Popular

INDIA: The Ultimate Travel Guide

by Drew on April 29, 2015 105 comments

I spent 2 months backpacking around India solo in early 2015.  I covered over 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) and visited over 13 cities. I wrote this post as a general travel guide to anyone who aspires to visit India. My goal in this post is to educate you a bit about the country, tell you what to expect from Indian culture and provide recommendations for food, nightlife, attractions, etc – all based off my own experiences.  Please note that I will be 100% honest with you in this post, so take everything as you wish. 

If you have any questions or need help planning your trip, then please comment below or email me here!

And also, please see my other blog posts about India:
– 7 Lessons I Learned from 7 Weeks in India
– Top 7 Party Cities in India
– Smoking Hash & Weed in India.. It’s Common!
– Top 10 Best and Worst Highlights in India
– An Insane Experience at Holi Festival
– What it was like to Survive a Huge Bus Crash
– How I got in a Bollywood Movie, and how you can too! 

rsz_img_9935

General Thoughts & Reactions

As they say, “If you can travel in India, then you can travel anywhere.” That statement is nothing but the truth.

The subcontinent of India is unlike any place I’ve ever been. I spent 2 months backpacking from the South (Goa) to the North (Punjab) and it was the most eye-opening and life-changing trip I’ve ever been on.  In total, I visited 13 cities, 8 states and I covered a distance of more than 4,000 kilometers by means of 7 trains and 8 bus rides.

Here is a map of the journey that I took:

Traveling India is like a roller coaster of emotions of both ups and downs. It’s a giant mix of good and bad, happy and evil. It’s both challenging and inspiring. And everything is thrown at you in the face at the same time.

Because of this, I began to develop a love/hate relationship with India. One moment, I loved it, and the next, I hated it.  At times I felt enlightened and inspired, and other times were filled with anxiety and exhaustion.

Because of my love/hate relationship with India, half of this post is going to sound positive and the other half will sound negative.  But it’s all honesty coming from my heart.

–> Here are my Top 10 Best and Worst Highlights from traveling around the subcontinent.

I do realize that India has received a bad reputation in recent years from tourists who have visited and had bad things happen to them. Especially, from the American point of view – India is seen as a very dangerous place to visit.

But I would like to say upfront to not make any judgments of the country until you visit for yourself and see life unfold with your own eyes. The same goes with any country, not just India.

You may have noticed that I’ve been referring to India as a “subcontinent” as opposed to a country. Here’s why:

Firstly, there are 1.26 billion people. That is the same as 1,260 MILLION people, living in a country that is 1/3 the size of the USA.  Think about that for a long second.

Or put in other words, there are more people living in India than ALL of Europe, The USA, Canada, Australia and Mexico COMBINED.

Here is how small India is compared to the USA:

India has 29 states, each with their own traditions and diverse histories. The constitution of India recognizes 18 official languages, but there are actually more than 1,600 local dialects. In fact, the language barrier in India has become a huge issue amongst Indians themselves, because there is no uniform language (or national language) that everyone in the country can speak. Even though the most common language is Hindi, it’s more used in Northern India vs. Southern India.

Luckily, English is widespread all over the country (because India was a British colony for hundreds of years until 1947), so you don’t need to worry about a language barrier. Almost everyone at least can hold a basic conversation in English. And for the educated Indians, English is virtually their mother tongue because all of their schooling is in English. Even for large amount of Indians who speak several languages, English is usually their second most fluent.

Therefore, it’s common for two random Indians to communicate in English when meeting for the first time, especially if it’s a Northern India and a Southern Indian.

Another reason for why India is more like a “subcontinent” is the geography of the land.

The landscape of India drastically changes everywhere you go. The north is home to the largest and highest mountain range in the world- the Himalayas. The south is tropical and very hot. And in the middle, you have plains, fields, valleys, beaches and everything in between.

The land of India, in my opinion, is just as diverse as America.

There’s not much you can do to prepare yourself for what you are about to experience in India, so just have the mentality to ‘go with the flow.’  Prepare all of your senses and expect the unexpected.

Alright let’s dive into some facts:

Quick Facts

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.40.39 AM

– Population: 1.26 billion people
– Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
– Language: There isn’t a “National Language,” but Hindi and English are most common
– The name “India” is derived from the River Indus– the valleys which were the home of the early settlers.
– Civilization in India began over 4,500 years ago
– Chess was invented in India, as was Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus
– India is the largest democracy in the world, the 7th largest country and one of the most ancient civilizations
– India is the world’s largest English speaking country
– Indian Railways is the largest employer in the world
– 4 religions were born in India: Hindiusm, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. These 4 religions are followed by 25% of the world’s population.
– Islam makes up 15% of the Indian population, which makes it the second largest Muslim country in the world (behind Indonesia).
– There are 300,000 active mosques in India.
– Yoga originated in India some 5,000 years ago
– India has the largest number of vegetarians in the world (30-40% of the population)
– India has the 2nd largest pool of scientists and engineers in the world
– India has the most post offices in the world
– Varanasi was called the “Ancient City” when Lord Buddha visited in 500 B.C., and it’s the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world today.
– Martial arts was created in India

The Culture

For me, the most amazing part about traveling India was being 100% immersed in the culture – more so than any other country that I have visited.

Maybe it’s because there are so many people in India that it’s impossible to go anywhere without being surrounded by Indians – even in the most touristy areas.

Here is a photo of me learning how to play cricket with these amazing kids in Jaipur.

IMG_9763

My eyes were wide open everywhere I went and my jaw was on the ground. My brain was trying to process everything that I was seeing.  Everything was shockingly new.

The easiest way to explain Indian culture is in these 2 words: Anything goes.

It’s almost as if there are no laws…  People just do what they want and nobody says anything.  For example, I witnessed kids under 10 years old openly smoking cigarettes with their friends. I saw several adults taking a shower naked under a faucet in a public train station. I saw entire families of 5 fitting onto one motorbike on the freeway. Anyone is free to do whatever he/she wishes – at least it seemed that way to me.

And driving/crossing the street is a nightmare…

The streets are filled with crazy, impatient drivers and it’s an absolute disaster to cross the road. This is where my anxiety levels were out the roof.

rsz_img_8587 (1)

Most streets don’t have lanes, and they are filled with all types of vehicles ranging from rickshaws, trucks, buses, taxis, bicycles, and motorbikes, mixed together with pedestrians and beggars.  Rush hour seems to be every minute that the sun is shining, and it’s is unbearable in big cities.  Cars literally never stop honking. They honk for no reason.

Crossing the street in India is like playing the final level of Frogger. You either make it across, or die trying.

Poverty is everywhere.

Over 40% of the entire population lives on less than $1USD per day. With this much poverty directly translates to beggars on the streets. You can’t avoid them because they are everywhere.  Poor people will even grab you as they beg for money.  You must get used to this.

The streets are very dirty. In some places, human feces are seen in alleys and in rivers (mostly in the slums). The smells of trash and urine are volatile.  The living conditions for many are unsanitary, and much of the water is contaminated (drink only bottled water!) In the summer months, the heat and humidity is unbearable and A/C isn’t common in taxis or hotel rooms (unless you pay extra for it).

Stray dogs, cats and cows almost outnumber the people on the streets.  In fact, cows are considered holy in India (so nobody kills them) and there are over 600 million cows wandering the land. That is one cow for every 2 people in India, or more surprisingly, 2 Indian cows for every 1 American person. Wow.

rsz_img_8892

Another thing to note about Indian culture is corruption. It is seen everywhere. The black market in India is the biggest that I’ve seen around the world.  If you have money, then you can get away with almost anything.

Moreover, if the police stop you for any reason, you can literally bribe them by paying them off. It happened to me when I got stopped on a motorbike and asked for my registration papers. When I didn’t have them, the officer threatened to take away my bike, but I just put 200 Rupees ($3USD) in his hand and I got away with it. Easy as that.

But despite all of this chaos mentioned above, everything in India works. Somehow, life just flows naturally.

It took me some time to realize this, but Indian culture is actually very peaceful. People generally respect one another. I guess with 1.25 billion people, there is no choice but to respect one another, or else there would be some sort of all-out war.

When it comes to entertainment, India only speaks two languages: Bollywood and Cricket.

Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world. It’s much bigger and older than Hollywood. When I was in Mumbai, I acted as an extra in a Bollywood film and it was awesome! Check out my Bollywood experience here, and how you can do it too.

Here is photo of me acting on set of a Bollywood film.

rsz_img_8821

Cricket, on the other hand, is watched and played everywhere in India. And I mean everywhere! I’ve never seen a sport more popular in any other country than cricket is in India.  In any given park, open area or even alley ways, expect to see a bunch of kids playing cricket together.

It’s charming and it made me happy to see so many kids involved and having fun together.

The People

The majority of Indian people that I met are friendly. They are good people and they mean well. I met some really cool locals that showed me around their city, and many of them have already turned into my lifelong friends.

rsz_screen_shot_2015-04-28_at_74856_am

Indian fashion and style is unique and I loved it. Women dress beautifully in colors and men typically wear button downs and jeans.  Many people, both men and women, wear a bindi, or a red dot, on their forehead in between their eyebrows.  It has religious purpose and symbolizes many things such as energy, strength, concentration and love.

But aside from the select group of awesome Indian people that I met, most random Indians that I came across on the streets are very nosey and they were all up in my business.

Now, keep in mind that this is coming from my perspective – a white American kid with red hair.  I know that I stood out like a sore thumb more than anyone else, so perhaps I received the maximum amount of attention possible.  But, if you also have white skin, or other features that stand out, then you will attract a LOT of attention.

Seriously, I thought that I drew a lot of attention in Korea, or in Cambodia, but that was nothing compared to India. I had never drawn more attention in my life.

So, prepare yourself to get an overwhelming amount of attention everywhere you go.

What do I mean by “attention?”

People will stop you on the street and try to talk to you, touch you, or ask to take a photo with you. I lost count of how many random people I took a photo with upon their request. People would actually pull my arm to get my attention when I walked past them. I was invited to people’s houses for dinner on several occasions. I was offered homes to sleep in. In the cities, people followed me while tying to sell me hash and weed by whispering in my ear. One time, I was texting on a bench in an empty park and some guy came and sat right next to me, put his head over my shoulder and watched my every move.

The attention that I got was very much in-your-face and it took me a while to get used to it. I learned to walk fast with my head down, put on my sunglasses and ignore all of them. All the attention that I was getting gave me some extra anxiety when I was out in public.

Alright, I’m sure you get the point about the attention…

The next thing that I’m going to tell you is perhaps the biggest piece of advice in this entire blog post:

HAGGLE FOR EVERYTHING!

Haggle = Negotiate & Bargain for a cheaper price. Do it with every purchase.

The biggest realization that I had about Indian people is how smart and manipulative they are. I was honestly shocked. They are also REALLY GOOD salesmen. When it comes to selling, Indian people can run circles around Chinese People, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and all other Asian countries that I’ve been to. I think this is because the Indian people were some of the first traders and merchants in the world, so it has been in their blood for centuries.

Even though travel in India is very cheap (it’s one of the cheapest countries I’ve been to), that still doesn’t mean that you should get ripped off!

Street merchants and tuk tuk drivers will try to trick you for every last rupee in your wallet. I am telling you, very importantly, to negotiate for everything including your hotel rooms, rickshaw rides and souvenirs. I even bargained my haircuts for a cheaper price.  You can even negotiate the police if they ask you for money for something. It’s normal.

Also, beware that you will be blatantly lied to by Indians so they can get your money. They will tell you false things just so they can convince you to buy something. Be careful and don’t believe everything that you hear. Sometimes, it’s hard not to believe people because they are so convincing and they sell you in such a friendly way. Consider yourself warned.

I was also surprised to see how everyone gets along with each other, despite the streets being overpopulated. In fact, India is widely considered the most peaceful country in the world. All throughout history, India has NEVER invaded another country. For having 1.25 billion people, everyone has immense respect for one another, and I was impressed.

Can you imagine if 1.2 billion Americans people living in one country? Or 1.2 billion French people? I think that they would all rip each other’s heads off!

Aside from Indian people, the travelers and backpackers that I met around India were pretty cool.  Most of them were hippies and an overwhelming amount of them were European – French, German, Dutch, British or Israeli or Russian. Everyone was very laid back, friendly, and are traveling India to temporarily (or permanently) escape the reality of life.

I didn’t really meet any Americans, which isn’t surprising because Americans don’t travel often when compared to many other countries.

Oh, and everyone in India gets high.  You can find weed and hash everywhere, and it’s very cheap.

The Food

Indian food is sooooooo yummy!

Despite getting food poisoning on the 3rd day (it happens to almost everyone), I began to fall in love with the unlimited curry dishes, mouthwatering spices, fresh cooked chapati and hot Indian chai.

Indian cuisine offers a wide variety of spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits.  Food dishes and styles change as you move around India, as each region is heavily influenced by religion and cultural preferences.  In other words, what you will find in the South is almost completely different than in the North.

But there is one thing that’s found everywhere, and that is curry!

I thought that I’d get sick of eating curry for 8 weeks in India. I was proven wrong. There are SO many different varieties, flavors, spices and tastes that you will never get sick of it.

I will highly advise you to go vegetarian when you are traveling India. Trust me. It’s for your health and for your protection against food poisoning.

Due to the frequent power outages, the meat is often expired and just bad quality. I got horrible food poisoning from eating chicken curry. The chicken was not fresh, and I was on my hand and knees throwing up all night on my bathroom floor.   Don’t let this happen to you.

Also, it’s very hard to find beef in India because they worship cows and seafood isn’t common unless you’re on the coast. I know going veggie will be hard for many of you, just like I was for me because I am a meat lover.   But you just have to do it.  I had been eating meat 2-3 times a day while living in Korea prior to my India trip.

But in fact, India has the largest number of vegetarians in the world (around 30-40%), due to religious reasons or personal choices or both. Not surprisingly, India is the largest vegetarian-friendly country in the world, and you will find a veggie menu in every restaurant around the country.

My favorite Indian dishes were:

Cheese Masala Dosa – a crunchy fermented crepe made from rice batter and filled with cheese and spices and dipping sauces.  The best South Indian dish!

Aloo Gobi – Potatoes and cauliflower mixed with Indian spices

Pav Bhaji – Spicy red mixed vegetables with butter, cheese, dry fruits and served with warm garlic bread.

Palak Paneer – Spinach mixed with cottage cheese

Vada – A South Indian snack made of  flour batter fried into a doughnut shape.

Garlic Chapati – Indian hot flat bread

Lassi – a popular yogurt-based drink, that comes flavored with fruits like mango or banana

Masala Chai – a sweet flavored tea made from black tea and spices and herbs.  It’s always served boiling hot.

The Nightlife

When most people think about India, they certainly don’t think about a crazy nightlife scene. The only exception may be in the hippie city of Goa, but even still, India widely unheard of in the world of partygoers.

I definitely had no idea of India’s nightlife prior to my trip, but OMG did I have a fun time!

During my trip, I made it a point to hit up all the cities with the best nightlife, so in a way, my trip was kind of like a “Party Tour of India.”

The 2 best Indian cities to party in are Goa and Mumbai.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in other big cities.

In recent years, India has become popular for it’s bars, night clubs and music festivals. So whether your idea of partying is relaxing on a rooftop while sipping beer, or raging all night long at a night club, or dancing to EDM at a music festival, India has something special to offer all of you party animals.

Speaking of EDM, the scene is rapidly hitting India. I am an EDM fanatic and raver, so for me, this was amazing. I never knew that I could dance to EDM in India, and moreover, I never expected Indian people to follow all my favorite DJs!

Despite most of the general population staying away from alcohol and late night hangouts, there is still a party happening no matter which city you are in.  I noticed that the younger generation is more liberal with an attitude to have some fun.

The most common local beer is Kingfisher. It’s really cheap (less than $1 USD per bottle) and it’s not bad!

Different states in India have different laws, curfews and legal drinking ages. For example, in Delhi, the drinking age is technically 25 (although not strictly enforced), but in Goa, it’s 18.   Most other states in India is 21, but once again, places will just want your business, so they usually won’t ask for your ID (unless you’re in a swanky night club).  Unfortunately, most parties finish at 1:30 with the exception of Goa where parties on the beach go all night long.

I wrote a post about theTop 7 Party Cities in India, so check that out to read more about each hotspot!

Planning Your Trip

The best way to travel India is to have no plan whatsoever.

Just have a general idea of where you want to start and finish, and then go wherever the wind takes you.  This is what I did, as well as most travelers that I met.  It’s the best way to travel India.

However, this requires you to have some time to move around freely. So, I recommend traveling in India for at least 1 month.  This way, you won’t feel rushed and if you really like a place, then you can stay longer (and vice versa).

The next question is deciding whether to travel the North or the South.   They are much different, almost like different countries.  The North is generally more touristy, because there is more to offer.  But the South is more tropical and has the best beaches and some of the biggest cities.

If you like beaches, then you should visit Kerala in the South.  If you like hiking, then go up north near the Himalayas in Kashmir or Hamachal Pradesh.  If you want to taste the best Indian food, then visit Punjab.

But the best overall state to visit, in my opinion, is Rajasthan.  It is India’s largest state located in the North Western part of the country. It has a very rich history, diverse culture, and many historic landmarks to visit.  You can also visit the Thar Desert (India’s largest desert) and go on an overnight camel safari like I did!

Check out this epic selfie that I took on my camel.

But if you only have a few days to travel India, then I recommend doing the “Golden Triangle.” That is Delhi -> Agra -> Jaipur.

You will get a taste of India’s biggest and craziest city (Delhi), then see the Taj Mahal in Agra, and finally get to experience the capital city of Rajasthan in Jaipur.  You can do this Golden Triangle in a week or less if you rush it, and it’s very common among travelers.

Resources

Here are some other helpful blogs about travel in India! 

Hippie in Heels – Rachel is living in Goa and blogs about Indian life and gives awesome tips for girl travel in India.  One of my favorite travel blogs!

Breathe The Dream Go – Mariellen is a veteran when it comes to travel in India, and her blog was one of the first that I’d ever read.  Her travel advice around India is not to be missed!

Travel Tips

– Go to India during the peak season from October – February… March-July is the HOT season, and July – September is monsoon season.  If you travel during the hot or monsoon seasons, then you trip may be miserable.

– Go Vegetarian to protect your stomach and health

– Don’t come to India if you plan on getting any work done (I’m talking to you bloggers and digital nomads). The wifi in most places is horribly slow, and there are frequent long-lasting power outages that happen everyday.  Don’t get frustrated if it takes 45 minutes to send one email.

– Frequent power outages occur mostly in the countryside areas and they can last up to 12 hours a day. Sometimes, I was in the middle of taking a shower and everything went pitch black. Or I was eating at a restaurant and the lights went out, so they lit a candle on my table so I could see.

– Watch out for Cow shit everywhere on the streets

– Only drink Bottled Water

– Bring Napkins and toilet paper with you everywhere (bathroom don’t have it)

– DON’T TAKE BUSES!  Only take trains, and preferably in daylight. I got in a deadly bus crash and I almost died.  Just avoid them, period.

– Learn the basic words of “Please, Thank You, Yes, No, etc”

– Bring copies of your passport/visa/passport pics.  Many hotels and travel tours will ask for them.

Lastly, I will leave you with these final words:

The truth is, India is going to be exactly what you make of it.  It’s not a country to see, but rather it’s a place to experience with all your senses.  Whether you like it or hate it, it’s a different experience for everyone, and I can guarantee that it will be life changing. You won’t ever forget it.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my post about India!  Please comment below with your thoughts and questions 🙂

Stay updated on my travels & follow me on Snapchat (@drewbinsky)! 

read more
DrewINDIA: The Ultimate Travel Guide

50 Reasons Why Life is Better in the Philippines

by Drew on April 11, 2015 149 comments

I strongly believe that The Philippines is the most underrated country in South East Asia.

It’s true, that when most people think of taking trips to South East Asia, they usually jump at Thailand, or Vietnam, or Bali, before considering the Philippines.   This is probably because The Philippines hasn’t become commercialized or mainstream.  It’s often overlooked.

Well, I’m here to tell you that this country is absolutely incredible.  The smiling faces, postcard-perfect beaches and relaxing lifestyle is hard to beat anywhere in the world.

I have taken three trips to the Philippines over the last few years, and spent a total of 6 weeks in the country.  I’ve explored nine islands, as well as spent time in both major cities of Manila and Cebu.  I’m absolutely in love with everything about this tropical paradise land called the Philippines.

The country’s slogan is, “It’s more fun in the Philippines” (there is even a website dedicated to it).

In the same vibe, I decided to share with you 50 Reasons Why Life is Better in the Philippines.”

ENJOY!

1. The country is made up of 7,107 islands
2. It’s tropical with crystal clear ocean water
3. The people are the friendliest I’ve ever met
4. It’s extremely affordable
5. You can drink fresh coconut juice


6. You can enjoy some of the best scuba diving in the world
7. You can spend time on Palawan – the #1 ranked best island in the world
8. You can visit pure white sand beaches in Boracay – Check out the best beaches on Boracay Compass

9. You can hike volcanoes in Davao
10. You can ride in a Jeepney (awesome decorated taxis)

11. You can enjoy my favorite local beer called Red Horse (it’s 8%!)
12. You can drink fresh fruit juice water
13. You can visit the chocolate hills of Bohol
14. You can party hard in Manila
15. You can scuba dive through sunken Japanese ship wrecks from WWII


16. You can eat amazing seafood curries
17. You will be always be treated with upmost respect
18. You can get a one-hour body massage for $5USD
19. You don’t have to worry about a language barrier, because everyone speaks fluent English
20. The water temperature is warm and perfect


21. You can find private exclusive beaches almost everywhere
22. You can rent a motorbike and explore for less than $5USD per day
23. You can learn about the history from the Spanish Colonization
24.  You can enjoy the annual Sinualog festival in Cebu
25. You can capture breathtaking sunset photos, like this one I took on Malcapuya Island


26. You can eat “Lechon” – or suckling roasted pig (the national dish)
27. You can visit the Puerto Princesa Underground river in Palawan (a New 7 Wonder of the World)
28. You will always be greeted with a “Hello Sir” or “Hello Maam
29. You can see Magellan’s cross that he planted in Cebu in 1521
30. You can go island hopping in a bamboo boat (which are used everywhere)


31. You can drink rum that’s cheaper than juice
32. You can try eating with you hands (like the locals do)
33. You can visit UNESCO Heritage Sites like the Rice Terraces of Cordilleras
34. You can find cheap hostels for less than $5USD per night
35. You can visit the Big Lagoon in El Nido

Photo Credit © Sabrina Iovino | JustOneWayTicket.com

36. You can enjoy golden mangos on Cebu island
37. You can go cliff jumping anywhere and everywhere
38. You will always be greeted with a smile 😀
39. You can try exotic foods like balut – boiled fertilized duck egg
40. You can visit incredible waterfalls like this one called Tumalog Falls in Cebu


41. You can see the Mayon Volacno in Luzon
42. You can take a dip in Barracuda lake in Coron
43. You can find cheap flights to Manila from Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo
44. You can shop at the SM Mall in Pasa – the 4th biggest mall in the world
45. You can swim with whale sharks in Cebu


46. You can enjoy the amazing year round weather, which averages 22.6 degrees Celsius (75 F)
47. You can go zip lining through the jungle
48. You can eat some Lumpia (fried egg rolls)
49. You can discover Filipino music, which may catch you by surprise
50. You can stay there forever because it’s just that incredible!

I hope you get the chance to visit this amazing country.  I promise you that it will go above and beyond your expectations!

For more inspiration on the Philippines, check out:
20 Photos of the Philippines that will make you pack your bags and go – A great post by Sabrina from “Just One Way Ticket”
– The Next Escape – an awesome travel blog with lots of useful advice about the Philippines

And lastly, check out my other blog posts on the Philippines!

6 Filipino Foods to Try
A Travel Guide to Cebu

10 Things to do in Cebu
Top 10 Cebuano Word
All About Siquijor Island
A Travel Guide to Oslob, Cebu Island
Complete Guide to Coron

read more
Drew50 Reasons Why Life is Better in the Philippines

5 Reasons Why I LOVE Being a Ginger in Asia

by Drew on March 26, 2015 26 comments

I’m going to start this post by showing you a video that I made in Seoul, Korea.  I went on the streets and asked 10 random Koreans funny questions  about my red hair, and their reactions are hilarious:

This post is long overdue. I have never mentioned about what it’s like to be a ginger on my blog, let alone while living in Asia over the past 20 months.

Let me begin this post by saying that I’m damn proud to have red hair. After all, I make up less than 1% of the world’s population, and I carry a special gene that will become extinct in a few hundred years. If that’s not something to be proud about, then tell me what is!

My parents admittedly told me that they were completely shocked when I was born with red hair. Not a single person in my family has red hair. My dad has black hair, my mom has brown hair, and both of my sisters have dark brown hair. Furthermore, no one in my distant family has red hair – including all uncles, great aunts, 2nd Cousins, Grandparents, and even 4th cousins that I know of.

“But maybe you’re adopted?”

Not a chance. Enough with the mailman jokes.

Here is proof that I’m not adopted: A photo of my dad in college in 1983, and me last year.

rsz_untitled_design_17

 

So where does my red hair come from?

To this day, I still have no idea. The internet tells me that most red heads are derived from North West European countries (Ireland, Scotland), but to my knowledge, my great Grandparents fled to America from Russia and Austria… WTF??

It’s safe to admit that I’ve had attention my entire life. Even growing up in America- where redheads are commonly seen – I still always get noticed.  If I had a dollar for every time some lady came up to me and said, “I pay lots of money to have a hair color like yours,” or “Your hair is beautiful,” then I’d be a millionaire.

But here in Asia… I draw upon a new level of attention.

That’s because having red hair isn’t natural to any Asian culture.  It’s extremely uncommon.

I’ve been living in Korea for the last 18 months, and I have traveled to 17 Other Asian Countries since I’ve been here.  I am serious when I say that I receive a lot of attention.  I’ve learned to embrace it, and i actually find it pretty funny!

Here are 5 Reasons Why I Love Being a Ginger in Asia:

1. I Get Random Photos Taken of me

Yep, all the stereotypes are true!

I have been stopped on the streets several times and asked to have a picture taken of me. One time in Korea, these random teenagers crowded around me and made me hold up a sign in Korean and took a photo shoot of me.  Another time I was on a bus in Japan and these college kids told me they were doing a school project, and needed a photograph of my hair. Then, they all proceeded to take selfies with me.

I wish I had those photos to show you, but here’s another one of my Korean friends obsessing over my hair in a bar in Seoul.

ginger 3

2. I Am Always Remembered

Due to the obvious fact that people don’t regularly meet gingers, I stand out from the field.

I will admit that I’m horrible at remembering names. And it especially sucks when people always remember my name.

I happens all the time when “random” people come up to me and say, “Hey Drew, How have you been?”… and I’m just like “… Hey (scratching my head and thinking of their name)”.. I’m good, how are you?

Well, there’s always a chance that I was also drunk when we met, but whatever.

3. I Am Easy to Spot

Whenever I meet my friends in Asia, they always can spot me before I spot them. This is great for me because it makes life easier!

Especially here in Korea, it happens all the time when I meet my Korean friends.  Sometimes, they’ll choose a really popular meeting spot, like at Hongdae Station, Exit 9 (the busiest area for nightlife in Seoul). When I show up, there are hundreds of Koreans in every direction, so I just look for a waving hand and there is my friend!

Also, at Music Festivals, having red hair is golden.  If I lose my friends, they always find me one way or another.

The same goes for Korean clubs, people can easily spot me me in the sea of black haired people. Just look at this photo that I recently took in a club in Seoul, and you’ll see what I mean.

4. I Get Extra Vitamin D

Did you know that red heads are the only breed who can easily generate their own Vitamin D when exposed to low light conditions? We have a special gene that enables us to do this.

The sun feels so much hotter to me in SouthEast Asia than anywhere else in the world I’ve been.  Some of my worst sunburns came from beaches in the Philippines and Thailand..

So now I can put on thick layers of SPF 50 sunscreen to protect myself, but still create my own Vitamin D!

Take that, blondes and brunettes and people with black hair! (is there a specific name for them?)

5. I Can Pretend to be Mark Zuckerburg

Save the best for last!!!

People in Asia always think I’m Mark Zuckerburg. But it’s never a bad thing to get mistaken for the creator of Facebook and my personal idol.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.43.31 PM

I’ve been mistaken for Zuck at least 20 times since I moved to Asia. Off the top of my head, I can remember specific instances in Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Macau, Malaysia, and Taiwan.  Even just a few weeks ago when I was filiming a video in Seoul, this Korean guy stopped me to take a selfie with me because he thought I was Mark Zuckerburg, and then 20 more people waited in line to take a photo with me!

Just yesterday, I was at the Hark Rock Cafe in Mumbai, and this guy and a group of his friends stopped me and asked if I was Mark Zuckerburg.  It was hilarious!

But the BEST story was in Macau, when my friends and I were eating at a local restaurant. The waiter ran up to my table and lost his mind when he found out that I was the real “Mark Zuckerburg” (I played along with it). He called all of his friends over to my table, and I signed autographs for them. You can read the full story here, or just watch this hilarious real footage below.

So there you have it, 5 reasons why I love being a Ginger in Asia.

Are there any other ginger travelers out there who can relate?!

read more
Drew5 Reasons Why I LOVE Being a Ginger in Asia

A 2015 Travel Guide to Myanmar (Burma)

by Drew on January 28, 2015 368 comments

There are many blog posts floating around the web about travel in Myanmar, and nearly all of them are outdated.   The information is outdated because things are rapidly evolving in Myanmar, as the country has widely opened its borders to tourism with lenient visa restrictions.

I spent almost 3 weeks exploring Myanmar in January, 2015 and I had an incredible experience. In this Travel Guide to Myanmar, you’ll find the most up-to-date travel information as of March 2016. I’ll provide you with everything you need to know such as exclusive travel tips, what to expect from Burmese culture, things to do, what to eat, wher to sleep, where to party and more. I will also give you mini-guides to the 3 major cities of Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake.  

I encourage you to comment on this post if you have more advice to share about Myanmar, or if you’re looking to meet up with fellow travelers!!  Also, if you need help planning your trip, then I am happy to do so.  Please see the end of this blog post for more info 🙂

General Thoughts & Reactions

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is unquestionably my favorite country in South East Asia (and quite possibly in the world). I spent 2-and-a-half-weeks exploring around the country in early 2015.  My trip to Burma has made the biggest influence on my life out of any previous trips I’ve taken around the world to 75 countries.

I’m just so excited to share my Myanmar experiences with you that my fingers are typing at robot speeds right now. Seriously!

From the moment I got off the plane in Yangon (the largest city), I was in utter shock.  It was my first time back in South East Asia in nearly 6 months, but what I was experiencing was noticeably different than the rest.  Culture shock was real.

After traveling to some 25 countries in Asia, I found Myanmar to be the most authentic, untouched and special of them all.  But don’t get too excited, because that is going to change VERY soon.

The reason why Burma is exploding in popularity is because tourists may now enter freely after acquiring a visa online and picking it up on arrival. In 2012, only 1 million tourists visited in Myanmar, but a projected 5.1 million are expected to visit in 2016. That’s a 400% increase!

So, my advice to you is to go NOW before the country turns into the next Thailand, where foreigners will begin to settle and the country will become too commercialized.  When I was in Myanmar, I didn’t recognize a single name brand other than Coca Cola.  I mean, even McDonald’s hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon yet (but I heard it’s already in the works…)

Before my trip, I read many blogs and news sources online which repeatedly said ATM machines aren’t available in Myanmar. Well, that is completely false now.  I saw hundreds of ATM machines throughout the major cities. It is true that nobody accepts credit cards, so you must have cash readily available at all times (I recommending bringing lots of $US Cash). I never had issues pulling out money from an ATM, and all machines thankfully gave me small bills (5,000 Kyat notes or $5USD).

Wifi does exist in most hotels, but it’s terribly slow. Do you remember dial-up internet from the 1990s? Yeah, the wifi in Myanmar is about the same as that…  I repeat, the wifi in Myanmar is the same speed as dial-up internet from the 1990s. However, the nicer your hotel is, the better chance that they’ve paid more for a better wifi signal.

For bloggers and digital nomads who depend on wifi like myself, it was kind of a nightmare to get anything done because it was nearly impossible to upload photos and blog posts. In places like Bagan and Inle lake, most hotels will “claim” that they have wifi, but it simply won’t work. I once waited 50 minutes for one email to send.  For one email!

And if the weather is rainy or overcast, then all of the wifi signals will completely shut down in the city (it happened to me in Bagan). It was frustrating, but having no wifi did make me appreciate the beauty of the country without worrying about updating my Instagram.  That being said, the wifi availability will likely become better in the near future.

Myanmar is a very cheap country to travel in, aside from hotel prices which are unusually high. Taxi rides are no more than $2-3 to get across town (they don’t use meters — so you must negotiate prices beforehand). Water bottles are $0.20 cents. A one-hour Burmese massage was $3.50. I bought a legit pair of sandals for $1.15.  Food is dirt cheap as well. If you avoid the touristy restaurants, then you can eat some delicious Shan noodles for $0.80 cents (photo below).

rsz_img_6957

A Word about Hotels:

Hotel rooms are openly available everywhere, and yes, they are a bit expensive because of the lack of rooms to accommodate the influx of tourists.  It’s not totally necessary to book all hotels in advance, but I would highly recommend it to avoid frustration when you arrive.  And trust me, the hotels fill up fast (especially during peak season from Nov – Mar).

I recommend booking your stay on Agoda.com — they always have the best rates and a lot of options for big cities in Myanmar.

To find the best deals on hotels in Yangon, click here. 

For hotels in Bagan, click here. 

For hotels in Mandalay, click here. 

For hotels in Inle Lake, click here. 

For hotels in Ngapali Beach, click here.

Public Transportation is immaculate and generally reliable. There are buses EVERYWHERE that connect all the major cities.  But don’t try to book a bus on your own or attempt to find the bus station.  Your guesthouse will gladly book your ticket in advance, and arrange a pick up service from your hotel. There are “VIP” buses, which are a bit more expensive (around $15-20 for a 12 hour ride), but they’re absolutely worth it.  The VIP buses have comfortable reclining chairs, TVs, blankets, air conditioning, and dinner is provided!

I didn’t take any local trains because I heard horror stories about them… Like my buddy, Rodrigo, who told me that his train compartment was separated off the tracks, and he landed in the middle of the forest by himself with nobody around.  That is not a made-up story. If you are an adventurous traveler, then go for it, but for others who want a better chance of staying alive, go for the bus.

The weather is always hot in Myanmar – especially in Yangon. The “peak season” to visit with the best weather is from November to February. If you visit in other months, then it will likely be scorching hot (110F/45C in Yangon) or you’ll hit rainy season which goes from May to October.  Regardless of when you visit Myanmar, make sure to bring mosquito repellent, because you will probably get bitten. One morning, I counted 45 mosquito bites on my body.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 6.11.53 PMThe Burmese language is really cool looking, but my ears couldn’t make sense of anything when I listened to it being spoken.   It looks like a bunch of “C’s” and “O’s” and squiggly lines put together. I suggest learning the basic words like “Ming-la-ba” which means “Hello,” and “Je-su-ba” which means “Thank you.”

Need extra help planning your trip?

Green Wood Tourism not only offer great package deals with professional service at reasonable price, but also provides a personal itinerary for a holidays in Myanmar to suit your needs.

Green Wood Tourism can provide a full range of service such as flight booking, transfers,
car rental, tour guide, package tours, etc.., Contact them on their website if interested.

Alright, now it’s time for some quick facts about Myanmar!

Quick Facts

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 6.13.15 PMCurrency: Myanmar Kyat ($1USD = 1,000 kyats)
Language: Burmese (official)
Population: 51.5 million (in 2014)
Capital City: Naypyidaw (although it was Yangon before 2006)
Area:  676,578 sq km (slightly smaller than Texas)
– 68% of the population are ethnic Burmese
– Burma is known as “The Golden Land,” due to the amazing golden pagodas everywhere
– Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948
– 90% of local people are Buddhist
– Myanmar is one of 3 countries who don’t use the metric system (along with U.S.A and Liberia)
– Rice and Green Tea are typically served with every meal
– Myanmar has over 135 ethnic tribes, each speaking their own unique dialect
– Wine-making is a popular industry with the Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Late Wine and Inle Valley White Wineries being the most famous
– Betel Nut mixed with Tobacco is very common, and men will chew it and spit it all day long (eww)

Burmese Food

rsz_img_7018

Burmese food is plentiful, flavorful and delicious!

I ate myself overly full the entire time I was there. All local dishes are very, very cheap. I was spending anywhere from .80 cents to $3 USD for decently sized portions.

The cuisine is a mixture between Thai, Chinese and Indian food, which makes sense because Myanmar is physically sandwiched in between these three countries..

Common dishes include curries, steamed vegetables, seasoned onions and (fried) rice & noodles. Most things are flavored with local spices, garlic, ginger and chili peppers.  If you’re like me and you like extra spicy, then add as many chili peppers as you want!

Traditional Burmese dishes include Mohinga (rice noodles with fish soup and orange sauce, the taste of which varies from sweet to spicy), Onnokauswe (noodles cooked in coconut milk with chicken or pork), and Shan Noodles (rice noodles stir-fried with chicken in bean sauce, topped with chopped roasted peanut, bean sprouts, cabbage, scallions and chili flakes).  My favorite dish was Shan Noodles– and I ate it everyday!

Also, markets and street vendors sell a large variety of tropical fruits and hand picked vegetables.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 10.28.14 PM

The service inside restaurants is very good and quick. They will literally bring the food to you within a few minutes after ordering. My favorite part about a Burmese restaurant is the way in which you get the attention of the getting the waiter/waitress.  You must make a kissing sound with your lips! Ladies, don’t think that creepy guys are hitting on you when you hear this sound. In all of my travels around the world, Yangon is the only place that I’ve seen a kissing sound to grab attention of someone in a restaurant!

Due to Myanmar being a tropical country, the fruit is as fresh as it gets. Everyday, I ate a combination of watermelon, avocados, bananas, papayas, and oranges. I recommend ordering fruit juice from a street vendor for just .20 cents!  My favorite fruits were papaya and watermelon.

rsz_img_7386

For a complete guide of Myanmar Foods, check out my friend Juan’s ebook called Delicious Myanmar!  His book is very detailed about Myanmar cuisine & culture, and I personally recommend it.

The People

Just like elsewhere in South East Asia, the locals are extremely heart warming, welcoming and friendly. But I found Burmese people to be the kindest of them all.

Everyone will greet you with a giant smile. I made local friends who showed me around the entire time I was there. Every Burmese person that I met literally went out of their way to make sure that I was having a good time.

rsz_1screen_shot_2015-01-28_at_55917_pm

The majority of men wear a longyi, which is a Burmese sarong. They look like long, colorful skirts that go from their waist to their ankles. It is derived from the Buddhist religion, which has strong roots in Myanmar. You will also see a large amount of monks walking on the streets and around the Pagodas. They are very humble and friendly. If you say hello to them, they’ll kindly wave and smile back at you.

Most men (especially taxi drivers) are constantly chewing this mixture of red tobacco and betel nut in their mouth, which stains their teeth a bloody color of red.  Don’t get freaked out when you see it.  But I can warn you to avoid the red splatter marks on the ground, because that is spit from their mouths. It’s literally everywhere and it’s disgusting.

DCIM100GOPRO

Burmese women wear a special face paint- called thanaka– which is yellowish-white in color. It is a distinct feature of the Burmese people and the tradition has been kept for over 2,000 years. Women use it for make-up, blocking the sun, and it’s apparently healthy for their skin.

All people, both men and women of all ages, dress very casual and they always wear flip flops. Apparently it’s also a tradition in Myanmar to wear flip flops, because you are required to take off your shoes when entering households, pagodas and some restaurants.

Omg I almost forgot to mention how ADORABLE the kids are! I just couldn’t get enough of them.  Like this precious little girl below.

rsz_img_6944

YANGON

Yangon is the former capital and largest city in Myanmar, with a population of about 6 million people. The city is located in the southern part of the country, with Thailand to the East and the Bay of Bengal to the West. If you are arriving in Myanmar by plane, then you’ll most likely be arriving at Yangon International Airport.

My first impressions of Yangon were chaotic, dirty, and impoverished.  I was overwhelmed, to say the least. The infrastructure was very poor. Sidewalks had giant holes in them. There were stray dogs and cats are running around on the streets. The streets were overloaded with traffic jams and honking horns from impatient drivers. Every other car on the road seemed to be a taxi driver, who provided cheap rides around the city for $1-3 USD.  It kind of reminded me of a mini-version of Bangkok. There was always a lot happening at once, but everything just seemed to work just fine.

However, I quickly adjusted to the culture and I began to fall in love with this place.

rsz_img_6938

In nearly every direction you look, there will be a sparking golden pagoda, with the most famous one being the Shwedagon Pagoda. If you search for Myanmar on Google Images, then this is the shiny gold pagoda that you’ll see. And holy crap, it’s amazing!

In fact, I think the Shwedagon Pagoda is the most underrated building in the world. All other epic buildings around the world get recognized (Colosseum, Parthenon, Great Wall, Taj Mahal, Opera House, Hagia Sophia, Eiffel Tower, etc.), but the Shwedagon doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserves.

I was awe-struck by how much gold and detail the pagoda had.  Walking around the pagoda felt like I was on a different planet- or it felt like Las Vegas on steroids in the year 2050.  Keep an eye out for this temple to become the “next place to visit” in coming years, as millions of newcomers will be flocking to Myanmar.

rsz_img_6860

Other things to do in Yangon
– Visit the local markets
– Get an awesome massage for $3.50!
– Spend a long time admiring the Shwedagon pagoda
– Visit the Sule Pagoda
– Walk through Chinatown
– Visit the Bogyoke Aung San Market
– Take the circular train to the outskirts of town
– Have a beer by the lake
– Eat some street food

Yangon Nightlife

Most of the nightlife in Myanmar occurs in Yangon. There are several districts with bars and clubs which are open until the wee hours of the morning. Local booze consists of Mandalay Rum (only $3 for a bottle and it’s damn good) and Myanmar Beer (an award winning Lager that is less than $1 per bottle).

rsz_img_7046

My Burmese friends took me out to a club in Yangon and it was a crazy experience!  Girls dress sexy, drinks are insanely cheap, and they party all night long. Almost all clubs in Yangon play awesome EDM music too! No matter what night of the week it is, there will be people out having fun. I went to the club on a Tuesday and it was a wild time!

Click here to read about my bizarre experience at a club in Yangon.

Where to Stay in Yangon?

The following hotels are my top recommendations in Yangon.  For a more comprehensive list, please check out Agoda.com and book your stay today!

1) For budget travelers – 20th Street Hostel (Book online now)
*rates – $9/night for an 8 bed dorm

2) For mid-price – Taw Win Garden Hotel (Book online now)
*rates – $81/night for a deluxe room with breakfast

3) For luxury – Shangri-la (Book online now)
*rates – $219/night for a deluxe room with breakfast

Bagan

The city of Bagan is one of the coolest and most historic places that I’ve ever been.   It’s located about 290 kilometers south of Mandalay and 700 kilometers north of Yangon, in the central part of the country.   You cannot visit Myanmar without a stop in Bagan!

rsz_img_7155

The biggest draw to Bagan are the 3,000+ world-renowned Buddhist temples that span across the landscape. They were built between the 11th – 13th Centuries and they are absolutely stunning to see. You can take a hot air balloon over Bagan during sunrise, and get a breathtaking view of the landscape.  The Balloons are seasonal, and do not operate in rainy season.

The most reputable hot air balloon company since 1999 is called Balloons Over Bagan.  But to be completely honest with you, I was a bit underwhelmed by the experience, especially for a whopping price of $380 USD.  I wrote an honest review about my experience with Balloons Over Bagan that I encourage you to check out before booking your ticket.  I personally wouldn’t recommend it and I’d tell you to save your money, because $380 can be your entire budget for 6 weeks of travel in Myanmar.

However, what you should definitely do in Bagan is rent an electric motorbike for $5USD per day to go exploring around the temples on your own time. It’s incredibly peaceful and unforgettable to be surrounded by hundreds of temples with no one in sight.  In my opinion, the temples of Bagan are much more tranquil than those of Angkor Wat, because you have the freedom to explore on your own without running into anyone.

DSC_0320

(This photo was taken by my friend Sam.  He sells loads of incredible photos from Myanmar and around the world, so email him if you’re interested at sammycloud37@gmail.com)

Let me warn you that Bagan is very touristy which makes it the most expensive city that I visited in Burma. Hotels are not cheap, and beware if you try to stay at “budget places” (for $15USD per night), then expect them to be of poor quality. In other words, you get what you pay for. I stayed at a place called Mya Thida hotel for $15/night, and the workers were absolutely clueless and unhelpful. Also, all wifi signals all over Bagan are extremely poor, and when the weather is cloudy or rainy, the wifi is completely blocked out around the city.

DCIM100GOPRO

I recommend spending 2-3 days in Bagan.  That should be enough to see everything and get a nice feel for the temples.

Where to Stay in Bagan?

The following hotels are my top recommendations in Bagan.  For a more comprehensive list, please check out Agoda.com and book your stay today!

1) For budget travelers – Royal Bagan Hotel (Book online now)
*rates – $33/night for a superior room with breakfast

2) For mid-price – Blue Bird Hotel (Book online now)
*rates – $125/night for a deluxe twin bed room with breakfast

3) For luxury – Bagan Lodge Hotel (Book online now)
*rates – $211/night for a beautiful villa with breakfast

Inle Lake

Every traveler coming through Myanmar must stop at Inle Lake.

If you have a few extra days to spare, I highly recommend doing the 3-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. You can hire a private tour guide for just $12 per day which includes all meals and accommodation. The trek was the best travel experience of my life!

Read all about my experience on the trek right here.

The 25 kilometer lake is surrounded by about 500 villages.  I advise you to book your hotel in the northern village called Nyaung Shwe.   It’s a really cool area to explore and it has the best selection of cheap hotels.   Almost all backpackers stay in Nyaung Shwe.

DCIM100GOPRO

I highly recommend to take the day boat tour around the lake for just $2 per person (if you have a group of 6 people), and you can see the floating market, hand-weaving silk, long neck ladies, Buddhist temples, stilt house neighborhoods on the water, and one-legged fisherman on the lake. It’s a great half-day to spend on the lake!

Or if you prefer to explore by land, then you can rent a bike for $1 a day and ride freely along the lake path. Make a visit to one of the many hot springs and get tipsy at the famous Red Mountain winery (I got pretty drunk for a few dollars).  During my 2 day trip to Inle Lake, I spent the first day exploring by bike, and the next day on the boat tour.  If you do this, then 2 days is plenty to spend there.

Inle Lake was one of the highlights of my trip to Myanmar. You can’t miss out on this place!

Where to Stay in Inle Lake?

The following hotels are my top recommendations in Inle Lake.  For a more comprehensive list, please check out Agoda.com and book your stay today!

1) For budget travelers – Richland Motel (Book online now)
*rates – $19/night for a standard double room

2) For mid-price – Inle Resort and Spa (Book online now)
*rates – $107/night for a garden cottage with breakfast

3) For luxury – Inle Princess Resort (Book online now)
*rates – $247/night for a beautiful villa with breakfast

Here are some other notable places to visit in Myanmar:
– The Golden Rock
– Mandalay
– Ngapali Beach
– Kyaing Tong
– The Irrawaddy River

Give Back 🙂

I have put in countless hours to make sure that the content in this post is both accurate and up-to-date.  And over the last few months, this post has blown up to be one of the most viewed on my travel blog.

So, as a way to give back, I would appreciate if you can book your hotels on Agoda.com.   This is an affiliate link, meaning that if you book a hotel from this link, then I make a small commission at no additional cost to you. The money will go directly into making this website better.

Also, I am more than happy to help plan your trip! 

I would love to help you get things sorted out for your trip.  I have gained significant knowledge about Myanmar and how to make the most of a short vacation to this magical place.

Due to high demand and the hundreds of daily emails I am receiving, I charge $100 to plan your trip from start to finish.  If interested, please email me and tell me how many days you have to spend and which activities you are interested in doing —  and I will put something fun together.  I will find you the best route to take, recommend places to stay, tell you things to do and more.

Final Checklist for your trip to Myanmar:
– Fill out your visa online and print it out to show at the airport
– Have a basic itinerary planned out of your destinations
– Bring brand new, crisp and unmarked $US bills
– Call your debit card company and tell them that you’re going to Myanmar to avoid any issues pulling out money from ATMs
– Bring copies of your passport and write down your visa number because all hostels will ask you for it
– Check Air Asia for the cheapest flights (especially from Bangkok)

For more information on Myanmar, check out my friend Juan’s blog called Myanmar Travel Essentials. It is the bible for things to do in Myanmar!

Another great website with excellent up-to-date information on destinations and travel is Go-Myanmar.com.

Thanks for reading, and as always, contact me if you have any questions about Myanmar or if you need help planning your trip!

read more
DrewA 2015 Travel Guide to Myanmar (Burma)

100 Reasons Why Traveling is Awesome

by Drew on December 22, 2014 3 comments

I’ve been unintentionally compiling this list for a long time, by taking notes on my iPhone and jotting things down on random slips of paper.  But finally, I have compiled everything into this post so I can share it with with world!

I hope this list gives you the inspiration to discover new places in the world, step out of your comfort zone and create lifelong memories.

So here it is, my mammoth list of 100 Reasons why Traveling is (freaking) Awesome! 

1) You can to eat authentic local dishes

2) You can hang out on different beaches

3) You can meet amazing people from all over the world

4) You can use new currencies

5) Your mind will be open to the unknown

6) You can discover unique areas that 99.99% of the world hasn’t seen

7) You can see awesome wildlife in it’s natural habitat

8) You can get an eye-opening experience of real poverty

9) You can admire nature and the environment

10) You can learn to take advantage of cheap labor like getting a $5 massages in Thailand

11) You can see the Great Wall of China

12) You can learn about other religions

13) You can eat fresh fruit picked off trees in tropical islands

14) You can see incredible landmarks like the Colosseum in Rome

15) You can buy some local hand-crafted goods for really cheap

16) You will become more appreciative with what you have

17) You will learn to be thankful for having access to A/C

18) You can see how other cultures party around the world

19) You can watch local music bands at free public concerts

20) You can experience all types of weather systems

21) You can see other Universities and “college towns”

22) You can get scuba certified for 1/5th the price in SouthEast Asia

23) You can ride on new public transportation systems

24) You can start new travel collections

25) You can experience extreme pollution (especially in Eastern Asia)

26) You can use a bidet to clean yourself after you poop in Europe and Asia

27) You can buy random goods in local grocery stores

28) You can pick up words in a new language

29) You can try to communicate with people who don’t speak English

IMG_9263

30) You can go snorkeling in crystal clear water and see some incredible fish

31) You can learn how to navigate on a city map (and get really good at it)

32) You can try different kind of local beers

33) You can see how other people dress themselves

34) You can feel really rich in some places (and poor in others)

35) You can discover new UNESCO World Heritage Sites

36) You can experience riding in a foreign taxi

37) You can challenge yourself by hitting on girls (or boys) who don’t speak English

38) You can learn what it feels like to stand out like a sore thumb in a foreign crowd

39) You can seeing thousand-year-old temples and churches in Europe

40) You can hike incredible mountains and see breathtaking views

41) You can get free booze on long flights

42) You can get more passport stamps!

43) You can rack up airline miles for free flights

44) You can stay in some awesome hostels

45) You can buy foods at local markets

46) You can take breathtaking photos of new places and the environment

47) You can be one with nature

48) You can feel taller in Asia and shorter in Scandinavia

49) You can people watch in public areas in different cities

50) You can visit the 7 wonders of the world

IMG_0411

51) You can get a ridiculously cheap haircut (I got a $3 haircut in Thailand last month)

52) You can buy a cheap fitted suit in Asia

53) You can see things that are 10X older than the USA

54) You can listen to funny radio stations in taxis

55) You can dance at nightclubs with locals

56) You can seek out new hipster areas around the world

57) You will learn how to use military time

58) You can attend foreign sporting events

59) You can have multiple currencies in your wallet

60) You can eat exotic fruits (like Durian!)

61) You can meet other travelers from all corners of the world

62) You can see mind blowing architecture that sometimes just doesn’t make sense

63) You can learn the recipes for how to cook local dishes

64) You can find your soul mate

65) You can see how locals dance

66) You can get extremely cheap healthcare if you get sick

67) You can explore an entire island on a motorbike for $5/day (in SouthEast Asia)

68) You can find out which airline companies are awesome and which ones are horrible

69) You can make an awesome travel video of your experiences

70) You can save money by never tipping in restaurants, taxis, or any other services

71) You can see how most of the world doesn’t have a TV or access to internet

72) You can learn that many American fast food chains are seen all over the world

73) You can see many new languages on your Facebook page, because you’ve made local friends in random countries

74) You can learn how to adapt to certain customs, like bowing in Eastern Asia

75) You can overcome your fears

76) You can hitchhike somewhere

77) You can test the wifi speeds in other places

78) You can learn that 99% of the people in the world are extremely friendly

79) You can go bungee jumping, skydiving, cliff jumping or zip lining in a exotic places

80) You can recognize the written words in other languages, even if you can’t speak it

81) You can take note of which places you like most, so you can go back and visit

DSC07941

82) You can see famous sites and settings where your favorite movies were filmed

83) You can see the Milky Way and the beautiful stars in the sky from remote places

84) You can go to sleep by hearing the crashing waves of the ocean

85) You will undoubtedly gain more confidence in yourself

86) You can buy new clothes that you can’t buy at home

87) You can learn how to surf

88) You can learn how to overcome jet lag

89) You can learn how to adapt to new time zones, and know when all your friends are awake at home

90) You can experience what it’s like to be completely squished by tons of people on a 4 hour train ride (*Sri Lanka)

91) You can find out that 7-Eleven is everywhere in the world

92) You can start a travel blog or simply document your experiences 😉

93) You will have interesting and hilarious stories to tell your kids

94) You will mature and learn thing about yourself without even noticing

95) You can learn that washing machines and dryers aren’t common around the world

96) You will have less anxiety in social situations

97) You can realize how easy it is to stay connected with your friends and family via Social Networking sites and Skype

98) You can learn the country flags of the world

99) You will soon have very good common sense

100) You can admire and appreciate the beautiful world we live in 

Remember, life is all about creating experiences.  When you’re older, these memories will be the most valuable for you to look back on. So buy that plane ticket and be on your way to explore the world.

Thanks for reading! Please comment and add to this list! 

read more
Drew100 Reasons Why Traveling is Awesome

How EDM is Taking Over the World

by Drew on December 11, 2014 37 comments

EDM = Electronic Dance Music. 

More specifically, EDM is a broad range of electronic music- including house, techno, dubstep, trance, hard-style, trap, deep house, etc – that is produced by a DJ and generally used in nightclubs, festivals and raves. 

To some people, EDM is nothing more than loud, annoying sounds mixed together. A stupid American invention that symbolizes the country’s bandwagon approach to house music.  Commercialized bullshit. 

To others, it’s what they listen to when they wake up every morning, in the gym, with their friends, and at every social gathering.  It means dressing up in neon clothes and dancing for 3 straight days at festivals with upwards of 300,000 people.  Or going to crazy night clubs to see their favorite DJs perform.  

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 4.36.37 PM

Regardless of your opinions on EDM, the purpose this blog post is to inform you that right now, in this very moment in time, EDM is taking the world by storm.  The scene is stronger than it has ever been in the past, and probably stronger than it will ever be in the future. 

How do I know that EDM is “taking the world by storm?”

I know from experience. I’ve been living it.

Since January 2012, I’ve listened to, danced and partied to EDM in over 45 countries and 100 cities around the world.  Essentially, the last few years has been a giant rave across 4 continents.  Everything from music festivals, to insane night clubs, house parties, concerts, underground raves, pool parties, rooftop parties – you name it.   I was there.  

Over the past year living in Seoul, my self-proclaimed #1 party city in the world, I have been raving nearly every weekend at the insane clubs of Gangnam.  I’ve attended shows put on by Tiesto, Kaskade, Steve Angello, Laidback Luke, Markus Schulz, Dash Berlin and dozens more.  I also attended music festivals such as Ultra Korea, Sensation White and Global Gathering. The electronic music scene in Seoul is absolutely insane.  Like out the roof madness.  

Can you spot me in the photo below? 

ggk2

EDM is a global phenomenon. A revolution. 

It exists in nearly every country, every city, every bar, every music festival, every club, every radio station around the world.  The DJs of today are the rock stars of the past. They are flying all over the world to play concerts and music festivals for millions of people. The fans know the words to all the songs, enjoy dancing to the beats and love the happiness that this music brings to them. It is their escape from reality.  It enables them to be free. 

At the recent 2014 Internatinal Music Summit in Ibiza, the EDM scene was valued at $6.2 Billion.  

Six point two billion U.S. dollars. 

These days, popular music festivals around the world are now dominated by EDM.  Just look at this list of the top 10 biggest music festivals in the world.  About 8 out of 10 are centered around EDM.  

Radio stations are also controlled by electronic waves.  Check out the Top 100 songs right now (Dec 2014).  Over 25% are EDM songs.  Flip through the radio and you’ll hear more Avicii songs than Katy Perry.

EDM has also created massive business opportunities.  

Well-known companies are spending big promotional dollars on DJs- just like Heineken, who has worked with Dutch producers Armin Van Buuren and Tiesto in their marketing campaigns.  Bud Light has recently replaced Justin Timberlake with Zedd to be the face of their new promotions.  Even Avicii has a new clothing line sponsored by Ralph Lauren.  Other new companies are literally inventing technology to accommodate for the growing LED spectacles in EDM shows. 

And lastly, according to Forbes.com, Calvin Harris racked in over $66 million in 2014 from concert revenue sales alone, ranking him 4th on the Forbes ‘Richest Celebrities Under 30’ list. 

jj13

Despite all of this, I do think that we are currently in a giant phase and eventually, the scene will die down.

It’s interesting when you take a look into how music influenced the past generations. How almost every decade had it’s own extremely poplar music genre(s), which slowly faded away and evolved into the next genre(s).

The 50s = The Birth of Rock n Roll
The 60s = Rock n Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Psychedelic Rock
The 70s = Disco, Hard Rock, SynthPop, Reggae, Punk
The 80s = Disco, Pop, Hair Metal
The 90s = Alternative, Grunge, Hip Hop
The 00s = Auto-tune Rock, Dubstep, Hip Hop, Country
The 10s = EDM.  EDM pop.  EDM rock.  EDM hip hop. 

But let me be clear about something: 

I’m NOT arguing that EDM is the greatest music of all time- because it certainly isn’t. I grew up listening to classic rock and alternative music.  My favorite bands of all time are Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Blink 182, and they will always be my favorite bands for the rest of my life. 

You simply cannot make the argument that Tiesto has more musical talent than John Lennon or Eric Clapton.  You’ll never win that battle. It’s obvious that it takes much less skill to press buttons in a DJ booth than to shred guitar like Jimmy Paige on stage, or play the piano like Billy Joel.  

But what I will argue is that EDM has taken over the world with force.  These days, our generation likes to live young, wild, and free, and EDM is a perfect match our kind sort of lifestyle.  We do it for the fun.  

What caused this widespread revolution? 

Well, no one knows exactly.

For decades, the rave culture was deeply rooted in the underground scene.  It used to be a world for off-centered people to escape life.  Whatever happened inside the club, most definitely stayed in the club.

But now, that “underground” electronic music scene has changed.  It has evolved. 

It may have been due to the mainstream crossover of music genres over the last 15-20 years. A gradual transition of DJs working with famous pop singers in their new releases.  

Just think about David Guetta.  He has co-produced some rhythmic-pop crossover smashes with pop and rap stars.  His popular song “Turn Me On” with Nicki Minaj has attracted all of Nicki Minaj’s fans, just like “Play Hard” featuring Akon scooped in all of his fans.  I’m talking about millions and millions of people jumping on the bandwagon, just from just one song.  

The music video for “Turn Me On” has 260 million views on YouTube and “Play Hard” is at 283 million.  Together, those two videos have been viewed by about 1/14th of the world’s population. 

Did you watch the last Grammy Awards?  Daft Punk -a famous French DJ duo-  was on stage receiving the award for album of the year.  The robotic duo took their rightful place not only at the top of the electronic pyramid, but the entire music industry.

Also, it was just announced that Nicky Romero is collaborating with One Direction for his new remixes.

The list goes on. 

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 9.21.06 PM

But if I can pinpoint the biggest reason for why EDM has spread so fast, it is because of social media. 

The generation that us millennials are growing up in has seen exponential growth of the internet and social mediawhich is connecting all of us around the world.

With every worldwide festival, a new rush of photos flood Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and all other social media networks from the fans themselves. Therefore, us millennials (people born from the early 80s to the early 2000s) are always kept in the loop, unlike any generations in the past.  

Here is a recent example of what I mean by “kept in the loop.”

Last weekend, on December 5th, 2014, DJ Tiesto played a massive show in Sydney, and posted this photo of him on Instagram.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 4.11.46 PM

Within 24 hours, this photo had 36,151 “likes” and 129 comments.   And those are just the people who engaged with that photo. Can you imagine how many people just saw it on their feed out of his 1.3 MILLION followers?  I’m going to guess at least 200,000 people were aware that Tiesto played a kick-ass concert in Sydney just from Instagram alone

Tiesto also shared that same photo on Facebook and received a quick 20,148 likes within the first 3 hours. Do the math. 

No musicians in history had the power to influence the world like this in such a short period of time.  Do you think that anyone  knew about Nirvana when they were tearing up stages in Seattle in the early 90s?  It simply didn’t exist.

The EDM scene, unlike any other scene in music history, has promoted itself using mainly word of mouth and social media, to grow into the dominant musical entity that it is today.  

And now it has come to the point where the scene is just selling itself.  

My Personal Experience

I am a huge EDM listener, raver and fan.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 3.38.46 PM

I love everything about the scene. Going to music festivals. Meeting amazing people from all over the world. Dancing to my favorite songs. Wearing crazy things. No experience can top this for me.

When I started college in 2009, the EDM scene was starting to take off.  The song “Levels” by Avicii came out my sophomore year, and it was literally played at every party and social event. I think that every single person knew the catchy beat to that song.

You know the beat- it goes something: Da da da da da da, da da da da da da da da

Ever since then, I’ve been hooked.

What really put me over the edge was when I studied abroad in Prague back in 2012. Upwards of 5 nights a week, I found myself raging at some club around the city with my friends. There were always big name DJs playing at clubs. It was too damn fun.

Over the last few years, I’ve been to around a dozen EDM music festivals- including EDC Vegas, EDC Chicago, Ultra Korea, Summer Set, Bonnaroo, Sensation White, Let it Roll, World DJ Festival and more.  

My favorite EDM genre is progressive house and trance.  My all-time favorite DJs are Tiesto, Avicii, Markus Schulz, Above & Beyond, Alesso, Calvin Harris and Dash Berlin. 

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 3.42.34 PM

So, whether you like it or not, EDM is taking the world by storm and I really don’t see it ending at least in the next few years.  It will be interesting to see how the EDM scene evolves and plays out leading into 2020.  

But for now, I’m going to continue to sing, rave, and dance in every country that I go to.  Because it’s pretty damn fun, and it makes me happy.  I have plans to attend some major music festivals in 2015 like Electric Forest in Michigan and Tomorrowland in Belgium. 

I’m going to keep riding the wave as long as I can.

Everyone in the world may not speak the same language, but they can smile and dance in the same language- and that’s how we connect without using words.

P.L.U.R.

Comment below and tell me your thoughts about EDM! 

P.S. Have you seen GoPro’s new video of Tomorrowland 2014? It’s amazing, check it out! 

What are your thoughts about EDM?

read more
DrewHow EDM is Taking Over the World

I Asked 20 Travel Bloggers: “Why Do You Travel?” and Their Answers Are Amazing!

by Drew on December 8, 2014 46 comments

Four words.

“Why do you travel?”

At first, it sounds like such a simple question, doesn’t it?  

But in fact, it’s one of the most complex and open-ended questions that you can ask any traveler.  There are a million different directions that one can go about answering this question.

So, I had this idea.

My idea was to to ask this four-word question to 20 other travel bloggers.  I felt like this simple question is often overlooked, so I wanted a chance for others to spill their mind in 100 words or less.   

The results are astounding.

Their answers uncover the true value that travel brings to them deep down inside.  The responses are more personal that I anticipated- but nonetheless, it’s incredibly inspiring.  To hear about how travel influences other people- through learning, experiencing, and adventuring.

I have to be honest with you, this post was so much fun to put together!  It made me really happy to see everyone’s smiling face and to read about each person’s connection with travel.  My case of wanderlust is now more severe. 

I hope this post serves an as inspiration to everyone- to cover the earth before it covers you

So now, I will turn it over to these 20 travel bloggers and you can get inspired by their answers.  Don’t forget to check out their travel blogs by clicking on the link next to their name! 

1. Laura (An American Abroad)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.01.44 PMWhy do you travel?

“I travel for the freedom. The ability to do what I want whenever I want to or to simply be able to do nothing at all. I love getting out of bed everyday knowing that the entire day is mine. I travel for the food; for the ability to discover things my tastebuds have never known and weird and wonderful things that I have no access to at home. I travel for the adventure of it all. There’s someting about not knowing what you’re going to discover in the near future that is exhilirating. I travel to challenge myself, to understand the world better, to feel meet new people. I travel because when I’m not traveling, all I can think about is where I’m going next and how soon I can get there.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

2. Morgan (A Beautiful View

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 9.04.50 PMWhy do you travel?

“I travel because I just can’t imagine not. Looking at pictures of a new place fills me with desire, but actually experiencing that same place – being able to see, smell, touch, and hear it – that fills me with serenity, wonder, and unparalleled joy. Though I love my home, it represents only the tiniest sliver of what this world has to offer. With travel the potential for discovery and learning is seemingly infinite. In the best possible way, you are forced to reorient your priorities, expand your perspective, and evolve beyond what is comfortable into something better, something more.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
– Ray Bradbury

3. Cacinda (Points and Travel)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.05.29 PMWhy do you travel?

“I travel to be free and to escape life.  Free of worries and to escape a boring daily life.  I travel for adventure, fun and meeting others who also love to travel.  I have always loved exploring and travel was just a natural extension of that.  It helps me get to know myself better and be more satisfied with who I am.  Travel has defined me.  And as my travel memoir writer friend Mary Morris once told me, “Sometimes we know how to battle dragons, but not windmills” I have discovered I am great at slaying dragons.  Windmills? not so much.  She also told me “You don’t really look for tigers, you look for signs of tigers.” That’s what I do when I travel, I look for tiger signs.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”
– Wendell Berry

4. Sara (This Girl Loves)

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 5.10.01 PMWhy do you travel?

“Shortly after graduating last summer, my Facebook feed was filled with the news that one of my friends had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Less than a week later, he lost his life to the disease. It was one of those stand-out moments in life where my priorities realigned, and I realised I didn’t want to be sat at a desk anymore or hating life whilst stuck in traffic on the morning commute. I decided to start travelling to see more of the world, to meet new people and encourage other people to do the same, hopefully gathering up enough stories to convince my grandchildren that I’m still cool, even when I’m old and grey!”

Favorite Travel Quote: 
“I am too old to have only seen this little of the world and too young not to go see it now.”
– Unknown

5. Jack and Jenn (Who Needs Maps)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.06.19 PMWhy do you travel?

“We are a long distance couple (Australia and America)—so travel for us is an excuse to see each other. There is something truly special about traveling with your partner because in the end you are both discovering something new and learning more about ourselves and each other. For us, we get to kill two birds with stone, we get to see each other and we get to explore a country we both have never been to together! We have become a stronger and better couple because we have traveled together and we thank traveling for being the reason we are still together! Without travel, we would rarely see each other.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”

– Anonymous

6. Petra (The Global Couple)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.07.09 PMWhy do you travel?

“Do you ever get that longing feeling when you miss someone? You know that aching in the pit of your stomach? To us, that is the feeling we get when we aren’t travelling. It’s like our bodies are telling us they just want to be out there exploring some new exciting destination. We miss the delectable street food of Bangkok, the beautiful people of Myanmar, the varied landscapes of the US, and even that sick-excited feeling you get when you go to the airport. We miss every aspect of travelling when we aren’t doing it – so to keep our bodies happy, we keep on traveling.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Not all those who wander are lost.”

– JRR Tolkien

7. Scott (Mr Scott Eddy)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.08.23 PMWhy do you travel?

“Well, I would have to say first and foremost that I am an entrepreneur, which is a hot word these days, but its not as glorious as it sounds, there is a lot of disappointment and negativity attached to it. I use traveling as my gasoline to fuel my inspiration, and I love to build my following using people from the travel industry, I personally think that is a shortcut to build a huge, global following. So in short, I will travel as much as I can for as long as I can.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Don’t Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you’ve traveled”
– Mohammad”

8. Chris (One Weird Globe)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.09.48 PMWhy do you travel?

“I travel because there’s plenty more out there than one little corner can show you. I travel to see the weird stuff, the weird places, the weird adventures few others know to look for. I travel to see what’s out there, be it easy to find or damn near impossible. I travel because I can’t see living my life any other way. I travel because it’s become a lifelong passion. It’s how I met my wife, found my purpose in life, and have gotten to enjoy life more than I ever did back in my home country. I travel to live.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
– Ferris Bueller

9. Jessica (A Passion and a Passport

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.11.11 PMWhy do you travel?

“I travel to see. The pink sand beaches in Bermuda, the underwater world in Moorea, the sunsets in Santorini, and the cherry blossoms in Washington DC were all a feast for my eyes. I travel for adventure. Swimming with sharks in French Polynesia, cave-tubing in Belize, taking helicopter rides in Kauai, and paragliding in the Dominican Republic all gave me an adrenaline rush. I travel to eat. Powered sugar beignets in New Orleans, ciders in London, shave ice in Maui, pizza and gelato in Rome, and bagels and pastrami in New York most definitely cured my appetite. I travel to experience. Watching the sunrise at the top of Masada in Israel,  being blinded by neon lights in Vegas, riding a camel in the Negev Desert, and feeling complete solitude underneath a bed of stars all made my heart flutter a bit. I travel to feel alive, and to find happiness.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.”
– Paulo Coelho

10. Rebecca (Life Beyond Borders

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.11.56 PMWhy do you travel?

“I travel to discover new countries and cultures, to blog about them and share the experiences with others – so that they, too, might realise the world and its cultures and people—just because they are different doesn’t mean they have to be scary. Travel opens up our minds, our hearts and souls—we should go beyond the borders of geography and the borders of our minds to rid ourselves of our xenophobia and pre-conceptions.”

 Favorite Travel Quote:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”

– Mark Twain

11. Cory (Curb Free with Cory Lee)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.13.11 PMWhy do you travel?

“I travel because there is nothing better than seeing new sights and exploring new places. I have had a strong desire to see as much of this world as possible since I was a child and I want to encourage others to do the same. As a wheelchair user that travels, I often hear other wheelchair users say that traveling isn’t possible or that it’s too difficult for them. I am on a mission to dispel that myth. I will keep traveling until every person is rolling around this world and seeing all of the beauty that it has to offer.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”
-St. Augustine

12. Rich (Richy Feet)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.13.52 PMWhy do you travel?

“For me it’s pretty simple: happiness takes so many forms around the world and I want to explore those good feelings; I travel to smile and to see other people smiling. I don’t just mean standing there with a big stupid grin on my face, I travel for those moments where you feel the happiness flowing through your body when you just can’t help but say “wow”. That kind of happiness is so simple, and that’s why I love it. You know the feeling I mean, when you’re in the middle of nowhere, in a place you’d never heard of until recently and you just think “Is this place real?!” Sat on a bus, floating on a lake, jumping off a bridge – happiness is everywhere!”

 Favorite Travel Quote:
“Don’t be afraid to give yourself everything you’ve ever wanted in life”

– Unknown

13. Nastia and Illia (Crazzzy Travel

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.14.26 PMWhy do you travel?

“Before starting travelling together we spent two years in long-distance relationship. Needless to say that the only wish we had was to spend together as much time as possible. Travelling came as a great solution. We shared experiences, emotions and love while visiting new countries, meeting new people and cultures. Gradually, our passion to travelling developed into wanderlust. It might sound as a cliché, but travelling is addictive. Nowadays when staying at one place for too long, we feel not only bored, but “travel-sick”. There is little we can do about that, thus, we travel.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”
– Unknown

14. Kach (Two Monkeys Travel)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.16.04 PMWhy do you travel?

“We travel to live, to put down shallow roots in as many places as possible which we call home. We travel for the challenge of finding our place in a strange new world; making friends, forming connections and hopefully creating a lasting and positive impression on the people we meet. Our roots are not physical ties, preventing us from moving on, but rather a tangled web of feelings, experiences and shared memories that keep us permanently connected with the people we leave behind. We remember them and they remember us – that’s all that matters. One day, when we feel ready, our roots will dig deeper and we will allow them to hold us there…one day. This is why we travel.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land.”
– Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

15. Sharon (Where’s Sharon?)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.18.13 PMWhy do you travel?

“The main reason I travel? I am an experience junkie. I want to have every experience there is in this world. I want to know what it’s like to see Mt Everest, visit the Pyramids and sit in a cafe in St Marks Square. I want to try different foods, test myself and speak different languages. I want to visit old friends, make new ones and understand other cultures. Now that I have kids, I also want to ensure they grow up knowing they are global citizens and not being scared of differences but embracing. I want them to enjoy other places and cultures and realise our Australian life is just one way to live life.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

16. João Sá (Travelholic Nomad)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.20.53 PMWhy do you travel?

“I travel because the best things in life are the ones that are still left to discover. Traveling makes me feel alive, and allows me to do what I most love in life: meet and explore. My passion in life is driven by meeting new people, connecting with them, knowing their stories, because for me that’s the best way in the World you can embrace new cultures when you travel. I can’t be happy staying still, I have a constant need to move and explore new places and to delve into the unbeaten path. I wouldn’t trade my daily life as a world wanderer for nothing, because there isn’t anything that could ever replace the bliss and satisfaction it grants me every single second.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

17. Buddy (Buddy the Traveling Monkey)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.22.11 PMWhy do you travel?

“This question always makes me think of another question: “Why wouldn’t you travel?” There are people out there that genuinely don’t have any interest at all in traveling. They don’t blame money, time, or kids. They just don’t care to travel. And that blows my mind! I travel because I want to learn and grow as a person. I want to understand how cultures do things differently and why. I want to learn things for myself, and not just read about them from a book. I also travel because I want to show other people that it is a very possible thing to do and because I want to inspire that wanderlust from a young age.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Life is short. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.”
– Unknown

18. Josh & Liz (Peanuts or Pretzels)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.24.03 PMWhy do you travel?

“For us, there are many reasons why we choose to travel. First, we believe that travel is the bestway to experience the world, which makes us feel alive! Being able to emerge ourselves in different cultures as we live and work around the world is the ultimate life education. Plus, you learn a lot about yourself when you travel to far away lands, and for long periods of time. This is especially true as a traveling couple. Sometimes when we start to miss the comforts of home, all it takes is something as simple as watching the sunrise over the ancient Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, or learning to drive amotorbike like the locals in Thailand to remind us why we travel.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“You don’t choose a life. You Live one.”
– Emilio Estevez

19. Andrew (Passport Chronicles)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.24.37 PMWhy do you travel?

“I worked at a large company for five years as an expat in Germany. At first, I loved my life there because I felt like there was so much to learn about my new home. Every day was a new discovery. However, after a couple years, my life began to fall into routine. Eventually, I took a trip to Interlaken, Switzerland and did something that I never thought I would be able to do. I bungee jumped. After that, I couldn’t shake the need for new experiences and I started to plot my departure from the firm and a life filled with travel. Now, a year later, here I am writing these words from the 88th floor of the Jin Mao skyscraper overlooking the Bund in Shanghai and loving every new experience.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
– FDR

Last but not least, here is my answer:

DCIM100GOPROWhy do I Travel?

“Traveling has changed my life forever.  I simply cannot provide one answer to this question, so I will spill my brain. Seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, learning about the history of countries and exploring nature are some of my favorite aspects to traveling.  Eating local dishes and experiencing the local nightlife are things that I am obsessed with doing in every place I visit.  But above all, the #1 reason that I travel is to step out of my comfort zone by doing things that make me happy.  Meeting people, sharing stories and create lifelong memories that I can look back on forever.”

Favorite Travel Quote:
“When you’re about to make a decision, what would your elder self think about the choice you are about to make?”
-Unknown

It’s Your Turn!

Comment below and tell me, “Why do you travel?”  🙂 

 

read more
DrewI Asked 20 Travel Bloggers: “Why Do You Travel?” and Their Answers Are Amazing!

5 Reasons Why You Should Eat at McDonald’s in Every Country

by Drew on November 25, 2014 33 comments

Hi, my name is Drew and I Love McDonald’s.

I bet that many of you read the title of this post and think that I am crazy.  

Especially coming from a guy like me, who obsesses with eating the most local and authentic cuisines around the world.  Why on earth would anyone want to eat at McDonald’s when traveling?

But please just wait and see what I have to say, and then maybe you’ll consider my humble opinions. 

Before I dive into this post, let’s first discuss how big of an impact that McDonald’s has on the world.  As of right now (March 2015), there are over 33,200 locations in 119 countries.   The United States is home to about half of all the restaurants in the world.

Here are some more fun facts about McDonald’s:
– They sell over 75 hamburgers every SECOND worldwide
– Its $24 Billion revenue makes it the 90th largest economy in the world
– McDonald’s serves about 1% of the world’s population everyday
– For the next 3 years, McDonald’s is going to open up a new restaurant in China every day
– McDonald’s delivers in 18 countries!

IMG_8282

As you probably already know, McDonald’s is notorious for serving greasy and unhealthy food in the U.S.A., which is the reason why so many people are turned off by it.   But the reality is that most McDonald’s restaurants around the world don’t have such a greasy menu.  As a matter of fact, McDonald’s is considered as a fancy restaurant in some countries, with luxurious interior decorations.  

How do I know all of this?  

I’ve eaten at McDonald’s in 24 countries since 2012.   

Unless you normally travel to countries like North Korea or Palau, then it’s pretty much impossible not to recognize the golden arches when you are traveling.  In fact, The Golden Arches are the most recognized symbol in the world.

Also, if you’re a traveler, backpacker, or digital nomad, then you’ll probably know that most McDonald’s offers FREE Wifi inside!

The following 5 reasons will explain why you should dine at a McDonald’s, wherever in the world you may be:

*Disclaimer: if you only have 48 hours or less in any destination, then you should probably enjoy the local foods as much as possible (i.e. don’t eat McDonald’s.) However, if you have more than a few days, then you can travel McHappy style.  

1) Different Menu Options

This is the #1 reason that draws me into McDonald’s every time I am on the road.  I am always curious to see what they put on their menu!

Different regions of the world have their own local specialties dishes on the menu.  In addition, some places just have wacky and unheard of food items that will make you laugh when you read them. 

In a way, I can learn something about which dishes a specific country takes the “most pride in,” because they’ve put it on the McDonald’s Menu!

Some of my favorite (and most bizarre) McDonald’s dishes around the world are:
–       BubbleGum Squash McFlurry- Australia and New Zealand
–       McShrimp- Russia
–       McRice Burger- Singapore
–       McSpaghetti- Philippines
–       McFalafel- Israel
–       Bulgogi Burger – Korea
–       Samurai Pork Burger- Thailand

Click this link to read some more of the crazy food options that you can order at McDonald’s around the world!

2) The “Experience” of eating at a Foreign McDonald’s

Every time I step into a McDonald’s in a foreign country, it’s a different cultural experience.

As I previously mentioned, some countries really think that McDonald’s is a fancy restaurant.  For example, at my current home in Korea, many Koreans do not think of McDonald’s as fast-food option, but rather a sit down restaurant with their family.

The interior design and decorations always vary from country to country.  It is interesting to see which McDonald’s has the newest technology (TV’s, ordering systems, etc.), as opposed to which locations have been left untouched since the 80s.

And people watching is the best! Sometimes, I walk into the McDonald’s near my house in Korea, just to watch all the Koreans obsess over eating McDonald’s.  It is so funny.

I’m sure you noticed this picture already, but Koreans really do love their french fries…

3) Sometimes, it’s the Cheapest Option 

Dining at McDonald’s has probably saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. Specifically, in extremely expensive countries like NorwaySwitzerland, Finland and Denmark.

When I went to these countries, a local meal at a restaurant is upwards of $20USD, so I just resorted to a McDonald’s to fulfill my hunger.   I don’t want you to think that I do this all the time, but just on the occasions where I have eaten the local foods for 6 consecutive meals and I want a change!

Some form of the dollar menu exists in almost every McDonald’s that I’ve been in.  For about $5USD, you can pretty much get a meal that will fill up your stomach.  And better yet, you can try a local specialty dish!

4) Awesome Delivery Service

Wake up world, McDonald’s delivers.

Yep, that’s right.  In 18 Asian countries, you can pick up the phone, dial a number, and have a Big Mac and fries delivered to your door within minutes.

Some of the countries with top-notch delivery service include Egypt, India, Japan, China and my home country of Korea

I am telling you that I see McDonald’s delivery guys EVERY DAY on the streets in my neighborhood.  They drive a little scooter around with the McDonald’s logo on the back and they are out and about all day long. I’ve also seen a McDonald’s delivery van (for big orders) and delivery bicycles (for smaller orders).   They have the whole system down to a science.

It’s hilarious whenever I go into a McDonald’s, to see the delivery guy working his ass off in the back of the store.  Scramming to get burgers and fries to loud up his little scooter and hit the road.  And their little fancy decorated helmets are priceless!

In Malaysia, McDonald’s has a 24 hour delivery service.  Watch this television advertisement to see what I am talking about.

Can you even imagine if the U.S.A. adopted this delivery service?  We would have even more of an overweight problem…

5) A Nice Change of Pace

Let’s be honest, it’s just nice to have a change of pace from all the local foods that you eat on the road.  

Just like you see below, at McDonald’s in India, they don’t serve meat (I went vegetarian in India due to the poor quality of meat).

In Istanbul, I got pretty sick of eating Kebabs everyday and I wanted a change.  So, I ordered a nice Quarter Pounder with cheese and it hit the spot.   In Korea, I frequently get sick of eating Korean food 24/7 and I crave some greasy French fries.  From time to time, you just gotta do it!

Sometimes, you just need that change of pace that will boost your level of happiness for the day.  McDonald’s is the answer 🙂

Which specialty dishes have I eaten at McDonald’s around the world?

IMG_4426

My Jr. Nacho Cheeseburger in Helsinki

* This is the list of the meals that I can remember.  I forgot what I ordered in many other places…

– Samurai Pork Burger- Bangkok, Thailand
– McSpaghetti- Cebu, Philippines
– McFalafel- Jerusalem, Israel
– Jr. Nacho Cheeseburger- Helsinki, Finland
– Veg McPuff – Mumbai, India
– Fried Cheese Sandwich- Prague, Czech Republic
– McArabia Chicken- Dubai, UAE
– Durian Crunch McFlurry- Singapore, Singapore
– Wild Shrimp Burger- Seoul, Korea

… But my undisputed all-time favorite is (drum roll….)

-A Quarter Pounder with Cheese in the USA.  I’ve eaten it too many times… (ewwww)

I’m lovin it.

What is your favorite McDonald’s dish around the world?

read more
Drew5 Reasons Why You Should Eat at McDonald’s in Every Country