Drive Down to LA Over Thanksgiving

Jie and I are headed to LA next week to spend Thanksgiving with my mom, Steve, my brother Josh and his wife Lola. We have decided to drive rather than deal with hassles of flying right before the holiday.

Plus, it gives us the chance for a roadtrip (I have never before done the full drive from the Bay Area to LA). I would love to do it along the coast, even though it makes the trip longer. Or even a detour halfway through to make stops in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.

However, after hearing some horror stories from colleagues about the traffic on the drive to LA the day before Thanksgiving, I am starting to wonder if it just makes sense to take the quick route to avoid any semblance of traffic. We are likely making the return trip during the evening, so taking the scenic route back really doesn’t make much sense.

I’m looking for feedback: do you think if we leave early enough (say 7 or 8 am) we can take the scenic route and still avoid traffic? Or should we just be safe and take the main highways the whole way through?


Thunderdome on the Shanghai Metro

It’s been a long stretch since my last post. Whether its been writers block or a dearth of good ideas, I’m ready to get off the schneid.

So I figured I would share a small nugget about living in Shanghai: what it’s like on the metro.

I have to preface this by coming clean that I’m an avowed NYC Subway person, for better or worse. It’s convenience can’t be matched and it has character (maybe sometimes too much). So I always view metro systems through my Subway prism.

In many areas Shanghai’s metro stacks up favorably. The system is new, clean, efficient, and reasonably well connected through the city (though not nearly as extensive as New York). When I ride the metro here I’m confident there won’t be any delays. And the numbering system for the exits makes it quite simple to navigate once you have made your way above ground.

However, it’s always packed, closes at 11pm and transfers between lines require half mile underground treks. Read more of this post

3 Things I Have Learned About On the Road

After six months on the road, there are a few big things that I have realized about myself. There is nothing too profound here but these were the ones that quickly jumped to mind.

1. I’m still intense – I always chalked up my intensity to living in New York or working in high pressure jobs. But really its just a part of who I am. And that’s not necessarily such a bad thing. Read more of this post

Riding the Bus in Myanmar

In this space I have frequently documented my transportation escapades and what better way to cap off my recently concluded trip to Myanmar than with a blow by blow account of the inter-city bus trips that I took while I was there.

Yangon to Inle Lake Read more of this post

Surprises Galore in Brunei

Apologies if this post looks a bit strange as I’m currently working through some technical difficulties

Which country in Southeast Asia has the highest GDP per capita?

Believe it or not it isn’t Singapore. It’s actually Brunei, a tiny kingdom hugging the northern coast of Borneo that didn’t gain its independence from Britan until 1984.

Elisa and I started our Borneo adventure in Brunei because, well, wouldn’t it be cool to visit this small country that is largely off the tourist trail. I have been curious about it since I was young, reading about how the Sultan of Brunei was the richest man in the world at several points in the 1990’s.

unbelievable sunset on Brunei River

From Hanoi to Luang Prabang: A 26 Hour Plus Journey

How should I get to Luang Prabang? I wrestled with this question from the moment I decided that it would be my first stop in Laos.

On the one hand, I could fly from Hanoi and on the other hand I could take the bus. The pros and cons for each were pretty simple.

Flying would only take one hour but would cost $160-$200.

Taking the bus would take 24-32 hours on notoriously bad mountain roads through a sketchy international border but would cost less than $50.

Of course I opted to take the bus for ~$43. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.

Below is a running diary from the journey. While the trip is chock full of gorgeous scenery of green Laotian countryside and mountains (we traveled through Vietnam during the night so i cant speak to the scenery during that part of the journey), it is a very, very long trip.

Read more of this post

Navigating North Through Vietnam

Given the number of tourists in Vietnam, especially of the independent traveler variety, there are a never ending slew of businesses geared towards booking tours, transportation and accommodation.

For a do-it-yourself traveler like myself, it’s a maze to navigate. From dealing with all the people trying to sell you something, to the language barrier, to the new culture and not being sure where to go next, all the while juggling the advice of fellow travelers its an exercise in patience and mental dexterity. Plus keeping straight all the price quotes in my head (they quote you prices here in USD when you have to pay in local currency while the eventual exchange rate varies from person to person).

Read more of this post

3 Months on the Road

Its hard to believe that my foreign adventure is soon coming up on three months. Such a milestone has given me the chance to reflect on my trip from a holistic perspective.

5 Most Memorable Experiences

  • Hiking in Mindanao with BMG – climbing the Philippines’ second and fourth highest mountains with a group of experienced (and fun loving) mountaineers. What really made this stand out was that I couldn’t have done or planned this on my own. It felt incredible to become part of the team for this climb, especially given the challenges that we faced along the way in hiking two of the Philippines’ highest mountains (namely the weather). While the hike tested my spirit and endurance, having a great group to travel with for my five days in Mindanao made this experience unlike any other I have had so far.

feeling glorious as we finished our hike

  • Bedouin tour in Wadi Rum – a jeep tour through the vast and breathtaking Jordanian desert. Climbing up rocks and running up sand dunes. A camel ride. Sunset and a filling buffet dinner in a Bedouin camp. Great conversation over tea while sitting under the stars. What’s not too like. This was a great day and a perfect way to recharge my batteries after a harrowing boat ride from Egypt to Jordan.

Read more of this post

The Cordilleras

Visiting the famed Ifugao rice terraces has been on my to-do list even before I came to the Philippines. Largely due to some poor planning though, I didn’t get to visit them until recently. And while they did not fail to impress, my trip to the mountains of Luzon stands out in my mind because of my transportation adventures.

soaked and exhausted after hiking through the rice terraces

The jump off point for visiting the rice terraces is the town of Banaue, which despite being only 200+ miles from Manila, is over ten hours away by night bus due to the difficult mountain roads. I was somewhat surprised when stepping on to the bus in Manila to see the concentration of white faces staring back at me, something I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. It turns out that many travelers, particularly those with only a few days in the country, head straight from Manila right up to Banaue.

Getting to Batad

But I wasn’t planning on staying in Banaue for long. From what I read online and in my conversations with Filipinos, the consensus was that the best rice terraces were to be found in the nearby town of Batad. Nearby being a relative term because even though the towns are only 18 km apart, travel between them isn’t easy.

Read more of this post

Feeling the Love in Manila

All the travelers I had met my first week in the Philippines had the same reaction when I told them I was going to spend a few days in Manila: why would you want to stay in Manila?

I asked myself the same question. Luckily, the past few days have shown that I have a couple of good answers for them.


Over the past four days here, I have courchsurfed with Mark, an extremely gregarious and generous guy who allowed me to stay in his spare apartment right across the street from the Mall of Asia, the 2nd largest mall in the Philippines and the 4th largest in the world. Marks works as the director of the James Mackey Foundation, which provides assistance to blind children. He is also a font of knowledge on Filipino travel having visited nearly the entire country. Read more of this post

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