Author Archives: calibackpacker

Huntington Beach light pole

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Spotted in Vegas

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Being Sick on the Road

After spending this past weekend being sick as a dog, it got me thinking about the times I have gotten sick while I was backpacking. It is not common for most people to get sick within the first few days they arrive in a different country, especially a 3rd world country. This happens because we are not used to the food and sanitary, or lack thereof. Heck, its common enough that they even coined it ” Traveler’s Diarrhea” . Traveler’s Diarrhea is the most common illness affecting backpackers. Of all my arrivals in different countries there are only 2 times where I remember getting sick.

My first encounter with this common illness was when I arrived in Bangkok for the time. I’ll never forget the wave of heat as I stepped out of the doors of BKK ( Bangkok’s International Airport). It was like nothing that I have ever felt before. The heat took my breath away. Already feeling tired and woozy from the 20 something hour-long flight, I grabbed a taxi and headed toward the famous backpacker hangout street called Khao San Road. With no hostel booked, I was hoping to just show up, grab a bed in a dorm and crash for a few hours. Well, turns out every hostel was fully booked and I was told I had to wait until checkout time to see if anyone was checking out and therefore opening up a bed for me. So I dropped off my backpack at the hostel and decided to kill the time ( as it was 3 in the morning) by walking around my new home city for a few hours. Khao San Road is littered with tourist traps and venders selling all kinds of random things to eat and buy. I came across a stand and the contents that it was selling just blew me away. DEEP FRIED FROGS. I had to try right? I mean I came half way across the world so I had to try one of these things. Those who know me, know that when I travel I eat like the locals. This was one thing out of many random things I’ve eaten that I will never try again. It didn’t taste too bad but I think the thought of knowing that I was eating a frog made it a little worse than it was. I ate it all and felt fine. Then a couple of hours later I felt the rumble in my stomach and knew I would be sick. I spent the 2 days recovering in my 10 bed dorm with no A/C. It was brutal. It had to be above 90 degrees in the room and all I had was a fan that didn’t even hit me. I soaked a towel in water and laid it on my face. I finally got rid of the sickness and was able to enjoy more street food. Those two days were some of the worst that I’ve had while backpacking. I’ll never eat deep-fried frog again.

The second time wasn’t really a sickness. It was the worst ear ache that I have ever had. I was on the amazing island of Bocas Del Toro in Panama. This island is unlike any I have been to. Its more of a chain of little islands connected together only by a long tail boat that you hire to get to each one. I was in the middle of getting my advanced scuba diver certification. It’s a three-day course that involves book work and a variety of dives including a night dive, deep dive, and a ship wreck dive. On the night before my final dive and the completion of the course, my ear started to really bother me. This was not my first time diving as I had gotten my open water diving certification a month earlier in Honduras and even then my ears were acting up. The pain was not too bad but I was a little hesitant to go on the final dive because I knew it could be bad on the ear. The dive instructor told me that the only way to pass the course was to do this final dive so I pretty much had to. It was bad idea. Less the an hour after the final dive my ear was killing me. I went straight to my room, luckily I had my own room, and tried to sleep it off. It was hot, really hot in my non A/C room and I couldn’t sleep. This was the worst earache I had ever had. I finally gave in and asked where the hospital was. I had to get some sort of medicine for the pain. I was told it was about a 20 minute walk so I headed there. When I arrived it was crowded. The workers didn’t know much English and I only knew a small amount of Spanish. I pointed to my ear and said ” dolor” which means pain. I was taken in the back and luckily the nurse knew a little bit of English and told me it was pretty bad. They gave me pills and ear drops and wanted me to go back everyday for the next 7 days to get a shot. This was a problem because I was leaving the island in 2 days so I just played along and said I would. This Dr. visit only cost me 6 bucks. I was astonished by that and headed back to my room. The following day my ear was feeling better and I was able to enjoy the sun again on the gorgeous island. I’ll never forget that time. The pain was incredible.

Top 5 Things I Look for When Choosing a Hostel

Through my travels I have stayed in many types of hostels, guesthouses, cheap hotels, you name it and I have stayed in it. There are many different types of cheap accommodations while backpacking and each one has its own style, amenities and good and bad things associated with it. When im choosing a hostel there are a few things I look for that will sway me to choose where ill be staying that night or how ever many nights I am in that particular city. Here’s my top 5 things I look for when I choose a Hostel:

5. Free Breakfast

Most hostels that I have stayed at will include a free “breakfast” with the price of a nights stay. This is a good thing to look for if you either on a budget or a cheap skate, like me. While most of the time the free breakfast will only consist of cereal or bread, jam, fruit, and juice and coffee it’s still free and will save you a few bucks from having to eat out somewhere. Even if you wake up and you’re not too hungry its smart to head to the kitchen area and grab a couple of pieces of bread and some fruit and save it for later because now you have something to eat for lunch and you also just saved money that will no doubt be spent on beer later that day.

4. Free Internet

Internet is a must have for backpackers. It provides a means of keeping in contact with family and friends back home, reserving a hostel in your next city, checking how much money you have left and even seeing whats going on in the world. In Europe especially internet is insanely expensive as most internet cafes charge you by the hour so when im looking for a hostel that I want to stay in I usually go with one that offers free internet. I love anything free and hey, its more beer money that ill have to spend each night.

3. Location

Location is a pretty important factor to take into account when I look for my hostel. Obviously the hostels that are closer to the city center or the popular areas of town will be cheaper than the ones further away. Even though one out-of-town may be a good amount cheaper than in town you have to remember that you will have to pay for transportation from your out-of-town hostel into the popular part of town and back again. This can add up to a big chuck of change at the end of the day. I have stayed in both of these types and ive learned my lesson: pay the money to stay close to where the happening spots are. Most of the times the price of transportation everyday adds up more than the price of the hostel. Location is a big key for me. Spend the extra money and you will have more coins to spend on beer that night. ( Crazy how that works, huh?)

2. Atmosphere

Theres nothing better than walking into your new hostel in the city you just arrived in and seeing that it has its own bar packed with other backpackers partying and drinking and laughing and just having a good time. If I hear or read that a hostel has a great atmosphere than chances are I will head there and see for myself. I mean that’s what backpacking is all about. Seeing the world, meeting people, and having a great time all the time. Now, there are some times when I am just over the drinking and loudness and want to find a quite place on a secluded beach and be alone but most of the time I look for the hostels that are packed with loud rowdy drunk kids. Then I spend the money that I saved on not having to use an internet cafe and buy beers. All.Night. Long.

1. Price

It’s no secret that I am a cheap skate so this one so come as no surprise. The number one thing I look for when searching for a hostel is PRICE. I’m a backpacker not a tourist. I don’t have loads of cash. My money has to last me weeks, not days. I’d rather have a crappy dorm room than a 4 star hotel. That’s just how I am. Usually the cheapest rooms are dorms rooms. This means that you will be sharing a room with strangers. Anywhere from 3 to 24 other people will be sleeping and staying in the room with you. What better way to meet people than to have to “live” with them? The biggest dorm room I stayed in was a 25 person one in Amsterdam. It was cheap but not THAT cheap being that the Euro dominates the USD. It was fun and since we all saved money by booking the dorm we all went out for beers!

Weekly Photo: Prairie Dogs

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Weekly Photo: Pawn Stars

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Movie Review: Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs was released in 2011 and didn’t get the best reviews. It stars James Marsden and Kate Bosworth as a married couple moving from Los Angeles back to Kate’s hometown in Mississippi. James is a successful screenwriter from LA who plans on using the quite locale of Kate’s late father’s house to write his next movie. Things don’t quite go as planned. When the two arrive in Kate’s hometown, in their $100,000 + Jaguar convertible, they immediately catch the eyes of the locals. All of them are excited to see Kate, no one more so than her ex high school boyfriend. Right away he starts to hit on Kate and we the audience are first shown the soft, non threatening side of her husband, James. As the movie progresses the tension between the locals and Kate and James escalates and the final scene is somewhat unexpected and entertaining. Straw Dogs is not a ” drop what you’re doing” must see movie but it is really entertaining and will keep you wondering when the sure to come resolution of the their conflict will come. I recommend watching if you have a night and nothing else grabs your attention in the Redbox or Netflix.

7/10

Old Post from 2 months before Thailand last March

I was looking around and found this old post that I had posted on another blog site that I know longer use and wanted to share. Kinda crazy reading this after the trip. I had forgotten about it.

Well there is just under 2 months left until i head back to one of my favorite countries that ive ever wandered around: Thailand. People always ask me why do i love Thailand so much and for some reason its tough to answer. I can not just name one thing that makes me want to go back there again and again. I love everything about that country from the amazing beaches to the nice people and not to mention its extremely cheap. The food is amazing and it is probably in my top three of favorite kinds of food. Theres nothing better than buying some chicken on a stick on Khoa San Road and strolling up and down looking at all the tourists buy the things tourists buy. I am not a tourist. Backpackers are not tourists. I like to go off the beaten path and stay in the cheapest places possible. Tourists go for the most luxorious hotels and always travel in a group of other tourists because they over paid by hundereds of dollars at the tour agency office. I like to get places on my own. Take the cheapest route possible. This way allows you see the real country for what it is and gets you away from the fake tourist side of things.

Now all there is to do is wait. I hate this part. The flights have been booked, the hostel in bangkok for when we arrive has been booked and the hotel for the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan has been booked. Yes, i did say “hotel”. This is we be one of only a handful of times that ill have stayed in a hotel while backpacking. Like i said before I always go for the cheap hostels but this party is so insane and so much fun that it calls for a badass hotel on the beach. That is exactly what we have booked. The resort in called Blue Marine. we reserved two rooms and both are ” beachfront cottages”. They consist of two beds and a balcony with two chairs, a table, and of course, a hammock overlooking the ocean. This place is pretty cheap. We got the two rooms for five nights and the total was just under $600 bucks. So thats just under $150 USD per person for a sweet room beachfront room during the world famous party. This is by far the most ive paid for a room while backpacking but i know from experience just how crazy this party is and it warrants a room like this.

Now, the three others guys im going with have never done the backpacker thing before so I thought “what better way to break them in than have there first taste of a hostel be a shitty one?” So thats what I did. I searched for the shittiest room in bangkok i could find but i also wanted it to be near Khao San Road so I found one thats cheap and kinda shitty. Ive definatly stayed in worse hostels throughout my days but this one will be good for them. We have a four bed dorm so we will all me in there together and it was only $4 bucks a night/person. My first time in Bangkok I went real cheap and had a ten bed dorm with no a/c and a broken fan that didnt do anything for me and it was $1.35/night. It was miserable. So this should be a slight upgrade.

Im looking forward to this flight because we have an overnight layover in LA which means ill get to see my family and Halo. It also means that ill be able to take Ed and Tim around my hometown for the night which will be fun. It was pretty stressful trying to find flights that would allow us to land in LA and have Jason get on the same flight as us but I made it happen after days of searching for the perfect flight. Overall, we got a pretty good deal on the price. the price of the flight from DFW to BKK ( Bangkok ) was $1179 after the price of the travel insurance. I normally never buy the insurance but this was pretty cheap so I got it. Jason’s flight from LAX to BKK was under $1000 and that was what he wanted to stay under. Also, on the way back we have an eight hour layover in S. Korea which happens to be home to some of Ed’s relatives so we are gonna wander around S. Korea for a few hours and hopefully meet his relatives.

Two months away. Seems like a long time but im hoping it goes pretty fast. I have a lot planned here in the next couples months so im thinking it should go by rather quick.

Weekly Photo: Texan Night

Storm brewing in Texas

Hostel Spotlight: Khaosan Road Rainbow Hostel

This hostel is located just a 2 minute walk from the legendary Khaosan Road in the heart of Bangkok. Every backpacker has heard of Khaosan Road and its the location where everyone wants to stay. Rainbow Hostel offers a good amount ofdifferent rooms from the common dorm with shared bathroom to the single rooms with private bathrooms. You can also choose between A/C or fan rooms.

Bangkok is hot, extremely hot in the summer time so I would grab an A/C room if available. Usually I stick with the fan room but here its only a couple bucks more the a fan room so I “splurge” for that added comfort. Nothing worse than trying to fall asleep in a room that’s above 90 degrees F. Believe me, I’ve tried.

During my last trip to Thailand when I went with my buds we stayed here twice. At the begining and end of the trip. None of them had been backpacking before so I wanted to find the most basic hostel I could so that they can get their feet wet in the backpacking/hostel world. I browsed Hostelworld.com for a little bit and came across Khaosan Road Rainbow Hostel. It really was the perfect choice. Right near Khaosan Road, cheap price for A/C dorm, and had free internet.

Free internet is a huge factor for me when deciding where to book. Every traveler needs internet. Its a way to stay in touch with friends and family back home, book future hostels, and of course, keep up to date with how your favorite sports teams are doing. This hostel has free WiFi so I booked it.

When we arrived and headed to our room it was a simple 6 bed dorm ( 3 bunk beds). Just how I liked it. The beds were pretty hard and thin but I was used to that. The WiFi worked decently as we were up on the 3rd floor. The shared bathroom was down the hall and I never had to wait for it to be unoccupied.

Downstairs in the lobby was also an indian restaurant. I never ate there but it always had a few people eating in it. The staff were friendly and accommodating and had good knowledge of the area. There was no curfew which was nice as the crazies on Khaosan Road come out late at night.

Overall this was a decent hostel and you did get a lot of bang for your buck. Clean bathrooms, OK beds, A/C, and free WiFi made it a pretty enjoyable stay. We stayed a total of 4 nights here and it was a good hostel experience. Not the best place we stayed on the trip but if youre looking for a basic hostel with the necessary ammenities then this is a great place. Plus, you can not beat the location of this hostel .

RATING: 7/10