The web is full of great travel blogs, travel stories, travel photos and travel videos – the hard part is finding them amidst all the garbage. I curate the best travel stories I find and bring you the highlights here at the Vagobond Travel Museum.
Great post about the Canyons of the Southwest USA from GypsyNesters. I’ve always enjoyed traveling in the USA’s Southwest and these ruins make me look forward to doing it again.
Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape brought out a great post about the top 10 Islands to visit in Malaysia this week. Great photos, well written guide.
A Dutch teenageer named Laura Dekker managed to break the record for youngest solo voyager around the world this week. She and her parents had to fight in court to get permission to even make the attempt. Travel is not what it used to be.
Speaking of dreams – this week a stunning video made the rounds of the travel blogosphere. An amazing encounter with a troop of wild gorillas in Uganda. Watch this and you will know why Gorillas need to be protected – seriously, this brought tears of amazement…
The Aurora Borealisthis week blew everyone’s mind as one of the biggest solar storms on record brought astounding light shows to Northern Hemisphere countries. In particular, I like this line “The Sun has a heartbeat”
The Daily Mail wrote this great article on a revolutionary walkway that is going to be constructed through the Amazon Rainforest. The days of crunching undiscovered species under tourist boots may soon be behind us.
Great travel stories don’t always come from strictly travel sites.
Finally, this odd photo on Instagram in which a mummified monk appears to be on sale. Does anyone know what the heck is going on here? 16,888 Malay Ringits seems a bargain to own your own Buddhist Mummy.
And while there were plenty of other great travel stories this week – that’s it for now. To let me know about any great travel pieces use the contact form here at Vagobond.com
2011 was a great year for me in terms of travel, family, and work. While this was yet another year that I didn’t make it home to Hawaii or the USA, it was certainly a busy year. While there were a huge number of experiences to choose from, here are my top ten favorite adventures that came from this incredible year. I’m hoping that the coming year 2021, will be another one to remember.
1) Sailing in Greece was the highlight of my year. The food, the boat, the swimming. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
2) Camel Wrestling in Selcuk, Turkey was one of those oddities that while not being the coolest thing of the year, was certainly one that will never leave me.
3) Jingabongs in South Korea are my favorite discovery of 2011. Who knew that Korean bathhouses would be so awesome?
4) Hitching to the DMZ and seeing North Korea for the first time was one of those adventures that I used to read about and dream of doing.
5) Whiskey in Montmarte, Paris. Can there really be much better than carousing with strangers, drinking whiskey in the streets, and finding great hole in the wall jazz bars? Only if you do it in Paris.
8) Istanbul walks were among my favorite travel moments of 2011. Having the chance to live in Istanbul and simply take huge meandering walks in the many neighborhoods including ferry rides, trams, and more. Yes, I miss Istanbul.
“That one’s a sexy dancer.”
“You mean a stripper?” I asked.
“No, a sexy dancer. She gets paid to dance sexy in the bars so that guys think they will get lucky. She has to stay until the bar closes and then she can do what she wants.”
“What about that one?” I asked, pointing to the girl in glasses across the road. She looked like a Chinese student, she even had books. I figured she was waiting for a ride.
“She’s a street walker. Obviously. Just watch the cars pull over and talk to her. She negotiates, they say no, but someone will say yes soon.”
I had thought she was just waiting for a ride and talking with people, for such a worldly guy, I tend to be naive, if not innocent. Sure enough, soon a car pulled up, a guy got out and she and him walked off to whatever hotel she had a deal with.
Meanwhile, my Malaysian friend and I sat across the road on a dirty chunk of concrete drinking Tiger beer and watching the parade of hookers, strippers, sexy dancers, nude dancers, bar girls, hostesses, and every once in a while, a normal girl go by.
Still, not all of these were women you would guess were prostitutes or sex workers.
“You see that one there? She probably has a food cart she works at during the day and her husband, something happened to him but she’s an auntie and has not only her own kids to care for but her kids kids and her sister’s kids…I’m just guessing here…and it’s too much so she has to bring more in and now…well, there’s somebody that finds Auntie’s sexy” and as we watched the Auntie with the food stall got in a car and drove off for sex.
it as sad as hell. Still, it wasn’t tragedy for us, sitting there on the side of the road. In fact, it was interesting. I got to learn what the sexy dancers do and that the Malay girls are probably the most expensive, local girls. The Indonesians get paid the least and after them the Indians and Chinese. Some of the clubs pay premium Russian, Swiss, and other white professionals to bring in some diversity. I learned that the price for a street walker is as little as 20 Malaysian ringgits, right around $7, which is pretty amazing when the Guinness Stouts we’d just had were 32 ringgits each or more than $11 each. Pretty amazing, of course the Guinness with it’s frosted glass, dark brown color, and cold delicious taste was attractive in every way while the $7 street walkers were pretty worn out and attractive in no way at all.
My friend had been pretty generous in buying me a couple of beers and now we drank some cheaper tiger beers where the view was interesting but we weren’t paying a premium to be seen (although we were only about 50 feet from the $11 beers, our beers now were right around $3 from the Carrefour 24 hour market behind us.) Not only that but he had taken me for a street food tour on the next street over where the vast majority of food stalls wait for unwary tourists and hungry locals. And now, in front of my hotel, we watched the sex worker parade.
And then, two women with dark black skin and thick African bodies came up to us. They were high as fuck on something but having a nice time.
“Hi, I’m Lawanda” Yes really, that was her name. And her thick East African accent, huge breasts, giant teeth, and very round booty just made her that much more Lawanda. “And this is Rachel…”
I’ve got to pause here and say that in terms of stereotypes, these girls were CREATING the stereotype. They were the origins of the stereotype and while a stoned out whore with smoldering eyes and a huge booty stuffed into a leopard spot body suit might sound unattractive, she was not.
Rachel simply oozed sexual energy. If there is a sex goddess, she is it. This was a woman who loved what she was doing – at least in that moment. Working as a whore and loving it. I’m sure.
Both stoned prostitutes shook our hands politely and then began to query us about whether we wanted to go somewhere, if we wanted to party, if we wanted to buy them drinks, and finally if we would just give them ten ringgits. All of which my friend deftly refused by claiming we were backpackers going on a safari the next day. Actually, he and Lawanda were the only ones that talked. Rachel just stood there oozing sex and I just sat there enjoying it but not willing to go there, not even with a dozen rubbers. I’m lucky I didn’t catch VD from shaking hands with them, but man, I’m sure that would be an experience like no other.
And so, finally they walked away with Lawanda cussing at us and Rachel looking at me with those sex filled eyes as she walked away. I caught my breath….”Holy Shit!”
“Leopard spots!” My friend said. “Can you believe those hot African prostitutes? Ha ha. Can you just give us 10 Ringgits? Ha ha ha.”
And that was when it started to rain a bit. As we got under the awning of my hotel and said our goodnights, I watched as a fat Indian man came out with an umbrella for the fat Indian prostitute in front of his shop. Was it his wife? His daughter? His employee? Who knows. Not me. Still, it was sort of sweet and I thought it was a sweet end to the night, but the night wasn’t over yet.
My friend went home and I went up to my room which faced the same street. At about 4:30 am, I heard screaming like someone was being killed. A woman and a baby crying. A man yelling. The woman screaming bloody murder. I opened the window and watched a long haired man who looked like a combination of rock star and martial arts artist arguing with a pretty woman with a baby in her arms. There was a yellow cab in the street an the problem seemed to be that the man wanted to leave and his wife had caught him and wasn’t happy about it. A crowd gathered. The yelling and screaming didn’t stop. It was a drama. She was screaming, maybe he was leaving her for another woman. Maybe he was abandoning her and the child. Maybe she had found out he was cheating.
Whatever it was, it went on for about an hour and the crowd grew bigger. Finally, it ended when the man grabbed the woman and kissed her, put his bag in the taxi, and then all three of them got in the taxi and the driver drove them away. The crowd slowly dispersed to wherever it is Malaysian people go at 5 a.m.
Sure, I didn’t sleep well, but wow. Who wants to miss a show like that?
Exploring the world’s strangest hotels is certainly a fun thing to do, given the extremes hotels have gone to, just in the name of being “strange”. And strange they are, too, by the looks of them. Ask anyone who’s been to a hotel from the list below, and he’ll tell you first-hand the experience that comes in staying there. Here is a list of the top 5 strangest hotels in the world. There are lots more, but only these five have made it to this list, based largely on popularity, service, and my own personal experiences.
5. The UFO Capsule Hotel, Tokyo Japan Certainly one of the strangest concepts ever for a hotel, The UFO Capsule Hotel is a chain of “capsule hotels” across Japan that has been around for quite some time and has gained immense popularity as well. The concept of the capsule hotel may as well have been derived from the Japanese mind, given the way it uses space so efficiently. The Capsule Hotel consists of small “capsules”, which in turn have two sections: one, a public lounge space, and the second, a private sleeping space. Less space doesn’t mean throwing away amenities: TV, adjustable lighting, radio, all are present. A must-stay for those seeking the “strange”!
4. IceHotel, Sweden
Do not get surprised: the name of this hotel is exactly what the hotel is made of: ice. Open only in the winter, Ice Hotel is unique: it stands as a hotel in the winter, and melts to become a free-flowing river after the cold is gone. So that means the hotel is essentially built every year, and then it melts away after the sun comes out, only to be rebuilt the next year. Located just 200 kms north of the Arctic Circle, IceHotel is built by artists who come from all around the world, and by using only frozen water (ice) from the Torne River. Furniture made of ice is present, and beds are made of ice too, and covered in reindeer skins.
3. Hotel Fox, Denmark
Hotel Fox is one of a kind, and you certainly have not seen anything like it, that’s for sure. The hotel has 61 rooms, and each room is an exquisite piece of art. Combining the brilliance of 21 artists drawn from all over the world, and after studying close to a thousand different ideas, Hotel Fox was transformed with themes in each room as unique as possible, ranging from flowered themes to friendly monster themes to fairytale themes! The food at Hotel Fox is always being innovated, by inviting the best students from the best European cooking schools to prepare food under the supervision of experienced chefs.
2. StayOrange Hotel, Malaysia I know, the name sounds strange, but then this is a list of the strangest hotels in the world! StayOrange.com Hotel is located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is inspired from the capsule hotels from Japan. The Hotel features three kinds of rooms – Double EnSuite, Single EnSuite and 2-Bed Bunk Rooms. The Hotel aims to provide functionality in terms of both facilities and prices. The pricing is very affordable, and the facilities are not compromised upon. All facilities like free Wi-Fi internet access, hot water showers, exclusive mattresses from Dreamland, LCD TVs are provided, with branded toiletries and DVD players being optional.
1. Propeller Island City Lodge in Berlin, Germany
This hotel makes it to the top position with ease, just with the variety of rooms it providesJust picture: flying beds, upside-down rooms, circular beds, prison-style rooms – this hotel has got them all. And more. With 35 rooms of pure artistic indulgence, . the hotel will certainly make you come back for more. Certainly one of the most creative hotels of all time, the Propeller Island City Lodge has extremely courteous staff, which takes care of the minutest details. The hotel is very clean, and is a must visit.
While in Kuala Lumpur back in 2011, I did more than just drink beer and watch street walkers, I also saw some very cool places and attractions you might not have come across.
The Old China Cafe
Old China Cafe was a great lunch of Malay-Chinese cuisine and had an interesting feel. Finding it was the hardest part but a friendly guy sniffing glue on the corner pointed me in the right direction. I’m lucky to have been in China before it’s modern transformation…this reminded me of that.
From their site:
This building was the guild hall of the Selangor & Federal Territory Laundry Association. The guild was set up at the turn of the century and moved to this part of Chinatown in the 1920s. As the guild members prospered, the founding members moved to this building in 1930. The two large mirrors that face each other are traditional feng shui mirrors that Chinese believe would perpetually reflect the good luck when the first rays of the morning sun light up the interior.
Even the interior doors still have wooden latches. This type of pre-war (World War One/1914-1918) shophouses may not last forever. Already several in the neighbourhood (Jalan Panggong, Jalan Petaling and Jalan Balai Polis) have either been demolished or renovated beyond recognition.
Old China Café tries to maintain a semblance of the Chinese community’s old social life which will soon fade into history.
Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve. Sitting in the center of ultra-modern, ultra-urban Kuala Lumpur is a rainforest preserve where you can hike across wooden bridges, see monkeys, and get your feet muddy on tropical trails. Since 1906 the 11 hectares of the preserve have been a beloved spot for locals and visitors to get away from it all by heading to the city center. Great trails and for tree lovers you can check the signage to discover Kapur (Dryobalanops aromatica), Keruing bulu (Dipterocarpus baudii), Jelutong (Dyera costulata), Meranti pa’ang (Shorea bracteolata) and Rattan (Calamus manan) and many other trees. A botanical herb garden, orchid area, nature center, and jogging trails all make this a more than worthwhile nature stop in the center of the city.
Ain Arabia is a completely neat idea to me. Sure, Malaysia is a Muslim country, but it’s not an Arab country. If, however, you want to experience the Arab world of the Middle East while visiting Southeast Asia, the place to head is Ain Arabia. The street is located at Jalan Berangan in Bukit Bintang. Oddly, the area seemed to be filled with mostly Arab tourists and I’m told that during the month of Ramadan, many Arabs come from stricter countries to avoid the enforced fast. Since I lived in Morocco, I found the Sahara Tent Restaurant and the Berber laundry service to be more than a little bit odd.
Cosmo’s World Theme Park gives you a chance to experience a theme park but without having to go outside so you can enjoy the air conditioning. The park is located at Level 5, Berjaya Times Square. It fills 380,000 square feet and has separate theme parks for adults and children called Galaxy Station and Fantasy Garden. Sorry, the Fantasy Garden is the part for kids…Still, you have to love indoor roller coasters and a ride called the DNA mixer sounds like it is much more adult than it really is.
Little India. Indians are one of the three main ethnic groups in Malaysia so Little India makes sense. For those looking for an Indian experience without going to India. This works. Jalan Masjid India is one of the oldest parts of the city and dates back to 1870 when the Indian mosque was built.
Little India is the heart of a thriving neighborhood built up around the mosque. It is filled with colorful flowers and garments and is easy to reach. Just get off the tram at Masjid Jamek Station or walk from China town.Bales of saris, shops heaped with gold, traditional pharmacies and gorgeous glass bangles fill the shops and delicious aromas come from the many restaurants which offer tasty Indian snacks like samosa, ghulab jamun and vadai.
The Bird and Butterfly Parks. The Bird Park and Butterfly house are located in the Lake Gardens, a 60-hectare reserve since 1888. It is the world’s largest free flight, walk in Aviary. The butterfly park has over 6000 butterflys and more than 120 species…and they are alive not stuck to pin-boards.
National Planetarium. I’m a sucker for planetariums. I just love them. It’s the blue domed building above the Lake Gardens and has a space museum that includes replicas of ancient observatories. The planetarium shows were in English and not only interesting, but fun. Of particular note was the very nice juxtaposition of traditional Islamic architecture with the space age. Very nice.
My trip was going to take me to Malaysia for five days before heading to South Korea. Since I’d never been to Kuala Lumpur and my time was limited, I decided to stick around and try to get the feel of the city. Since I knew I would be staying and I wanted to spend as little as possible without sleeping outside, I booked my first three nights in the Forever Young Guest House. There were a few things that caused me to book there. First of all, I found the owner on Facebook and we were able to have a direct conversation. Second, he’d only opened his hostel a few weeks before. Third, I just really liked the sort of goofy sounding name, which it turns out, comes from the name of his father’s Traditional Chinese Medicine practice downstairs from the hostel.
Now, at the outset, I have to admit, it was a little confusing to find based on the online directions. When I arrived, I suggested that we fix his directions. So, if you get lost on the way there now, you can blame me…and the rapidly changing construction of the city.
I found Forever Young Guesthouse to be Friendly, cheap, clean, and central. Almost perfect budget dorms. There were a couple of things I wasn’t crazy about, but I’ll get into that in a minute. Here is what I liked.
Forever Young is right in the heart of KL without putting you on a busy sidewalk in Chinatown. This is straight up a budget hostel with no private rooms, but the dorms are clean, the common areas have a nice local feel to them, and while the wifi wasn’t super strong, it was there and they didn’t try to charge extra for it.
Haz and his girlfriend remodeled, decorated, and run the place themselves. They keep things clean and tidy and they are available to help you find what you need. Breakfast is simple but included in the price. Toast, jam, peanut butter, coffee, and while I was there big oranges. If you spend the day walking around and have sore feet, you can go downstairs and for about $8 (25 RM) you can get a half hour foot and leg massage or you can spend a little more and get the whole deal. This is in Haz’s father’s place, the Forever Young Energy House. You can also have a wide range of traditional Chinese remedies and treatments including acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal treatments.
Forever Young Guest House is a safe, clean place. My two complaints were pretty trivial. First of all, there weren’t any lockers while I was there. Haz assured me that he had ordered them, so if you go, there will probably be some. Second, smoking in all areas of the hostel. While I appreciate that smokers love to smoke, I think it’s important to have no smoking areas in a hostel. In particular, it was unpleasant to find a big dirty ashtray on the breakfast table with the breakfast food. Guests can choose standard or AC rooms. None of them come with en suite bathrooms. There are two bathrooms and two showers for all guests to share but since this is a small place, that didn’t present any problems. One word of warning, if you opt for the AC rooms, the street can be pretty loud. Just make sure you have earplugs as there is action on the streets of KL all night long.
Finally, when you visit Forever Young Guest House, please tell Haz, his girlfriend Az, and Fifi (the puppy mascot) that Vago sends his regards.
Forever Young Guest House.
Standard Dorm 25 RM per day
Dorm with A/C 30 RM per day
Male and Female 4 Bed Dorm Rooms
No. 36C (Level 3) Jalan Tengkat Tong Shin,
Bukit Bintang, 50200