I’m Starting a Travel Blog

DEAR READERS,

I’m not entirely sure why you follow this blog, or read things I write, but I appreciate you nonetheless.

I’d like to point out that I’ve begun a new project, A Long Way Back, a travel blog meant to detail my three-month trip to reach Canada from Korea. The plan is tentatively to spend one month in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Borneo, Malaysia, Indonesia); a few weeks in India, undecidedly the north or south; a few weeks in the Middle East (possible stopover in Dubai, certainly Jordan and Israel); then one month crossing Europe by train and plane to fly back to Toronto (maybe via good ol’ Halifax) in time for mid-December.

Right now the blog offers only a few reposted stories from this site and around the web, but I’ll be updating it with stories from around the world for the rest of 2013. I’d appreciate any follows, hits or comments (advice?) you can spare.

Thanks,

Michael

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Two Days in Busan

To only see Seoul on a Korean vacation is an absurd task. Like an all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue, you simply can’t experience all the city has to offer in the unfortunately short time you have. (And, also like the barbecue, you leave feeling bloated and confused, wondering where all your money went.)

Enter Busan. Busan is Korea’s second city: its Los Angeles, Lyon or Montreal, sitting on the southeast coast of the Pacific. There are five mountain ranges, six sunny beaches and noticeably few worthwhile touristy spots. This is nice. It means that, as a visitor, you can go to the country’s largest markets and be surrounded by locals who are there to actually shop; climb a mountain and you’ll be surrounded by Korean hikers. From a tourist’s perspective, it’s humbling.

I am, of course, biased, having lived in Busan for nearly two years and having visited Seoul precisely thrice. To be honest they’re both beautiful, graceful and bustling metropolises—but, as with any city that’s not the country’s largest, Busan just feels cozier. This two-day itinerary is meant to reflect that.

gamcheon

A full two-day guide for GoMad Nomad – go on! Read it!

Tripping Through Vietnam: My James Bond Moment

The distance between Huế, Vietnam’s pre-communist capital, and Savannakhet, a sleepy Lao city by the Mekong River, is over 400 kilometers of thick tropical forest, sparsely inhabited by dark-skinned mountain tribes. The border checkpoint, somewhere in between, lies truly in the middle of nowhere. Four hours got us this far, and it would be longer until Savannakhet: five hours by bus, and unimaginably longer if the bus, say, left without us.

Which, of course, it just did.

I’d asked my girlfriend to wait where it had parked, in case the driver tried to leave (unimaginable!), and jogged up to the bank to exchange our Vietnamese money for Lao kip. I was figuring out how best to mime “commission rate” to the English-impaired teller when a Dutch guy, mid-20s with a mullet, who’d been sitting behind us on the bus, opened the door and nervously announced: “Um, our bus is leaving.”

I looked out the window and saw two things: first, my girlfriend, looking incredulous by the empty parking space, mouth open and arms outstretched; second, our big grey bus, leisurely rolling away from her.

trip

So now we found ourselves in this high-speed chase—me, my girlfriend and the Dutchman whose name I never learned—on three separate bikes, racing down this dusty mountain road. A canvas-covered shipment truck drove ahead of us, and when we overtook it, I glimpsed the edge of the cliff a few metres away. Beyond that, the whole Lao mountain range spread out into the horizon; everything was high-noon bright, but hazy, too, because of the mountain fog. The wind blew my hair hard but I turned into it, squinting ahead, honing into our target.

In that moment, I felt exactly like James Bond.

Finally, long after many of my esteemed peers, I’ve been published in the Globe and Mail.