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11 October 2015

My Fantasy LA Public Transportation Map

As a born-and-raised Angeleno, and having traveled throughout the highly interconnected European cities and hubs, the idea of implementing a dense European-style public transportation system in Los Angeles has frequently fascinated me. Every time I see a map of the City of Angeles, or even think about the road layout (which I often do while sitting in traffic), I imagine how many cars could be removed from the roads with a subway, light rail, streetcar, or bus station.

Anyway, I took this semi-obsession and used Google's map making capabilities to create the following visualization of my fantasy L.A. transit world. Check it out:

08 October 2015

My Imaginary Los Angeles Transit System

So you may know that I'm a total transport nerd :) As a child, I would spend hours reading through maps and atlases. I would memorize all the streets and freeways in our Thomas Guide.

Well, returning back from Europe, a big part of adjusting back to life in L.A. is adjusting back to life in the car. And you know, traffic sucks! So I went ahead and made my own fantasy map of how L.A.. should be. Check it out below, or see the map on Google Maps:

17 June 2015

Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Southeast Asia

I'm currently sitting in a rooftop cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia, taking a necessary day off from sightseeing. After a few weeks in Thailand and Cambodia, there are a few things that I have noticed so far that the average (Western) traveler should know before coming here; or maybe you're just curious about my impressions while traveling here. Either way, here they are:

It's Hot
This falls under the category of "obviously I knew that," but you don't really know this kind of heat until you're in it. It's a punishing and immediately painful combination of heat (over 36°C / 98°F) and humidity. After spending more than 20 seconds outside, I immediately sweat, and if I'm in directly sunlight, I'm sweating bullets within a minute easily.

What about staying in air-conditioned places (shopping malls, hotels, etc.)? I advise against this, as it actually prevents your body from adjusting to the heat. Your body needs to learn to self-cool and to simply maintain a higher "normal" temperature, and part of that is sleeping in a non-AC room. When you go between air-conditioned rooms and the steaming outdoors, you are shocking your body, and this makes you sweat more and become even more exhausted.

You Need to Take It Slow
Mostly because it's so damn hot, you will physically not be able to go about your day at a "normal" pace. Your body will spend most of its energy sweating and cooling itself down. And that's how people here do it. You will not see people rush; they just move about, waddling across the street, between mopeds and traffic. If you even make a two-second dash between cars, you'll crack that sweat. Also, this means that you'll want to lounge around more. Take an extra few minutes in the shade, and just sit there. It's not being lazy, it's conserving energy.

Eat Local Food
After 14 days in Thailand, I simply craved a burger and fries. So I went to the closest burger shop, which was just in town (in Pai). After scarfing down a burger topped with dubious-tasting cheese, my stomach immediately growled. It may have been other factors, including the heat exhaustion (above) but I did not feel too well after that. I slipped into an annoying and painful sore throat and low-energy state for a couple days. One day, I had simple fried rice for dinner and felt better afterwards than I ever had.

16 June 2015

Tuesday, 16 June 2015: Angkor Wat Sunrise and More Temples

4:30am. That was my scheduled departure time. I was scheduled to be taken by a tuk tuk driver from my guesthouse/hostel to Angkor Wat to see the "can't miss" sunrise over the ancient and famous temple. So I somehow responded to my phone's alarm and made it downstairs to be picked up.

I had the same driver as yesterday, Van (or Vaughn?). He knew exactly where to take me, but thanks to language difficulties, we didn't get to talk much.

It was a 15-minute ride. Because I had bought the 3-day ticket, we skipped the ticket office, merely stopping to get my ticket validated. The first streaks of sunlight were piercing the stratosphere as I arrived at Angkor Wat.

I wasn't alone. A steady stream of tourists poured out of tuk-tuks and buses. A row of 7 Cambodian employees used flashlights to check each person's ticket as they rushed, on uneven stones, across the moat into the sprawling temple complex.

Through the entry gate and into the pre-temple yard. Two ponds (more like giant puddles) lay there; a solid mass of people crowded around the left puddle.

The right pond, however, was open. So there I went. The view was similar. The water was equally invested with insects buzzing from the water. The sky slowly transformed as dawn broke.

03 May 2015

Where I've been (Travel Score)

There's still a lot more of the world to see!

30 April 2015

Updated Travel Map

 Having returned from my latest trip to Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, and Krakow, I have now visited more countries than I have U.S. states. Check out my latest "where I've been" map (courtesy of Matador) below:

Jason Tabuzo’s Travel Map
Jason has been to: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, India, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Monaco, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, Singapore, Slovakia, United States, Vatican.
Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

(The geography nerd in me wishes I could find a better map projection for this map. Also would like to have regional maps (Europe, Asia, America, etc.) because the world view leaves a lot of blank space!)

04 January 2015

Jason's Hawaiian Vacation, Part 1: Waikiki

I'm in Hawaii! Finally made it to the 50th state (my 34th state visited). I'm here with my mom and uncle, and we are spending 8 days traveling around Oahu.

It is literally too perfect everywhere we go. The weather is amazing, warm (24°C / 75°F) every day, humid but not muggy.

Two days in Waikiki. We stayed at a time share rented through Airbnb - I had to rely on Airbnb for more than half of our stays because there were so few hotels available at this busy time of year (winter, especially over Christmas/New Years, is the tourist high season). Our stay was at the Ilikai resort, just at the start of the opulent Waikiki beach. It is a nice, albeit somewhat dated, resort, especially when juxtaposed with the huge Hilton resort complex next door. That said, I had little else to complain about; our 20th floor studio provided a kitchen and a beautiful lanai (balcony) with views of the city (i.e. views of the surrounding residential skyscrapers and congested streets).

For the first two days, we relied on ridesharing apps Uber and Lyft to get around the city, saving us two days of car rental fees and expensive ($30+ per day) parking charges at the hotel. Getting from Honolulu airport into the city is not possible with Uber (you are only allowed to request an expensive Uber Black or Uber Taxi when your phone GPS shows you at the airport). However, we were able to catch a Lyft. Our driver, Jenni, was very (and I mean very) friendly, as if unable to breathe if she weren't smiling broadly. She was happy to introduce us to the city and chat along the way. And I noticed that with every drive, regardless of them driving for Lyft or Uber - they were all friendly and open-hearted. This is my first time using these apps so intensively, so I don't know if it's the type of people who use these apps, or the Hawaiian spirit overall.

My impression of Waikiki, which is the tourist center of Honolulu (and of Hawaii overall) is that it is touristy, yes, but not overwhelmingly crowded. Walking by all the resorts gives me an impression similar to that of Las Vegas. The expensive stores further east remind me of Rodeo Drive or Miami Beach. Indeed, the beach itself is actually not that spectacular, with coarse sand (and at times no sand at all). The most amazing thing to enjoy is the view, with Diamond Head (peak) looming to the east and a gorgeous sunset guaranteed almost every day.

We spent New Years in Waikiki, which meant just walking to the beach and watching fireworks shot from a single barge at midnight for ten minutes. This was not that spectacular, nothing like London or New York by any means; however, it was still nice to stand on the beach, wearing shorts, as the clock struck midnight.

We also spent a day visiting Pearl Harbor. It was a moving visit, to see and relfect upon the events that struck the world that fateful December morning over 70 years ago. However, the process of visiting the site left much to be desired. The main attraction is the USS Arizona memorial, an enclosed blank white temple hovering above the untouched wreckage of the battleship in shallow waters. To get there,  you have to get a free ticket. The tickets are all given on a first-come, first-serve basis starting at 7am, and they are all time-stamped with your time of entry. So when we got there, we could only get a ticket for 2:15. Which meant that we had to wait around for 6 hours waiting for our entry time. We passed this time with a visit to the USS Missouri battleship ($25 per person) and eating at the snack bars there. Finally, we made it to 2pm. What I noticed immediately is that there is a standby line?! And over 15 people from that line got into the memorial with our group (which went every 15 minutes). Unbelievable! If someone had told us this beforehand, we would have saved half a day! And to add insult to our inconvenience, our Uber driver back to the hotel told us that it actually was possible to pre-book tickets to the exhibit. Ugh!

After two days in Waikiki, we rented a car and hit the road

04 August 2014

Traveling with a Purpose

I have reached the point now, at over 3 years of being an expat, to realize some of the cliché life lessons:

  • Money comes and goes, but your health and your relationships are what's really valuable
  • Time and money spent with family and friends and travel is time and money well spent.
  • Adventure is out there!

But I have also realized the importance of having a purpose, not just in life, but even in everyday travel.

I have a "goal" of buying a flag in every country I visit.

27 December 2013

This Is How They Serve Ice Cream in Turkey

I remember seeing the crazy ice cream vendors playing around with some teams on The Amazing Race a few years ago. I really wonder if these ice cream server-performers are really everywhere in Turkey, or if there are only a couple who are this good!

Anyway check out the video:


19 November 2013

Monday, 18 November. Jaipur

I had to get up early, before 6am. My train left at 06:55 and Swag had to drive me all the way to the station.

It was my first time taking and Indian train, and I was all alone. None of the signs were in English, only Hindi. And the electronic signs were turned off, so it was difficult to figure out where my train car was (I had a reserved seat). The information guy just pointed in a general direction so I just guessed. People were just walking across the train tracks to get to the other platform. When the train finally came, about 15 minutes late (just like Germany!), it was honking very loudly (just like the cars on the street!) so that people would get off the tracks.

I had a reserved seat in the equivalent of business class. I didn't realize that I would be fed - tea, cereal, fruits, and an omelette. Not bad! I spent the ride writing down my thoughts and managed to sleep a little bit. The train stopped randomly for 15 minutes and started backing up. Did we make a wrong turn? Is that even possible? I SAW MY FIRST CAMEL. I woke up with my phone vibrating (Swag had just booked my next day ticket and needed my passport no.) and the train arrived in Jaipur.

I walked out of the train station, and was instantly overwhelmed by the masses. A rickshaw driver could easily see that I was a foreigner and insisted that I ride with him - he clung to me like a leech even though I said no. I walked to the hotel, using my phone (carefully) to guide me there, and dodging piles of trash, cow poop, and general filthiness along the way. I checked in; the hotel is actually nice with a peaceful garden, and they upgraded me to a nicer room. Had some food, washed up, and after a few minutes' rest, I went out to explore the city on foot.

Jaipur is crazy and chaotic. The whole day was spent dodging traffic and trying not to get pulled aside by some shady bazaar vendor into a trap.

17 November 2013

Sunday, 17 November: Day 2, Delhi

Slept til 10:30. The sun was bright. The cleaner actually woke me up - she came in and washe dall around. Breakfast was a packet of masala oats that Swag had around, alongside some rusks and processed cheese.

We booked my train to Jaipur, leaving tomorrow morning. After sorting that out and getting ready, we left around 13:00 for the city. We drove to the Rapid Metro again and took the Metro into town. Swag's friend/cowoker Ankit was waiting for us at Sikandarpur station. We got on the train and took the seats that we could get, so we were somewhat separated for the 45+ minute ride.

We arrived at Chandni Chowk, and got off. It was a crowded bazaar that we walked through to get to a crowded and chaotic street. We walked down along the street (Chandni Chowk itself), which was lined with crowded stalls, street vendors, and street food sellers. Of course, this being India, none of this could be described as hygienic. I went shopping, not sure how trustworthy the items I buy would be. But I did. I suggested we try going down one of the narrow lanes, and I inadvertently discovered paratha alley, where there are several food places selling parathas. Amazing! We had to stop at one. So we ordered parathas and shared them right there in the street.

This was my first street food in India. Hope you can handle it, stomach!