Best Autumn Festivals Around the World

We usually think of summer as the party season but across the globe, some of the best and wildest festivals happen in the autumn. The fall is a great time to travel – it’s off-season in many places, meaning cheaper flights and less of a crush at the airport.

Wat Phantao during Yi Peng Image by Takeaway@Wikimedia.org, used under Creative Comms licenseAt these autumn festivals you can hang out with Mexican spirits, swill the finest German beer or sail your own (two-inch) candle-lit boat in Thailand in the coming months. So when you do a holiday comparison for your autumn vacation, remember to check for these fantastic events before you start booking your flights…

Kyoto in Japan

September to November in Japan is a riot of color and beauty that’s particularly cherished in areas like Kyoto, where you’ll see the most stunning reds, oranges, golds and green leaves in Japan’s most traditional and fascinating city. Not much compares to seeing men and women dressed in elaborate kimonos and walking under a canopy of rich and vivid autumn leaves colours. Enjoy the sights at the Maple Festival in November, where you will also see Japanese dancing performed on boats on the river and can partake of the elegant tea ceremony.

Dia de los Muertos in Mexico

The ‘Day of the Dead’ is a colorful and macabre festival of celebration held all over Mexico at the end of November. Locals make garlands of marigolds and buy a special bread that attracts the spirits of departed loved ones, and everyone heads to the graveyards after dark to eat, drink tequila and dance to the Mariachi bands. It’s not so much a party as a thoughtful and sometimes exuberant celebration of life. Tourists will find themselves welcome to join in
and learn about this vibrant culture.

Oktoberfest in Munich

If you like beer, and you like festivals, get yourself to Munich! Also known as the Munich Beer Fest, this celebration takes over the city, with little stalls and massive tents lined up along the riverside, serving beers and ales from Germany’s finest breweries, and a wide selection of traditional German foods. There’s even a funfair and rides to go along with the carnival atmosphere.

Loi Krathong in Thailand

This beautiful river festival is a visual treat. Thousands of little floating ornaments made from bread and bark are lit up with candles and sent out onto the river. The little boats, known as krathongs, signify letting go of negative thoughts and hurts, and giving thanks for your blessings. At the same time, the festival of Yi Peng involves releasing thousands of illuminated paper lanterns into the sky. A lovely and completely unforgettable experience.

Festival de Cornuto in Rocca Canterano, Italy

Not a great choice for a honeymoon trip, this November festival is a celebration of infidelity! The ‘Festival of the Horned One’ with its carnival of floats and street theatre is a perfect choice for spurned lovers, cheated-on spouses and betrayed brides. Console your broken heart with some delicious Italian ice-cream and laugh your troubles away.

Cozumel – Getting Ruined Among Ruins in Mexico

Story and Photos by Shane Crash (@shanecrash)
Cozumel by Shane CrashIn San Miguel De Cozumel, off the Yucatan Peninsula, I was caught in a miniature flash flood, in danger of being seriously injured. The downpour began and I gaped ignorantly at the rising water, helplessly flailing on my rent-a-bike. Eventually the water won out, sweeping my bike away and me with it. Fortunately, a friendly local pulled me up onto the elevated entrance of a McDonalds. He told me that the entire island had been hit with one tropical storm after another, and that the periodic downpours would continue.

I’ve traveled twenty-seven hundred miles, only to wash up in a McDonalds. And I often ask myself how I’ve become so cynical.

It rains for nearly half an hour, and the water washes out after another forty-five minutes or so. I retreat back to Casita De Maya where I’m staying alone, spend the remainder of the day drying out, and sulking in a hot tub. In the evening I get rip roaring drunk in the hotel bar where I plan a trip further inland while dragging on the lousiest cigarette of my life.

CozumelThe next day I catch a ride up to the San Gervaiso ruins, a site dedicated to the Mayan goddess Ixchel. (“She of the Rainbows”) The jungle shrine is fascinating, surrounded by gorgeous foliage and lazy iguanas. In the heat, wandering through the abandoned structures, I have a tendency to feel as though the sun is swallowing me. My guide, Andres, fills me in on the myths and history of the Mayan culture. I’m sure some people won’t find gray stone and worn rock illuminating, but as a student of anthropology and a lover of big ass lizards, it’s well worth the visit.

Mexico RuinsWhen I get back to San Miguel, I find a restaurant at the end of Punta Langosta Pier. I establish it as my unofficial headquarters when I find out they serve pizza. They tell me they’ve purified their ice, but I don’t trust them so I drink beer and nibble on pizza as I work on a manuscript that will become my debut novel.

In the evening I aimlessly saunter to the Corpus Christi Cathedral before meandering back to The Plaza, which is essentially the city center of San Miguel. I’m feeling rather lively from all the booze, and pleased to find a large crowd to blend into. The locals are dressed in vibrant costumes and the air is rich with the stench of cigars and the sound of music. The inner Plaza is packed with tourists, hanging out before they have to board the cruise ships later in the evening. One of these tourists sees fit to rub an ice cream cone across my cheek before licking it off and walking away. I’m a reluctant ladies man like that.

ruins in Cozumel, MexicoPer usual, I find myself feeling lonely in large crowds. Most of the tourists are chatty and polite, albeit drunk. I feel lonely and connected to the mob, a kind of bitter kinship. So I sit and nibble on tacos from Casa Denis. A group of attractive college aged girls approach and chat me up, distracting me from my melancholy.

They drag me over to a courtyard where throngs of people are dancing. I mostly smile and nod and let them dance around me while I stare at the bright pastel walls behind them. I can’t dance and I’m too polite to be rude. I’ve been that way about dancing my entire life, and I think girls have built in radar for it  – because they always target me.

I finally slip away when siesta hour commences and make my way back to Casita De Maya where I chow down on yogurt with walnuts, complimentary of my stellar room service.
I spend my final day in Cozumel checking out the Punta Celerain lighthouse, considerably more sober than I have been on the rest of the trip. There’s something like one hundred and thirty steps up to the lookout point, but it’s worth the hike for the gorgeous view, and the Columbia Lagoon is a breathtaking mural of breaking blues.  Afterward I relax on a hammock just off the shoreline. The beach is a mess from the last storm that blew through, but it’s worth it to gaze out at white sand and cerulean waves.
It’s nice to know that even the most vicious storms can’t rob the world of its beauty.

Shane Crash is an American author and activist. He’s published several zines centered on alleviating poverty and homelessness. In 2009 he co-authored a collection of satire and poetry in the short zine, Lost Thoughts. And in 2010 he released Travel Logs, a short chronicle of his travels across the globe. He released his debut novel, Forest Life, in September of 2012 through Civitas Press. His upcoming novella, Tabula Rasa, is part of a double novella feature with writer Anthony Mathenia.
At the age of twenty-one, up until he married at twenty-three, Shane traveled the world, voluntarily homeless, traveling from city to city. Shane has partnered with the Catholic Worker House to care for single mothers fleeing abuse. He’s also partnered with the Catholic Workers to tutor immigrants, teaching English, and American history.
Shane often speaks on nonviolence and social responsibility. He runs Pacifist Army, a volunteer group of nonviolent activists who raise awareness on various social issues, including nonviolence and poverty.Shane passionately advocates for education and nonviolent alternatives to war. He’s a fan of marvel comics and pizza.You can find his blog at ShaneCrash.com 

World Travel Diarrhea – An Ugly Topic – Some Simple Cures

Montezuma’s revenge, Delhi belly, Hong Kong dog, Tiki trots, Casablanca crud, Katmandu quickstep. But travelers from Mexico, India, Nepal, Morocco, and other places might call it the ‘Lincoln’s Loose Logs’ or ‘Shock and Awe’, because they can get it when they visit the United States too.

One of the likely challenges a traveler may face as he embarks on either business or leisure travel pertains to his health. A major occurrence is diarrhea. Traveler diarrheaThis is the passage of semi-formed or watery stool. Most times, it calls for urgency and the affected person may not be able to hold it for sometime as may be done for a normal pooping. At times it happens amidst vomiting, flatulence and abdominal pain which may last for 3 to 4 days. Hence, it is necessary for travelers to ensure that this ugly experience does not occur during traveling.

Bacteria are the most common microbe that cause diarrhea. However, it may also be caused by other parasites and viruses.

The destination actually is also a major factor on which contracting the runs depends. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 30 to 50% of travelers will contract diarrhea during a stay of 1 to 2 weeks in some areas of high risk. The risk also varies from time to time in temperate climates.

Places of low risk

Truly, there are some countries of the world with very low prevalence of diarrhea. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and countries in northern and western Europe fall under this category.This doesn’t mean people don’t poop their pants in these countries though.

Places of intermediate risk

Some of the places where risk of diarrhea is average are places like Eastern Europe, South Africa, and the Caribbean Islands. Chances are that you will just have average amounts of flatulence in these places too.

Places of high risk

Areas in the world with high risk of diarrhea are Africa, Asia, Middle East, also Central and South America. This isn’t because of the people in these countries it’s because the rich countries of the world have generally treated these countries like shit thus leading to the current loose stools in these places.

Causes of the runs:

The chief cause of diarrhea is intake of contaminated food and this is because of the presence of bacteria. Some of the bacteria that may cause this ailment are:

Enterotoxigenic E.coli (ETEC) requires large inoculum to get the disease. This is common in developing countries due to low sanitation efforts. It is characterized by frequent stooling, abdominal pain and low-grade fever.

Another bacterium is the Entroaggregative E.coli (EAEC) which is rated as the cause of over 25 per cent of diarrhea experienced by travelers.

Its symptoms are similar to that of Enterotoxigenic E. coli. Campylobacter jejuni, a causative microrganism common in developed countries, though risk of contacting it is more prevalent in the developing world. The diarrhea caused by this bacterium is characterized by blood stools.

Salmonella spp is associated with food borne epidemics in developed countries. Shigella spp is also a cause of traveler’s diarrhea which may also be bloody and accompanied by cramps in the abdomen and fever.
As for Vibrio spp, it is linked with intake of partially cooked seafood. Also, Giardia lamblia is an intestinal flagellate that is associated with intake of polluted surface water in poor sanitary environments.

The list of pathogens continues. Therefore, travelers, in order to have poopie-pants-free vacations must endeavor to take necessary health measures and exercise some caution.

How to Avoid the trots:

* Avoid uncooked vegetables, especially salads, fruits you can’t peel, undercooked meat, raw shellfish, ice cubes, and drinks made from impure water.
* Try to make sure the dishes and silverware you use have been cleaned in purified water.
* Drink only water that has been carbonated and sealed in bottles or cans. Clean the part of the container that touches your mouth and purified water. Boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes purifies it, as does iodine liquid or tablets.
* Drink acidic drinks like colas and orange juice when possible. They help keep down the E. coli count, the bacteria most responsible for digestive distress.
* Drink acidophilus milk or eat yogurt before your trip. The bacterial colonies established in your digestive system before your trip and maintained during it, reduce the chance of a loose stools catching you by surprise.

Cures on the road:

Here are two possible ‘cocktails’ that might help reduce your diarrhea once you have it.

1) In a glass, put 8 ounces of fruit juice; 1/2 teaspoon of honey, corn syrup, or sugar; and a pinch of salt. In another glass, put 8 ounces of purified water and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Drink a couple of swallows alternately from each glass until finished.

2) Here’s the second formula: glucose, 20 grams; salt, 3.5 grams; baking soda, 2.5 grams; and potassium chloride, 20 grams. Just add to a quart or liter of purified water and drink.

Other options? What if you are stuck and you don’t have any of the above? Easy. Just eat clay or ashes. Or you could eat blueberries, plantains, blackberry roots, or Acorns. All of these have properties that will cause your diarrhea to disappear.

Thankfully, we don’t have to talk about it anymore.

Places I’ve Lived #3, Mazatlan, Mexico

Mazatlan, Mexico I’m happy I had the chance to live outside of the USA as a child – I’m also glad that I got to experience Mexico first hand before the racist bigots who surrounded me growing up had a chance to completely distort my view of this beautiful country and the warm, generous, and hard working Mexican people.

It was common among white people in California during the 60s, 70s, and 80s to denigrate, belittle, and trash talk about Mexican people – sadly, this was especially true in hillbilly places like Big Bear Lake which tended to be filled with bikers, outlaws, and descendants of dustbowl migrants from the 1930s. As a white person, I’m ashamed of that truth – but a truth it is.

As I mentioned though, I was heavily innoculated against it by my father making a terrible decision. “Let’s rent out our house for the winter and drive to Mexico” Never mind that our car was a barely running piece of shit Ford Pinto station wagon. Off we went.

Mazatlan, MexicoThe car broke down and my father was either unable or unwilling to fix it for several months so we rented a house in Mazatlan, made friends with a bunch of Mexican people, and even attempted to go to school without knowing even a little bit of Spanish. I made some friends, played football (soccer), and played on the beach a lot. My friend Manuel and I found a dead whale on the beach once…

Eventually, mom forced dad to fix the car and back we went to Big Bear Lake where renters had trashed our house and stolen most of our possessions.  That’s my story – but here’s a bit about Mazatlan.

Mazatlan, Mexico

Mazatlan, MexicoMazatlan is in the state of Sinaloa – roughly parallel with the southern tip of Baja, California. This is weird given the Octoberfest connection to Big Bear Lake. Mazatlan was founded in 1531 by Spaniards and Indigenous people but it was settled largely by a group of Bavarian immigrants in the 1800s. Bring on the Polka Tots!

Mazatlan is most famous for the miles and miles of beautiful beaches, the old lighthouse and famous cliff jumpers, and the longest boardwalk promenade in the world. It was the first town in the world to suffer an aerial bombardment and for decades had the only English language newspaper in Mexico.  Mazatlan is home to the largest carnival and the largest aquarium in Mexico.

I need to go back…I wonder what ever happened to Manuel?

Mazatlan, Mexico

The New Club Med – Nude Hedonists or Family Friendly?

Club Med
Club Med – Not What You Might Expect

To start, I should probably disclose that until recently when people mentioned Club Med to me I pictured two things:
First – A bunch of hedonistic nudists having orgies on yachts in the Greek Islands or enjoying sensual holidays in Portugal
Second (and perhaps more reasonably) a bunch of pampered and spoiled middle aged tourists enjoying exotic places like the south of France who don’t have to do any of the hard parts of travel but simply spend tons of money to enjoy the best parts.
In fact, Club Med is something very different from both. I don’t know how much you know about Club Med, but what it really is, is an all-inclusive holidays with a very wide number of activities included. It is essentially a service that makes it very easy for people to budget their holidays.
During holidays the staff are called GOs (gentil organisateur = nice organizer) and the customers are called GMs (gentil membre = nice members). There is a very close and friendly relationship between GOs and GMs: GOs help you with anything and do all the activities with you as if they are clients themselves.
Everything is taken care of: people going to Club Med feel free to relax and do nothing or get highly involved in all the activities, meet many people and have a lot of fun.
And all of this is possible regardless of the type of resorts: for families, for couples or for friends wanting to party. The food is served through buffets, where people can eat as much as they want. There are many different types of foods with new specialties from exotic places on a regular basis. You can be sure you will be able to have some “raclette” or “fondue” everyday in every winter ski resort, and still have the opportunity to choose among regular food.
I have recently met a few folks who went to Club Med as kids, and I can guarantee you that children have an amazing time over there! But, as I mentioned, there are adults only resorts as well, so maybe the hedonistic version I mentioned really does exist somewhere.
I’ve met a fair number of people who have been to Club Med in resorts all over the world and one thing I’ve never heard from any of them is a complaint. Frankly, I’m amazed by that. No complaints about the price, the service, the activities, the resorts – nothing at all!
The interesting thing about my ideas about Club Med is that while I was picturing the “unique” bits, I was picturing the wrong bits. In fact, what makes Club Med unique is the service, the way it is set up and the huge number of things that are included in each package. The close bond between GMs and GOs make it unique too. It is true that not everybody wants to socialize but they don’t have to if they don’t want to.
Here is a mind blowing statistic. Out of several hundred people I’ve talked with who have been to Club Med, only three families of them haven’t been back and that was because of work and finances – they all said they would like to return.

It’s actually not all about beaches and yachts either, check out the Club Med ski resorts:
In any event, Club Med isn’t even all about Europe – you can find Club Med in Morocco, Turkey, Cancun, or elsewhere – so, if you want to budget an incredible trip – you might just want to have another look at Club Med.

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