Saturday, November 28, 2009

Avestruz!

This blog entry requires immediate attention. More often than not I find myself slacking in the blog-writing department; today is different.

I went on an adventure with Rob, whos is currently visiting from back home, and Jen, a wonderful 3-citizenship-holding girl who seems to know all the secrets of Granada and surrounding area. We rented bikes and tore out of Plaza Nueva at 10:30. We rode for some time, an hour or so, until I stopped the line because I saw a very large bird in someon`s yard beside the trail. It turned out to be an ostrich. After snapping a few pictures, a few guys on bikes flew by. The ostrich was startled and bolted. It didn`t get far. One leg got caught in the handle bars (a full metal circle) of a teeter-totter and the bird went DOWN. It flailed wildly, only to get its other leg caught. We searched out help but no one was home at any house in sight. 20 minutes passed of ostrich self-mutalation until we decided we had to interveine. I found an old stick some 2m in length. Leaning over the fence I tried to pry its leg free... at this point both legs were already quite bloody. The stick was neither long enough or strong enough. Using my leatherman I sawed a living tree and fashioned a much more appropriate pry-bar. I guided the stick to the bottom of the ostrich`s foot and pushed hard: it fame free. It`s other leg was still caught, however not nearly as badly. Because of the ostrich`s position (laying beside the teeter-totter panting and terrified) I wasn`t able to force the other leg free. It was clear that the bird was exhausted so we decided to let it regain some strength and maybe it would free iteslf. After another 5 minutes it seemed a good idea to ask for help. A man walking with his toddler son approached and we explained the situation. Without much consideraiton, he hopped the fence and began pushing the ostrich`s leg with his bare hands - his toddler son watching all the while.

Knowing the capabilities of an ostrich let alone a trapped, scared, angry, and bloody ostrich was enough to keep me on my side of the fence. The man so close to the ostrich made me quite nervous, if not for his own safety then for ours: it would be a lasting scar in my mind, let alone his son`s, to see this man brutalized by kicks and head buts from such a large bird. Yet, this fearless spaniard was able to force our feathered friend`s other leg out of the metal ring with and happily hop back over to use his son`s baby wipes to clean the blood off his hands...

Aside from the bloody ostrich, we had a great bikeride in the countryside, visited a pretty small town, and bought some local cheese, sausage, bread, and 5L of their pueblo-branded wine :)




http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostrich

Monday, November 2, 2009

San Sabastián

I dropped the ball slightly on this post. It's been a month since this wonderful trip with my two closest friends here Alicia and Tati, but I'm sure it's not too late.

We rented a car, disappointingly a Ford Fiesta, and headed north to Pais Basque. We stopped the first night in Burgos to sleep and check out the Cathedral. It's pretty impressive. Spain continuously reminds me what an empire religion has been/is in the world. It has produced some gorgeous buildings to say the least.

The next day we went to our destination: San Sebastian. This city is near perfect. It's at the base of a mountain range, its built in the point where two ocean bays meet, a large hill (the one Tati and I are sitting on in the picture) blocks it from direct view of open ocean. It's no wonder Basque Country remained ethnically different for so long...

Nedless to say it was beautiful, fun, and very relaxing.

We saw/heard that France was a short drive away so we decided to take advantage. We did a day trip to Biarriz, a small surfing town on the Southwest coast. We slept on the beach most of the day...

We returned sad to be away from the lush green forsts of the north, but refreshed and ready to start the schoolyear.

Planning to Study Spanish in Granada?

I stumbled across this blog. It summarizes all the language schools in Granada and gives prices etc. Very handy, tell your friends.

http://spanish-courses-in-granada.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bull Ring

The Bull Ring is a Crazy Thing.

I'm not much of one for blood and guts and gore (at least not live), but I am one for genuine cultural experience. Strangely, I really can't produce much analysis regarding my visit to the bull ring. I think I was just pulled in two different directions. A big part of me supported the protesters out front. A big part of me was excited to see such a seasoned custom. Either way, watching 6 bulls get slain by swords was really.......something.

Perhaps I shall give the chronology.

A bull comes charging into the ring. Word on the street is that it's testicles are twisted backstage then it's stabbed in the neck. An angry bull is a good bull.

The bull is then taunted by various torreros. Again, the idea is to get it as mad as possible.

Stage two is the spinal stab. The bull is taunted by a man on horseback. When the bull charges the fully armored horse, the picadora stabs the bull in the back.

Stage three is the 'decoration' of the bull. The bull is stabbed by a set of 2 tubular flags, 3 times.

Stage four is the dancing with the bull. The main torrero emerges with a red cape and a sword. After roughly 7 minutes of toying with the bull, he stabs it through the back of the neck. If the torrero is good, the bull dies more or less instantly. If the torrero is not good, like all but one of the ones I saw, the bull must either be stabbed again by a sword, or, if it collapses, stabbed in the top of the head with a daggar. If the torrero does a wonderful job and the crowd loved it, an ear, two ears, or two ears and a tail are removed and awarded to the torrero.


The fifth part is the honouring of the bull. Horses are brought out and the bull is hooked up by its hornes and dragged around the ring.


Splended. All of it.

Sometimes the bull gets lucky. Mr. Orange took a slight stumble and was plowed by the bull. Good thing its a machismo event; he continued on with the show, blood seeping from his leg, and landed a crowd-loving blow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I would have killed for Tapa Tapa...


Tapas!

Tapas is an incredible invention. You buy a drink (alcoholic in nature) and you receive a reasonable sized snack. The Spaniards know what's up.

After an unbelievably impersonal and frustrating process obtaining my visa, I left for Spain on the drop of a hat, but the fun didn't end there:

-Tuesday received a call saying my visa had arrived in Toronto. Partied with London peeps.

-Wednesday had a wisdom tooth pulled.

-Thursday received an e-mail from my university saying I could still make the Spanish Language course preceding the regular year if I got to Granada by Sunday night. Went to Toronto that night.

-Friday made the 10am-2:30pm window at the Spanish consulate to pick up the visa, was told I needed to hand in a flight itinerary to get my visa, was also told that the Consular General needed to sign the visa in order to make it valid (in which case how could I book a flight leaving that weekend if I wasn't sure I could get my visa Friday). Due to some questionable procedures on my and my older brother's part I got my visa at 2:00, booked a flight for 6:00.

-Saturday arrived in Frankfurt, Germany (the worst airport in the world). Flew to Madrid. Was verbally abused by an angry Spanish man in the train station for 10 minutes straight. Arrived in Granada at 9:45 (here). Took a cab to a hotel. Slept for the first time in almost 24hrs of straight traveling.

-Sunday the whole city was closed so I found my school then walked around with a Texan I met on the train. Watched a flamenco show in the Albayzin neighbourhood - the birthplace of flamenco.

-Monday went to class. Bought random stuff like apower adapter, got a cell phone.

-Tuesday went to class. Looked for an apartment.

-Wednesday went to class. Looked for an apartment.

-Thursday went to class. Looked for an apartment. Miraculously met a guy, Pedro Alvarez, while looking at my last apartment viewing of the night, who had an amazing apartment on the edge of Albayzin. I went to see it and loved it. It's a 5 minute walk to school, on the edge of both central Granada and old Granada, looks like an old Arab Cave/Palace. It has an incedible view of the Alhambrah and the city in general. Pedro is a great guy from outside Madrid who speaks very little engligh which is perfect. We're great friends. I slept on a couch that night.

-Friday I officially moved into my place, went out to a concert.

-Saturday I cleand the apt. with Pedro, spent time with his visiting parents who speak so fast I understand nothing unless they're talking to me directly.

-Sunday slept in. Wrote a blog.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Half a year later

I need some closure.

THE END.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The City that Sex Built

Back Up.

Jasper and I left Cambodia and went to a city called Pattaya a few hours South of Bangkok. It was sad to leave Cambodia, Seim Reap was really nice, but we wanted to hit a beach before we left.

Pattaya is an interesting place. Little did we know before we decided Pattaya should be the finale of out trip, Pattaya is one of the most prostitute-ridden cities in all of Thailand. Tens of square blocks all along the south beach are lined, door to door, with "Go-Go-Bars" or "Beer Bars". As you walk down the street you will see hundreds of scantily-clad girls sitting on stools or subtly dancing, waiting for someone to buy a drink...or more. Note: scantily-clad in Thailand is anything less than a T-shirt and shorts. Girls in north America out for a night at the clubs would surely be asked "how much?" in Thailand. Little do many of the visiting Bangkokers or traveling Europeans know, (or maybe they do...) a huge portion of these girls are not girls at all. Some are more convincing than others... For example both pictures on the left are of a Thai man. As good as these two are (note the areola in the second picture on the left), there are many that are much more feminine, more convincing. Homosexuality and gender modification is much more widely accepted in Southeast Asia and is, therefore, more popular. Or is it the other way around....?

We went on a snorkeling trip which was fun minus a few downfalls. The first is that it wasn't really a snorkeling trip. We paid 1000 Bhat to tag along with a group of scuba divers and splash around on top at some less than amazing sites while they explored the real goods. Also, our dive sites were filled with tiny, clear organisms that stung the skin with hard contact. Of course these stingers were only in the first meter of water, where the two snorkelers spent most of their time...

We also saw a cabaret show in which all the performers were transvestites (although you wouldn't know if it wasn't advertised as such). It was a touch strange but well done and worth the money.

Aside from the obvious negatives, we had a lot of fun in Pattaya. We touched up our tans then returned to Bangkok to shop. Jasper ended up sick in bed most of the time, but we still ended to get some sweet clothes before getting on the plane.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not the last

So we're back in Cincinnati. I don't really feel like writing a final blog... maybe I'll just write about the beginning.

The day we left Jasper gave me a surprise birthday present. One of our friends, Gillian, from the Starwood festival I try to go to every summer, drove here with her boyfriend Sami. We went to King's Island (a big theme park) which I was super excited about because I love roller coasters... unfortunately Sami lost his video camera.

Gillian and Sami went to bed and Jasper and I packed our stuff.
We went out to get in the car after at 2:30am after a long day on roller coasters only to have the car not start. We called her friend who left work to take us to the airport. What an Angel.

Ps....just in case you needed a lesson on breast types. (We found this advertisement in a mall in Bangkok)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thai Fruit

I am convinced that some of the world's most delicious fruit originates in Southeast Asia.

First, and most famously you've got the Durian. This one is the odd one out in my books. This is the most vile tasting excuse for a fruit known to human kind. It has a creamy texture (maybe think of creamed corn) with a taste resembling dish soap.

Then come the good ones.

The red one that looks like a koosh ball is called Gnaw. It's pronounced by positioning your tongue as if you were going to make a "G" sound, then pretty much just honking sound (very similar to the sounds you would expect to hear out of a Muppet). It's simply delicious.

The yellow one is Longan. It tastes somewhat piney, but is simply delicious.

The pink one is Dragonfruit, but it sucks.

The purple one by itself is mangosteen. It's simply delicious.

The yellow bulges hanging on the tree are Jackfruit. It's texture is something like a mango and isn't the best fruit around, but all in all, it's simply delicious too.

Then you have mango, rose apple aka. cham-poo (the only valid descriptor I can think of is refreshing), watermelon, guava, pineapple, starfruit and many many more.

To impress your friends with all of your sweet new knowledge on Thai fruit varieties, visit http://www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/fruit-tfruit.html.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cambodia

Due to the desturbingly poor internet here in Siem Reap, Cambodia, blogging has been somewhat of a luxury.

Chronological order.
Jasper, Nalnee, and I left Chaing Mai to Chaing Rai, one of Thailand's most northern cities. We spent some quality time there with Jasper's Aunt and G-ma, spending our days visiting the white temple, getting ourtdoor massages on the Mekong river overlooking Laos and Burma, and cleaning out the small guesthouse in the backyard.



Jasper and I left Chaing Rai, went back to Chaing Mai, then took a bus to Bangkok. We had a bit of a craving to see a movie. We were pleasantly surprised. Let me tell you about movies in Bangkok. The theatres in Bangkok compare to something like the opera house in Sydney. The seats recline and you can even get vip boxes with couches and a full bar menu. The Thais don't mess around when it comes to movie watching.



From there we took one of the most miserable trips of our lives.


-8:00am-meet at the travel agency for the bus to Siem reap


-9:10am-get on the bus and luckily get a seat as it was overbooked and 4 poor people had to sit on the floor


-1:00pm-Arrive at Thai-Cambodian border town and watch other tourists get sold overpriced visas while we buy food from the only restaurant around


-1:30pm-Arrive at the boarder and get lead through by 2 very sketchy locals who stop frequently to buy snacks (if you can call fried bugs a snack) and tell us to meet them several meters down the road.


-2:30pm-Leave the boarder town for Seam Reap


-6:30pm-Get stuck in a huge traffic jam which is stuck in the mud (true, the road isn't paved)


-9:00pm-We are told that we will have to spend the night on the bus (closer to a school bus than a vip air-con bus)


-10:30pm-The bus finally starts rolling to many cheers and we're on our way


-1:30am-we arrive at a guesthouse closely associated with the bus comany, obviously too tired to go to the one we originally wanted.




So now here we are in Siem Reap and loving it. The people are extremely friendly, much more fluent than the Thais, the city is cool, and the Temples of Angkor are simply stunning. We've spent the last 3 days wandering around them and even mustered up the discipline to see 2 sunrises. Yesterday we came across a pack of 25 monkies. We chilled out together and ate rasins. Jasper was lucky enough to get some special attention from one of the friendlier ones.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ephelumps, no woozles.

After a one day delay of rolling in the hay we decided not to stay in our rooms any longer. Yay.
Jasper and Nalnee both got a bit ill as well. We think it was a Pad Thai dish at an umbrella-making farm.

We went to an Elephant sanctuary. It was probably the coolest place we had been to. Earlier in the week we went to a silk farm, a silver manufacturer, a leather shop, and a couple others.

At the sanctuary, first we rode elephants through the jungle and across rivers for about 45 minutes. Then we rode the ox-carts back. We had lunch then lazied our way down a meandering stream on a bamboo raft. As tourist-oriented as the place was, it wasn't very busy and being in the jungle on an elephant's back or on a bamboo raft you can almost forget you're paying for it.

Elephants hae become some of my most favourite creatures. They are so huge and powerful but so gentle. We fed them bananas and sugar cane contunuously end even befrended a baby elephant (the cutest creature in existence.)

Later on we went to a monkey school were trained monkeys put on a show for us. Jasper and I were a little unimpressed but it's always fun to see monkies. There was an orchid farm there as well, too bad I can't bring any home.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Barf

So the title's a little much, but that sums it up.

Everyone's saying it's food poisoning.

I'm saying it sucks.

You don't want pictures.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Muay Thai

Have you ever seen 8-year-olds beat the crap out of each other in a boxing ring?

I have.

It was a good thing someone warned us there were young children that fought Muay Thai when we bought our tickets. Muay Thai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muay_Thai) is Thailand's national sport is is one of, if not the, most popular sport. It's pretty much kick-boxing but a little more hard core. Lots of knees and elbows. Jasper and I had front row seats and each of us got a complementary drop of blood on our legs (Don't worry, the 8-year-olds didn't bleed). We were also fortunate enough to see a few Technical Knock Outs (TKO's).

As aggressive as the sport is, many of the fighters seemed to be good friends and fun times were had by all.
video

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Full Moon Party

The Full Moon Party in Haad Rin, Ko Phangan, brought mixed emotions. I was looking forward to a huge beach party, sure, but before I even went there was some aspect of it that was bothering me.

Jasper and I began by having a few drinks with 2 Australian guys in the Bungalow next to us. We played Kings then Jasper and I went down to the beach for the party. It was pretty much as we expected... thousands of Europeans in their twenties power drinking on a beach.

As we walked from one end to the other, we continuously drifted into overlapping techno and house beats. The worst was being between two different bars because you'd be in a mush zone of loud musical confusion. After one full run of the beach we realized weren't going to find "our" place. Neither of us seemed to be able to get into it so we did what we do best: we people watched.

We saw fire spinners, hundreds of people peeing in the water, some puking, drunk people, high people...people. people. people. The ones that won over our attention most were the prostitutes. There were hundreds. We actually watched a complete "transaction". A Thai girl of roughly my age was dancing with her cigarette. Just dancing. These girls didn't need to pick up guys, guys would pick up them. A drunken man came over and they talked for a minute. The two headed off into the water and "embraced" each other for a few minutes. They returned hand-in hand. The man walked off and the girl went back to dancing with a new cigarette.

I couldn't help but feel ill after seeing all of this. At least, with all the sex tourism in Thailand, these girls seemed to be doing this by choice. There are thousands of girls in situations a thousand times worse.

We stayed up until the sunrise then headed off to bed.

My final synopsis is that I don't like the full moon party. I'm glad I went because It really was a life experience, but I don't like it. It just seems to me like a bunch of people pooping on Thailand. It's a shame that so many people come and use the country for its beaches and its beauty, and leave their garbage, their puke, and their stink.

Thailand is beautiful. It needs to stay that way.

Monday, May 19, 2008

When you go to Ko Phangan...


Be prepared for white people.


I suppose I should start by better explaining the idea of finding the pie. In this part of the world it is very easy to live first class...almost too easy. What Jasper and I are trying to do is find our own adventure. We don't want it brought to us, we want to find it. We'll have it when we travel until we want to stop and we stay until we want to leave... I hope it's blueberry.




We're in Ko Phangan. We came for the beaches but also for the beach parties. The Full Moon Party is tomorrow night. You know that crazy party that Leonardo DiCaprio is at in the movie "The Beach"? That's where we'll be tomorrow.


Hopefully we're going to do some snorkeling, some waterfall excursions, and elephant riding. We've kept up the massages nearly every other day... I'm so limber.


It's wonderful to be out of Bangkok and on the beaches...



Now it's Europeans on scooters I neet to watch out for not 8-year-old Thai girls like in Bangkok. We'll find our own corner of the island in a few days when the beer has been drank.



Thursday, May 15, 2008

Finding the Pie

It's our third day in Bangkok. I've almost evened myself out from the jet lag in a timezone of exactly 12hrs difference. A nasty 30+ hr plane ride with layovers really killed me but a good night sleep brought me back to good health. So far Jasper, Nalnee (Jasper's mom), and me have done a lot of sleeping and eating. There have been multiple trips to the massage parlour and the market full of fish heads, eels, stray dogs, backpacks, underwear, fruit, chickens, children, filth, and stench. This market is beside the big unpronouncable river that runs through Bangkok, dubbed "the Bangkok nasty" by Jasper and me. There are a million motorcycles with too many people on them that no one can drive, a diversity of fashions from the dumpster to lacoste, and so many other characteristics reflectant of a third world city. I love it.

Things have been flowing smoothly since Nalnee is a Thai citizen and speaks fluent Thai. We're leaving our guesthouse tomorrow for some sandy beaches to the South. We have a general plan for the rest of the 6 weeks, but I'll spill those as they happen.

Trying to co-ordinate where to go and when is interesting to say the least. Jasper and my interests seem to clash slightly with Nalnee's. We want to plan only the essentials while Nalnee wants to call ahead to every guesthouse to ensure a room. This is the fun of traveling in groups though isn't it?

Friday, May 9, 2008

T-Minus to Thailand


I`m on Jasper`s couch in Cincinnati Ohio.

Tomorrow at this time I`ll be thinking about leaving... Good thing because I really haven`t done much thinking yet.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Entonces Que?

Now that it's been almost two weeks since returning, a lot of my trip feels a bit like a dream. I'm trying to find ways of connecting that part of my life and this part. So far I have been quite unsuccessful. Did the trip change me? Yes. How? I don't know. It wasn't as specific as i thought it would be. What I mean is, I suppose, is that it was just life I was living. I don't have tons of stories becasue I settled in and got used to the life that it took something extremely unique for me to deem it a "story". One thing's for sure, I have this strange feeling that I'll always travel... I think I caught the virus.

Ben's Comments on South America:
South America was such a wonderful place, however, sadly, it has such a negative light shed on it. Since it gave me so much, I feel compelled to give something back to it. Latin America is a very misunderstood place. It is rich with culture, wonderful people, and breath-taking beauty. It has it's share of problems, many countries are struggling quite a lot to stay organized, however there is so much potential. I was also constantly blown away at how safe the place was. I realize I only had 4 months there, but I did experience many different places and explored many parts of many cities. I am also aware of the invisible gringo-shield I had, but that also made me a target. It is such an amazing part of the world and I know I'll be back.

To all who followed my footsteps through South America at this amazing time of my life, thank you. It was always nice to read new posted comments. I hope you were all able to vicariously enjoy my crazy life.

To end.

I made a bit of a commitment to myself that I would make myself a resource to other travelers. Once I got going it all became so natural that I completely forgot how daunting a trip like this seems before departure. I don't have a single regret about taking this trip, and I think if you took a tour as well, you'd feel the same way. Entonces, if anyone ever wants help, hints, secrets, or even just a chat about travel, you are more than welcome to contact me: mr_ben_o@hotmail.com.

Ciao...