Tag Archives: Zach

Rajasthan

With about a month left to go In Goa, I had a choice to make. Do I head south for more beautiful beaches or do I head north for the land of snake charmers, camels and turbans? The idea of spending more time on the beach was definitely something that interested me, but it was time to move on and explore what I like to call the “real India.” It is often said that Rajasthan has more history than the rest of India combined. From the vast deserts to the camels and elephants clogging up the roadway, Rajasthan is a place that encompasses what India is truly about. I knew that I would regret not exploring this magical place before it was time to move onto Nepal. So I booked a 24 hour train journey that would take me to the small southern town of Bundi. For the next month, the state of Rajasthan known as the ‘Land of the Kings’, would be my home.

India is full of overwhelming and chaotic towns and cities. Bundi is not one of them. Bundi can be described as laid back, blue, captivating and has a magnetism all of its own. Surrounded by rolling hills, Bundi is a small town full of narrow streets, shops, step wells, temples and palaces. Looking down from the hillside Bundi Palace, nearly the whole city is painted in a light shade of blue. Bundi is full of people from many different religions, yet they go about there day in perfect peace. Whether walking the narrow streets or shopping in the market, almost everyone you pass will greet you with a smiling face and a warm greeting. Bundi is also a town full of parties and festivals. On any given night there will be music blaring from speakers and fireworks going off while crowds of people parade down the street celebrating who knows what. Bundi is a place to get lost in your thoughts, a place to escape the madness that is India. You may plan on spending just a couple nights in this enchanting town, but don’t be surprised if those couple nights turn into 7 or 10.

A 5 hour bus ride north from Bundi will take you to the hustle and bustle capital city of Jaipur, also known as the ‘Pink City’. Not one for big cities, I was not sure how my 4 nights in Jaipur would go. By the end of it, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty that this crazy city holds. On my first full day I decided to venture down the famous shopping district known as M.I. Road on my way to the old city. Now more of an orange color than pink, the old city is full of shops selling everything from copper wire to barrels of spices and childrens clothes. There is also the beautiful City Palace which was built by Sawai Jai Singh in the 1700s. It is quite a fabulous place with museums devoted to armories and royal clothes. On my second and third day, I hired a rickshaw driver to take me around to all the major sites in Jaipur. Our first stop was the mesmerizing Amber Fort. There are many courtyards, a beautiful garden and other sub-structures within the complex but I found the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) the most impressive. This is a room covered in tiny mirrors and the total effect is mesmerizing. One could easily spend several hours within Amber Fort. On the way to Galwar Bagh (the monkey temple) which overlooks the whole of Jaipur ,we stopped at Jal Mahal which stands in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. You cannot actually visit the palace premises inside the lake but even from the shores it is a beautiful site. From the age old temples to the Louis Vuitton and Nike shops lining M.I. Road, the capital city is worth a visit while in Rajasthan.

In the month before I had planned to visit Jaisalmer during the famous Desert Festival. The festival is full of competitions such as camel racing and polo, turbin tying, Mr. Desert and of course the popular mustache competition. Outside of the hectic festival sits a desert town full of ancient ruins being overlooked by the amazing Jaisalmer Fort. The city of Jaisalmer continues on into the fort which is full of Jain temples and Havelis. A very popular activity while in Jaisalmer is taking a desert camel safari overnight. Jaisalmer is a great place to get lost. Just when you think there is nothing else to see, you stumble across another beautiful temple or lake. At the end of each day I would make a trip to the famous ‘Lassi Shop.’ These arent just any kind of lassi, which are a yogurt drink by the way, these are special bhang lassis. Go ahead and look up bhang lassi to get a better idea. Rajasthan is one of the few places in India where Bhang is legal, so I was sure to take advantage of this opportunity while I could.

From Jaisalmer I headed by bus to the busy city of Jodhpur. Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan, and it is also known as the blue city. Though the small town of Bundi was much more blue, Jodhpur definitely has its share of the color. After finding that there was a hostel named after Bob Marley, I knew I had to come to this city. The center of town is based around a century old clock tower, which happens to be right in the middle of the enormous Sardar Market. If you want to do some cheap shopping then this is the place to do it. Looking up from the market you will notice the massive Mehrangarh. This military fort stands almost 400 feet about Jodhpurs skyline. From the fort you can walk to Jaswant Thada, which is a beautiful white memorial to Jaswant Singh II, which is made almost completely out of marble. After just a few days of wandering the city and market, I was ready to escape the craziness and head to the small peaceful and holy town of Pushkar.

Pushkar with its laid back and spiritual feel was by far my favorite place in all of Rajasthan. It is said that Lord Brahma, the creator of the world, was looking for a place to perform a ‘mahayagna’. In order to search for an appropriate venue, a swan carrying a lotus in its beak was released. It was decided that the yagna would be performed where the lotus fell. The lotus fell in Pushkar, forming the Pushkar lake. Pushkar is now home to one of the few temples in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma. Pushkar is not a place in India where you come to see the sights, for there are not many to see. This is a place to relax and go with the flow in order to soak up the culture and allow India to show you its true beauty. My days were full of walking down Sadar Bazaar, eating amazing food and reading on the many ghats that surround Pushkar Lake. Being a holy city, Pushkar shut down quite early in the evening. Though there was never a shortage of loud music and parties due to the insane amount of weddings that take place here. The feeling I got being in Pushkar is like no other I got while in India. I could easily spend weeks, if not months in this small and enchanting town. Pushkar will forever have a special place in my heart, and I hope to one day return.

In the end, Rajasthan lived up to everything that I had hoped it would be. It was crazy, beautiful, hectic and captivating. Rajasthan was able to show me what India was all about. The people were so welcoming and the culture simply amazing. If you want to really see India, than Rajasthan is a must see for anyone planning a trip. With about 10 days left in India, lets see what Agra and Varanasi have to say for themselves. Rajasthan, its been real!

Leaving Benaulim: Part 2

The idea of leaving Benaulim seemed so far away just a few months ago. But these past three months have gone by in a blur. When Noah and I were first trying to figure out where we wanted to stay in Goa for three months, we initially were looking at the bigger tourist towns such as Anjuna and Palolem. Never would I have thought that we would end up in the small village of Benaulim, but I am sure glad we did. The last three months have been filled with relaxation, partying, good food, rum, angry lesbians (although one was very satisfied at times, self high-five) and countless Russians. There has been both good and bad, but I would not change any of it.

The sand, beach, palm trees and rum have always had a special place in my heart. I have always felt that the tropics were where I belonged. So when I first stepped off the plane in Mumbai, I knew that our first five days were just a waiting period till I could get to Goa. On our long train ride down I could not wait to spend the next three months in a tropical paradise with nothing to do but relax. As the hours passed, the amount of palm trees grew more and more. I felt as if I was coming home, as if I belonged here. I mean come on, a tropical paradise that only costs me $10 per day! If you know me at all then this is right up my alley.  My excitement grew as the train finally pulled into the station after about 13 hours. We grabbed a taxi from the pre-paid booth and made the 20 minute ride into town and our guest house. Our guidebook had told us that Benaulim was without a party scene and most tourists were of the domestic or ageing European varieties. While this is pretty much true, what got me was that the guidebook also said that Benaulim had only a small strip of shops and had a village vibe. I knew the village would be quiet most of our stay, that was until December came along.

When we first arrived in Benaulim it was still a quiet beach side village. The tourist season did not really kick off until December. So Noah and I knew that we had several weeks to get to truly know the town and its inhabitants. We quickly became known throughout the town as we were one of the few tourists at the time. This would help once December arrived since we had made good connections and werent treated as new arrivals. There were no beach shacks and the only places to eat were the permanent restaurants that stayed open year around. On many occasions Noah and I would be the only customers at lunch or dinner time. This gave us time to get to know the staff and get a true feeling for what life was like here in Benaulim, both for its residents and the many workers who flocked from Nepal and greater India for the season. In my earlier post “A Day In The Life Of The Bromads: Goan Edition,” this was our typical day. There was not much to do, especially once the sun went down. We would every so often meet other tourists such as Scott, Morris, Chris and the group of Russian girls as Noah wrote about in a previous post. Though the nightlife was still quiet, on many nights we would be able to make our own party with the group we had at the time. Looking back, these were probably the best nights that I had in Benaulim.

On one of our many nights out we met a native Goan who was now working in Kuwait. Chris was on his first vacation back home in several years. We had noticed him at Domnicks beach shack while we were singing karaoke. After Karaoke we decided to head to Malibu beach shack where there was always loud music later on in the evening. We sat down and realized Chris was already there so we invited him over to join us, always looking for new people to talk to. This turned out to be the first of many crazy nights out with Chris as more and more people we knew stumbled into Malibu. Over the next couple weeks Chris and I became pretty good friends. He would introduce me to new people as well as local cheap restaurants. The best thing though was when he decided to show me a small spring and waterfall in the small jungle village of Verna, pictures are posted online. Every couple of days we would hop on his scooter and make the 10 kilometer ride to the spring and relax with a bottle of Old Monk rum and a bag of samosas. You never truly get to see a city/town until you have a local to show you around. This has been true for me in several cities such as Negril, Jamaica and Mumbai, India. The days at the spring were probably my favorite while in Benaulim.

And then there was December…..

If I could sum up my December in Benaulim, Goa, India in one word it would be ‘Legen-wait for it-dary, legendary!’

December was really the start of the big tourist season in Benaulim. Traditionally it has been November but this year was especially slow due to bad economies throughout Russia and Europe. Side note: America, Fuck Yeah! Anyways, before Noahs deaprture on the 8th we were able to have a few big parties with our most recent Russian group at the Hungry Duck beach shack. The owner of the shack, Sunny, has been awesome and Noah and I quickly became friends with him. He would go out of his way to help us out as well as keeping the rum flowing. All we had to do was pay for our Pepsi, I instantly liked this man, no homo! Noah in his Benaulim post goes over who was in this group, all awesome people who we had a lot of fun with. That was until Noah left and the Russian lesbian incident occured. I have received many questions and messages about this incident. But to make a long story short and to break it down easy it went like this:  2 Russian lesbians, 1 awesome me, 2 weeks of flirting, 1 break-up, 3 nights of awesomeness, 1 reconciliation, 1 awesome but loud mouthed me, 2 angry Russian lesbians, 1 even more awesome me. The end. To say the least, the group wasn’t quite the same after this and within a week four of them had decided to go back to Russia early. Zach Julian, creating relationship issues one couple at a time!

With Christmas approaching I wasnt’t quite sure how to feel. I had never been in a warm let alone tropical climate nor been away from my family before. While the majority of India consists of Hindus, Goa is a rare exception with a large population of Christians/Catholics. The Christmas lights, trees, nativity scenes and decorations were all a welcomed sight. I was looking forward to Christmas Eve night, which was when the big celebration on the beach was. Especially come midnight when it officially became Christmas. After the fireworks at midnight and several hours of drinking I find myself sitting in Domnicks beach shack at four in the morning. I am at table with a local, 2 Russians and 2 Canadians. Including myself, there were 5 total white people in the shack. And of the 5 women in the shack, 3 of them were sitting at my table. So this leaves about 50 men and 2 women, all Indian, sitting around us or dancing. You may be asking yourself, ‘Zach, how is this at all legendary?’ Well children, let me explain. Look at it like this, I am sitting on a beach in India at 4am on Christmas morning. I can barely see straight due to all the rum. There are numerous grown Indian men dancing like they are actively having a seisure, and between dancing they are literally fighting each other because someone insulted another. But once another song came on it was like nothing had happened and they all went back to dancing like it was a Bollywood movie. This was legendary because I would of never imagined this is where I would be and this is what I would be witnessing on Christmas morning. Where did my life go so right?

As I write this, it is two days until New Years, the biggest party night in Goa. I have no idea what this night will bring but I do know that it will be a good way to end my time here in Benaulim. This small beach side village has served me well over the last three months. I have met many amazing people and gained countless new friends, and maybe a couple enemies. I will forever remember this place and the stories that I have gained. From Scott, Morris, Chris, Vitaly, Cool, Vickie, Vladimir, Lena, the Katarinas, Sunny, Navine, Samantha and the many more people who have been a part of this adventure, I want to thank you for an awesome and very interesting time. But most off all I want to thank Benaulim and its people. I hope to one day come back to this amazing place, you will always have a special place in my heart!

Mumbai, India

Stepping off the plane, the overwhelming feeling of being in India hits you. Whether it’s the heat, different smells, the people or even the sudden impact of just how noisy this place is. Mumbai is spread across almost 450 sq kilometers and boasts a population of nearly 19 million. Mumbai is also the capital of the state of Maharashtra which is an island connected by bridges to mainland India. Mumbai became the official capital of Maharashtra after Independence and the split from the state of Gujarat in 1960. Formerly known as Bombay during colonial times, the city’s name was officially changed back to Mumbai in 1996 to help recapture the cities lost history. Mumbai is a city that not all can handle. But for a seasoned traveler or someone who is really seeking out a city far different from home, Mumbai is truly the gateway to India.

Arriving at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is most common for people coming to Mumbai. It is located about a 45 minute cab ride from the center of town, mind you that may double depending on time of day. We decided to stay at Hotel Travelers Inn, about a 10 minute walk from the heart of the tourist center, Colaba. This small Guesthouse has single and double private rooms as well as 3 bed dormitories which Noah and I stayed in. At $10 a night, it is not a bad price for its location and a constant feeling of safety and security. The ride in from the airport will take you through many parts of Mumbai including the slums, high rise buildings, neighborhood block parties, discos and past countless food stalls. Our guesthouse was also a close 5 minute walk to the amazing, hectic, colonial style Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, also known as Victoria Station.
With our Guesthouse being in a busy commercial area of Mumbai known as Fort, since this is once where the British fort once stood, walking was made easy. Just south is Colaba, home to many of the city’s attractions including the Gateway to India, Taj Mahal Palace, National Gallery of Modern Art and Leopold’s Cafe, which in 2008 was the target of a terrorist attack. The Fort & Churchgate area are just as interesting. Home to the Oval Maiden, a vast open park in the middle of this bustling part of the city, this is where you want to be in order to truly appreciate many of Mumbai’s majestic Victorian buildings. This area is also home to the Prince of Wales Museum, Marine Drive & Girgaum Chowpatty beach, the High Court and the University of Mumbai.

One of the things that Noah and I could not wait for once we landed in Mumbai was of course, the food! Walking down any street you will pass numerous hole in the wall cafes, five star restaurants, street vendors and food stalls. This city is shaped by countless different types of food and spices from all over the world. A couple of our favorite places to eat in Bombay included Cafe Universal, although relatively expensive compared to other local places, had a good atmosphere as well as an extensive menu with food ranging from Indian favorites to pizza and burgers. Pancham Periwala is my personal favorite, to leave Mumbai without going to this local favorite to try one of their several thali meals would be a serious miss. To come to India without an open mind regarding the food would be a mistake. Whether it is the thali meals, kebabs, aloo mutter, paneer, naan, samosas or dosas, all deserve a try as you will not regret it. Of course we can’t guarantee you won’t get sick at some point, this is India after all.

Mumbai is big and I could go on and on about this city. It is a city full of business men, day laborers, politicians, poverty, stray dogs and everything in between. It is home to the world’s largest film industry as well as home to some of the worlds largest slums. Mumbai is a city that can quickly become overwhelming, even to the not so faint of heart. The key is to give yourself the right amount of time. Come with an open mind and appreciate everything around you, no matter how maddening and stressful it may get. Who knows, by the time you leave here, Mumbai just might start to make a little sense to you. Maybe!

A day in the life of the Bromads: Goan Edition

The direct sunlight finally reaches our room and the temperature quickly rises. The quick increase prompts us both to slowly open our eyes, by now we already know that it is roughly 10 a.m. It takes a second to adjust to the fact that we are once again waking up in a tropical paradise halfway across the world. But with it comes the morning body inspection of insect bites obtained during the warm humid night. Our daily life is rather simple and we know the first thing to do is to go for our morning swim.

Jack’s Corner is roughly a kilometer from the beach. As we walk down the long stretch of road we pass local women laying out thousands of fish from the morning catch by the local fishermen. The women must start early in order to have the fish sorted and perfectly laid out in order to catch the blistering afternoon sun for drying. Greetings of “hello” and “where are you from?” are a daily occurrence during our morning stroll. Halfway up the road we pass through wide open fields of palm trees and water buffalo washing themselves in the warm ponds of water. We reach the end of the road and there is the beautiful white sand beach with fishing boats every few meters, followed by the warm water of the Arabian Sea.
A half an hour is all we need before we head back to the hotel for our morning shower. While I typically do a bit of reading, Noah enjoys recounting the previous days events in his notebook. Around 12 or so we decide it is a good time to head down the other street towards town for lunch and our daily trip to the supermarket for mixer, sweets and water. Lunch is usually pretty light as we enjoy a heavier meal at night when the sun is no longer beating down on us for the walk home. By 2 we are back in our room ready for our midday siesta by the fans and break from the hottest hours of the day.

We know it is time to get up when we hear the call of the birds out our window and the sun has slowly begin to set. Following our post nap showers, we grab our soda we bought earlier in the day and make a couple rum and cokes to enjoy out on our balcony over looking palm trees and local passer-byes. By 6 we are on the road again headed for the beach for our evening swim and to watch the sunset with locals alike. After yet another shower, it is time to venture out to find some delicious Indian food for dinner.

There are numerous restaurants in the small, sleepy beachside village of Benaulim. We make it our goal to try and eat at every establishment before our time here is up. While we try to keep lunch around 100 Rupees apiece, this allows us to splurge a little on dinner and post meal drinks. Mind you splurging is roughly 250 Rupees, or about $4. We are never disappointed with our meal nor the amazing service we receive throughout, as the owners and waiters make sure we are pleased with their establishment. After dinner drinks usually consist of the local favorite Feny, a clear strong liquor made from either cashews or coconut. Due to the unknown strength of this locally made spirit, we mix it with either water and lime or soda. Trust us, one 60ml shot of this stuff is all you really need. That is unless you are looking for someone to carry you home.

By 10 o’clock our day has come to an end. Laying down while my eyes slowly begin to shut, the days events pass through my mind. Here I am, laying in bed in a country that I have longed to visit ever since I was a child. A year ago if you would of told me this is where I would be, I would of told you that you were crazy. I had a wife, kids, a good but stressful career, bills and of course never ending responsibility. Though if I had my choice, things may be a little different then they are now. But how can I possibly complain knowing what a stress free and calm day tomorrow will bring.

Oh what a difference a year can make!

Central and Baltic Europe

Sitting in my room at my grandparents house in Saltsjobaden, Sweden I knew I had a decision to make within the next couple of weeks. My grandmother was coming to the end of her radiation treatment and her immune system had taken a turn for the worst. She was to be hospitalized to help combat the side effects of her treatment. I knew that the best thing for her was to have a limited amount of people around her. With about four weeks also left until Noah was to arrive, now was my time to venture out to a part of Europe I had yet to discover during my travels over the last ten years. Central Europe and the Baltic States had always interested me. A week later I was on a cheap flight to Prague on a 16 day adventure that would take me to 5 countries and 6 cities.

Prague is a beautiful city which has been the center of the Czech Republic for over 1000 years. Constantly packed with tourists from around the world, the Old Town Square is filled with churches, food stalls, restaurants, the astronomical clock and a number of street performers. From the Old Town Square you can walk across the always bustling Charles Bridge to the historic Prague Castle. If you arrive in the early afternoon you will be able to catch the changing of the guard, which is always a site to see no matter what city you may be in. Prague has become a tourist haven for all travellers ranging from the broke backpacker to the elderly packaged bus tours. With prices still being relatively cheap, Prague is an amazing city to visit that won’t break your budget. Well, depending on how much you like to go out and drink that is, but you can still find beer for as cheap as $1 a pint. Prague is a must see city for anyone planning to make a trip to Central and Eastern Europe. The beauty of this city is overwhelming and deserves to be seen on any European itinerary.

Bratislava, Slovakia was a city that had no real attractions but interested me just to say that I have been. After the release of the movie ‘Hostel’, tourism to this small capital city dropped by an amazing 75%. After hearing several stories I decided that one night would be more than enough. After arriving, I was immediately surprised by the beauty and the numerous bars, shops and cafes that lined the streets. While not as interesting as most other European capitals, Bratislava was a nice break from the bustling major cities that surrounded the small nation. With the city being so small, it was easy to navigate and enjoy the small alleys and side streets without having to follow a guide. With the beautiful architecture and great nightlife, Bratislava was well worth the trip and would recommend a visit for anyone looking to get away for a night or two.

While in Poland I was able to enjoy 2 very different cities. There was Krakow, which was well preserved with its medieval style buildings, cobblestone streets and small town feel. Then there was Warsaw, a city that was decimated during WWII and is now the business center and capital of Poland. Krakow is original and offers beautiful architecture, lots of culture and history from many centuries. In addition, it’s very walkable as nearly all sights are located in the compact old town or nearby Jewish kazimierz district. One weekend is enough to explore the city, however if you also wish to visit some popular places in Kraków’s surroundings (e.g. Wieliczka salt mine, Zakopane in Tatra mountains, Auschwitz), you would need 2 or 3 days more. Warsaw is totally different from Krakow. The old town and other historical quarters are charming, whereas the rest of the city is more business-like with lots of shopping malls, offices and high rise buildings. The old town is a total reproduction from pre WWII but is amazingly done and is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. Both Krakow and Warsaw deserve a visit if you plan to go to Poland.

Vilnius, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia were very similar to me. But Riga seemed to be moving more into the future while Vilnius was kind of stuck in the past. Both cities are  beautiful with large parks and open squares full of food, street performers and alcohol as far as they eye could see. I was lucky enough to be in Vilnius during the Vilnius City Fiesta celebrating the cities birthday. The streets and squares were full of concerts, food stands and stalls selling everything from beer to paintings. The Vilnius nightlife was quite the surprise though. On any given night the bars and clubs would be packed full of people of all ages drinking, listening to live music and trying their best to find someone to go home with at the end of the night. It was a city that never had a dull night, I quickly learned this after spending the first couple nights going out. Riga also had a great nightlife with free flowing beer, beautiful women all around and clubs that would not close until the sun came up. If time permits, both of these cities deserve a visit but can easily be seen in a two night stay a piece.

This 16 day adventure was just what I needed to help fill the time before Noah was to arrive and also the void of needing a cheap and quick journey. I was reminded that I am no longer 18 years old and that I now need more time to recover after a long night out or even after a full day of travel. But more importantly, I was reminded that my love of travel is stronger than ever. My sense of adventure and the feeling of getting lost in a new city was still alive and well and I am ready for the next 2 years of travel, wherever they may take me!

 

Puerto Vallarta – Nacho Daddy’s

I was going to put this in my other post, but it was getting long. I also like this story enough to want to include it. After the beach, while I was passed out, Zach started talking to one of our hotel neighbors in the lobby. He was in his 50’s and named Bill. Bill was in town for a conference. He was an engineering professor in Florida. We ended up grabbing beers with Bill a couple of times at the Sea Monkey and he told us about this band that was playing just down the street on Thursday. The place was a tex-mex restaurant named Nacho Daddy’s and was owned by this really cool (based on the couple of minutes we chatted when we dropped by to check when the band was going on) ex-pat. We got there about an hour early and got some food and beers ($2 pacifico). True Tex-Mex queso too, yum. Kind of an aside, but I haven’t had queso that good since I was in Oklahoma visiting family. The trick is bacon grease people, it’s not that hard. Anyways, I hadn’t watched a band setup in years and that was kind of fun

.At Nacho Daddy's

People started filtering in, and Zach and I were probably the youngest people in there by twenty years. Not an issue, but it was quite a few old hippies. We started chatting about wanting to come back to Mexico after our Asia trip and learn the language. They gave us some great contacts to talk to, and tips on surrounding towns. The story from each of them was pretty similar.

“I came for a couple of weeks, and just never left,”

or the other

“I own a condo down here and just rent it out when I’m not using it.”

Puerto Vallarta is super expensive, but the towns about 30 mins bus ride out are not. It’s apparently pretty cheap to live there and they don’t have the tourism hustle that Puerto Vallarta does, but it’s close enough to come in if you want to see the city, or kick it with other ex-pats.

Back to the bar, we were chatting with these people and Bill finally showed up, and sat down with us and grabbed a beer. The band started playing. They were a cover band that played everything from Jefferson Airplane to Daft Punk. It was a lot of fun, and they even did a bit of an improv light show with the lights out.

The old hippies were super digging it, and dancing a ton. There was this one older guy. Picture a heavyset man, not necessarily fat but barrelchested, completely bald man with a white handlebar mustache in a completely black suit with black shirt. He looked sharp. He also did interpretive dance to almost every song. I heard from one of the guys there that his brother had passed from heart problems and that his doctor had said that he needed to take it easy or he would go to. He told his doctor that he preferred to live his life as much as he could with the time he had. This guy went out every night drinking, dancing and generally having a grand time. I have a lot of respect for that kind of commitment to life. He also did a pretty impressive pole dance on one of the support pillars for the bar during a song.

I love to dance and was waiting for a song that I could dance to. I think I ended up cutting loose on “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. I danced with some older lady and ditched my sandals to really get my dance on. There’s a reason my friends call me twinkle toes. My feet hurt like a bitch though. So the set ended up wrapping up, and we tabbed out. It was pouring rain by this point. I mean a true torrential downpour. There was probably 5-6 inches of standing/running water at some points in the street. This is why I love the tropics though, it was warm water. In Oklahoma that water would be cold, not frigid, but unpleasant. This was like wading through warm bathwater, that was probably dirty as hell. We ran/walked back to the hotel. I didn’t care about the water as I was in a swimsuit, a shirt and sandals, but I had our trip notebook with us (for notes). We said good night to Bill and crashed out. Minus an epic fight with a cockroach in the middle of the night (we won, although there was a lot of RAID in the air), we slept well.

I checked my feet the next morning to see why it hurt to dance and I had like 3-4 huge blisters on each foot. Zach had been mocking my strappy sandals (Chaco’s) the entire trip and I had defended them. The issue is that, while I love strappy sandals, in the tropics the constant changing humidity causes them to stretch oddly. Teva’s or something would probably be fine, but Chaco’s are pretty tightly fitted. I chucked my Chaco’s at that point, and just used my flip flops. Zach was using slip on Van’s and they worked great for him. That’s probably what I’m going to use for the main trip. Just remember.

FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS WEAR STRAPPY SANDALS!!!

Puerto Vallarta – Beach

MEXICOOOOOOO!!! I think that Zach covered a lot of the facts on Puerto Vallarta, but here are my two cents. Puerto Vallarta is one of the more popular tourist spots in Mexico. When we went there it was the peak of it’s internal tourist season. In June it’s mostly filled with tourists from other parts of Mexico. Puerto Vallarta also has some of the best tap water in Mexico. Zach and I drank it fine, although mostly we drank water from jugs at our hotel. Your mileage may vary.

Beachside at the Sea Monkey

Drinks were super cheap at the Oxxo. Cheap tequila and Fresca and you can’t go wrong. Having some drinks in your room is also nice for the heat of the day. Good for kicking it under the fan and waiting for the sun to chill out a bit. You can try to get ice, but for us it melted faster than we could even make a noticeable dent. We eventually just gave up on ice. It was so hot that the slightly cooler drink in our room was plenty cold.

We went out for beers almost every evening beachside at the Sea Monkey. Dollar beers (Corona and Pacifico) and a perfect view of the beach for sunset? Sign me up. They also had cheap, but good, Mai Thais, Sangria and margaritas ($2).

We spent a good portion of the trip wandering around the city, or at least the part that was around us. The Romantic District was beautiful (I know the joke is there, but restrain yourself; you’re better than that). We didn’t go up to the area around the resorts more than a couple of times, because it was expensive and far, but we did eat at Senor Frog’s. I liked it. A tad expensive, but where else can you get a yard of high end rum or tequila? I didn’t get one, but I did get a huge margarita with Don Julio. Delicious, and not that bad at around $15 or so.

A couple of my favorite stories from Mexico. The names in these stories have not been changed to preserve humor and embarrass the dicks in them, mostly me. Although I am not the best at remembering names in the best of times, let alone when I’ve been drinking. Let it be said that I am not rude with names; I forget my own mother’s/brother’s/father’s names, so if I ever forget yours please don’t take it personally. Alright, moving on.

Zach and I had decided to go down to the beach to kick it. We were setting up our towels and this American flagged us down and told us about a deal where you could rent a daypass at this hotel. It was 190 pesos (about $15), but you got an umbrella, a chair and you got 190 pesos in credit for the bar. Also it was happy hour. We had brought our own drinks (Tequila and Fresca for me and rum and Coke for Zach), but he seemed cool so we started chatting. Also it was happy hour so 2 for 1 well drinks. That made the rum and cokes about a dollar a piece. You might think that this potentially spells trouble, and you’d be right.

The guy was cool. He was from Nashville, and had sold his company in his 30s and was just traveling enjoying himself. We chatted about our upcoming trip across Asia. He gave us great advice that I mostly forgot because of the sun and the booze. I was chatting with him for a bit while Zach was swimming. We were trying to stock up on drinks before the end of happy hour, or I was. So quick aside, I’m not sure if anyone else has this problem, but I can’t tell if I’m getting drunk on the beach, or specifically if I’m in constant sun. I just don’t feel drunk. I don’t know what it is. I felt fine, but there was a fly buzzing around me and I yelled at it, “Fucking Asshole!” I was talking to the fly mind you, but a beach vendor was walking towards me and thought I was talking to him and walked off. I was also waving my hands like a madman trying to swat the fly, so he also probably thought I was crazy. I felt like a dick. I heard about this after the fact though, because I didn’t really notice. I talked Zach into going and grabbing another bottle of Rum. I said that I would go get it, but he said he would (good looking out man, I probably would have gotten lost). He came back a bit later, and I was working on the 2-3 drinks I had stockpiled from happy hour. We had a couple of drinks then we decided to leave, or I assume Zach did, that part is a tad hazy.

We were walking back from the beach, and going over the old rope bridges. I was staying to the right of the bridges to be nice, but I didn’t realize something. If you walk to the side of a rope bridge it will sway. Not a big deal, because most reasonable people would notice and stop. I did not. I thought it was just me being drunk. I am not a small man, so when I caused it to sway it swayed a lot. So I was walking down this bridge doing kind of a serpentine pattern trying to stay going straight while the bridge was swaying about 5-8 feet back and forth. These bridges were not empty either. Zach was having issues getting across. There is also actually a photo of me on one of these bridges attached to this post for perspective. Eventually someone actually stopped me and explained that you should stay in the middle. It was good advice, although a little late because this was at the end of the bridges.

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You’d think that was the bit about me being an asshole, or that the beach was, and you’d be wrong. So we were walking up the street to our hotel. One thing to remember about Puerto Vallarta is that almost all of the streets and the sidewalks are old school cobblestone. It looks awesome, but is a bitch to walk on, especially in flip flops. I ended up jamming the shit out of my toe and almost eating it on the street. I legitimately thought I had broken my toe. I was super drunk at this point and didn’t realize it. I am also an abnormally loud person, just in terms of how much my voice carries (ask anyone that’s met me). I started swearing up a storm. I didn’t notice the fairly substantial crowd that had gathered around the loud, drunk, swearing gringo. This group of people that actually included cops. Zach asked if I was OK being a nice guy. The exchange kind of went like this.

“Are you OK?”

“GO FUCK YOURSELF!!!”

I thought he was just being a dick. I didn’t realize that he was trying to settle down the situation. Zach walked back to the hotel while I limped behind him swearing to myself. We got back and I passed out. I woke up a few hours later thankfully sober (ish). You sweat that stuff out pretty quick in that kind of heat and humidity.

Zach asked if I was OK, then told me that you never EVER draw that kind of attention in another country. I completely agree with him. I made a rule that day, that I encourage you to follow. No drinking booze on the beach in the sun, it will just get you in trouble.

 

Just beer and Sangria.

Puerto Vallarta

Sunset over Puerto Vallarta

Wrapped around the Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful city that is very easy to get around both by walking and through public transportation. Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive, but be ready to be offered a ride several times throughout your day by drivers looking for work. The area of Puerto Vallarta we stayed in was in the heart of what is known as Old Vallarta and the Zona Romantica. A great part of the city with cobblestone streets, food vendors on every corner and away from the giant resorts of the Hotel Zone. Being as we are on a budget we chose to stay at Belmar Hotel Galeria. A small but colorful and artsy hotel about 6 blocks from the beach and start of the Malecon, a beautiful boardwalk that stretches from Los Muertos Beach all the way to Hotel Rosita in central Puerto Vallarta. The Malecon is lined with numerous shops, restaurants, hotels and entertainment of all kinds. While walking down the boardwalk you will be solicited time and time again. Whether they are trying to sell goods they have made themselves or are trying to get you to come into their shop. Noah and I decided to answer the call from a guy asking us to come into his tequila shop. After several free samples of tequila, free shot glasses and a hard sales push we finally made it out after about 20 minutes. The best thing to do if you aren’t looking to shop is to just say “no thank you” and keep walking.

Before arriving in Puerto Vallarta, Noah and I both knew that the food was going to be amazing. With food carts and small cafes all around, there was an endless list of choices. A few of our favorite places included El Calamar Avenurero which served up a great breakfast option as well as awesome beef and pork tacos for 12 pesos, all while providing a nice open air seating area. . The best tacos we found were at Tacos Del Moreno per the recommendation of the front desk clerk. Tacos Del Moreno is small food cart serving up freshly made tortillas and a nice variety on the menu with tacos starting at 12 pesos. But overall our favorite place to eat was this hole in the wall quesadilla shop named Quesadilla y Aigo Mas Heatu. Serving up jumbo quesadillas at just 20 pesos a piece with fillings including chicken, chorizo, beef, etc, it was hard to beat.  Of course we couldn’t leave without hitting up one touristy hot spot to eat, Senor Frogs was hard to miss with its loud music and even louder decor. Serving up a wide range of food and alcohol at premium prices, Senor Frogs was a fun one and done experience.

The Sea Monkey on the Malecon was easily our favorite place to drink. Sitting right on the beach, The Sea Monkey served up $1 beers and $2 specialty drinks including Sangria and Mai Tais. But much of our drinking was done while relaxing in our hotel room talking and coming up with new ideas for our awesome trip around the world. With an Oxxo sitting on nearly every corner, basically the Mexican 7-11, liquor was easy and cheap to get. A few times during our stay we made the quick trip down the block to pick up our liquor bundle which includes for me a 1L bottle of Bacardi, 1.5L bottle of coke and a 7lb bag of ice, all for the price of about $13. Noah did the same but got El Jimador and Fresca. Not a bad deal at all, although the ice did not last very long due to the excessive heat and humidity. Another one of our favorite hangouts to drink at was Nacho Daddy. Run by an expat, Nacho Daddy has surprisingly good live music almost every night and a great Tex-Mex menu with cheap food and drinks.

Overall Puerto Vallarta was a great city to visit. In our 6 days that we were there, we got an overwhelming feeling that we must include more of Mexico on our around the world adventures. The people of Puerto Vallarta were so welcoming and went out of their way to assure us that Mexico was more than just a country being over run by the drug cartels, but a country full of everyday people like you and me who are trying to make a decent life for them and their families.