Friday, July 30, 2010

Taiwanted more time.

The stupid thing about getting into Taiwan is that you have to buy a flight out before they'll let you in. This means you better have a good idea of how long you want to stay before touching ground in Taipei. I did not.

So 6 days it was. That's not near enough time to go all the way around the island and specifically, get some beach time in the far south in Kenting. All the backpackers and people teaching English in Asia were headed that way and I felt left out of the cool kids club.

Oh well, I still had a great time.

So here's the breakdown:

3 nights in Taipei, 2 nights in Hualien, and one final night in Taipei.

Taipei is something easily forgotten by the western world but it's truly coming into it's own. It's a great home base for day trips up to the northern coasts and the nightlife is something to be seen. The night markets are especially fantastic. My hostel was located in the middle of one and the 5 lbs. I probably gained was well worth it. The fermented tofu was not well worth it but glad I didn't vomit. It's probably one of my greatest accomplishments of all time.

After Taipei, my new Spanish traveling friend, Jorge, and I headed down to Hualien. It's in the middle of the east coast. Basically no one lives on the east coast of Taiwan so it's perfect for getting out of the city and into some mind-blowing scenery. Hualien was probably the worst city in the world except for the dumpling place I had to visit two nights in a row. It's used as a base for exploration of nature and nothing more.

EXPLORATION!!! We (Jorge, Joe from Northern Cali, and I) headed up to the Taroko national park on the first full day there. It has an absolutely massive marble gorge that is awe-inspiring. The pictures are crappy so forgive me.

The gorge was great but the best part was hiking the Shakadang trail. Yes, I love saying Shakadang trail. Imagine the clearest/bluest, most beautiful water you've ever seen and multiply that times 50. All the signs saying NO SWIMMING meant we had to take a dip. Don't call me a brash American for swimming in most sacred river in Taiwan. I heard it's done regularly. That's what I'm telling myself at least.

Check out the photos. The greatest swim of my life is what I kept saying.

So we finished the trail and realized we only had 30 minutes to hike the 4kms back to the bus stop. Best solution: run. And run we did. 4 km in 25 mins with backpacks on. It felt great. We probably have done it anyway but I'm happy the bus schedule provoked it.

On day two Jorge and I rented bikes and rode around Yilu lake outside Hualien. It was a major couples place so we did our best to manly it up by riding around it in half the time it should take and taking photos of holding the bikes above our heads. Again, see the photos.

After that it was back to Taipei since I had to fly out the next day.

So here I am in Malaysia eagerly anticipating all Southeast Asia has to offer. Beaches and cheapness abound.

Kuala Lampur is a city. That's about it. Next up: Singapore then Thailand (Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, and Bangkok). I met up with my friend Ryan whom I met in Uruguay and we (me, Ryan, and two of his friends) will be destroying the next few cities together. It's nice to have a crew and 4 is a great number for traveling.

That's all for now. Here are some of the Taiwan photos:

On the docket today is an attempt to buy all new clothes for crazy cheap in Chinatown in KL. I heart negotiating.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Korea + Taipei

Since the last post I've been to Seoul and Taipei, Taiwan. Here's a brief/boring recap:

I had 3 days in Seoul which was plenty given my complete lack of interest in going to any more temples. Yes, if your temple/shrine/palace is a UNESCO world heritage site I'll go to it but should I really feel obligated to see everyone? It's just like the churches in Europe... they all kind of blend together after a bit.

Well anyway. My hostel in Seoul was a bit weird but pretty nice. Met some good folks, especially the last night. Most fascinating was a 21 year old German guy who went to Australia 6 months ago with no money and left after 6 months with no money but still managed to travel around by working (shucking corn, picking mangoes, etc.) and hitchhiking. Also in our crew that night was a 27 year old Irishman who is a teacher. The Irishman was travelling with a full tennis bag and playing pick-up games when he could find a court.

Long story short: we all went out and were just drinking a few beers on the street when a Korean businessman came up to us and asked it we would like to have some drinks with him. Sounds shady I know but he seem legit. My statement to the Irish guy (John) was that "he could try to kill me and I'd still go into that bar." I was searching for a story I guess. The night turned out great since he bought all our beers. He ended up getting destroyed off of Budweiser and just kept proclaiming "WE ARE FRIENDS!!!" over and over and over.

Seoul was a good city but nothing mind-blowing. The neighborhood I stayed in though (Hongdae) was an amazing hipster/college area. I could people watch there all day long.

The original intention when leaving Seoul was to go to Taiwan but I began to question how much time I really want to spend in SE Asia (it's looking like it'll be around 7 weeks after Taiwan). After looking at flights out of Seoul I found that I could get to Kuala Lampur, Malaysia much cheaper by going through Taipei instead of flying directly since I can take Air Asia out of Taipei. That sealed it and here I am, the third night of 6 in Taiwan.

Tapei is amazing. It's really a first-rate city that is completely forgotten. It's about as cheap here as Korea (which is refreshing after the outrageous prices in Japan) and there is tons to do outside the main city. I went to Yellu on the coast yesterday and it's famous for the unique erosion to the shoreline. The photos will have to do it justice.

Last night and today I've ran around with a 28 year old Spanish guy named Jorge. He's been gone 7 months and has 5 left to go. He acrued so much overtime in one year that he could take a year off. Do the math, that's working two years in one and getting all the overtime as a vacation. Sweet.

The rest of his trip looks incredibly similar to mine so I'm sure well get into a few adventures together. We're heading down to Hualien tomorrow for two days. It's on the east coast which is pretty rural and we'll just rent scooters, head to the beach and do some hiking trails in the mountains.

Well that's the recap of what's going on. No major viewpoints on societies or the cultures. That'll be saved for another post. I know, I know... photos would be nice. Patience please.

Now... night market for some cheap street food!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Busan, South Korea

Seriously, who was keeping this city secret.

I've never even heard of Busan before deciding I needed a cheaper way to South Korea than plane. It was an awesome hydrofoil that pretty much just floated in the water. The best part: a pod of dolphis was beside the boat for a bit.

When we pulled into Busan the weather was sunny and I knew that my goal of finding a beach was going to be realized. Also, when getting off the ferry I run into someone from North Little Rock. For real. How crazy is that? I step off the boat and Erin Riley is right in front of me. I met her and her friend Shanade for dinner and drinks the day. Busan, South Korea.

Small world indeed.

The next day in Busan I hit of the desperately disered beach. After an hour my skin turned a horrific shade of red and I had to escape. Goal achieved.

I was originally supposed to spend one day in Busan but that quickly became two when I saw the heavily populated hillsides. Seoul could wait.

Monday, July 19, 2010


So this page has been pretty desolate ever since I left the states and, trust me, I've heard about that from multiple sources. A few reasons for that include: lack of photos since they're on my good camera, hesitation due to my lofty expectations for describing anything I see in my the most accurate way, access to only Japanese keyboards, and, the number one reason, I'm out actually having fun.

As a remedy to those barriers, I'm going to begin posting whatever, whenver. It'll increase the number of posts significantly.

Let's recap the last 12 days!

Japan was amazing! (I'm in Seoul, South Korea at the moment btw.)

It's certainly a country that has everything. Here's how the time was split:

Tokyo - 4 Days
Kyoto - 1 Day
Osaka - 3 Days
Hirosima - 2 Days
Fukuoka - 1 Day

Not near enough time was spent in Japan and I feel like I missed so much. I guess that means I'll have to go back eventually. Nice.

As for photos, check them out on my facebook page:

Kyoto and Osaka:
Hiroshima and Fukuoka:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trip Preparation

I guess a post about trip preparation seems inappropriate once the trip has actually begun but let's get it out of the way so that we can get to the good stuff.

Trip prep huh? Well...basically it sucks.

Here are some things I had to do and their current status:

Get health insurance: Complete. I got 4 months of travelers insurance for $197 It's better than nothing but hopefully won't be needed. Their policy did state anything alcohol related or anything where I put myself in obvious danger isn't covered. In other words, I threw away $197 dollars to make my mom happy.

Move stuff to storage: Complete. The photos at the bottom say it all. (Well they would if they were working. Sorry. I'm still figuring out this mobile blogging thing.) Thanks to my former roommate Louis for modeling and helping somehow cram my stuff into a 5 x 10 space.

Fix Knee: Uhh. Not quite. I ran a half marathon on four weeks of training in March of 2009 and it's been messed up ever since. I saw a doctor again this week and he told me something different than the last doctor but they both said to rehab it with and flexibility training. I did get some good anti-inflammatory meds though. I filled 4 prescriptions at Walmart in two days. Yes, they let you do that.

Prevent credit card fraud: FAIL. The day before I went to DC, Capital One gave me a call saying my card has been compromised and that they'll need to issue me a new number. Fantastic. They express shipped it and I picked it two hours before my flight. This was an insanely hectic trip through DC.
Pack: There are two side to my packing, technology and everything else.

I've gotten pretty intense with the technology (and I'll outline it in more detail later) but basically here is how I'm operating:

Voice: Skype mobile on my iPhone. This really is amazing. For $3 a month I can call anyone in the states when I have wifi connection (which is almost always).

Data: iPhone 4 for the win

Camera: iPhone and a new awesome Sony Cybershot

Also, I have rechargeable portable charger for my iPhone. So, I can plug the charger in on the go without needing power. It's really convenient and charges my phone about halfway.

Like I said, I'll expand on the subject of backpacking technology later but suffice it to say, I'm set.

As for everything else I've packed, think lightweight and appropriate for hot and humid weather. I'll buy clothes along the way to account for climate changes (Nepal and Eastern Europe in particular).

Ok, writing about this subject is terrible so I'll leave you with some photos of packing. (Still need to get this to work.)






Thursday, June 10, 2010

And so it begins.

Well... it's official. I've made the plunge into the not-so-friendly land called unemployment. It's by choice, mind you, and certainly a temporary choice but it's unemployment nonetheless.

Let's take a few steps back...

Odds are, if you are reading this, you know me already. Given the advent of social networking, you might only slightly know me but the aim of these writings is to change that for all experiences prior and to keep you involved in all travels and adventures future.

I'm Mitchell: citizen of the world first and of Arkansas, USA a distant second. Both parts are equally important and the latter certainly developed the former. When you live in Arkansas there is nowhere to go but out.

With that being said, the general function of this page is to give you line-of-sight into my adventures. Sitting still has never been my forte and I'm fortunate enough to have been to 4 continents, 25 countries and 38 states as of this writing. The majority of those 25 countries were on my 3 month backpacking trip in Europe. My experiences were indescribable and modern technology makes travel incredibly easy. This was in 2006 so 2010 will be even easier (hopefully).

So what's next?

Well, as mentioned, the employment is on hold for the time being because I have something that needs to be done before getting too far into my career. I'll soon embark on a 4 month journey (leaving July 1st) around the world with a focus on the East (Asia and India). Here's the tentative itinerary:

Washington, DC
South Korea
SE Asia - Over a month
Eastern Europe/Russia/Scandanavia

Many of these destinations are places I can't see myself getting back to easily. I'm young and capable and while some may view a 4 month sabbatical as career-limiting, I view it as personally enlightening. After all, a potential employer who shares these views is someone I want to work for.

So there's the setup. I'm sure I'll write a bit more about the justification for my decision but, come on, is it really that necessary?

Stayed tuned for more about trip preparation!