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Archive for the Category "Adventure"

New guy in town Mar 20

I recently began an extended stay in Annapolis, the capitol of Maryland. Annapolis is perhaps best known as the location of the US Naval Academy, but it has lots of other things to recommend it, and since I’m new here, I’ll be exploring the town and I’ll share a few things with you.

First, food! I found a large selection of restaurants in town, and I’ve eaten at several, but I really have to tell you first about the diner where I ate my first meal in town (and I’ve been there several times since).

Diners are about as American as you can get, if you exclude those beastly fast food places. After all, this blog is about real places—and real food.

So anyway, I’m cruising along down the main drag, West Street, and I’m nearly blinded by the reflection off the stainless steel exterior of the Double-T Diner.  It was surrounded by a parking lot full of cars. I had to try the place.

Here's the front, so you'll know what it looks like when you drive by

You can always expect a decent meal, plastic decor, and sassy waitresses at a diner, and the Double-T is all that, in spades. The dessert display, a big case at the front, is to die for—or of. The pastries, cakes, and pies looked pretty good, and the boss said they make them all right there. That must be some busy pastry chef.

This photo doesn't do it justice

One of the items was called baklavah cheesecake. Baklavah, if you don’t know, is a honey-dripping, walnut-laden, flaky, rich Greek pastry. You know what cheesecake is. I can’t tell you what baklavah cheesecake is like because I didn’t try it. I didn’t dare.

My waitress was properly sassy, the coffee wasn’t bad (and it was constantly refilled, just like in Minnesota), and my hamburger was done the way I asked: so with a good vet it would recover, and it was big.

I waddled out a happy newcomer to Annapolis.

Pizza flags Nov 24

Another interruption to the cheap travel thread…

http://www.tinyurbankitchen.com/2010/10/pizza-tour-of-my-travels.html

Cute article by someone deeply into travel. Describes making pizzas to match flags of the countries she’s visited.

The flag maker is a Taiwanese lady. Be sure to follow the link.

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Moving right along—to Malaysia Nov 12

Malasia is the south end of the peninsula that includes Thailand. The narrow Strait of Malacca separates it from Indonesia, directly to the south.

Malaysia is the most westernized country in this part of the world. Good if you’re timid about visiting really strange places. Not all of it is fancy hotels and museums, or large metropolitan areas, though you can certainly find all of that. This street is in Melaka, a city that goes back to the early 1400′s.

I've seen a lot of streets that look pretty much like this

Lest I disappoint you with that blue-collar-looking neighborhood, Malaysia has lots of modern, high-tech exotic locales, too. Everybody has seen the Petronas Twin Towers in the capital. Here’s another area, called the sustainable towers. To me, all cities are inherently unsustainable, but there you have it.

Sustainable residential design. See the trees inside?

The toilets are western style and you can drink the water. Transportation is comfortable. Lots of people speak Engrish. Prices are higher.

Get out of town and prices are still a lot cheaper than what you’ll find in the US, but more than elsewhere in this part of the world.

The interior jungle is still pretty good, though it’s disappearing (they’re chopping down the jungle and building sustainable towers. Go figure.), and the beaches and islands are beautiful. Find the right island and you and your spouse can enjoy a nice place with meals and snorkeling gear for maybe $25 a day. If I want a big town, though, I’ll go visit NYC.

All cheap, but price makes a difference Nov 10

Take sleeping, for instance. You can’t get cheaper than free. Even in the US, I have often slept for free next to my motorcycle. I have yet to find anywhere that will pay me to sleep.

But let’s consider actual sleeping accommodations. In Bali, part of Indonesia. For one night. What do you pay, and what do you get?

$1–$4 gets you a basic room with a shared bath (down the hall) out in the country, not in town. This type of place is called a guesthouse. (ahem) Your Serenity agent will fix you up with something higher class, but if you’re out vagabonding, this is where it’s at. These are not part of any chain as far as I know, and you pretty much have to ask around to find one.

$5–$10 gets you a shower of your own, and in the right areas gets you a big room with a private bath, veranda, surrounded by tropical gardens. The upper end of this range includes a king-size bed, maid service and breakfast.

This look worth $10 a night to you?

$15 in some areas gets you air conditioning and a pool.

$20 or less on Samosir Island gets you a two-room suite

Off season, $50–75 in most of the country gets you a place that would rate four stars.

Let’s head into Jakarta. You can spend $250 at a lavish resort. And they go way up from there in the right areas. If you’re determined to spend a grand per night, you can do it.

Now let’s talk about food. Typical Indonesian food is one of a million variations on noodle or rice soup. Spiciness varies a lot, too. You won’t get bored. Indonesia, by the way, is where chickens came from, and you can see them running around, and you can get them in your soup. They’re leaner than the relaxed, plump ladies I keep in my back yard, but they’re better off than the poor creatures in a chicken factory. But I digress.

$0.40 gets you a cheap meal from a street vendor. Eat where you can see the food being prepared, and from places that look clean. Spend a buck in a restaurant. Some places serve family style. The tab will come to a few bucks. Tourist traps cost you maybe $15 unless you go to some world-famous place. Seafood is the best meat to eat, and don’t drink the water! The coffee is okay, though. Actually, the coffee is outstanding.

This guy found an uncrowded spot to pose for his picture

You get the idea. The cheaper the more adventuresome. The more expensive, the more like home. And why would you go to Indonesia to experience what you can get at home?

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Next stop: Indonesia Nov 05

Maybe I should say “stops” because Indonesia is a lot of places. It’s southeast of Thailand, and it’s about a million islands, part of an archipelago that includes Borneo, the Philippines, Sumatra, and Papua New Guinea. I suppose you could include Australia and New Zealand, too. It depends on what scale your map is. Here’s one:

Australia is off the lower right corner, Thailand and Vietnam off the upper left

The cheapest island in this already inexpensive country is said to be Sumatra. I don’t recommend Java right now unless you’re volunteering for volcano emergency relief. Mt Merapi is spectacular, but it’s causing serious problems for the folks who live near it. All the guidebooks emphasize the variety of scenery and culture available in this area. Indonesia has a lot of people, and they’ve been there a long time, so living on separate islands makes them all different. Not that anyplace is the beaten track (we’re talking Borneo, Komodo, and Bali here), do a search on places like Lombok and Bonggakaradeng to get really off the beaten track. Oh yes—if you like to snorkel, check out Sulawesi.

Houses in Bonggakaradeng

One little caveat about the low prices. Be prepared to bargain.

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