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December 2006 Archives

December 1, 2006

backpacker product of the year: the microfiber beach towel

when backpacking my way around the world, i've found that it doesn't pay to buy beach towels as you go. even though they can be acquired cheaply in many places, the cost does add up eventually, and the cheapie towels tend to bleed colors all over your favorite t-shirts (or if you're not wearing a t-shirt, it will add some goofy colors to your back). as a result, about one month into my trip, i bought a good-quality normal beach towel and started lugging it around with me, despite the added bulk and weight of that much cotton. that changed when i was at a surf-supply store in dubai and discovered billabong's microfiber beach towel.

while microfiber towels are nothing new (REI has a great lineup of them, and i use the REI MultiTowel Lite - Large every day on the road) especially for backpackers and hikers looking to reduce the bulk and weight of the always-necessary towel in their pack, but the microfiber beach towel is a whole other thing. (while you can always use regular microfiber towels as bath towels, they look pretty damn dorky on the beach, and they tend not to be as comfortable as regular towels.)

but then billabong had to release their own microfiber beach towels which feel like regular beach towels, look like regular beach towels, but are lightweight, pack down into a small ball, and come with their own mesh bag to stash them in your backpack with. i don't see a lot of them available online yet, but these are really great for backpacking your way around the world's beaches.

December 2, 2006

leaving dahab

after about a week relaxing in dahab, this morning i had my final breakfast of turkish coffee and banana pancakes on the beach, burned my latest photos to CD, and packed up my backpack.

it's time to head out to luxor via an all-day set of connections via a bus, a ferry, and then a bus again (dahab -> sharm el sheik -> hurghada -> luxor). i'll spend a few days exploring the famous tombs (including, i hope, king tut's tomb) for my last few days in egypt. i've changed my onward plane tickets to tanzania a bit to allow this extra time in egypt -- luckily i have a great travel agent who is really flexible about these things!

looking forward to reporting online the results of my adventures in luxor (and steeling myself for egyptian city life after a week where the biggest pressure i've encountered was from overzealous restaurant touts).

December 3, 2006

desperately seeking lonely planet

if anyone is reading this blog who can give me any tips on where in cairo i can find a bookstore that sells english-language lonely planet books on africa (especially tanzania and/or east africa), please post a comment to this entry and let me know!

i'm headed to tanzania in a few days, and have no guidebooks on the country and would love to have a guidebook in hand before i arrive. all english-language bookstores that i've found so far in egypt only sell guidebooks on egypt, not on other countries. it's the first time i've had trouble finding guidebooks in a major city, and could use any advice you have. i've got a few possible leads from web searching to check, but nothing that looks very promising. thanks!

P.S. That's "desperate" as in "desperately seeking susan", not "desperate" as in "oh dear GOD, what am i going to do?". There's always a Plan B in my travels... ;)

December 4, 2006

where to find lonely planet guidebooks in cairo

thanks to everyone who gave suggestions about where to find lonely planet guidebooks here in cairo! after working my way through the various suggestions, i've posted what is evidently the best LP guidebook source, in case anyone else ends up in the same situation:

The American University in Cairo Main Bookstore. This sounds like the best option (and fodor's likes them too!), although I ran out of time to visit them. I've heard they have a full supply of Lonely Planet guidebooks.

i did not have good success at Cairo used bookstores. While most bookstores in Cairo only sell guidebooks on Egypt, i did find one bookstore that sold Lonely Planet guidebooks on other countries. however, their 3x markup over the USD cover price for guidebooks that were usually one edition out of date was, in my opinion, beyond any shade of reasonableness. i recommend you send your business to the bookstore listed above instead!

December 9, 2006

paradise found (again)

mambo! i was reclining on cushions on a sofa in the open-air room near the bar, leaning back against a whitewashed pillar, sipping a glass of kilimanjaro beer and reading richard feynman's "sure you're joking, mr. feynman!", when the sunset caught my eye.

a beautiful dark-copper sun was poised over the water, the light diffused through several layers of clouds stacked up just below the sun. the ocean was stirred by a series of gentle wavelets, and a single boat was in the water: an anchored sailboat rocking in the waves, a tanzanian flag on its mast flapping in the breeze.

my first reflex was to run to my room, and get my camera to capture it, and i stopped myself. no. enjoy the sunset and just take it all in. you have enough sunset pictures. just be in the moment and relax.

(and then of course i ran to use robin's laptop in her apartment over the dive shop to punch this all in, but at this point in my trip, writing is usually more worthwhile than taking yet another amateur snapshot photo.)

i truly feel that i've found a sort of paradise here -- i came to this beachfront lodge on zanzibar several days ago to visit my friend eli, who is working in the dive shop, taking guests out on scuba diving trips, and all the other dive shop fun. eli is also generously sharing his room with me (which is great, because this lodge is definitely out of what remains of my travel budget), and we go out on snorkeling and scuba trips in the afternoons, and enjoy delicious meals from the chef here three times a day. the food and alcohol is reasonably priced, and i have absolutely no plans until i leave for cape town, south africa on wednesday morning. no, i'm not summiting kilimanjaro or going on safari in the wonderful national parks of tanzania. i plan to do these things... but i want to do them when it's the right time for me, and when there are friends along for the ride. while staying here i have good people to hang out with, activities to do if i want them, lazing about whenever i want to, and cold beer for the asking.

yet again, life is good. i never told you in my post mentioning thanksgiving exactly what i'm thankful for -- nowadays i'm thankful for a hell of a lot of things, to be honest. and right now, i'm thankful just to be here and to be able to enjoy it.

oh, and here's my favorite wikipedia entry of the day (found linked from feynman's page on wikipedia): Free Spirit.

December 11, 2006

one morning while listening to my ipod

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself - well...how did I get here?

Letting the days go by let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by water flowing underground

Into the blue again after the money's gone

Once in a lifetime water flowing underground.

Talking Heads, "Once In A Lifetime"

PS. I also strongly recommend renting (or buying, it's cheap!) David Byrne's movie True Stories if you haven't seen it yet. (And for its comments on technology, I recommend it even more so for my Silicon Valley readers.)

December 16, 2006

where to find movie listings in south africa

one search term on both google and yahoo search that gives very poor results is the search term for "movie showtimes south africa", or similar queries (unless you use the option to limit your queries to "pages from South Africa"). as a result, it was really difficult to find up-to-date movie showtimes for south africa via web search.

so for the record, the best (and possibly only) site to get current movie showtimes for cape town or any other city in south africa is The South African MovieSite. enjoy the popcorn!

finally saw the borat movie

jagshemash! after waiting for weeks to be in a country that was actually screening the movie "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan", starring the always-amazing character borat, i checked the local theater listings in cape town, and found that nearly every theater was showing it several times per day!

so i made my way down to the V&A Waterfront theater at the waterfront, paid less than USD $10 for a ticket, and laughed straight through the movie (along with the rest of the audience) for 84 minutes. hilarious -- i haven't seen an audience laugh like in a movie in recent memory. and being borat, it was extremely uncomfortable at times. absolutely worth the price of admission. and as an extra bonus, here's the video of "borat's" recent appearance on the Tonight Show:

December 18, 2006

cape town is the best!

howzit? there's no question about it: cape town is one of the world's best cities to visit, ranking easily with san francisco, london, dubai, and others. and the relatively low cost of many things here (expect for the glaring exception of the cost of taxis) makes it easy to be here for an extended stay.

i've had a fantastic three days here in cape town, staying at a backpackers on long street (with crowds of fun people coming in and out as they head across or return from other parts of africa), going on bar/club crawls with my fellow backpackers, watching the sun set over a sublime beach from a well-situated beach cafe, exploring the botanical gardens planted in the city, staying out at all-night parties, eating dinners out (or even the occasional home-cooked meal) with new friends every night, and even sleeping on the sofas of the beautiful apartments of new-found cape town friends. and i still have three days left!

and the locals? the people in cape town are very friendly and outgoing, in addition to being some of the most good-looking people i've ever seen. in addition, i've run into a high number of expats, so there is a good international community here as well.

it's not all perfect here -- there are serious social problems that still need to be resolved under that initial veneer of beauty and fun. as a symptom of these problems, the crime rate is astoundingly high. it's not uncommon for a scenic low-slung art deco house to have its surrounding wall topped with an electrified fence and large "armed response" sign warning of attack dogs and so forth. i've already seen cars and houses broken into during my short visit, and the problems occur in all areas, even those that appear "safe". this was unsettling, but if you take care, you can cut your chances of being a victim of crime - it seems like most incidents happen when people miss a security precaution. it's not like there are gangs of organized hoodlums ready to jump you the second you walk out of your hotel or anything like that.

i'm returning home to los angeles on thursday for a 3-week hiatus from my trip, so i can be home for the holidays and recharge for a bit before heading down to south and central america in january, so i'm enjoying this all while i can! more updates and details on my adventures here when i get a chance... lately i've been too busy with all of these activities to be updating my blog much!

December 21, 2006

hard to leave

it's funny -- now that it's the day that i'm finally leaving for home (the plan is to spend three weeks at home, so i can spend the christmas and new years holidays with family and friends, in addition to just taking a little break before heading down to south america), my emotions aren't what i thought they'd be. i've been feeling pretty "slow" the last few countries, as if i wasn't able to really take in and appreciate everything that i was seeing, and as a result i've been really looking forward to spending some time at home to decompress, as well as not missing another family holiday.

but i had this moment in the taxi ride to the airport where i felt a strong pang of regret and a real desire not to leave cape town. i can only attribute it to the surprising depth of my feelings for this city -- i really had a wonderful time here, and it was my favorite city that i've visited on this entire trip (and believe me, that's a long list of cities).

i probably would have changed my ticket to stay longer in South Africa (and delayed my visit home by 1-2 weeks), but it's impossible to do so without missing Christmas at home, so i'm sticking with the current plan. but i'll definitely be coming back to south africa in the future, and next time it will be a much longer visit than just 8 days!

i'm really looking forward to getting to spend some time at home, but it's definitely hard to leave a country that you've just fallen in love with.

December 22, 2006

welcome home

i was standing in line at the immigration counter at LAX, getting mentally ready to finally arrive home for a short break after 10 months on the road.

the border control guy at the window called "Next traveller!", and i headed over to the window. i was prepared for all kinds of questions (after all, passing through 32 countries in 10 months isn't exactly a normal vacation) and not a very warm welcome (since border control guys aren't usually paid to be friendly), but instead, the following conversation occurred:

BORDER CONTROL: Welcome home!
ME: Thanks! [handing my passport over the counter] I've been travelling around the world for 10 months.
BC: (warmly) Well then, an extra welcome home to you! Did you learn anything from your trip?
ME: Ummmm..... I'm not sure offhand.
BC: Sure you did! [stamps entry stamp into passport and hands it back over to me] OK, there you go!

And with that, I came back home to America. Sometimes it's nice just to feel actually welcomed and at home and around all the good familiar things again.

December 28, 2006

travel musings

i was looking at photos from my trip from just a week ago, where instead of going through 10 months of back bank statements and junk mail (hours of fun, let me tell you), i was climbing Table Mountain and exploring cape town by day, and combing the bars and nightclubs of Long Street at night with new-found friends.

sitting at home in los angeles, all those things suddenly felt so "far away" (even though it was just a few days ago) compared to everyday life in california, but then i remembered: there are wonderful, madcap adventures EVERYWHERE. and they're waiting there out there for you -- all you need to do is go out there and let them happen. it's amazing how short a jump it really is to go from reading an alluring sentence in a Lonely Planet guidebook and actually experiencing whatever it was that caught your eye.

i'm looking very forward to resuming my own adventures in peru in mid-january. for all of you reading this, i hope you find the time and resources to pursue your journeys. for myself, it's been over 10 months on the road so far (aside from this short detour), and i haven't regretted a bit of it.

December 30, 2006

enjoying my hiatus at home

happy holidays to all the wonderful readers of this blog, and hope next year brings you all that you want.

it's good to be home again. REALLY good.

About December 2006

This page contains all entries posted to gone living in December 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2006 is the previous archive.

January 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.