10 Adventurous Tourist Attractions in China

10 Adventurous Tourist Attractions in China

The last post I wrote was called 101 Travel Experiences in China. Excited to share all of the experiences I had in China, both good and bad, I poured weeks worth of work into that post. But nobody read it. It was just too long. Plus, I made the mistake of putting in tourist attractions in China that were not worth doing. People don’t care about those – they just want to know what to do… not what not to do. So being the industrious fellow that I am, I condensed my 10,000 word behemoth to only those experiences that were truly adventurous (this is, after all, an adventure travel blog). They are the Best of the Best; the Eric Roberts of travel experiences if you will. So please enjoy. 1) Walk the Plank Road in the Sky on Mount Hua Located a short day trip outside of Xian, Mount Hua is one of the five sacred mountains of China and has a long history of religious and historical significance. Reaching the northern summit takes approximately 5 hours and requires ascending a series of steep stone staircases (like most mountains in China). Mount Hua’s crags and spines make for a beautiful, all be it, precipitous trek. So much so, that its been labeled the world’s most dangerous hike. Probably the most infamous of all the attractions is the Plank Road in the sky, located on Mount Hua’s south Peak. Fifty meters of wood precariously nailed to the side of a cliff takes you on a stroll 1000 meters above a spiky mountain range below. I was scared shitless before doing it, but I found that once I got there, it wasn’t nearly as bad...
101 Travel Experiences in China

101 Travel Experiences in China

Author’s Note: Recently, I spent 40 days traveling through China. I traveled mostly by train and hiked as often as I could, mostly on China’s five sacred mountains. In this post, I share with you both my positive and negative travel experiences. I took most of the photos – the exception being in the Potpourri section and a few other sporadic experiences. Thanks for reading and I hope you find this post a valuable resource for planning your journey through China. p.s. That’s a picture of me gagging on the gelatinous skin of an unidentified, fried...
How to eat Scorpion in Beijing

How to eat Scorpion in Beijing

In the heart of Beijing, off the side of one of its busiest streets, lies a peculiar market. It’s where tourists go to test the saying that the Chinese will eat anything with four legs and isn’t a table. Actually, the saying shouldn’t be restricted to only four legs, really anything that lives and breathes is a potential food for the Chinese. Flying lizards, beetles, grasshoppers, snakes, scorpions, organs of cow, pig and chicken – the Chinese are not restricted to one Phylum let alone one Class of food. I have my eye on a row of black scorpions. The street vendor notices immediately and begins his pitch. “Scorpion good. Taste like Chicken. You try. Come.” I am still a bit nervous from a run in twenty minutes earlier I had with a snake. It had a slimy, gelatinous texture and even the four scoops of chill sauce dumped on top couldn’t suppress an overtly reptilian taste; something like fish that had gone rotten. Part of the problem was that I couldn’t seem to locate any actual meat, just the scaly, translucent skin. I ate two bites and chucked it in the trash-bin. “Come, come. You try.” He diverts my attention away from the huge black scorpions, to the smaller, brownish variety. The scorpions are skewered on small wooden dowels and displayed in rows. The wiggles of tails and clamping of claws prove their freshness to connoisseurs of scorpion in Beijing, before they are unceremoniously fried. I am no connoisseur, just a tourist with a peaked interest. On my first day in China, I posted on Facebook that I was starting with...
How to conquer the death road (and live to tell the tale)

How to conquer the death road (and live to tell the tale)

Feed Pachamama what she needs! After two hours in the bus, we finally reached our destination, a parking lot at the summit of the Death Road. The 15 of us filed out of the van as our driver spryly scampered up to the top of it and started loosening the bungie cords from the bikes. After testing out our bikes around the parking lot, we assembled around our young, be-freckled guide. He gave us the first of a series of safety briefings and afterwards, ironically, pulled out a bottle of 100% alcohol for us to consume. We all took a shot and poured a little out for a homie. That homies name was Pachamama, the Inca God of Mother-Earth. Our guide explained that it was a tradition to pour out a little liquor so that Pachamama would be appeased and wouldn’t take out a blood offering instead. Maybe we should have poured out a little more – Pachamama would have her blood offering...
Santiago de Chiquitos – A little town with a big view

Santiago de Chiquitos – A little town with a big view

Santiago de Chiquitos is stuck fifty years ago in time. But it’s not a bad thing. Come to think of it, outside of the major cities (Sucre, La Paz, Santa Cruz) most of Bolivia is beautifully stuck. Cows and donkeys have as much right to the road as cars.  Laundry is often done in flowing streams and horses are a valid form of transportation.… (Click the title at the top of the email to read the rest of this...
US Citizen’s Visa Requirements for entry into Bolivia

US Citizen’s Visa Requirements for entry into Bolivia

Arrival at Port of Entry We arrived at the dusty border town of Corumba, Brazil in our silver 2011 Chevrolet around 3 pm, ready to start our epic road trip through Bolivia. But first, the small matter of getting into said country. I knew it was going to be a pain in the ass to cross the border to Bolivia when the owner of a small currency exchange shop remarked with a shake of his head “You are American? Muy Complicado…”. Up until a couple of years ago, Americans didn’t require a Visa to visit Bolivia. However, that all changed when the president, Evo Morales, decided that it was unfair that Bolivians were required to obtain a visa to travel to the US, but it wasn’t so the other way around. “Fair is fair”, I am sure he thought. And to be honest, if you have all your ducks in a row before you get to the border (unlike me), you should get through without too much trouble. Visa Requirements for entry into Bolivia: Yellow fever certificate Economic solvency (a copy of a credit card sufficed) Passport (valid for at least six months) Hotel / hostel reservations or invitation from a host family Return ticket home 135 USD No Passport Photo was required of me, but officially they can request it Bring two photocopies of everything During my initial research on the border crossing, I had read that Bolivia’s border guards could be pretty lax; sometimes they didn’t request anything except for the 135 USD. That was wrong. They wanted it all, in duplicate, and I didn’t have anything...
Five ways to piss off a Pilgrim

Five ways to piss off a Pilgrim

PEREGRINO is the Spanish word for pilgrim, often referring specifically to anyone who walks to Santiago de Compostela in North-West Spain. Every year the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) iscompleted by around 200,000 blistered and sore, soul-searching Peregrinos. They walk 20 to 40 kilometers a day, go to sleep at 10 pm, wake up at dawn, and through the course of walking 800km, develop a certain type of openness and honesty along the way. So tread lightly on their exposed souls! 1) Tell him “How hard can it be? You’re just walking. ”Oh the dagger! First of all it’s not just walking. Walking 25 kilometers a day for 30 days while carrying a 10 kg backpack can turn your feet to ground beef. Furthermore, your hips and knees are at particular risk for damage and inflamation. But even if we ignore the physical toil, the mental challenge is enough to give a potential pilgrim pause. For a month, your living and sleeping quarters are shared with up to 50 people in the Municipal Albergues, meaning you have a serious lack of privacy. Yet that may matter little to others who carry on like they were at home, farting and screwing with the social decency of a rabbit. And then there is the Meseta (plains), between Burgos and Leon, where it’s as flat and interesting as a piece of plywood. Here boredom can worm its way inside your tired pilgrim mind. You may even start to sing, because, damn its boring. I don’t know the words to a single full song, but that didn’t stop me from butchering about 60 of them, from Bohemian Rhapsody to Warren G’s...
Ultimate Packing Guide: Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spring

Ultimate Packing Guide: Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spring

It has been 2 and a half weeks since returning from my 31 days on the Camino de Santiago, a good time to reflect on the packing job I did. Since I made the trek in spring time from March 17th to April 18th, this guide will be most helpful for those pilgrims walking during spring and fall. That being said, much of the information is season indiscriminate so for those traveling in Summer or Winter, you will be able to glean some helpful info...
A Guide to cheap Transportation between World Cup 2014 Cities

A Guide to cheap Transportation between World Cup 2014 Cities

Problems with Infrastructure and High Prices for Flights It’s no secret that Brazil is facing some “challenges” regarding the World Cup. The Brazilians are phenomenal at a lot of things, but having a government that spends tax payer’s money efficiently and wisely is not one of them. Not only are the stadiums behind schedule, but so are the renovations of the Airports. Last week Brazil’s government agency Anac approved an extra 2,000 flights during the World Cup, which will add even more stress to the already over-burdened airports. They did so because they wanted to reduce the price of airfares, however by putting out one fire they are fanning the flames of another. To be honest though, something needed to be done. According to Business Week, TAM flights to Rio the day before the Final are up to 10 times more expensive than the same flight one month later. How to find cheaper flights during the World Cup Interested in gauging the level of prices for myself and comparing it with all the hype, I searched for 6 flights from 6 different websites, getting a total of 36 different price points to analyze. (Flight 1: São Paulo to Natal, Flight 2: Natal to Brasília, Flight 3: Brasília to Cuiaba, Flight 4: Cuiaba to Brasília, Flight 5: Brasília to Salvador, Flight 6: Salvador to São Paulo) I chose the four airlines that do business in Brazil: TAM, GOL, Avianca, Azul, and two aggregators: Kayak and EDreams. Below is a Summary of what I found: The average price of these 6 flights was 241 USD. The President of Avianca said that the average fares...

PMA Application Process for World Cup Tickets: 10 things to know

PMA Ticket Information: Approximately 16% of the total value of tickets will be given to Participating Member Associations (PMA). For every match, FIFA allocates 8% of overall stadium capacity to each team playing. In FIFA’s official ticketing guide, it is stated that approximately 364 thousand tickets will be available to PMA supporters. Within the first 24 hours of opening the second sales phase (lottery), approximately 1.2 million non PMA tickets were requested (i.e. General Public Tickets).  However only 29 thousand were requested by PMA supporters. This is a positive sign for those that are PMA supporters.  If you are a member of one of these associations, you can get access to these PMA tickets, which gives you an advantage over the normal Joe on the street. You can find a list of all PMAs here. To become a member of the USA PMA, click here. 10 things to know about the PMA Application Process: The application process for PMA tickets started on the 8th of December. You can apply for PMA tickets until the 7th of February. Note that the PMA ticket window is longer than that of the General Public lottery, which is only open until the 30th of January. It doesn’t matter when you apply during this sales period, you will have the same chance of getting tickets no matter if you applied on the 8th of December or the 7th of February. Be careful if you plan to apply on the 7th of February, since FIFA closes the sales period at 12:00 CET, which is 6:00 am eastern time in the USA. For the USA PMA, you need to either be a...
Westvleteren 12 Monk Beer: The taste of scarcity

Westvleteren 12 Monk Beer: The taste of scarcity

Westvleteren: The taste of scarcity Of all of the beers in the world, the Trappist beer Westvleteren is arguably the most elusive. You can scour the internet for offers which can top out at 40.00 USD for one lonesome 11 ounce bottle! People are crazy about this beer. Many take trips to Belgium for the purpose of tasting the beer. Recently, I brought two bottles back to the US for a bachelor party and you swear I was bringing a piece of the Virgin Mary’s shroud, a relic that beer aficionados humbly bow before. Iphone photos were snapped, messages to friends and other beer nuts were sent. A general wave of beer euphoria came over our small group of friends. It’s that hard to get. The beer is good. Most people agree. Consider that ratebeer.com and beeradvocate.com rate it as the first and seventh best beer in the world respectively. But is it that good? Once you taste it will you ascend to some higher level of beer knowledge? Will you attain beer enlightenment? And if it is really that good, what does it taste like? The beer has a great story. There are 8 Trappist breweries, 6 in Belgium, 1 in France and 1 in Austria. Westvleteren is the only one of the Breweries where the Monks still make the beer themselves (along with three non-monk manual laborers). They brew just enough beer to support the monastery, around 60,000 cases a year. Except for a 2012 increase in production to cover urgent restoration costs (they exported 6 packs to the US which sold for 85 USD a piece); the production has remained constant since the 40s. They brew...

World Cup Ticketing News: Pots, Black Market and Member Associations

Draw Procedure The 2014 World Cup has been all over the news recently. On everybody’s mind is the group draw, which will happen Friday the 6th of December at 16:00 GMT in Salvador, Brazil. FIFA has separated each of the 32 teams into 4 pots. Each World Cup Group, A through H, will ultimately contain four teams. Fifa will have a random draw that will disperse the Pots evenly throughout the groups. No more than one team per pot will be included in a particular group i.e. Group A will include Brazil and one team from each of the other pots 2 through 4. As seen in the above graphic, pot 4 has one more team than pot 2. FIFA will thus move one of the European teams to pot 2 through a random draw. However FIFA imposes a “Geographical Separation rule” which means that no more than two European teams and only one South American team can be in each group. FIFA has come up with a complicated procedure to ensure this which you can find here. CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE GUIDE TO WORLD CUP TICKETING Furthermore, FIFA has explained that all teams in Pot 1 will receive a corresponding 1 seed in their group. That means if Spain is drawn into group B, they will be assigned B1. If you have tickets to a game with a “1” team, you are guaranteed one of the top seeded teams. USA Group of Death For the US, a dread scenario would be Brazil, Ghana USA and the Netherlands, while on the other side a fairly easy road could be taken if they are paired with Switzerland, Algeria and Bosnia. Further draw considerations...

Barcelona: Things to do, Where to stay and What to eat

How to use the focused City Guide Above are 5 tabs that you can click on to navigate through the trip review. At the end of each “tab” is a link to a map that includes locations of the entire review with descriptions. Below is the content of the first section “Character”. Tourists abound Barcelona can be crowded with tourists, but don’t let that stop you. One way to think about it is that there is a good reason why so many people flock to this Catalan city on the Mediterranean coast. Although touristy, or maybe because of it, you don’t get the sense that you are bother to the people, the feeling I sometimes get in London or Paris. Tourist Exploitation: For the ultimate in tourist exploitation or fun, depending on your perspective, visit La Rambla, where one liter masses of beer are sold on the central pedestrian causeway and gold painted humans do their best to freeze for long periods of time for the coins in your pocket. But Barce is much more than that The city offers top notch restaurants, sandy beaches, eclectic shopping, engrossing districts, a bustling nightlife and jaw dropping architecture. This city has style. From the people, across the building facades into the shops themselves, this place exudes cool. You can find plenty of bohemian types and sharply appointed business men crossing each other’s path on the wide Avenue of Diagonal. Tip: If you make your way outside of the old gothic quarter and Barceloneta, the density of tourists lightens noticeably and you can really start to enjoy the fresh air and balmy...
Barcelona Map

Barcelona Map

The locations described in the Barcelona trip review can be found in the Barcelona map below. Click on the dotted square at the right hand corner to go directly to google maps or you can surf directly from this page. Additionally, please ignore the link in the content that refers back to the original trip review. I put it there only so the scoundrels of the internet can not copy and paste the content without reference to the...

World Cup Tickets Second Stage: First Come First Serve

So you applied in the first round and came up a few tickets (or all tickets) short? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Out of the 6.2 million ticket applications, only 889 thousand tickets were awarded. The first come first serve round is like a game of musical chairs, with each applicant scrambling to take the next best available ticket within minutes after the start time of 12 pm CET or 9 am Brazil time, November 11th (write it down or put a note in your calendar!). So it’s very important to know the rules of the game before sitting down to apply, otherwise you might be left without a metaphorical chair. So I called up the FIFA hotline (+41 445 831000 for international customers) today to get the scoop on the second round ticket application process. This is what I learned. Complete your application within 10 minutes First, be aware that you can only apply for one ticket product at a time, meaning a TST product (Team Specific Tickets), a VST product (Venue Specific Tickets) or a single match ticket. For the product you choose, you can apply for 1 to 4 (max) tickets Once you choose the ticket product and quantities for purchase, you will be given a spot in the line for tickets and a 10 minute countdown starts. You then need to complete the application within this time frame, otherwise will you lose your spot in line. After submitting all necessary information, i.e. Credit Card, Guest Info, etc., you will find out whether your application is successful or not. (edit: It should be possible to add...

The Ultimate Guide to World Cup Tickets

Guide to World Cup Tickets – Brazil 2014 Securing World Cup Tickets is not easy. Cracked.com said about the 2010 World Cup that you had a better chance of having sex with Megan Fox than getting tickets. I am here to say it can be done! I have been to 4 world cups (1994, 1998, 2006, 2010) and have seen the US play in all of them. One of my travel goals is to make it to all of the subsequent world cups until I die. From the way I calculate it, I have another 13 in me before the final whistle blows. Start of World Cup Ticket Sales The sale of stage 1 tickets began on August 20, 2013 and runs until October 10th. Don’t panic; the first ticket stage is based on a lottery system so you have the same chance of obtaining tickets even if you apply on October 10th. Hospitality rights tickets are available for purchase right now, without waiting for a lottery (more on the ticket types and stages shortly). For a new post on the latest First Come First Serve round on March 12th click here. Stadiums and Hosting Cities To some people, the decision of which city or cities to visit is just as important as the teams that will be playing. In total there are 12 stadiums that will be hosting the World Cup. Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Sao Paulo. Click here for A Guide to Cheap Transportation between World Cup 2014 Cities. When Will the Tournament Schedule Be Determined? The dates, times and stadiums...