Friday, 3 July 2015

My Mini Adventure in Atlanta

So after Tampa it was Atlanta. You know sometimes the traveller does not pick the destination but rather the place itself forces its will upon the traveller. Atlanta was that kinda of place for me … a waypoint that I could not avoid due to, all bus stops and leaves from Atlanta.

Plotting route in USA was always a challenge. You had to find the right cheap transport to places you want to go and then somehow ensure that there is a hostel there or some sort of cheap accommodation as well else budget will be blown 5x before you know it. From Atlanta I could go almost any direction on the Greyhound bus. Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina. As confuse as I was where to go … I knew I had to get to Atlanta first hence Atlanta I went.
Atlanta was blend of poverty and rich mixed together. Not much different from any other major cities I guess but there was a certain countryside city charm to it. Certain parts felt like a black community but not in a dangerous way for such were the AirBnB place me and Happy were staying. It was the kind of city where people have a purpose and not just wandering about. Everything was a hidden Gem in Atlanta. Unless you know how to find those hidden Gems places one would think that Atlanta was a shithole as well.
Atlanta City

Games of Thrones Premier in Atlanta

The Atlanta people was hidden that’s for sure, but we manage to see the actual crowd of Atlanta of sorts at the historic Fox Theatre. By chance we stumble upon the place just wandering around midtown since the nice girl at the Information centre told us that was where the big cheap grocery store was. Beautiful architecture we first thought that it was a mosque seeing it from the rear side but it was a good old classic American Fox Theatre. By chance I was just messing around asking the ticket counter what show was running for the next few days and how much the ticket would cost.
The Game of Thrones Premier Season 5 was on tomorrow the girl said and it’s free. WTF. Any show inside that Fox Theatre would cost at lease USD 30 for it was a proper Theatre and it was Games of Thrones Premier of season 5 which I have been waiting as well.

The next day I drag HappyHHhbhdao to see the show ignoring all his wishes. He eventually got hooked by just seeing one episode of season 5 …. and going back to the AirBnB place we stayed I downloaded the season one episode one to further binge his craving. I am evil in a sense …. Happy in that one week he knew me had started smoking again, drank beer for the first times in years and is now hook on Game of Thrones. *rolls eyes*
What’s the worst thing that could happen while travelling ??

This I am sure is always on a traveller mind. I always get question similar to this such as what was the worst/best/unexpected/bizarre/crazy thing that happen in your journey which is fun remembering but when you are travelling you always think of that worst case scenario.
For some reason dying is not one of em …. So getting shot in the back alley in Brazil Favela is entirely acceptable for at least that is the end but getting beaten half to death and robbed would be a problem. One friend once told me to be careful in India that you don’t wake up in a bathtub full of ice with a missing kidney but any season traveller will tell you that these are all extreme cases. If you chance upon such crazy odds and such extremes does happen …. I say there was no way you could have avoided it anyway …. Stay at home and barricade yourself.

But back to the main question …. The worst thing that could happen is  …… drum roll
1.       You fall sick …. Appendix rupture (I had mine removed when I was young but for the rest …. Maybe )
2.       You get robbed, lost luggage, lost passport, electronics breakdown/stuff breaks
3.       Atm/credit card does not work overseas
In my opinion that is the only two worst case scenario …. The first part sickness you can’t really plan for it other than getting some vaccine prior to travel and wear a condom but the second part which is all the same really. Getting robbed and losing stuff from missing bag through airport is the same disaster just different circumstance. The third …. You just have to do your homework and it should not happen and a spare always help.
When Electronic breakdown during Travels ..
So I got my first scare when I was in Atlanta when my Surface 2 tablet decided to not charged although it was plugged in and all the neon lights were working. Overnight it drained and refuse to start anymore since it had no power. Fuck me but luckily I still had a smartphone and there was a Microsoft outlet in Atlanta.

Tablet was new, not even one year old so it was still under warranty but when travelling who gives a shit about warranty when you just want things to work. Warranty is like insurance … nice to have but I never want to use it …. Ever, plus I was in USA so I did not know if the tablet bought in Singapore would work in USA …. Plus it was no longer in sale after surface 3 came out ….. shit shit shit …
Keep calm, don’t panic and take things one at a time. I am amazed how controlled I was, but I guess travelling so much will do that to you. I have lost things before, bag got pilfered, phone got stolen, broke down, so I have learn not to curse and swear and just keep a calm mind and weight your options. One step at the time …. no point planning ahead more than two steps …. Locate the store and bring it in for help.

The Microsoft store was at the shopping district of Atlanta at Buckhead a little way outside the downtown but still easily reached by the subway system. First thing I got there and after lots of explaining I asked to borrow a charger …. My tablet revived ….. so it was a charger failure …. And although still under warranty I had no choice but to buy another new charger …. At lease I don’t have to buy a new tablet …. Phew ….

Atlanta was fun doing mundane stuff but it was time to move on but I left Happy in Atlanta trying to sort out his life while I head onwards to Nashville.



Friday, 26 June 2015

My AirBnB Experience in United States of America

With the price of hostel going up sky rocket crazy in USA, I checked out AirBnB just for fun and surprisingly it could be equal or cheaper than a hostel in certain towns in the states. USA can be huge and hostels are not everywhere and even at big cities like New York, sometimes competitiveness rise the prices and allows for locals to share a couch space for a fee a fraction of a hostel dorm.  

So my first experience with AirBnB was in the states in Atlanta where there was no hostels available. No harm trying I guess and proceeded to register an account and book the first AirBnB stay. It was my first time and I had no idea how the AirBnB system works. Apparently you have to book them online only but a booking is not automatically confirmed. One had to wait for the owner to reply to the booking. It’s like sending an email to someone asking them if you can stay at their place for a fee and they would decide if you are welcome or not regardless of the money.  
The single bed in a shared room I booked for USD 35 in Atlanta was slightly out of town but still reachable by tubes and busses. This was the second hidden pitfall of AirBnB … the place are peoples house and they can be really really far from city centre sometimes. In less than half an hour I had a reply from the owner Tim whom had accepted my booking request. Lockbox code was 1234 he said. Just let yourself in pick a made bed and make yourself at home.
I never saw Tim the owner or any other representative the whole 4 days I was there. Even Happy whom tag along with me for the AirBnB experience find it a wondrous experience. We met different people going in and out of the place, travellers of different sorts using the AirBnB instead of a hotel but never the owner. Tim the owner wasted no space as well. He had beds everywhere in the house. Everywhere he could place a bed he had them, in rooms, in living rooms, study room, and even in common corridor separated skilfully with a curtain.
My next AirBnB experience was in Knoxville. Again a place in USA without a hostel. Mily was a student in the University of Knoxville. She was renting a portion of space upstairs a house from an owner and using AirBnB to lower her rent, apart from meeting cool people from everywhere. She actually picked me up from the bus stop. I later realized it was really far from the city centre …. A good 2 hours walk which was not doable on your first touchdown in the middle of the night.
I stayed in her erm …. Living room / study room / kitchen …. It was a one bedroom studio kinda set up so I was in the common area. She told me that sometimes she actually let out her own bed instead to couples or more people and she herself sleep at the foldable single spring-bed which I occupied in the living room while they were here.
Last AirBnB stay was actually in Philadelphia. I tend to stay in hostels if there is one since it is usually more nearer to the city centre. Also most people rent AirBnB as a whole unit for family getaways like a mini villa but I was using the more unorthodox method on AirBnB where people rent out a couch or a bed or a floor space. After travelling so long, I have a little fear of the awkward silence …. Rather silence than awkward silence.
Philly AirBnB was like a Hostel. Same trick with the electronic keypad lock number which was email the day before I checked in. Never saw the owners and the whole house was set up exactly how a typical hostel would. Only different was there was no reception and you won’t find them in any of the usual hostelworld or hostelbookers website.
I find the AirBnB experience a magical one …. a network places of safe zone where the more adventurous off the beaten track travellers can utilized. It was also like a check point where locals could use to stave off the big cooperation network of hotels or hostels and a place where travellers could support the local economy instead of a businessman.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Why did I Go to Tampa?

I got asked that question a lot of times when I told people I went to Tampa when I was in the USA. I wanted to visit a small town in the States. I was tired of always seeing the big cities in all the states. I dunnu it was along the way? I dun remember the exact reason that persuade me to go to Tampa instead of Orlando (it was either this or that) but I dun regret stopping and visiting the small petite town of Tampa Florida.


Tampa was a nice small American town/city which you could see in one day. When I say one day I mean the centre of Tampa. The rest of its suburban area is plain repetitive American housing estates with its run down white picket fence.
The highlights of Tampa of course was the historical city of Ybar. A nightlife street of about 10 blocks with pubs and country music and local Cuban hand rolled cigars. The place was preserved as an historical town of Cuban culture. When it comes to the states this external preserved culture was a rare treat for almost every other immigrant culture that enters the states was to be localized into American standards.

I stayed there for 3 nights. A nice place to relax and just no nothing with a little sightseeing to be done. Hop a ride on the old trolley bus, walk the gardens by the river and visit the monuments of the city which was barely a handful.
Partly I needed some rest but mostly I was cracking my head in research on where to go next. USA is not the most backpacker friendly country. I was having trouble plotting a route though the states, trying to find places that had Hostels and cheap long distance bus to the next stop which was a rarity.

I ended up plotting the next route for Atlanta. I also picked up a travel buddy in Tampa. A nice old chap I would call Happy. Happy decided to crash my first time experience of AirBnB in Atlanta. I was going to Atlanta and it was to be my first time using AirBnB, and his too so we were going to brave it together the unknown waters.
Next Post : My AirBnB Experience in USA