Map of Travels

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Last Word

The flight home was great. We got lucky and had an international plane, which means better entertainment systems, better food, better everything. We got delayed a little in LAX, but I fell asleep in a cafe and Kristen caught up on journaling. So all in all, it was a great trip home.

So here's the last word on my favorites and least favorites of everything. I figured this would be a good way to end the story of my trip around the world in 60 days.

Favorite Flight: Korean Airlines, Tokyo->Honolulu
Worst Flight: Delta Airlines, Beijing->Tokyo
Comment: Just don't destroy my bags Delta. That's all I ask. And Korean, you had first class service the whole way to Honolulu. Fantastic job.

Favorite Hostel: K's Hostel, Tokyo
Worst Hostel: Legends Hostel, Rome
Comment: K's was cheap, great location, and had fantastic staff. Legends was expensive, had a terrible location, and lied to me about A/C.

Favorite Hotel: White House Hotel, Istanbul
Worst Hotel: Windsor Palace, Alexandria
Comment: It really wasn't the staff's fault. They just need to knock down the Windsor Palace and build something that isn't so terrible.

Favorite Country: Japan
Worst Country: Egypt
Comment: Greece was unfortunately disqualified. Kristen being there gave it a HUGE advantage. And while Egypt was amazing and I can't wait to go back, it was an easy decision to make it worst. I had money extorted from me. It's hard to overcome that.

Favorite Attraction: The Great Wall of China, Beijing
Worst Attraction: The Vatican Museum, Rome
Comment: Everyone should see the Great Wall before they die. It is amazing.

Favorite Food: Kristen's Mushroom Tortellini, Greece
Worst Food: Coffee, Vietnam
Comment: I don't think I had a single meal I hated the whole trip. It was all amazingly good. But Greece knocked the pants off every place else for food. Meanwhile, Vietnam does great tea but their coffee is just awful.

Thing I Missed Most: Personal Space
Comment: Obviously this doesn't include friends and family. England, Ireland, Japan, and the US are the ONLY countries I have visited that have personal space. And China doesn't even understand the concept.

Thing I Will Miss the Most: Making Friends
Comment: My favorite part of the whole trip, was making friends in the hostels, on the trains, and the boats. Sharing stories, food, and eventually friendship.

So now I have been all the way around the world, and I have just one last thing to say. I love America, I love New York City and New Jersey and Little Silver, and it is so good to be home again, in the best place in the whole world!

Turtles in a Half Shell, Hobo Power!

Last day in Maui. But our flight wasn't until 9pm. So we packed up all our stuff into the car, and became hobo's for a day. The day started with a snorkeling trip. But not just to some beach, we took a boat out to a sunken volcano crater! The crater acted as protection against the ocean, and created a reef with all kinds of fish swimming around. Kristen got some great pictures and we had a great time swimming around.

There were a LOT of people who clearly do not live near the ocean or own a pool. They were renting wet suits to people for $10 extra claiming the water was a whole 20 degrees colder than your body temperature!!!... which is 78 degrees. Which anyone who owns a pool will tell you is a fantastic temperature to swim in. You don't need a wet suit! They also had little green floaty tubes you could prop yourself up on... which kind of defeats the purpose of snorkeling. I swear, at least 60% of the people used them. At one point they all managed to make a wall of people who could barely swim, just floating around. I just swam under them when they got in the way.

The company we took the tour with, Pacific Whale Foundation, was fantastic. They got us out there early, before all the crowds hit, and the guides gave us great tips on how to get the best pictures and find the most fish, and everything else. At our second stop, we got to swim with Sea Turtles!! Kristen and I both got pictures with them. If you do this, you really have to be the first person out of the boat. Some of the turtles are pretty shy, and will go into hiding when the rest of your boat empties. If you are lucky, some of them will swim right up to you! One swam right into the middle of our tour group like he was our best buddy. He was also a ninja, because we took our eyes off him for one second and he was gone the next. They don't move very fast, so I don't know how the turtle pulled it off.

The rest of the day was spent getting burnt on a beach. At this point we were living out of our car, but it was a lot of fun. We took our last swims in the pacific, and took a few good naps on a beach. Kristen took her last few shots of palm trees. That was her favorite thing to photograph. It was palm trees and cinder cones. A lot of the public beaches have showers, so we used those to clean off some of the salt, and got into our airplane clothes. On the way back, we satisfied a craving and got ourselves some Pizza the Hutt. Dropped off the car, and then it was finally time to head home...

Frozen at 10,000 Feet

Now I knew we were going to see a sunrise on top of a volcano. But the one volcano I have climbed, was not very high. And it is difficult to make out how tall the volcanoes are on Maui, and I was driving in pitch black, and let's face it, it was 3 AM in the MORNING! So I don't think I was properly prepared for what I saw. It was BREATHTAKING. This is a must do, if you visit Maui. You get to see the sunrise over the volcano crater, which is surrounded by clouds, because you are 10,023 feet above sea level. It is awesome!... but bring a sweater, because it is really really cold. I ended up using my hotel towel as a makeshift hood.

We took tons of pictures, got to see plants in bloom that only bloom once in their 50 year lifespan, and got to take a hike down into the first part of the crater. We couldn't go any further because some idiot forgot to bring his shoes and wore sandals instead. It's really hard to hike uphill in sand in sandals. It was also cool to see the observatory, the fourth highest in the world. You can't go inside because I guess it's run by the DoD, but it's still cool to see. My favorite part was getting to see planes flying lower than us.

When we got back down, Gerg was Zombie Gerg. So we did some shopping and hung out at our resort for a little while to recover. This is when I got my real Hawaiian shirt! The rest of the night was uneventful, mostly Gerg trying not to fall asleep on his feet.

Weren't we supposed to rest?

So when Kristen and I first talked about Maui, the assumption was that I was going to be delirious from travel, and need to rest. It wasn't entirely that way. I was extremely tired, probably more than I knew at the time. But from 2 months of straight travel, I was used to operating on this exhaustion. And there was SO much to do on Maui!

The first day was a little more relaxing. We decided to check out the beaches on the South-Western side of the East half of the island. Unbeknownst to us, these beaches were actually mostly made from former lava fields. They made for some really cool rocks, cliffs, and blow holes. (Holes made by waves, the result being waves that shoot up 10 feet in the air through them.) The waves that day were particularly heavy, and the lifeguards were warning tourists not to go into the water because of it. Mostly we hiked and took pictures, followed by some much needed sleeping on a beach. That night we went to Bubba Gump Shrimp. It felt very American. I felt like I was home.

The next day was the road to Hana, a trip we were really looking forward to. We had to wake up really early for this one to beat the crowds. Hana is the only town on the far Eastern side of the island, and it is tiny. The reason for this is probably because the road to get there is even smaller. It twists and winds against the cliffs of the volcano, passing by waterfall after beautiful waterfall. We must have stopped 20 times on the way to Hana, but each time it was worth it.

At one point we decided we wanted to get up close to a waterfall no one else was going to. So we climbed up a cliff, over a shack (which may or may not have been there to prevent this sort of thing, up a river bed, and through the jungle... but we still couldn't make it. We came to a cliff we couldn't climb. I still jumped in a pool though, which was absolutely freezing. After that we stopped at a park with black sand beaches, and old lava tube caves. We went swimming in the caves, in some of the cleanest water I've ever seen. You could swim down and under to even deeper caves really easily. It was so cool.

Finally we came to the "end" of the road to Hana, at the 7 Sacred Pools. It's a National Park where waterfalls create 7 pools all of which can be swam in. We swam in one a little higher than the crowds and basically had the place to ourselves, minus the suicidal people who were jumped from the 30-50 foot falls and bridges. They survived, but they are still insane.

At this point, the crowds started to show up, so we started heading back the other way down the road to Hana. It's about 3 hours one way if you're ahead of the crowds, not including stops for banana bread (we got it fresh out of the oven and couldn't stop ourselves from shoveling down a whole loaf between us). That night we took it easy, and had dinner at a local place. Because the next morning we had to wake up at 3AM to go see the sunrise at the National Park.... worth it!

Smelly Capsules and Hacking on the Plane

Hey guys. Sorry the last few posts have been slow coming. I came home and hit the ground running on the job search. Here will follow the posts for my visit to Maui with Kristen, and my final words on my favorite and least favorite... everything. So lets start with Maui!

Scratch that! Let's start with the Capsule Hotel! GROSS! This was a mistake. I guess it all worked out in the end, because it helped me sleep on the flights from Tokyo to Maui, but it is not ideal. The Capsule hotel was in the red light district of Tokyo. Now I've said before that Tokyo is the cleanest city I've ever visited. The red light district is no different. Very clean, and I felt pretty safe there. But still, they can pack a lot of casinos and strip clubs into a square block. About a block away was my capsule hotel. The Capsule part was cool. Had a TV and was pretty big so you could sit up and spread out on the bed. You have a little wooden blind covering your feet, so I didn't really feel claustrophobic. The bigger problem was that every place besides the capsules was smoking. I mean EVERYPLACE, restaurant, spa, sitting area. I reeked by the time I left. And all the girls offering massages gets a little creepy. Especially since I was the only guest there under 35. Anyway, I've had the experience. Never again.

The flights over were great. Korean Airlines. My path was Tokyo->Seol->Honolulu->Maui. We had awesome entertainment systems. It seemed set up like a full computer, complete with a USB port on the side. I'm betting if you can force a full reboot you could plug in a bootable USB drive and have your own computer for the flight. I tried to at least do the reboot (had no bootable drive), but I couldn't do it. I managed to force a crash on the system, but it seems like it had another layer to prevent the system from doing a full reboot. Maybe the entertainment software is sitting on top of the OS, in which case you'd have to crash the OS. Anyway enough nerd talk. Brian, Wes, Tommy, Funk, or Jeff. If any of you are listening, this is your hacker mission, should you choose to accept it.

I slept through half the Seol to Honolulu, and all of Honolulu to Maui. Finally back on US SOIL!! I grabbed my rental car, drove about 35-40 minutes to my hotel, and crashed! Pillow. Face. Sleep. For one hour, then I had to go back and pickup a very pretty lady at the airport who was coming from the other direction. Then it was hotel, pillow, face, sleep again. More on Maui after the break!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Total Mileage

(*Drum roll*)....

44,185.31^ rounded down by several hundred miles.

^ Information given by Wayfaring Map service.

Nerd Mecca and Joypolis

Yesterday, I had a full list of temples and the palace. But before this was Akihabara, a district in Tokyo dedicated to computer parts, video games, dvd's, anime, manga, and general nerd paraphernalia. This was another aspect of Tokyo I was not aware of before coming here. I had heard about this from some friends who were decidedly not nerds. So my expectations were low.

Akihabara is nerd mecca. It is a pilgrimage every nerd should make once in their life. I spent three hours walking up and down a giant store dedicated exclusively to all the old toys I used to play with as a kid. Transformers, Power Rangers, Gundam, NES, SNES, Sega, you name it, it was there. It was amazing. Then I left that building, and found a square mile of shops dedicated mostly to the same thing. It was amazing. I found so many amazing things that I could not buy. Mostly cause they cost a fortune now that they are collectors items. I ended up spending the whole day there. It was awesome.

That night two friends and I went to a cool sushi restaurant. The ones where the plates go round a conveyor belt. I stuck to the cheap plates. It was still delicious. As we were walking back, a building with a big Bandai sign caught our eye. Bandai made most of the toys I mentioned in the paragraph before. They, along with Nintendo and a few other companies, are directly responsible for my nerdiness. After a little investigation, we found out that that was indeed Bandai HQ, nestled in the strangest part of Taito, Tokyo. My friends and I started flipping out.

Today we went back there and took pictures. They had a museum of their most succesful toys, which we shamelessly drooled over. Tokyo has been one giant nerd and nostalgia trip. It's been awesome. After this, we decided to take a hike to the harbor district in Tokyo. We had heard about two cool parks. Muscle Park, an offshoot of Ninja Warrior, and Joypolis, and indoor amusement park by Sega. Muscle Park was a huge letdown. I was expecting obstacle courses. Instead I got a little kids playground. Complete with a ball pit. It was sad really.

Joypolis on the other hand was awesome. All the latest video games, but on steroids. My friend, Lloyd and I spent the whole day there going on every ride and video game imaginable. My favorite was the giant oversized Tetris game. It wasn't too complicated either, and would be fairly simple to build. But I think I have enough nerd projects that I haven't finished.

Anyway, tomorrow I change hotels to a Capsule hotel! This is where your bed is literally a hole in the wall. It's a strange Japanese custom, but I'm interested to see how it works. After that, it's off to Honolulu! Back to USA. Now that I have been to a dozen countries all over the world, I can safely say that there is no place like home. Internet there might be expensive, so my next few posts may very well come from good old NJ. If I don't get to post til then, it's been fun everyone, and I'll see you all soon back home!


© Greg Galante 2009. All rights reserved.