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Haggling Tips for the Common Backpacker

2010 June 22

Knowing how to haggle when backpacking abroad is a very important skill to have. Unfortunately, living in America has left us ill prepared. I’m willing to bet that the majority of people living in the US don’t know to haggle. It’s no fault of our own because we live in a society where the prices are always set. Think about it, you don’t go into Starbucks and ask the cashier for a discount on your coffee, nor do you go to Safeway and haggle down the price of lettuce.

About the only times that haggling does occur in the States are when we buy big-ticket items (cars, houses, TVs, mattresses, jewelry, etc.) or when we deal with second-hand sales. But even then people might be hesitant or shy about it just because we never do it/don’t know how.

But if you’re thinking of backpacking, you need to learn the art of haggling. Places like Southeast Asia, South America, China, India (or really any place outside of the States and Western Europe) often view us as walking ATMs. It’s unfortunate but it’s something we have to deal with. As such, backpackers are often subjected to ridiculously over-inflated prices and let’s face it, no one likes getting ripped off. It sucks, it bruises your ego and you feel like an idiot when you realize how much you overpaid.

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The Land of Heartbreak and Hope

2010 June 16

Several hundred miles to the east of Bangkok lies the city of Phnom Penh. It is a bustling urban sprawl of 2 million people and serves as the capital of Cambodia. Signs of economic prosperity can be seen in the nightclubs, where the nouveau riche preside with bodyguards in tow, and in the city’s streets, where ever increasing numbers of new imported cars appear. Yet Phnom Penh, like the rest of Cambodia, still carries the deep scars from the atrocities inflicted upon the country more than 30 years ago.

On the road to Siem Reap.

From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge, would carry out an episode of genocide that would set Cambodia back by decades and forever change its place in history.

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O Canada, Why Must You Wear That Flag?

2010 June 10

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I like Canada. It’s a beautiful country and they’ve always been our friendly neighbors. It’s got the best ski holidays in North America (Whistler), has the better side of Niagra Falls (Maid of the Mist anyone?) and has way cooler-sounding (*not* town as corrected by my readers) province names (Saskatchewan). Canadians people are also very nice and easy to get along with. Hell, I even work for a Canadian company.

But there’s one thing about Canadian backpackers that annoys the hell out of me. You might be thinking that it’s the infamous “eh” (not “ey” as corrected by my readers) but it’s not. It’s the Canadian backpackers who have that little Canadian flag stitched to their backpack. I just don’t get it. I swear, 90% of them must have that little flag. Sure it’s harmless and doesn’t really affect me directly, but it’s one of those little pet-peeves that just gnaws at you.

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Love and Loss in South America

2010 June 6

Like a glittering jewel in the heart of South America, Buenos Aires stands in a class by itself.  A melody of Latino and European influences, BA takes the best from both worlds and establishes herself as one of the few world-class cities in South America. She hits all of your senses and, like a drug, leaves you wanting more. The sounds of tango waft through La Boca and a river of cars flow down Av 9 de Julio, one of the world’s widest streets. Passers-by window shop the boutiques of Recoleta while tourists  and residents alike saunter down Avenue Florida, a pedestrian only street. Come nightfall, Buenos Aires shakes off her daytime haze and people come out of the woodwork to party… and Porteños definitely know how to party.

The famous painted houses of La Boca.

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I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane… For Free

2010 June 1

I had been looking for somewhere to go for a much-needed break from work. Because 10 days was about the max I could take off, anywhere I went would have to be relatively close. I also wanted somewhere that is warm, compact and geographically diverse (jungles, mountains, beaches, etc.)

I crossed off Hawaii because I had been before and it’s relatively expensive. Jamaica was X’d out mainly because I didn’t want to be murdered or maimed. I thought about the Caribbeans but being single and going to a romantic getaway didn’t seem so awesome. This left me with Central America.

Where I'll be in 2 months. Courtesy of Kevin Smith.

Travel Independent is great for a quick rundown on prospective places to go and I narrowed it down to Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Guatemala, although described as the most interesting, was crossed off because of its size. Down to Belize and Honduras, I eventually chose Honduras because it was cheaper, had a better backpacking scene (Utila) and had great diving.

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5 Things to Bring on a Backpacking Trip

2010 May 25

So you’ve contacted your banks, sorted out your credit cards and taken care of the other to do’s before going on your backpacking trip. Now you’re probably looking at your empty sack and wondering, “This is great but… WHAT THE HELL DO I BRING?” You’ve got to fit weeks, if not months, worth of stuff into one tiny backpack. Fear not my friends, I’ll help you ease the pain.

Let me first start off by saying I’m not going to insult your intelligence and tell you to bring clothes, money and your passport. Who the hell doesn’t know that. It’s like telling someone that shit stinks and roses smell nice. What I will tell you are 5 things to bring that you might have not otherwise thought of (so sue me if you have). Each of these items I’ve found to be very clutch during my travels.

Biggest Swiss Army Knife

No… you will not be needing this.

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How San Francisco Throws a Party: Bay to Breakers

2010 May 20

Imagine an entire city going nuts: 70,000+ people, booze everywhere, ridiculous costumes and lots and lots of naked people.

Add it all together and you get the annual Bay to Breakers race. Held on the third Sunday of each May, Bay to Breakers draws people from around the world into the heart of San Francisco. It is a 12km (7.46 mile) course that cuts through downtown, into the Panhandle, through Golden Gate park and out to the Pacific Ocean. If you’ve never been, I’d say it’s up there with Oktoberfest and the running of the bulls in terms of life experiences.

You can read all about it here.

While many run it, even more see it as a giant FU***** party. And what a party it is. I’ve ran it 3 times but this year I decided to be part of the latter group. Getting out of bed at 7:30am and drinking is pretty rough on the body, mind and soul. But despite that, I brought along a camera and snapped some photos along the way.


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