decide to completely quit on you no where near a shop, and especially an Enfield shop (which are politely enough placed around India, but mostly in larger towns/cities).  Trying a few quick fixes put me no where.   Next step: find someone and see if they know anything about bikes.

There just happened to be this odd, decently sized building about a fourth of a click back.  I walked over to find a few security guards hovering around, one of which spoke decent enough English to have a conversation about what was going on.  He tells me to roll the bike over to attempt to get it going near the shop and off the road.  After pushing it over, a few tries of the same sort were gone over, and the fuel was checked, as for some odd reason, they were convinced I’d been given kerosene even though I’d told them I’d gotten petrol at a real station.  Strange.  Through this process, I noticed smoke coming from the carburetor, obviously not a good sign.

Narita would not start whatsoever, she’d give a few turns of the engine and that was it.  Next step: see if they know anyone they can call for me to pick-up truck the bike back to the Enfield shop I’d seen in Chakkar, right before Shimla, for a fee.  A little chat between the guards, and they decide on a number, give it a call, and the guy agrees to come out and take me where I need to go.

By this time, the usual crowd of watchers and/or participators has happened.  This is a phenomenon here in India that can happen anywhere at anytime as a traveler.  You can be going about your merry business of whatever, and this action easily could turn into something that will have a few to a load of spectators just staring you down silently, or asking you in broken English where you are from and what is going on.  If something is wrong, a few of these people may help you out in some way.  The case today was that the 6 or so men that happened to come out and check out the issue all helped out, which was great, as it required all of us to lift the bike into the back of the truck.

Loaded and strapped, Narita sat in the back and I gave many handshakes and said many thank you’s to them all, then took off for the Enfield shop.  The driver spoke no English, so the ride was mostly silent except for a random call from a friend traveling through Thailand, which ended up being a perfect little dip out of what was going on to chill out for a moment while driving through the hills.  Being around half past six or so, you never know if whatever destination you’re going to will be open unless it’s a hotel or a restaurant – and even then…places just close whenever they want out here.

Pulling up to the Royal Enfield shop, we can already tell they’re packing up for the night and shutting down.  The driver explains in Hindi what’s up from what he knows, and I give my version in English.  Turns out one of the mechanics speaks the language rather well.  He takes off his gloves and and sets down his backpack and we grab the bike out of the truck and double wheel it upright inside the garage.  Two gents quickly get to work on taking apart the carburetor and fuel filter assembly.  The fuel filter is basically black, and the carburetor is cleaned, and the bike reassembled.  The main guy (can’t remember his name) takes it for a spin, comes back, and isn’t satisfied it’s working.  At this point it’s either the carburetor, or they’re not sure.  A second-hand carburetor for a Thunderbird is found, implemented and she’s driven for another test.

Success.

This is great news, even though at this point the day is basically a wash.  You never know if the shop will have the part, how expensive it will be, or a multitude of factors, though you can pick up how much some items are after a while of buying them over and over.

The whole process ended up taking about five plus hours and costing somewhere in the 3000 rps range (the shop also did not charge me labor fees, while the two gentleman and lady were working after hours), which in reality is only around $55, though in travel talk that is a day’s worth spending, or when speaking to the right person, four or five days worth of budget.  At this specific moment in time I’m a bit tight, so I wasn’t too excited about all this.

Begin the Catch-22 of traveling.  I’m traveling around a foreign country, literally half way across the world, riding a gorgeous motorcycle that most Indians would dream of owning once in their life time, eating wherever I want, doing whatever I want, and living it up the fullest.  Those around me, besides the occasional other backpacker, are mostly earning anywhere from 100-400 rps a day, with your exception every so often depending on their line of work.  Today I spend a month or more‘s worth of someone’s income just to deal with fixing my motorcycle so that I could continue on to meet some travelers from Isreal and the UK that I clicked with well in Rishikesh days prior.

Right.  Perspective.

I notice while traveling in developing countries this notion of a Catch-22…the in-between point of being so overwhelmed with emotions of the positive nature, while plowing through neighborhoods of very poor human beings, who only many times, have this idea in their head that coming to wherever it is that you come from is a much better place than where they reside.  In some cases, this is absolutely true.  I’ve seen slums so humbling out here in India and other countries in Southeast Asia, that I was silent for hours.  Coming from white, middle-class America in Edmonds, WA, places of this nature were as unknown as walking on the Moon until I saw them, breathed the air, and felt the energy of their people.

This notions will always remind that while my country, the United States of America, is not perfect by any means (mostly due to the government and the people paying the government), it is a country where you more than likely are driving a car, saying whatever you want, own a laptop and an iPod, go through smartphones all the time, and hey, you even have a shower head and a toilet to sit on!  So many in Westernized countries forget that most of the world does not have these leisures that many would freak out if they did not have.

I am extremely fortunate for what I have been able to see and witness in countries far away from where I am from, and usually reside in.  Tell the larger percentage of Indians or Southeast Asians how much a plane ticket costs to the States, and you just get a smile and laugh, with the vibe that they know they’ll never be able to afford it, or afford the trip with enough space to be able to take a ‘holiday’ or even better, live and work in instead.  I am humbled a thousand fold by this, and when the travels get tough for whatever reason, need to remind myself exactly what it is that I am able to do because I was born in the United States to a loving family with a solid income (thanks Mom and Pop for everything!).

Tomorrow I will ride on towards the Dharamsala area and continue to smile heavily towards every single sentient being wherever it is I decide to stop or stay.  There is reportedly 7.1 BILLION humans on Earth, and we are all special in our own way.  The views and the beaches and the motorcycles and the food (gulab jamun!!) and the ashrams and the temples and the backpackers and the lifestyle of traveling are exciting, stunning, and breathtaking – but being able to meet human beings that have a different set of beliefs and lifestyles through the planet – this is life changing, and I will forever take to heart how massively unique this our rock flying around the Sun truly is.  When we figure out how to unify as a planet, as a species, something magnificent will take place.  I have hope.