After eating in dozens of restaurants in countries where tipping is the norm, one figures out a pattern: Waiters, if one ever bothers to look at their expressions after receiving tips, are often never happy about the amount of tips received. It does not matter if one tips 12%, 15%, 18%, or 20%, the expressions are often completely blank or laced with a slight frown, indicating that the amount could have been more. They obviously cannot show negative attitudes outright, but the underlying unhappiness is all too clear.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Saturday, August 12, 2017
at 11:12 AM
Many backpackers travel alone, not because they have no friends or inherent distaste of other people, but they find solo travel to be much more carefree than if the travel had conducted with others. Traveling by oneself means there is no need to consult others when making decisions on where to go, what to do, where to eat, and where to stay. The travel plan can be executed so much quicker, and changes in the itinerary can be made much more flexibly. The freedom of traveling independently comes from the fact that there is no restriction of others having different opinions, who needs to be persuaded otherwise.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
at 1:36 PM
What is the longest downtime a traveler can have? For many, the answer would be zero. Being in a new place, new environment, and potentially new people, there would be little in terms of boredom. Always something new to see and experience, the traveler should never be bored while being in new and exciting destinations that the traveler him/herself chose in the first place. Unfortunately, such is but empty speculation from people who rarely travel. The reality is that traveling, more often than not, involve much waiting and sitting around than the traveler would experience back home.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
at 12:49 PM
Traveling across multiple countries, it often makes very little sense to purchase Sim cards in every destination. Without it, one's smartphone would not be able to take advantage of mobile Internet networks available to local carriers, instead strictly relying on whatever wifi networks that can be obtained for free and for a fee in public and private institutions. The constant search and usage of these wifi networks are a unique sight and experience in travel nowadays.
Monday, July 24, 2017
at 10:47 AM
It is difficult to generalize a whole continent, and that is especially true for one as big as South America. From the north tropics of Cartagena to the Antarctic extremities of Patagonia, the varying climates of the landmass is only superseded in variety by the existence of many biomes, from the frigid high altitudes of the Andes, to the palmy Caribbean coasts, to the humid Amazon, to the Mediterranean weathers of Chilean and Argentine wine producing regions.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
at 4:01 PM
Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. I have been spending the last two and a half hours waiting for the bus heading across the border to Argentina. The customers waiting at the bus stand are getting rumpled by the minute, as buses bound for other destinations pass through one by one. Finally, the right bus arrives, but the customers are not relieved. The bus opens, and the long luxury bus is crammed full to the aisles with passengers that the bus probably spent way too much time collecting elsewhere.
Monday, July 17, 2017
at 9:09 AM
Before I embarked on this long trip through South America, I had the fortune to be approved for a traveler's credit card that charges no foreign transaction fee anywhere in the world. Considering that foreign banks generally charge administrative fees for ATM usage, this traveler's credit card has now become by far the cheapest way for me to access money. Hence, more than anytime I have in the past, I have been swiping credit card anywhere that the option is available.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
at 1:06 PM
If there is anything that surprised me about Chilean culture, it is the sheer openness with which locals show romantic affection to one another in public places. In subway cars, shops, plazas, and especially bus/train stations, couples casually French kiss, with not a care in the world that there are hundreds of people around that are baring witnessed to their romantic displays. They just pick a spot, hold hands, face each other, and start making out, loudly and at length.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
at 6:23 PM
Valparaiso, Chile is known unofficially as the mural capital of Chile. Pieces of art spray painted on walls grace every other building in the colorful hills hugging the Pacific Ocean. Tourists trek through the hills looking for the most beautiful pieces, snapping pictures on literally every other street in the city's hilly neighborhoods. Along with the architecture and the natural settings, the murals contributed to Valparaiso being granted UNESCO heritage status.
Friday, July 14, 2017
at 12:39 PM
A few months ago, the Singaporean newspaper Straits Times did a great piece on what is called "beg-packing," a phenomenon whereby foreign tourists, often whites from developed countries, finance their backpacking trips across Southeast Asia by selling knickknacks like postcards or performance arts on the streets of their travel destinations. Sitting on the street sides, these tourists get handouts from local people drawn by curiosity of foreigners practically begging on the streets.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
at 6:26 PM
Going on tours, I always have a dilemma. Does the tour guide expect a tip, or is the tip included in the service? Does the guide earn a living from tips, or is it culturally taboo to give tip (yes, in many Asian countries, tipping can be considered an insult). For a person new to a foreign country, the answer is not a simple one, often requiring careful observation to see how others behave so that one can follow suit accordingly. But when everyone is looking at others for guidance on the topic, the dilemma becomes a collective one.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
at 5:16 PM
Uyuni, Bolivia is really in the middle of nowhere. Surrounding the town is endless expense of deserts, themselves hemmed to one side by towering mountains that separates the area from the mountainous bulk of the country. From the window of the bus that comes down from the mountains, the town looks like a mirage, a clump of civilization surrounded by inhabitable nature. Indeed, the town abruptly ends at deserts, overlooking into complete nothingness.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
at 6:19 PM
Walking down the streets of major cities in Bolivia, one would come across an interesting phenomenon, almost all of the minibuses that serve as the main form of public transport for the local populace is decorated in the front and the sides with a series of Chinese characters, printed on in order but making completely no sense. These characters add a sense of the exotic to otherwise bland one-color exterior of the busses. Occasionally, the same is observed for trucks that carry products within the towns or across the country.
Monday, July 10, 2017
at 9:57 AM
Look at any major tourist site in the world today, there is bound to be an adjacent area with hundreds of shops serving the needs of hundreds of thousands of travelers coming through every year. They do a roaring business. People need to eat, sleep, be entertained, and have their laundry done. And away from home and unfamiliar with the local prices, the tourists are willing to pay much higher prices than the local residents for services and products, some of them so basic as to not cost that much to provide.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
at 3:24 PM
Looking various tourist sites around the Incan capital city of Cuzco, it is rather obvious that the local inhabitants take their Incan heritage very seriously. From the grand citadel at Machu Picchu to the various museums lining the capital city's main streets, the locals have tirelessly presented an image of solidarity with the Incan tradition. The rainbow color flag of the Inca still fly the streets along with the Peruvian national flag, and major streets still retain their names in Quechua, the language of the Inca.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
at 11:31 AM
If there is one thing that world travelers tend to get used to quite quickly, it is the idea of not understanding anything in the destinations that they end up in. No matter how many languages one learn over the course of one's lifetime, the number of unique languages spoken in different parts of the world is simply too many for one person to speak even the very basics of, not mention really master. There always need to be some way to communicate with locals that does not involve actually learning the local language.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
at 2:16 PM
The main square of the Cartagena old Town is beautifully lit up at night. Against the background of illuminated clock towers, colonial buildings, and the defensive walls, restaurants, bars, and night clubs throng with revelers from around the world, taking in the beauty of the 16th century architecture over a cold beer or two. Some walk around the neighborhood, seemingly traveling to the past when the city was the thriving main port of the mighty Spanish Empire in the America's.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
at 1:47 PM
If there is anything positive about living in rural Tanzania, it is the low price and availability of medicine. Even in the most remote village, there tends to be one pharmacy that sells everything from Band-Aids to tablets that treats malaria. With many generics that cost no more than a few USD for something that would cost many times more elsewhere, it makes sense for price-conscious foreigners to purchase medicines in rural Africa rather than in their home countries. What if one falls ill? In market towns across the country, district- and regional-level hospitals exist to provide basic treatments.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
at 1:22 PM
It is the author's first time in San Francisco airport (SFO) in perhaps 8 or 9 years. The airport seems have gotten much cleaner, brighter, and bigger than before. But amid the positive first impressions of the place, one other visual cue that stood out, maybe a bit too much, was just how many Asian people can be found in the airport. The majority of people at the airport was Asian, from guys assisting passengers at the luggage scanning machines, the people guiding people around airports, to, of course, passengers themselves. Even immigration staff, generally pretty multiracial, tends to be heavily Asian at SFO.
Friday, May 26, 2017
Why is There So Little Serious Discussions of Africa's Economic Falling Behind among Expats on the Ground?
at 4:31 AM
This blog has not been kind to rural Tanzania or Africa in general. From criticizing the people's flippant attitude toward money to oddities of everyday life, it has made no effort to conceal that fact that it has portrayed the locations where the author has resided and traveled to in an overwhelmingly negative light. In the process, much doubt is cast on the future of the continent, much in contrary to the more and more common thesis of "Africa Rising" narrative that is growing prominent in some quarters of popular media and academic world.