Last Night in Cork...Then to Galway

Cork, Ireland
Ok, so I got some feedback that my blog is actually still 'in circulation'...good to hear. I just spent the last 45 minutes sprinting around all of Galway to find the 'best deal' on the Internet. My hostel charged 5 euro/hr (like $6.50 USD), but I finally found s place for around $4 USD/hr, so here is my last, likely $8, post. On my last night in Cork I went back to my room to shower and met a girl, also traveling on her own. She's been doing western Europe for the last 2 or 3 months. Her name was Boram and she was Korea. We talked for probably over an hour. Periodically she would giggle and it would sound like she was on a ventilator, but what was initially annoying became incredibly infectious. She was shocked with my love for kimchi and said the stuff is too hot for her. I went out to grab a bite to eat and when I got back she was already asleep. I fell asleep in bed reading my book, 'Dune'. The book, by the way, is the basis of the movie which my cousin Phillip really liked when we were younger, and we always said I should watch it...I'm reading it instead. It's allegedly one of the best science-fiction novels ever written...similar to lord of the rings. The next morning I woke up early...around 6ish. Packed my bags and was off for my long trek to the bus station...with my broken duffel bag.

Galway, Ireland

My bus left at 7:45 and I passed through Limerick and some other larger cities. I arrived in Galway a little before noon. My bus ticket wasn't too bag...16 euros, just over $20 USD. When I had left for my trip the exchange was about 1.25 USD to 1 euro. A few days before I left India for Ireland it was up to 1.28 USD to 1 euro. The last I checked it was way up at 1.38 USD to 1 euro...shit! O well, we're only talking about a total trip increase of 50-70 USD, as as the famous James Bond title goes, 'I'll live another day'! I walked to what I thought was my hostel when I arrived. I double checked my reservations in my book and discovered my hostel was Snoozles in and NOT Sleepzone. My hostel was not in my lonely planet. Luckily I had jotted down directions in my scrap notebook while in Udaipur, India several weeks ago. I followed the directions, but they were ambiguous, to say the least, and got lost again. I finally asked the information office at the bus station and was correctly directed to my proper hostel. It was less than a 3 minute walk. So I had just wasted over an hour walking and looking for my hostel...but I did see much of the eastern part of the city, which I would not return to (there isn't much there). I dropped my bags off at the storage facility since my bed wasn't ready until 3:00...this seems to be the norm. I took hold of my bible and went out. I walked through Eyre Square and then took a sharp left to head into the city center. Before heading into the heart of the city I wanted to get all the tourist things out of the way, since they were a little out of the city and I knew I would want to stay in the city center later. It turned out that the Galway Cathedral was much closer than I had expected. It was beautiful, but you can see that for yourselves. I walked back into town along the river and took some photos. I walked along the outdoor market on Church St. where they had wine and cheese shops. Then I strolled up and down Store St.. There were street performers all over, despite the cold weather. Some people played the violin, others a guitar, some danced, and other yet made balloon animals. I was scouting a place to sit and read some of my book when I finally spotted an opening at a wine bar and restaurant called Martine's down on Quay St. I got some cream of vegetable soup with some soda bread, which I absolutely LOVE. I was writing in my journal and started to read my book when I felt like chatting. I made small talk with a couple that sat across from me. The woman was Swiss, but has been living with her husband in Ireland for the last 6 years. He's Irish himself. We talked about Galway and my travels and they had said that Galway was a great place to be at this time of the year because the weather isn't too bad and the tourists haven't flocked here yet. We talked for over an hour and then I departed to see some more of the city. I walked down by the Spanish Arch and along the docks. I got back to my hostel around 6:00. I relaxed a bit and made friends with some of the people in my hostel. I made plans to go out with Tim, Teagan, and Margot. They were Aussies studying abroad in Leads, England. They where in Ireland for just a few nights. We walked down to the city center again and looked for 15+ minutes for the best place to eat. Some places were too expensive (actually most were) and others were pubs and had stopped serving food. There was the 6 Nations Championship FINAL that afternoon and the pugs were PACKED. Wales played Ireland for 1st place that evening. It was 14-15 with Ireland loosing with less than 3 minutes remaining and Ireland pulled off a win of 17-15 at the last moment. There had been MANY people from England and Wales on my bus from Cork going to Galway, as well as others on buses from Dublin to Galway. I guess Galway is the place to go to watch that sort of thing? People were drinking all day for it and it was packed...everywhere. We finally found somewhere to eat, but had to eat outside since there wasn't room for us inside. There wasn't anyone actually eating outside since it must have been in the low 40s or upper 30s, plus being on the ocean (and even closer to the river) there was a chilly breeze. We all ordered the same dish since it was on special...only 9.50 euro. I am just going to upload the photos on the picture site instead of in the blog so make sure you check there. Afterwards we went into a pub and it was PACKED. We all ordered some drinks. I got a Coors Lite...which I was actually shocked to see they had on tap. I have never paid 4.50 euro ($6 USD) for a pint of that before. There was live Irish music and everybody was dancing. The band consisted of three men, a violinist (or violist...I really couldn't tell), an accordion player, and a guitarist. It was very fast and it was quite a sight to see the Irish Dancing of the drunk (or nearly drunk) locals. We decided we didn't want to spend the money to keep on drinking and we left after 1.5 hours or so. We got back to our hostels and chatted in bed for a bit before going to sleep. At 2:45 in the morning we were awoken by some drunk people that apparently in our dorm. They were well-drunk and one of them was trying to introduce himself to me. I said I was sure he was a nice guy but it was too early for me to know my name and goodnight! The lights went on and off for almost an hour and they were still coming and going until well past 3:30. I finally got back to bed, but was woken up before 6:00 by the ridiculous snoring from the guy sleeping under me. I have some type of anger problem because I wasn't just upset I couldn't sleep, but I found a deep hatred for this man. He had a piggish nose, well suited for the animal noises coming from him. Maybe he was a rugby player himself and had gotten hit in the face too many times...he sure looked the part. I weighed my options. I could strangle him and force him to stop breathing, and thus snoring. After hours of deliberations I deduced that this would just mean I would likely be imprisoned and it might be tougher to sleep in a prison cell. I decided against it and just got washed up and ready for the day.

Thus my day started bright and early at 6:00 (with only 2 or 3 hours of sleep). I met a guy downstairs names Derek who was from New Jersey. He was on spring break from his Senior year as a Civil Engineer. We talked a bit and I turned on the TV. Thankfully they had satellite and I was able to find something agreeable to watch...How It's Made! Too bad I've already seen the episode. from 7:00 to 9:30 breakfast was served...toast with butter/jam,..again. I poured myself several cups of hot tea with milk and got 4 or 5 pieces of toast. I waited and waited until my Cliffs of Moher and The Burren tour departed at 9:45. While waiting I met a German girl who had been living in Dublin for a year and is planning on moving to Vancouver with a friend in a little bit. I do NOT respect that type of lifestyle. She works at a book store now and doesn't know what she'll do once in Canada. I would feel to empty if I had no career of my own. I won't get into this too much since my opinions are LIKELY (VERY LIKELY) to upset many. I have drive and passion and WILL make a large imprint in humanity from the products of my mental faculty. I have practiced for years and will continue to peruse this ambition. For a person to just wish to travel somewhere and 'do' whatever he can to make a few bucks...then pack up and do that again, witch no long term plans...I don't know if I find it more despicable, shallow, or just incredibly said. People derive happiness from many different places, and that is a very important characteristics of life, but it saddens me that people don't find pleasure in their career and thriving for ambitious goals. I've met SO many people complaining about the horrible conditions of certain regions of the world and 'yada yada yada'. But it's these same people that have no 'profession' or 'unique talent'. Did they go to LAW school to peruse public policy...NO! I've met people that talk about how horrible it is that India doesn't have drinking water. Yet, most of these people just work an unskilled labor job to save up enough money to travel around. They travel to India to make their (in my mind, meaningless) complaints about humanity, yet they themselves are easily dispensable humanity. Sure they mean something to their friends/family, but to humanity? You see where I'm getting at. They are content with making an observations about the world and do nothing about it. Pathetic, sad, meaningless...you choose? Maybe I am just too young and pure and haven't had the enough grind of the workplace to kill my spirit, but it will be a hard battle and I won't give up anytime soon. I see people without limbs, diseased, starving, etc. I would not DARE say, 'How horrible' or 'someone should should do something'. My mind's gears read 'How can I help that person' or 'I wander what efforts I can make to ensure the child gets dinner tonight'...thus my interest in biomechanical engineering.

The Tour to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren was great, but too long. I have been used to traveling on my essentially this entire several months and don't' like a guided tour...at all. It was tiresome being on the bus and having to always report to certain places at given times. The landscape of The Burren was magnificent and the Cliffs of Moher were great. I wasn't completely taken aback, but was still impressed. I think ignorance is a great thing to have when one travels. Knowing things kills the excitement and wonder of typical things. Knowing about plate tectonics, geological formations, glacial retreat, and the like take the splendor out of such things as the Cliffs of Moher. To be fair, at the same time, it makes me appreciate other things. To be discussed at a later point. I don't mean to rant again, but it's been quite some time since I've met someone with whom I may bounce back Ideas. I like the travelers that I've been meeting here in Ireland, but find that many of the travelers in Asia were 'cooler'. Here is an analogy I've devised to contrast travel in Europe and Asia. Mind you I've only traveled in Ireland and Rome, but from what I've gathered I think it still holds:
'Imagine you're at a video store searching for a DVD to watch that night. You can choose a.) the familiar big-production comedy you know you would like, or b.) the unfamiliar film that could either vastly disappoint or revolutionize your view of the world.'
This is how I see travel in Europe (mostly Western Europe) and travel in Asia. Europe is nice and you know you'll find the comforts you can find at home. But it doesn't help you grow, 'as a person' other than cultural awareness. Although even in that respect western views are all very similar. If I where to travel for a short time, sure Europe is the place to go. If I wanted to travel to see a couple of things then Europe is the way to go. But in the respect, why not just travel within in the states...no much is being missed? Drinking in an Irish pub was nice, but the atmosphere isn't much different in an Irish pub back at home. The people speak in a different accent, but what you talk about is the same. Everybody in the bar is likely the same religion and have the same concerns about life...mortgage, school, job, sex, etc. You CANNOT reproduce the atmosphere from ASIA. I guess what I've learned about traveling is that I like learning and growing as a person from it, and this just can only marginally be done when traveling to a place SO similar to your own. I think of it like this: (I rant because this is my last posting)...
Our views, perceptions, sense of reality, and truths are all outputs of our own mind's function. This function, call it conscienceless (or a soul for the religious out there) generates an output from a provided set of variables (call them inputs). These inputs are all unique to the individual, and thus the outputs are all unique. Many inputs are pushed on an individual like, say say religion onto a child, many many are self motivated. These inputs are what makes us unique, they are one's: bank of knowledge, life experiences, developed skills, abilities (innate or developed), etc. Disregarding the process of how we see reality etc, let's focus in on the inputs, which are easily modified and increasing. I posit that increasing the amount of 'inputs' (be it through travel, learning, reading, training for a sport, etc) provides a more accurate, and therefore better, output. In short, being a Renaissance Man, or a person with an ever increasing bank of variables is the man I want to be and think everybody should strive for. How can having a diverse set of talents, skills, and experiences hinder one's view of life? Some people are content as they are and that is one thing I PRAY I never subject myself to. A life of being content. Who ever said being happy means to be content?...I digress...
Today I was planning on going to the Aran Islands or Connemara, but the weather isn't too nice and I don't want another tour. the Connemara national park is closed until April anyways. Today it was misting and may rain later in the day, a high of 49 degrees F. It hasn't rained on my ENTIRE trip thus far and today is likely to be the first/last time it will. How symbolic, to rain on my last day of the trip...I'm just going to walk around the town and have a few beers in some pubs and some more soup and soda bread. I'm getting into my book, though it takes me forever to read it. It's so complicated, but good none the less. Tomorrow I catch a 3:30 bus to the Shannon International Airport, but have to wait until 10:30ish for my airplane's departure. I am scheduled to fly from Shannon to Chicago via Dublin and then to Cleveland from there.

Conclusion of Trip
Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog and share with me in the joys of my travels. I hope I have not offended any of you. And to those of you that I have, you don't me well enough..or perhaps you've gotten to know me too well. I mean no harm, just some cerebral entertainment. I don't want to be ending my trip. I will try very hard to be able to do something like this again in my life, but that's easier said than done. I would most definitely do it alone, or on another independent tour. NOT a tour group. Europe is nice, but I'll save the 'easy watching comedy' for my later years and enjoy the more unique (rich in learning and adventures) locales of the world for my next journey. This blog has cost me more then $10 USD so I hope it is enjoyed! Much love and farewell.

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Dublin, Part 2

Dublin, Ireland
I went to the super market across the street and bought some food, which I later used to prepare my dinner in the hostel's kitchen. Afterward I hung out with the people in my dorm and we all got ready to go out for the night. It ended up being: Me, Courtney, the three Dutch girls, the two Germans, and this one local Dubliner we had met at the hostel. We left a little before 9 and walked around the Temple Bar area for a little under an hour. I became impatient and made the executive decision to go and get a pint inside. I took the group (see photo on right) to the bar I had gone the previous day. It was packed and I wasn't having too much fun. It was no different than a college bar and it was just loud drunken standing. If I were 4 years younger I would have been in heaven. I got one beer, which was 5.30 Euros ($6.89 USD) and that was enough for my budget. I left a little past 11 and walked back to my hostel with some of the girls. You can see a photo of the Temple Bar area on the left. I woke woken up the next morning (today) by the Dutch girls who had left by 7:00, but started packing near 6:00. I got breakfast, toast, jam and butter, and tea and met Courtney. We decided to go to the Kilmainham Jail together. We took a bus to the Jail and paid the 2 Euro entrance fee (we got a great discount since we were students) and waited for the tour to begin. We had to make sure we were always in front and facing the guide so that Courtney could lip-read to understand. Look at the photo of us in front of the jail on the right. Afterwards we took a bus back to the City Center. She wanted to get a bus ticket for tomorrow, since she was leaving Dublin. I am leaving Dublin too, but wanted to get it later since it was not in the part of town I wanted to visit. We parted and I got off a couple of stops earlier than she. I walked past Christ Church Cathedral and went to St. Patrick's Cathedral. I contemplated going in and just decided to go finally. It was only 4.50 Euros. I went in and looked around for maybe 15 minutes. It was beautiful and reminded me of the churches I've seen in Rome. You can check out one photo I took inside on the left. Afterwards I walked to the Chester Beatty Library and relaxed outside for a bit in the park. I took some photos of the Dublin Castle, which was just beside it. Admission to the library was free. It may have been the most awesome thing I've seen in the last week. It was amazing. There were collections of old leather bound books (and I mean 1000+ years old). I absolutely love beautiful and rare books and this library did not fail to impress. There were also Japanese suits of armour and swords (I thought of you Papa). There was an entire floor dedicated to ancient books, manuscripts, and scrolls for all the religions of the world. It was fascinating to see the documents on Hinduism since it was so relevant to me. I had been to many of the places mentioned--Likewise for the texts on Buddhism and the Jain religion. There were texts on Zen, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity...just to name a few. There were texts from the famous Jesus people that dates back to 100 AD. After reading the original texts from Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam it really is very clear. I mean religion, it's all the same recycled stuff. Even though the goals in the different religions are different it apparent what they're all used for. They all recycled existing cultures and just modified some existing story to...I will not continue because both my mother and father (on separate accounts) scolded me for being to blatant and offensive. This is where most people would apologize but there is no way I'm going to apologize for commenting on IDEAS. Enough said...I find the Irish people to be SO nice. It's also interesting to see different types of people doing different types of things (e.g. young party-oriented people sleeping the day away and going out to the bars, older people taking tours and seeking cultural entertainment, and scholarly folk in the library, etc.). I wandered to Trinity College and walked around in the campus. To be honest I was a little disappointed. Though it was spotlessly clean, I didn't feel like it was a college. The student body could have been an advertisement for pro-cloning (i.e. VERY homogeneous). There were no student organizations anywhere to be seen, no posters advertising student groups. It was not like any typical University I've been to. But I think this is just how they are in Europe. Kids go to class and that's all. The 'college life' is mostly an American concept and I'm happy for this. I kept walking around the grounds thinking, 'Wow, Michigan's ___ is better, and Michigan...'. Maybe some of this is school pride, but I think I would be saying this no matter where I went (EVEN OSU)! I walked back to my hostel and relaxed for a bit. Today I did a lot...I am not even including all the other churches/areas I visited just for simplicity. I am loving Dublin, but am anxious to go somewhere less touristy and less expensive. The city is so beautiful and after hearing about all the history I can respect it even more. Ireland has had such a tough history and it's incredible that it's come all this way and managed to keep their Independence.

I bought a bus ticket at the main bus station that goes from Dublin to Cork. The first bus leaves at 8:00 am and the last at 6:00 pm. Buses leave every two hours. My ticket was 11 Euros (student discount again) and I think I'm going to go on the first bus to get to County Cork earlier. It's about 4.5 hours so I'll arrive half past noon. O well... time to go, if I stay on for more than another 4 minutes I will get charged for another hour of Internet use. I think I may just go out for dinner tonight. I have yet to enjoy an Irish meal, other than fast food and home cooked meals. I mean what's 20 Euros ($26 USD) anyways? I don't want to come home. I am going to start planning my next adventures...anyone interested? I'm thinking Bangkok down to Bali, Then to New Zealand/Australia and then maybe Africa and or Latin America. Cheers!

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Kolkata to Mumbia to London to Dublin

En Route to Dublin
My cab to the Kolkata airport was set for 5, but I left 15 minutes early. Got to airport around 5:15 with AMPLE time...3+ hours until my plane departed. Went to get my itinerary and sent my bags for an initial x-ray before entering the airport. My bag was tied closed with a plastic tie and I proceeded to get my e-tickets are the Jet Airways India counter. I checked my bag, which no weighs 16 kg and took a seat and wrote in my journal, it was not even 6:00 at this time. I had to wait until 7:30 before I was able to enter through security. I was hungry but had no money since I had changed all my rupees to euros, except for the exact amount required for my taxi. I waited and people watched and read a good chunk of my lonely planet for Ireland. Went through security, which is much different than how we do it in American and Europe. Everybody gets patted down and a guy or girl waves a metal detector over your entire body. Shoes don't need to come off either. The process was actually quite fast. The man who was at security asked me a few questions about my trip and the intent. We started talking and he was telling me how he thought America was 'odd' because in India people hold a job for their ENTIRE LIFE. He inquired about my shirt, which was of the Laos alphabet and when more people started coming through I had to go on my way. I waited and got ready to get onto my plane. I had been upgraded to business class since they were overbooked and I had had my ticket for a long time. It was quite nice. I had juice and a cool towel offered to me as I sat down and the seats were HUGE. My meal was good as well. I got Lamb Sagwala (lamb w/ spinach) along with a fruit dish, salad, roll, and some Indian dessert. I got some sleep, maybe an hours worth? We arrived in Mumbai and I had to go to the kiosk to get my bus transfer ticket. I took this to the side of the airport and got a transfer to the international terminal, which was a 30 minutes ride. I was 'hoping' my luggage would make it. I got to the international terminal and had no idea of what to do, but i figured it out. I filled out an emigration slip and went through emigration to stamp out of the country. I had to pass through security again. They had given each of my carry-on a tag and stamped it as well. I waited for a little then got on my plane, which departed around 2:45 am (Indian Time). I had an aisle seat in the center section. I wanted this, but didn't realize I would be sitting next to a man who had me get up at least 4 times during the flight, I wanted to punch him in the nuts so he wouldn't be able to get up and ask me to move a 5th time. We got two meals, the first being a lighter meal. The flight was around 9 hours or so and each seat had its own wide screen TV (maybe 9 inch or so, quite nice). It was on demand and we could chose from 10s of movies and 10s of TV episodes. I watched an episode of some British comedy, which was very funny, an episode of Friends, and another of How I Met Your Mother. They also had some games, which I played, since they were free. I got 4 hours of sleep perhaps even less. I arrived in London by 7 and had to go through customs since my luggage was only checked to London. I had to wait in a long enough line that it could have taken hours to get through. Surprisingly I was through within 25 minutes. I got my bag and had to get to terminal 1 (I was at terminal 3). Mind you the handle of my roller suitcase had been broken for 6+ weeks so I had to carry the entire thing, all 35+ lbs of it. I do not know how I made it to where I was supposed to go, as Heathrow is huge. I shlept the damn bag, along with my day bag and my other over the shoulder carry on for 30 minutes. I was sweating my the time I got to terminal 1. I took out my passport and checked-in and got my boarding pass. I proceeded to check-in my duffel bag and then got some food in the airport. There was no minimum charge to use my credit card, unlike in India where they ONLY accepted cash. I went through security, which was of the western style and walked another 15 minutes to my gate, No 84. I was flying Air Lingus, which was VERY budget. I had an aisle seat, but no one sat beside me or in the window seat. Nothing was included and all refreshments were expensive. I read some more of my Lonely Planet and was taking notes.

Dublin, Ireland
I arrived in Dublin airport and the pace of life was much different than what I've been living for the last 2 months. I got my luggage and went through immigrations. Went to the ATM and took out some Euros... conversion rate as of now 1 EURO = 1.29 USD :(. Took an airbus shuttle to my hotel (which was only 7 euros), but forgot to get off at the right stop. I was probably only 2 km away but my duffel bag was too heavy and I had gotten almost not sleep in two days. I walked for 30 or so minutes and finally sucked it up and hailed a cab. I paid 8 Euros for a 3.5 minute ride...shit! I went to my hostel and paid the 82 euros (106 USD) for my three nights and dropped of my bags in my room. I have a room with 5 bunk beds, 10 people. We have all share one bathroom. I went out to explore the city some. I walked for hours, through St. Stephen's Green, a park which you can see on the right. It was very beautiful. I say couples, tourists, and businessmen walking through. Next I proceeded onto Merrion Square, which only a brisk 20 minutes away. On my way I found a carnival just to the right of Merrion Sq. I entered Merrion Sq. and initially noticed it was not as popular as the other park. There wasn't as many grass flats, and the plant life was less managed. It felt more of a nature park. I walked and looked for the Oscar Wilde Statue, which was allegedly in the park somewhere, as was a museum dedicated to him--I would go if I had an infinite time here. I absolutely love Oscar Wilde (which is Irish if you didn't put two and two together) and his book (the first and last he's ever written) titled The Picture of Dorian Gray, touched me and is on my top favorite 10 books. I took a self portrait with the statue of the genius play write as you can see on the left. Afterwards I strolled back towards my hostel and walked along college green and Trinity College, which I plan to take a tour of tomorrow. I was reading my Lonely Planet on my walk back and looked for one of the popular 'typical' pubs it had suggested. I went into the Palace Bar. I ordered myself a nice Guinness and sat and wrote in my journal. I tried to make some small talk with those around me, but nothing stuck. Finally I started talking to a man named Larry. Larry was in his 60s (probably) and was a primary school teacher in a Dublin suburb. He doesn't come to the city to drink too often. We talked and I told him about my experiences in India and Lao, etc. I was enjoying myself and had nowhere to go so I ordered myself a second pint. Each pint was 4.60 euros (6.50 USD). After some time and talking to some other people a man who introduced himself as Liam came in. He had overheard me talking about Vietnam and said he's been there. In the war it was I presumed he meant. He said he was 80 years old. He had lived in St. Louis for a while but has been living in Ireland for the last 60 years. All three of us chatted and they were enjoying hearing from someone like me (both an American and someone with such different views and so much younger). I guess it's not typical for people to backpack around south east Asia and India? I don't see this because that's the only type of people I've been around for months. Some people are too comfortable with their lives they never want to venture out...quite sad if you ask me. Liam, I guess is short for Bill. I had the bar tender take the photo of the three of us, seen on the right. Bill had bought me a third pint of Guinness and I tried to refuse, but hey after a while I just went along with it. Before I knew it I had been chatting it up in this pub for 3 hours. I got back to my hostel around 6 or so and was tired. I met the others in the room, or at least a few of them. There turns out to be 8 girls and one other guy. He's there with a girl and their both from Germany. There are three girls from the Netherlands, one of them looks like Claudia Schiffer. I am on the top bunk, she's on the bottom...so cute :)! There are two girls from Tel Aviv, Israel, but they're quite weird. One girl is from England and has orange hair, while another girl just finished University (or Uni as they call it) and is from Australia. She's traveling much of the UK and western Europe over the next 4 months. Dublin is her first stop and is taking tours mostly everywhere else. She's the only other person I've met that is backpacking, everyone else just seems to be traveling to one or two places for a short vacation. It makes sense that Ireland is just a week-long trip. The Germans and Dutch girls asked me to come out to the Temple Bar with them, but I was WAY to tired. I went out to see get some food and walked around for almost an hour looking for a 'cheap' place. See a photo on the right, I took it while looking for dinner. My hostel is a little walk away from the city center, but not too bad. Food is SO expensive here, I miss Asia already. I miss eating whatever I wanted wherever I wanted. Living like a king no more. I went to a place called Eddie Rockets, which is a clone of the US's Johny's Rockets and got a Cobb salad for 9.5 euros (12.5 USD). It was good and I was starving. I got back to my hostel and unwound and passed out. Woke up the next day at 7:15 and was quiet as not to wake the others. Everybody else was still asleep. My bed is the one in the bottom closest to the window in the photo on the left. I had plans with the two Germans to go to the Guinness Storehouse this morning after breakfast. Our breakfast is free in the hostel and includes a toast, jam, butter, and coffee/tea/hot coco/orange juice. It's quite lacking, but will do for now. We made plans to meet up with the Dutch girls a 12:30 outside Trinity College to watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade together. We walked to the Guinness factory, which was probably 3 km away and took just over half an hour. They were both relying on me for directions, which is quite the contrast to how it typically happens, but I've gotten great at 'understanding' city layouts and making my way around. I mean I'll have been to well over 30 main and diverse cities in 2 months times. We paid the 11 euro entrance fee (it would have been 15 if I didn't have my student ID) and went around the factory. It was large and fun. It was a self-guided tour and we got samples of Guinness Stout throughout the levels. On the 6th level there was an all-girl band playing some music. I loved it, purely instrumentals, no vocals. They were from Italy and it was quite sexy watching 5 women playing instruments. I took a photo, which you can see on the right. We proceeded up to the top floor, which was a 360 degree glass panoramic gravity bar. We received our free pint of Guinness and then set out to meet the girls for the parade. Check out the photo of us on the 7th floor are the Guinness Storeroom. The roads were blocked off by this point and as we walked father and farther into town the sidewalks became increasingly difficult to navigate. The parade had started (at noon) and it was hard to make it back. We tried to squeeze our way by and the Germans gave up. I was being compressed from all sides and it was impossible to move any closer to town. I watched the parade some, but it's not my thing. It kinda sucked actually, compared to the one in NYC and everyone I've been to. I took a side street to get out of the commotion (as were many people trying to do as well) and tried to get back to my hostel. The problem was that the parade was going through the main part of town from the north going south, which divided the city in half. I couldn't make it to my hostel since it was on the other side. I needed to walk completely north of the parade and it took more than 2 hours of brisk non-stop walking to make it back to my hostel. I got back and was very tired. I say Courtney back in the room. She's the girl from Australia. I asked her out for a drink tonight and we agreed to meet in the room showered, dressed, and ready to leave by 8. We're going to go to Temple Bar, which is going to be crazy and I know I won't love it, but I need to experience it. From what I understand it will be like a huge spring break/fraternity party. If you know anything about me you would know that's not my scene. I enjoy entertainment a little more cerebral. It's going to be very hard to communicate tonight with Courtney because she's completely deaf and I have trouble hearing what she's trying to say alot of the time. It must be hard for someone like her to travel for 4 months, by herself too. Good thing she's sticking to the western world though. I already miss India and SE Asia. I miss the 'typical backpacker' and their mentality of the world. Here in Ireland everyone is so superficial and ignorant (I mean on average). In Asia the priority was respect, even when sale people where ripping you off. Here they put on a smile and play the game of 'hello', but they have no desire to talk with you and get to know you. Some of the girls are very sexy, but most of them dress like whores, are grossly overweight, have trampy piercings, and are just ugh! Not to draw any conclusions or imply anything but this is how I see many of the Catholic girls in America as well. Not so much the girls in Solon or higher income families but the girls I've met that go to all-girl Catholic school fit the same bill. I'm just relaying the facts, but I DO see how the oppressive sexual teachings of their religion influence their lifestyles. Ireland had among the highest percentage of under 25 years old in all of Europe... they might have the highest. So many young people with children and not in the 'family unit' that is desirable in western culture (and almost every other culture as well). OK, enough for now, cheers! Tomorrow I'm taking a bus (need to figure that one out) to the outskirts of town to see a famous jail.

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Introduction, Itinerary, and Travel Dates.

Hello All,

I would like to take this time to introduce myself as well as the following blog. I am Scott Biales, as most of you likely already know. I will be traveling to South East Asia, India, and Ireland from January 17th to March 24th, 2009. For the first leg of my trip I will be in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam for about 5 weeks. I will be flying from Bangkok, Thailand to Delhi, India for the second leg of my trip and will be traveling Northern India for a little under 4 weeks. The third and last leg of my trip consist of 9 days in The Republic of Ireland. I will be flying from Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) into Dublin, Ireland and will be spending St. Patrick's Day in the capital city. I will Travel the country and fly out from Shannon International Airport and return home on March 24th 2009.

Although I will not be visiting the following locations, I will be stopping at their airports:
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Chicago, IL
  • Mumbai (foremely Bombay), India
  • London, England
I encourage everybody to contact/communicate with me via this blog, as my email will likely be cluttered with 1000s (literally) of emails while I'm gone and this will make it much more convenient for me. Also, I will be keeping a personal travel journal, so I will be using that a lot. Thus, don't expect too much detail/info in this blog.

Itinerary
(NOTE: the following itineraries include both organized tours and the plans I made myself, which are subject (and very likely) to change as I see fit)

1st Leg of Trip


Day 1 Bangkok Today is arrival day so there are no activities planned. You are therefore free to relax, explore the city & adjust to the frenetic pace and humid heat of Bangkok. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the tour leader and the other group members.

Day 2-3 Siem Reap/Angkor Wat (2B)
After breakfast on day 2, we leave Bangkok on the way to the Thai Cambodian border. It's a long bus ride to Siem Reap. It will take approx 4 hours from Bangkok to the border. It is possible to get Cambodian visas at the border; ask your leader for details. Then, we will disembark with our luggage and cross the border by foot. This process can take up to an hour or more. After the border formalities are complete, we continue on to Siem Reap. This section of the drive is on mostly unsealed roads and it is very bumpy!!! Although its only 160 km in length, it can take about 5-6 hours. The scenery is spectacular though and there's an immediate contrast between Thailand and Cambodia.
Angkor, the former capital of the Khmer Kingdom, is one of the wonders of the archeological world. Rediscovered at the end of the last century by French explorers, this vast ruined city is becoming one of the most popular sites in Southeast Asia. You can buy a pass to visit some of the highlights of this ancient capital, like the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat, the enigmatic Bayon within the walled city Angkor Thom, Ta
Prohm, Preah Khan and Banteay Srei.

Day 4-5 Phnom Penh (2B)
On day 4, we journey by local bus taking in the spectacular scenery to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. After a brief walking tour by your leader you are free to explore Phnom Penh. Sights you might want to visit include the National Museum and adjacent complex of the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace. After 1975, when Pol Pot and his henchmen grabbed power, Cambodia was thrown into an abyss of unspeakable violence and mass-murder. Millions of Cambodians perished during this time. Witness to this genocide are the Killing fields of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng prison. A Tuk Tuk can be hired locally to take you there, or you may wish to explore town or go shopping at the famous Russian Market.

Day 6-7 Sihanoukville
A three hour drive takes us to Cambodia's southern coast and the beaches of Sihanoukville. Relax on the sand whilst having a massage and eating fresh seafood, or join a boat trip for snorkelling and lunch on an uninhabited island.

Day 8 Mekong Delta (1B)
We'll drive 4-5 hours to the Cambodia/Vietnam border. After completing the necessary formalities, we will continue on to Chau Doc (Vietnam), a 45 minute drive. You should arrive mid afternoon with time to relax and adjust to the change of pace. A trip up to Sam Mountain on motorbikes to watch the sunset, a boat trip through the fish farms, or a walk through the local market give you a taste of life in the Mekong Delta.

Day 9-10 Ho Chi Minh City
After breakfast on day 9, head to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Lose yourself in the maze of Saigon’s central market, here you’ll find everything from bolts of brocade to flanks of beef. Write a quick postcard in Saigon’s stately French colonial post office, one of many French-era buildings that add grace this modern metropolis. On day 10, we take an overnight train to Nha Trang.

Day 11-12 Nha Trang (1B)
Arrive in Nha Trang in the morning. Explore the local shops and markets, sit on the beach soaking up the sun or visit nearby historical towns. Optional activities can include a boat trip to nearby islands for snorkeling and scuba diving.
On the evening of day 12 we take an overnight train to Danang.

**Please note that the January 10th, 2009 departure will be traveling to Danang by bus instead of train on evening of day 12**


Day 13-14 Hoi An (2B)
From Danang, it is only a short drive to the picturesque port town of Hoi An, once known as Faifo, was an important trading town with strong south Chinese influence and connections.

You can take a walking tour of this living museum which includes the Museum of History and Culture, the Tan Ky house, the Japanese bridge, the Fujian Assembly Hall and lunch at a riverside restaurant to sample some of the local delicacies. Hoi An is also a shopping mecca for tourists in the region. Tailors can produce virtually anything overnight, with clothing, silk lanterns, lacquer ware and many other crafts abound.And for sun worshipers,Cua Dai Beach is 4kms from town.


Day 15-16 Hue (1B)
Just a 3 hour drive to the north of Hoi An is the city of Hue. Our drive takes us over Hai Van Pass and past Lang Co beach.

Upon arrival in Hue, once the imperial capital, tour the Citadel which also contains the Forbidden Purple City, modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing. Badly destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968, significant restoration work has since occurred. A true highlight of Hue is the surrounding countryside. Traveling by boat along the Perfume River visit Tien Mu Pagoda and the tombs of two of the Emperors Minh Mang and Khai Dinh.

Late afternoon of Day 16 board an overnight sleeper train to Hanoi (approx 13hrs).


Day 17 Halong Bay/Bay Chai Harbour (1L)
Arrive in the early morning to bustling Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. We will then transfer to a private bus for a 3 hour drive to Halong Bay.

Thousands of islands rise dramatically from the waters of Halong Bay and, to further their beauty, intricate caves have been hollowed out through these limestone karst formations. Aboard a sailing junk we'll enjoy a seafood lunch before visiting some of these islands and caves. Perhaps we'll have a chance to take a pre-dinner swim, before transferring to the mainland for our overnight stay.

Day 18-19 Hanoi (2B)
After breakfast, we'll transfer back to Hanoi. Upon arrival you can visit Tran Quoc Pagoda, the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) or Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum. The Mausoleum houses the remains of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of the unified Vietnam (the mausoleum and museum is closed October-November). Or take a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter – a maze of street, each one traditionally devoted to a different product or industry. In the evening you have an option to attend a performance at the famous Water Puppet Theatre and sample some of Hanoi's amazing eating venues. They offer all kinds of delicious Vietnamese food, one of the world’s most delightful cuisines.

Day 20 Pak Xan
Today is a long travel day (approx 12hrs). We travel through spectacular mountains before crossing into Lao.
Pak Xan is a sleepy town with a great local market. The pace of life is dramatically different from Vietnam. We’ll arrive in the evening with a chance to have some dinner and enjoy a cold Beer Laos.


Day 21 Vientiane (B)
A 5 hour drive takes us to the capital city.
There is a wealth of cultural delights to discover - on foot, by bicycle or, for the less energetic, by tuk-tuk. Visit Laos' most important national monument, Phat That Luang, or meander down the dusty riverside tracks to find villages full of friendly children, dogs and chickens. A visit to Vientiane's vibrant, colourful morning market (which incidentally is open all day!) is worth it to find plenty of local treasures. A great way to round off the day is to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Mekong at one of the many restaurants along the riverbank.


Day 22 Vang Vieng
A 3 hour drive north takes us to beautiful Vang Vieng. This quiet town is set along the Nam Song river amidst rice fields and limestone karsts. Explore some of the caves by bicycle, or float down the river in a tire tube stopping off for a cold drink and zip line ride at one of the numerous bamboo bars. In the evening, soak in the beauty of Vang Vieng as the sun sets over the river.

Day 23-25 Luang Prabang (2B)
Today we take the bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang (approx 7 hours)
Luang Prabang has a magical feel about it. Nestled in the hills of northern Laos on the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers, it is studded with ornate temples and French colonial architecture. A visit to the Royal Palace Museum, which has remained untouched since the royal family departed in 1975, is sure to impress.

We will also have an option to hop on a songthaew to the beautiful Kuang Si falls, where pale turquoise waters cascade over limestone formations.

For a small additional cost there is also the option, for those who feel active and want to stretch their legs, to take a 3 to 4-hour walk through the countryside to the falls (in wet season it may be too slippery).


Day 26-27 Pakbeng/Chiang Khong
We board our boat for the 2-day journey up the mighty Mekong River to Chiang Khong. The journey is relaxed, as we experience the slow pace of village life and the breathtaking scenery along the river. We dock at the small town of Pak Beng to spend the night (approx 8 hours). The standard of accommodation in this trading port is basic but comfortable.Note that Pakbeng only has electricity from 6pm to 10pm and 6am to 10am.

The following morning we re-board our boat and cruise leisurely up the river before arriving at the Laos/Thai border and crossing in to Chiang Khong in the late afternoon (approx 7 hours).

Please note that the river boat is of a basic standard. Your leader will help arrange the purchase of food and drinks for the boat journeys. It can also be quite cold from November to February so make sure you have some warm gear packed!


Day 28 Chiang Mai/Overnight Train
Leaving Chiang Khong early in the morning we drive to Chiang Mai (approx 5 hours). You'll have the afternoon to explore. In the evening, we board our fan cooled overnight train for Bangkok (approx 12 hours).

Day 29-33 Bangkok
We'll arrive early in the morning to Bangkok, Thailand's capital city. The day is free to explore the many sights of Bangkok. The Grand Palace, Wat Po, National Museum, and Jim Thompson's House are just a few suggestions. A trip along the Chao Praya river and through the canals (or Klongs) gives you a different perspective of daily life in this busy city. In the evening we'll say good bye as we enjoy a Thai meal, some of the world's best food!

Day 34 Depart Bangkok (B)



2nd Leg of Trip

Days 1-2 Delhi

Namaste! Welcome to India.

India's capital is an exciting, busy, and often chaotic city but certainly one of the most interesting. With well-preserved historical sites from many different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars, there is more to see and do than we can possibly fit in during our short time here. For those arriving early, there is an opportunity to discover some of the many attractions on your own - the ruins of Qutb Minar and Purana Qila, the crafts museum, Indira Gandhi Museum, Birla House (the site of Gandhi's assassination) and the centre of Imperial British India at Rajpath are all highly recommended.

We start day 2 with a visit to Old Delhi. The walled city of Shahjahanabad, or Old Delhi, was the creation of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. In the morning, we visit one of its most impressive buildings and Delhi's oldest mosque, the Jama Masjid. Afterwards, we join the crowds, walking through the bazaars of the Old City, immersing ourselves in the noise and smells of the crowded narrow streets and alleys, where different areas specialise in festival paraphernalia, silk, copper, brass and spices.

Our hotel in Delhi is right in the heart of the city. Rooms have air-conditioning, private bathrooms with hot and cold running water. The hotel has a multi cuisine restaurant and internet cafe.

In the late afternoon of day 2 we leave on an overnight train for Jaisalmer (approx 19 hours). Our sleeper trains along the way are clean and air conditioned, and are a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths, sheets, pillow and blankets are provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same gender/mixed gender situation. Most trains have a dining carriage where food/snacks/meals are available.

Days 3-5 Jaisalmer

Travelling through the night, we wake to find a desert landscape as we travel across the stark Thar Desert. The 1,000 km journey takes around 19 hours and we should arrive in Jaisalmer around midday if there are no train delays.

Looking like a scene from 'The Thousand and One Nights' as it rises magically out the desert, Jaisalmer is a centre for nomadic tribespeople who come in to town to trade in the narrow twisting alleys full of markets and ornately carved houses.

Our accommodation in Jaisalmer is a guest house located in the fort itself with a roof top restaurant. Rooms have running hot and cold water in private bathrooms.

From our base in Jaisalmer, the Thar Desert is right on our doorstep and we take the opportunity to ride camels out over the sand dunes to spend a night out under the stars. At night, the riders get the camp fire burning and cook us dinner. In the morning, awaken early for an amazing desert sunrise, before a simple breakfast. This is a taste of the life of a nomadic trader and it's definitely travelling at its very best. While camping we stay in multishare tents. A seperate toilet tent will be set up.

Days 6-7 Jodhpur

A local bus carries us across the Thar Desert to Rajasthan's second-largest city, the busy and chaotic Jodhpur (approx. 5 hours). Full of fascinating artefacts, you may choose to take some time to explore the colossal Meherangarh Fort that dominates the city skyline.

Our hotel is situated in a very central position and has a rooftop cafe with an unbelievable view of the Meherangarh Fort and the old city. Only 5 minutes' walk away is Sadar Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in India. Built around the clock tower amid spice and vegetable markets, juice sellers and sari materials, Sadar Bazaar also has numerous vendors with carts selling everything from Bollywood soundtracks to armfuls of sparkling bangles. Jodhpur is famous for its antique shops and for the best lassi in India - well, that's our opinion! And yes, Jodhpur is where those famous trousers come from!

Out in the surrounding countryside are the Bishnoi tribal villages, which are well worth seeing. You leader can organise a visit for you on request.

Days 8-10 Udaipur

A bus takes us to Udaipur, the southernmost point of our trip (approx. 7 hours). Rolling hills, white marble palaces and lakes all combine to give Udaipur a very special appeal, and it certainly lives up to its reputation as India's most romantic city. It's a centre for artists, dancers and musicians and the shopping is simply superb.

Again, our hotel sits within walking distance of many of Udaipur's main points of interest, such as the Jagdish Temple, Saheliyon-ki-Bari (the Garden of Maidens) and City Palace with its museums, crystal gallery and wealth of royal treasures.

Udaipur's famous Lake Pichola is a serene place to enjoy a boat ride and if you are gastronomically inclined, there is plenty of time to learn the art of Indian cooking at Spice Box, a deliciously fun must-do for all who come here. You could also visit a craft village and a folk museum or take in a fantastic cultural show at the Bagore-ki-Haveli - where you could even get up and join in the dancing! Journey out to the hilltop Monsoon Palace for sunset or spend lazy afternoons just taking in the views from a rooftop cafe, over a glass of hot, sweet chai.

Days 11-12 Pushkar

Today we travel by local bus to Pushkar (approx. 8 hours). Home to India's only Brahma temple as well as a holy lake, Pushkar is a major destination for pilgrims and sadhus (holy men) from all over India. The atmosphere is friendly and mellow, there is hardly any traffic and the town is small enough to walk around with ease.

While in Pushkar, be sure to spend some time exploring the main bazaar and many sidestreets - again, some great shopping can be done here with some of the cheapest clothes and jewellery to be found in northern India. Hang out in one of the gardens or rooftop restaurants or walk around the lake, with its bustling ghats and temples, to watch the devout as they worship at the holy waters. There is an optional early morning walk to the hilltop Savitri Temple for magical views over the town, and also a wonderful steaming glass of chai waiting for you if the chai man is there - certainly well worth the trek!

Days 13-14 Jaipur

Today we travel on a local bus (approx. 4 hours) to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, where we find a friendly and busy town with palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk-based arts. Deep in the heart of the Old City lies India's most-photographed building after the Taj Mahal, the Hawa Mahal, also known as the 'Palace of the Winds'. Be sure to stop by and take some photos yourself!

Near Jaipur is the old capital of Amber, a majestic hilltop palace complex - which makes for a wonderful day trip. To fully get into Indian life, don't miss watching a Hindi movie - there is nowhere better than the Raj Mandir Cinema - 3 hours of song and dance for a couple of dollars can't be beaten!

Day 15 Bharatpur

We leave Jaipur by local bus (approx. 5 hours) to the city of Bharatpur, home to the famous Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary, where a peaceful afternoon can be spent cycling around the Park. If birds are not your interest, you can visit surrounding villages with our host who is involved in projects to uplift rural development in the area.

Days 16-17 Agra

Leaving the early birds chirping, we head east by public bus for Agra (approx. 2 hours).

The Mughal city of Agra is home to one of the world's most instantly recognisable monuments - the Taj Mahal. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz, this 'teardrop on the face of eternity', as it was described by Rabindranath Tagore, lives up to all expectations. Expensive to get into (INR750- around US$17), but worth every cent. There is also time to check out the Red Fort an impressive landmark of the Mughal dynasty left imprinted on the city.

In Agra our accommodation is at a basic property run by a local family, in a great location only 800 meters from the Eastern gate of the Taj Mahal. Rooms are basic with attached private bathrooms.

We leave for Varanasi on the overnight train on the evening of day 17 (approx. 8 hours).

Days 18-20 Varanasi

The holiest place for Hindus, Varanasi is a place where weeks can just melt by as you explore the amazing sights going on all around you. Pilgrims bathing and performing rituals and ceremonies unchanged for hundreds of years, temples full of bell chimes and the smell of incense, the dhobi wallahs, the burning ghats, the stories, the legends, the people - all of India seems to be encapsulated within this amazing city.

In Varanasi our accommodation is owned by a local Indian family. It is a simple hotel, situated right on the banks of the Ganges in the popular Assi Ghat area. Rooms are neat and clean property with attached bathrooms.

We take the train to Kolkata (Calcutta) early in the evening on day 20 (approx. 17 hours).

Days 21-24 Kolkata

Once the capital of British India, Kolkata has had some bad press over the years. Flooded by refugees after the partition of India, famines in Bengal as well as the India-Bangladesh War, the city suffered as wave after wave of immigrants pushed its infrastructure to the limit and slums and street dwellers came to symbolize the city to the world. However, the Kolkata of today is renewed and emerging as a major cultural centre with art galleries, museums and a healthy film and theatre scene. With its British architecture, its trams and, of course, the river with its famous bridge, Kolkata is a vibrant and exciting city with plenty to offer. There are flower markets to browse and traditional wrestlers at their outdoor gymnasiums to watch. You can take a boat along the river, visit the idol-makers and explore the central market - the options are endless!


3rd Leg of Trip

Day 1-3 Dublin
Enjoy live music and parades on the the streets for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Take a walking tour of the city and enjoy a walk inside the Guinness brewery (don't worry Mom, I won't get too hammered...).

Day 4-5 Cork
Take a bus to a the Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone. Consider taking a bus ride to Killarney.
Day 6-8 Galway
Explore the Irish culture in the pubs and on the street. Listen to live music. Take a day trip to The Burren and see the Cliffs of Moher.
Day 9 Depart Ireland


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